Joseph Bird. The annals of American biography are filled with records of heroic endeavors on the part of brave boys who at the same time that they were burdened by poverty, cherished a burning ambition to excel in some branch of human knowledge or skill. Many a noble boy has not only tenderly cared for the dear ones who have been left destitute by their father’s death but has also planned for the acquisition of a liberal education that he might become fitted for the work to which he looked forward. Such an experience has been his of whom we write, and success has crowned his efforts, as it usually rewards the industrious and judicious. Mr. Bird, whose portrait appears on the opposite page, is a wealthy capitalist of Carlinville. His riches have enabled him to do much for the benefit of his adopted city and county, and his name is closely associated with various enterprises that have materially advanced their interests. He is well known as the President of the Macoupin County Agricultural Board.
A native of the State of Pennsylvania Mr. Bird was born on a farm in Butler County, May 4, 1828. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Bird, was of English birth and spent his entire life in his native land. But two of his children ever came to America, William, the father of our subject, and Mary, who married William Potter and died in Butler County, Pa. William Bird was born in London, England, and passed his early life in his English home, but soon after marriage came to this country and located in Butler County, Pa., where he bought a tract of land three miles north of Harmony. He resided there until 1836, when he sold his property and came to Illinois, traveling with a team to Pittsburg, thirty miles distant. There he embarked on the Ohio River, and voyaged on the waters of that and the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Columbiana, Greene County, this State. He rented land there, and was in a fair way to prosper when death cut short his career in August, 1837, the county thus losing a practical, hard working pioneer. His widow was left in limited circumstances with three children to care for.
Our subject was only nine years old when he was thus sadly bereft of his father’s care, and as he was the only son, he had to commence at once to help support the family. He was a bright, sturdy little land and the twenty-five cents a day that he earned working on a farm during the busy season was a welcome addition to the family income. In 1839 and 1840 he worked the summer season for $6 a month and his board. In 1839 his mother removed to Carrollton, and there he worked out in 1840 and 1841. Then, his mother having bought a farm, he assisted her in its management, and was thus engaged until 1849, when he rented the place of his mother and carried it on until 1851. In that year he came to this county and purchased three hundred and five acres of land in what is now Bird Township, paying $5 an acre for it. One hundred and forty acres were under cultivation, and a small frame house and a log stable stood on the place.
Mr. Bird resided on that farm until 1879, and in the meantime sold a part of the land, but as his means accumulated he bought other land in the same township, and finally had one thousand and twenty-six acres of valuable land in his possession. In 1879 he came to Carlinville and bought his present elegant residence, which is pleasantly located on the corner of East Main and High Streets. With its well kept grounds, handsome interior and rich and tasteful furnishings it is one of the most attractive homes in the city.
Mr. Bird generously attributes a share of his prosperity to the capable assistance of his wife, who is endowed with those attributes of character that make her wise in counsel, and efficient housewife, and true helpmate to her husband. They began their wedded life more than forty years ago, in 1849. They have had children, of whom these three are spared to bless their declining years: Carrie, who married Forrest Gore and resides near Girard; Mary Olive, wife of Coy Roach, of Girard; and Daisy Mabel, who lives at home with her parents. The following is the record of the children of our subject and his wife who have departed this life: Morris Edwin, their only son, born July 9, 1858, died February 6, 1877; Ida Alice, born September 16, 1864, married Ellsworth Childs, and died June 3, 1890; Ada E., their first child, born August 11, 1856, died in December, 1858; Anna C., born May 22, 1860, died at the age of ten months.
Mrs. Bird’s name previous to her marriage was Eliza Ann Laster. She is a native of Greene County, Ill., and a daughter of Enoch and Charity (Hill) Laster, pioneers of that county. Her father was born near Murfreesborough, Tenn., and was a son of Hardy Laster, one of the pioneer farmers of that section, who died in that State. Enoch Laster came to this State when a young man as early as 1829, and was one of the first settlers of Greene County, locating eight miles east of Carrollton, where he improved a farm, upon which he passed the remainder of his days. He was quite prominent in the community. He was the Justice of the Peace for many years, and in his politics he was a sturdy Democrat. The Rev. Abner Hill, the maternal grandfather of Mrs. Bird, was a native of North Carolina, whence he removed to Tennessee. In 1830 he came from there to Illinois, and was a pioneer Baptist preacher of Greene County. He was famous in his day in that section of the country, preached in different places, and helped to organize several churches. He developed a farm on String Prairie, and lived on it until 1850, when he sold it, and thereafter made his home with his children in this county, dying at the home of his daughter. The maiden name of his wife was Annie Hill. Mrs. Bird’s mother married a second time after the death of her first husband, becoming the wife of John Courtney, and she died in Bird Township.
Mr. Bird is eminently a self made man, as he began life on his own account with no other capital than his mental and physical endowments, but these have served him well, and he has accumulated a handsome fortune by a determined effort to overcome all obstacles in the pathway of complete success, and by the exercise of a quick, unerring judgment in regard to the best means of making money. A man of strong, firm character and of large enterprise, he has been influential in various ways in pushing forward undertakings of importance that have been useful in furthering the rise and progress of the county. Especially is this true in regard to his connection with the Macoupin Agricultural Board, of which he is one of the leading members. He was one of its organizers and as its President for the last six years he has greatly helped to make it one of our most serviceable institutions, which has done much to introduce the best modern methods of farming and stock raising to the notice of the people. Mr. Bird was also one of the organizers of the Carlinville National Bank in May, 1890, of which he was then elected Director.
Source: Chapman bros. Portrait and biographical record of Macoupin county, Illinois. Chicago: Biographical publishing company, 1891.