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George Bird’s children settle into the Paper Business

F.W. Bird & Son Letterhead

George and Martha were the parents of eight children, four boys and four girls. All of their children grew to adulthood, and in some way became associated with the family business. In the many biographies written about their son Francis, they note that when he was still a boy, he worked in his father’s paper mill. This certainly indicates that Francis not only knew about the business of running a paper mill, but also had hands on experience running the machinery. It is highly likely, that if George put Francis to work in the mill at a young age, he would have had all his sons working in the mill in their boyhoods. As for the formal education of George and Martha’s children, they would have spent their early years attending the local public schools. However, from biographies written about some of his children, we know two of his sons attended the Wrentham Academy (also known as Day’s Academy) in Wrentham, Massachusetts, and daughter, Julia attended “female seminaries.” Although the education of the rest of George’s children is unknown, but because he was dissatisfied with his grandparents provision for his education, he would have made sure all his children were well educated. George Bird’s sons, as well as his son-in-laws, at one time all worked in the paper making business. Some first worked in the family’s mill, then left the family company striking out and to form their own businesses. The others came to the Bird paper mill after having previously worked in other professions.

Day’s Academy (the mansard style building, behind church) Source 1888 Bird’s Eye View Map of Wrentham

Oldest Son George attended the Wrentham Academy where he would have been prepared to attend college, however upon graduation he became a teacher. His first teaching assignment was for two years working in schools in Alabama. When he returned to Massachusetts he taught at the Mill School in Dedham. In 1822 he married his first cousin, Eliza Newell Ellis, who had been teaching for a few years in South Dedham. Together the couple became the parents of three children, two that grew to adulthood. By 1840 the couple had separated, Eliza N. Bird is enumerated in the census living in Needham next to her parents and with her three children. (Daughter Caroline seems to be counted in this census, even though she had died in May 1839 of scarlet fever.) It is said George died in Zanesville, Ohio but when that occurred is not known. George not only worked for his father’s mill, but also formed a partnership with his brother, Josiah, building a paper mill in 1829 near his father’s on the Neponset River. The land was purchased from their brother-in-law, Jabez Morse, who had married in 1825 to Hannah W. Bird (1801-1827) their sister. The deed for this eighteen-acre property in South Dedham notes it has a mill, a milldam, the mill yard and a dwelling house. In 1831 George (Jr) and Josiah took out an advertisement in local Boston newspapers announcing their mutual consent to dissolve their partnership, and that Josiah would be the sole proprietor of the company.

Advertisement for Bird & Weld’s Iron Works

Josiah Newell Bird most likely began assisting with the management of his father’s paper mill soon after he graduated from preparatory school. Having most likely worked in his father’s paper mill from a young age, Josiah and George (Jr.) knew how to retool the mill they bought from Jabez Morse to make paper. The 1830s was a decade of many changes for Josiah and his wife Martha. In 1831 Josiah bought his brother’s interest in their jointly owned mill, then in 1833 he sold his interest in that mill as well as his interest in his father’s mill to his youngest brother Francis. Also in early 1833 his mill experienced a fire that was quickly extinguished. The following year, his property in South Dedham as well as his possessions were auctioned off. This was either due to him deciding to sell everything or having to sell everything due to possible financial difficulties. By 1835 the family had moved to Boston, where their two youngest daughters were born in 1835 and 1837, and by 1840 the family had relocated to Trenton, New Jersey. It should also be noted that Josiah was very active in local militias having risen to the rank of Colonel in the Dedham militia. “Col.” was a title he used for the rest of his life. In Trenton, Josiah with his partner, with Edward D. Weld purchased an iron and brass foundry from Jonas Simmons & Co., which was a well established business that manufactured axes. In 1842 the received a patent for a “new and useful machine for cleaning grain such as wheat, rye, buckwheat and other small grain.” In 1844 Bird & Weld announced they had “contrived a mode of making large wrought iron guns the size of the ‘peacemaker’ and that their company would immediately begin manufacturing them. In 1849 they enlarged their facilities. In 1857, Josiah and his partners William Halstead, Alfred S. Livingston, Edmund Morris, Humphrey C. Perley and A. Thomas Smith formed the American Iron and Manufacturing Company, which made castings and machinery. When Josiah retired, his son-in-law, Garrett Schenck (Sr.) succeeded him at the manufactory, and soon after, in the mid-1860s the family returned to Massachusetts.

