Edwin R. Bird papers

Edwin R. Bird papers

Dates: bulk 1854-1855, 1851-1860

Collection includes a diary, correspondence, and poetry written by Bird between 1851 and 1860. Includes information on his overland migration to California and his activities after his arrival.

  • Extent: 3 folders (0.3 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Bird, Edwin R. (Edwin Ruthven), 1829-1910
  • Call Number: MSS 2628
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602; http://sc.lib.byu.edu/
  • Access Restrictions: Open for public research.
Languages and Scripts
Arranged in three series: 1. Edwin R. Bird diary, 1854-1855. 2. Edwin R. Bird letters, 1855. 3. Edwin R. Bird poetry, 1851, 1860.
Conditions of 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.
Preferred Citation
Initial citation: MSS 2628; Edwin R. Bird papers; 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following citations: MSS 2628, LTPSC.
Custodial History
In 1940 the Newberry Library, with the permission of Frederick Joel Bird, transcribed the Edwin Bird diary. In 1945, the Edwin Bird diary was, with the permission of Frederick Joel Bird, microfilmed by the National Park Service. Merrill J. Mattes in "Platte River Road Narratives: A Descriptive Bibliography of Travel Over the Great Central Overland Route to Oregon, California, Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Other Western States and Territories, 1812-1866" incorrectly states that the holograph diary was in the possession of the Newberry; the original was, until 2003, in the possession of the family. In 2003, Lise Embley, great-great granddaughter of Edwin R. Bird, donated the Edwin R. Bird diary, letters, and poetry book to the L. Tom Perry Special Collection.
Acquisition Information
Donated; Lise Embley; 2003.
Related Material
Typescripts; Newberry Library; 60 W. Walton St.; Chicago, Illinois, 60610; 312-943-9090.
Subject Terms
Byrd family; Talbot, Julia M., 1834-1909; California; Immigration and American Expansion; Material Types; Overland journeys to the Pacific; Overland Journeys to the Western United States
Genre / Form
American poetry; Diaries; Letters
Processing Information
Processed; John M. Murphy; December 16, 2008.
Appraisal Information
Utah and the American West (Collection development policy for 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts, August 2007).
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Bird (Edwin R.) papers
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Karen Glenn, student processor; John M. Murphy and Susan Fales, curators
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-07-08T12:04-0600
Finding Aid Language
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

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.

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Ryan Lee
Curator - 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts