DANIEL GREEN BIRD. The life of Western Kansas, its struggles, hardships and romance, could not be better expressed than through the personal career and experience of Daniel G. Bird, one of the pioneers and one of the most successful farmers and ranchmen of Barton County.
He was not yet thirty years of age, was unmarried, and had the best years of his life before him when he came to Barton County on March 3, 1878. He was born in Floyd County, Virginia, June 19, 1849. His people have been in America for four or five generations. During colonial times the Bird family was on the way to the Pennsylvania frontier to enter land, the party consisting of husband and wife and children. The wife having missed from the wagon a silver spoon which she greatly prized, started back on the trail to look for it. While she was gone the Indians attacked the camp and killed her husband. One of the suns of this frontier couple grew up and was the grandfather of John Bird, great-grandfather of Daniel G. Bird. John Bird was born in Virginia, and was a resident of Franklin County, that state.
Benjamin V. Bird, father of Daniel G., was also born in Franklin County, Virginia, February 18, 1814. He attended school only six months, but possessed a fine and inquiring mind, and educated himself in later years. Much of his information was acquired through constant reading, and his knowledge of geography came in that way. During the Civil war he furnished a son for the Confederate service. He was a democrat and a member of the Primitive Baptist Church. He died April 11, 1886, in Bland County, Virginia, at the age of seventy-two. The maiden name of his wife was Catherine Cole Saunders. Her father, Daniel Saunders, was of Holland Dutch ancestry, a native of Pennsylvania, and in Virginia, was a slave holder and extensive cotton planter. Mrs. Benjamin Bird died March 31, 1908. A brief record of her children is: John Henry, who died while a resident of Barton County, Kansas, and left a family there; Elizabeth Frances, who married James G. Kegley and died in Bland County, Virginia; Daniel Green; Martha J., who was the wife of Watson Compton and died at Great Bend, Kansas; William W., who died in Bland County, Virginia; Mary Lue, who is the wife of Lafayette Newberry and lives in her native Virginia County; and George T., a farmer in Bland County.
Daniel G. Bird was reared as a farmer and his early education was limited to the advantages of the country schools. The free school system of Virginia was not established until after he had reached his majority. For one winter term he taught school, but otherwise his experience before coming to Kansas was farming. He came to Kansas from Bland County, Virginia, and arrived here with only sufficient money to make the initial payment on a tract of railroad land which he bought and also to build a pioneer frame shanty 14 by 18 feet. He expected to make his later payments out of the crops, but in this he was disappointed, since there were two consecutive failures, in 1879 and 1880. As a result he lost his land and all he had paid on it.
An incident showing Mr. Bird's plight while he was struggling against adversity the first year or two in Barton County is related by a lady, then young like himself, and whose parents established their home upon a claim adjoining that of Mr. Bird. Her father had driven overland to Barton County in 1878 and had removed the covered bed from his wagon to the prairie grass and called that "home." Over on the land of the adjoining claim could he seen a young man breaking prairie with oxen. The young lady on this particular occasion was alone in the temporary home, her father and brothers being engaged in their daily work. Occupied with her own duties, she was suddenly confronted by a male presence which was anything but welcome. He was barefoot, his sleeves out at the elbow, his trousers out at the knees, his white slouch hat with the brim flapping against his sunburned face, and altogether presenting the picture of a typical tramp. In her first fright she looked in every direction for possible escape, and seeing none she bravely faced the situation and stood her ground. She then perceived that the man carried a plow share, and his first words reassured her, and instead of a tramp he stood revealed as a fine but uncouth specimen of Virginia manhood, bent upon a neighborly errand and nothing more. It was Dan G. Bird, who had come over to "bent out" the plowshare which had dulled against some obstacle in the sod, and he asked permission to do it with the blacksmith tools his new neighbor happened to have. This incident served to introduce her and her family to one of the Kansas pioneers whose personality has impressed itself indelibly upon the community of Heizer and whose earnest efforts were later rewarded until his landed estate had reached, at his retirement, from the farm, the dimensions of a princely domain.
Though he had lost all claim to the ownership of the land Mr. Bird did not move from the farm, but paid the taxes and cultivated it and gradually accumulated a few cattle. Later he re-bought the place and resumed his efforts toward establishing a permanent home. This time he bought on five years' time, but it required an even longer period to pay out. Wheat was so cheap that little could be expected from even the most generous crops of that cereal, and Mr. Bird frequently sold cattle, fat and ready for the market at $3.25 a hundred at Kansas City. He lived cheaply, and the common fare of life was the best that graced his table for years. He was in Barton County 11 1/2 years before he secured title to his first land. That served as the nucleus of a rapidly increasing estate. He combined stock raising with farming as long as he was active, and he brought his holdings to 2,670 acres in Barton and adjoining counties. This was divided into eight distinct farms, seven of them well improved.
One of the busiest men in the county, as this record would indicate, Dan G. Bird has never lacked in that public interest and spirit which demands part of his time for community welfare. He was especially interested in local schools and was a director for eighteen years, and for two terms trustee of his township. He had been in Kansas little more then six years before he married. His marriage occurred June 25, 1884. Miss Martha Ellen Lee became his wife. She was a native of Ohio and had come to Barton County from Iowa in 1876. Her father, a farmer and stockman, was a second cousin of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Her mother was Ann H. Shields. Mrs. Bird was one of nine children, five of whom reached mature years. She was educated in the common schools and for eight years taught in Barton County. After her marriage she abandoned teaching and proved a model and devoted wife and mother. They reared a family of six children, and these were educated in the local schools and some of them had advance work in college and university. Mrs. Bird died April 24, 1918, at the age of fifty-eight.
Of the children, Robert Lee was drowned at the age of seventeen, and Benjamin B. was killed by a lightning stroke at the age of twelve. Anna May, the oldest of the surviving children, is the wife of Charles Archer, a farmer near Albert, Kansas, and they have two children, Gerald and Dorothy. Harry C. Bird, a farmer near Albert, married Ruth Buckles, and his two children are Daniel Keith and Jean Catherine. Elmer Joseph Bird lives at the Bird homestead, and by his marriage to Bernice Comfort has a son, Roy Thomas. Dee D. is a factor in the farming community of Barton County. Mary Frances is a student in the Agricultural College at Manhattan. The youngest is Ruth Ellen, a high school student at Great Bend.
In 1915 Mr. Bird abandoned the active operation of his farm and has since made his home in comfort at Great Bend, from which point he continues the oversight of his properties. He is a stockholder in the Kansas Flour Milling Company and the Lyons Salt Company, and in two banks, one at Heizer and one at Great Bend. He is also a stockholder in an elevator in Pawnee Rock and one in Albert. Politically he is a democrat and though not a church member he is a supporter of church work, and in a recent year he gave more to church causes than he himself cleared during the first year he worked for himself in Virginia. During the war he contributed regularly to the auxiliary war work and bought Liberty Bonds of every issue.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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