Samuel James Bird was the third son and was named after his uncles; Samuel and James Bird. He married Julia Lord from Kennebunkport, Maine, who was the daughter of a master ship builder. The couple settled in Boston and had five children. Samuel most likely worked in his father’s mills in his youth, but by 1827 he was living in Boston when he formed a co-partnership with Phineas E. Gay. They opened a shop on India Street to sell ironware. This partnership lasted about ten years, dissolving in 1838. In 1842 Samuel has taken over a Boston space previously used by George Bird & Son, on State Street. In his announcement he will be selling paper made by the family business as well as an assortment of other products. Census records confirm Samuel was a merchant selling a variety of wares.

Francis William Bird was George’s youngest son. When he took over the company in 1833, shortly after he had graduated from Brown University, George Bird & Son was a small family company that manufactured paper. When he died in 1894, he had grown the family business into a successful and respected company. He was a true progressive. He was very involved in the community of East Walpole where he lived, as well as state politics and many social issues of the day.

Rev. Harrison Greenough Park (1806-1876)

George Bird had two son-in-laws that briefly entered the paper making business. Isaac Perkins, husband to Martha Bird, was for most of his life a teacher. First teaching at the Wrentham Academy, before accepting positions in North Attleboro and Easton, Massachusetts. He came from a well-educated family, many who had attended Yale University for several generations. However, for a short time he was a paper maker in Fitchburg, Mass. Harrison G. Park, husband to Julia Bird then Elizabeth Bird, was a Congregational minister, accepting calls in South Dedham, Danvers and Burlington, Massachusetts. He never fully retired from the ministry, “filling the pulpit” as an interim or guest minister. He seemed to find enjoyment as a writer and editor of local religious publications. He was a business partner in George Bird & Son for a very short time in the late 1830s.

By establishing a paper manufacturing company on the banks of the Neponset River in South Dedham/East Walpole, George Bird created a place where his descendants learned the paper trade, to operate/work in a mill and run a business. His company provided life long jobs or training for his sons, a nephew, son-in-laws, grandsons and a great-grandson, not to mention the multitude of workers who lived in East Walpole and South Dedham, now Norwood. George Bird never imagined that when he started his first paper mill with his investors, he would be providing a better life for so many and that it would affect people for generations.

Go to George Bird Exhibit main page –>

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Sources:

Slafter, Carlos. “Schools and Teachers of Dedham.” The Dedham Historical Register, Vol VI, No. 1 (Dedham, MA: Dedham Transcript Press) 1895

United States Federal Census, 1840; database with images, familysearch.org; Eliza N Bird, Needham, Norfolk County, Maine; citing image 9 of 20 NARA Microfilm publication M704, Washington, DC: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d

Morse to Bird. Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 86/pg 377.  Apr 4, 1829.

Bird to Bird. Norfolk County, MA: Deeds. bk 100/pg 75. Mar. 29, 1833.

Raum, John O. History of the City of Trenton, New Jersey: Embracing a Period of Nearly Two Hundred Years. Trenton, NJ: W.T. Nicholson & Co., 1871.

Bird & Weld. “A Machine for Cleaning Grain” database with images. patents.google.com. patent US2513.

Acts of the Eighty-first Legislature of the State of New Jersey. New Brunswick, NJ: A. R. Speer, 1857.

Massachusetts State Census, 1865. Database with images. familysearch.org. Somerville, image 120 of 123. Boston, MA: Massachusetts State Archives.

Clarke, George Kuhn. The History of Needham, Massachusetts 1711-1911: Including West Needham, now the Town of Wellesley. Cambridge, MA: The University Press, 1912.

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