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Edwin R. Bird letters, 1855

Identifier: MSS 2628 Series 2

Scope and Contents

Series contains five letters by Bird to his sister in 1855. Letters describe his life and activities in California, as well as information about the Bird family.


  • 1855


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Edwin R. Bird papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

From the Collection:

Edwin R. Bird (1829-1910) was an American saddler and prospector in Illinois and California.

Edwin Ruthven Bird was born August 19, 1829, in Barcelona, Chautauqua County, New York, to Frederick Bird and Louisa Goddard Warren. As a young child, Bird and his family relocated to the Detroit, Michigan, area. Later, the family lived in various locations in Illinois, including Geneva, Rockton, and Winfield. In 1842, Bird's father, Frederick Bird, died. Bird's mother, Louisa Warren Bird, moved the family to Warrenville, Illinois; soon thereafter, Edwin Bird moved to Chicago to live with his uncle, Silas B. Cobb, where he learned the harness trade.

In the spring of 1854, Bird left his home and work in Naperville, Illinois, and traveled to California as a member of an overland migration party. Bird kept a diary of his overland journey in which he described his expedition in detail. On April 10, 1854, the date of his first diary entry, he related the departure of his overland "company." Bird reached the Bear River on July 4, 1854, the date of the last entry in his diary. He later mailed this diary to his sister on August 5, 1855. The location of the second half of Bird's diary is not known; as a result the exact date of his arrival in California has been lost to history. In California, however, Bird corresponded with his "dear sister." These five letters document Bird's life from February 4, 1855, to November 18, 1855. Statements in the Bird letters seem to indicate that he copied entries from his later diary to his letters. The letters themselves, however, might have constituted Bird's "diary."

In California, Edwin Bird lived and worked in two communities: Montezuma and Columbia. He and his brother Byron prospected for gold, and in Columbia, Byron Bird purchased a store which both brothers operated. Edwin Bird was also involved in California politics, specifically the activities of the American party. According to the 1856 Tuolumne County, California, Miners and Business Men's Directory, Edwin Bird also worked as a saddler.

In 1866, Edwin Bird returned to Illinois, where he met Clara A. Smith; they married September 26, 1867, and lived in Woodstock, Illinois. Edwin Bird and Clara Smith Bird had one child, Frederick Joel Bird, born April 27, 1875, in Woodstock. Clara Bird died April 17, 1894, and Edwin Bird retired from his business six years later. In 1901, following the marriage of his son, he moved to California where he met Penelope P. Sever. They married December 29, 1904, and lived in Long Beach, California.

Edwin R. Bird died June 26, 1910, in Long Beach. A funeral service was later held for Bird in Warrenville, Illinois, where he was interred.


1 folder

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