Winfield Austin Scott Bird, whose name and fame as a lawyer, and especially as an expert on matters pertaining to municipal government, have extended to all parts of the State of Kansas, and even to other states, is a native of the old Keystone State, having been born at Addison, Somerset county, Pennsylvania, Aug. 31, 1855. His father, Archibald Bird, was also a native of Somerset county, where he was born on Nov. 22, 1823, and his mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Ann Heilman, was born in Allegany county, Maryland, March 25, 1826. During the Civil war Archibald Bird served with distinction as a soldier in the Union army, and his death at Addison, Pa., April 12, 1896, was due to wounds received in that historic conflict. He was a farmer by occupation and also conducted a sawmill in Somerset county. His wife died at Listonburg, Pa., May 4, 1906. When Winfield was about six months old his parents removed to the woods on White's creek, in his native county, and here he was reared to manhood on the farm which his father reclaimed from the primeval state, rendering what assistance he could and attending school about three months each year during the winter seasons. The sawmill above mentioned was one of the old-fashioned kind, operated by water-power, and here he frequently worked from fifteen to eighteen hours a day in the busy seasons, sawing lumber for the surrounding neighbors. In this school of stern experience young Bird developed those traits of perseverance, self-denial and moral courage that have in later years been such potent influences in making him a leader of men. At every opportunity he studied such books as came to his hand, and by the time he was twenty years of age he had acquired sufficient education to engage in teaching school, which occupation he followed for the next five years, first in Pennsylvania and later in Richardson county, Nebraska, whither he went in the spring of 1878. After teaching for two years in Richardson county, during which time he devoted all his spare time to the study of law under the preceptorship of Clarence Gillespie of Falls City, Neb., he was there admitted to the bar on Sept. 8, 1880. Immediately upon his admission to practice he decided to try his fortune in Kansas, and on Sept. 27, 1880, he opened his law office in Topeka. From that time to the presenta period of thirty yearshe has been a practicing attorney of that city, and for more than twenty-five years of that time he has occupied his present offices in the Bates Building at the corner of Sixth and Kansas avenues. His practice is of a general character, and by a conscientious attention to the interests of his clients and a careful preparation of his cases he has won an enviable position at the bar and built up a lucrative business. He has been a member of the Kansas State Bar Association ever since it was organized, and is now one of the oldest living members of that body. He is also a member of the Shawnee County Bar Association and the Topeka Commercial Club.
In his political affiliations Mr. Bird is an unswerving supporter of Republican principles. For eight years he served as city attorney of Topeka, and it is no disparagement to other men who have held that position to say that no man ever discharged the duties of the office with more fidelity. In 1904 he was elected as one of Shawnee county's representatives in the state legislature, and his record during that term was of such a nature that his constituents rewarded him with a reëlection in 1906. As a law maker he displayed the same zeal and faithfulness that have distinguished him as a practitioner, some of the most important laws on the Kansas statute books being due to his intimate knowledge of municipal affairs and his interest in the general welfare of his adopted state. He is the author of what is known as the "Red Can Law," which requires all dealers in gasoline to deliver the explosive in a red can bearing the label "Dangerous," and providing penalties of fine and imprisonment for failure to comply with the provisions of the law. This law has been practically copied by several of the United States, and it has served as a model for similar legislation in several foreign countries. He also introduced and secured the passage of the pure food law and the bill providing for the government of the first class cities of Kansas by a commission instead of the old style city council. Some of the leading newspapers of the state have recognized the ability of Mr. Bird as an expert on municipal government and have complimented him in language little short of eulogistic for his thorough knowledge of municipal needs, as well as his devotion to the interests of various Kansas cities, a number of which he has visited to aid in the preparation of bills and ordinances intended to promote the civic and material welfare. He was one of the founders of the Municipal League and has been connected with it from the beginning, always a ready and willing helper of every movement calculated to improve municipal conditions, especially in the city of his abode.
In addition to his law practice, Mr. Bird owns a valuable farm in Pottawatomie county. This farm, known as "Walnut Glen Farm," is one of the finest and best appointed stock farms in the West. Here the owner has achieved considerable reputation as a breeder of fine, registered stock, Poland Chinas and Shorthorns being his specialties. The farm, as the name would indicate, is well supplied with walnut timber, where Mr. Bird delights to spend a day now and then shooting squirrels in true sportsmanlike style. Few men in Kansas are better known or more prominent in fraternal circles. He is a thirty-second degree member of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Masonry, a Knight Templar and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine, having, in fact, all the degrees of the Masonic fraternity including the honorary thirty-third. He is also a past grand chancellor in the Knights of Pythias, a past exalted ruler in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a past grand in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and a past great sachem in the Improved Order of Red Men. On Sept. 9, 1906, he was elected by the Great Council of the United States at Niagara Falls, N. Y., to the exalted position of Great Incohonee of the Red Men of the United States, and it is worthy of note that during his incumbency of this office the net growth of the order in the United States was greater than in any similar period before or sincealmost 65,000 new members having been added to the ranks. While at the head of the Improved Order of Red Men, Mr. Bird was the recipient of tokens of esteem valued at over $1,000, presented to him by the order in different states. He is also prominent in the Knights and Ladies of Security, the Ancient Order United Workmen, and belongs to several other social and fraternal societies, in all of which he is popular because of his genial disposition and enthusiasm in promoting the principles of charity, benevolence and brotherly love. For fourteen and a half years Mr. Bird was identified with the Kansas National Guard, entering as a private, receiving promotions to commissary sergeant and regimental quartermaster, and still later to the position of judge advocate-general with the rank of major, with which rank he retired from the service.
On March 21, 1883, Mr. Bird was united in marriage with Miss Mary Dodge, a native of Ohio, but who at the time of her marriage was a resident of Hiawatha, Kan. They live in a handsome residence on Topeka avenue, Topeka, one of the fashionable residence districts of capital city, surrounded by all those things that contribute to make home-life enjoyable. They have no children. Mr. Bird has traveled extensively, visiting every state and territory in the American Union, and by his habit of closely observing whatever comes beneath his notice he has added vastly to his store of knowledge concerning the social and political conditions in all parts of the country. This knowledge he has turned to good account, not for self-aggrandizement, but for the common weal. In the life of Mr. Bird the young man of today may find an example worthy of the highest emulation. Beginning his career amid humble surroundings, in an environment almost entirely barren of those educational advantages afforded the youth of the present generation, he has, by the exercise of his determination, indomitable energy, careful judgment and sheer force of will, risen to a place among the foremost citizens of his adopted city. He has enjoyed periods of rest and recreation, but at such times he has never indulged in any form of dissipation that would tend to dwarf his manhood or turn aside his fine intellect from the contemplation and pursuit of high ideals. The result is that he stands today a splendid type of high-minded, patriotic American citizenshipa man whom it is an honor to know, and to know is to honor.Pages 46-48 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
J | K | L | Mc | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z
Background and KSGenWeb logo were designed and are copyrighted by
Tom & Carolyn Ward
for the limited use of the KSGenWeb Project.
Permission is granted for use only on an official KSGenWeb page.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project