Ironmaster William Bird (1706-1761)

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William Bird (1706-1761)


Terry Louis Linton © 1992

(First Published) Descendants of Andrew Bird (1673-1723 ) and Katrun Kuver (Covert) (1689-1723) (book, Terry L. Linton © 1992) (Linton Research Fund, Inc., Publication © 1992, printed in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, USA.) 

Linton Research Fund Inc., Publication © 1992

LINTON & BIRD CHRONICLES Volume IV, Issue 1, Spring 2009, ISSN 1941-3521


William Bird (1706-1761)

Ironmaster William Bird, was the son of Andrew Bird Jr. (1673- 1723) and Mary Katrun (Kuver) (Koevers) Covert (1689-1723). William’s father, Andrew Bird Jr. (1673- 1723) was born on his father’s plantation in Oyster Bay, Nassau Colony, Long Island, New York. Andrew was of English decent. William’s mother, Mary Katrun (Kuver) (Koevers) Covert (1689-1723) was born in Dutch Kills, Queens, Nassau Dutch Colony, Long Island, New York. Katrun was of Danish descent.

In 1701, William’s family resettled to the East New Jersey Colony. William was born in 1706, in Hopewell, Millstone River, Raritan, Somerset County, East New Jersey. William was christened in 1706, in the newly formed Hopewell Dutch Reformed Church of Somerset.

On October 28, 1735, William Bird married Brigitte HULING (1710-1790). Brigitte was the daughter of Marcus Lars Huling (1684-1757) and Margaret Jonasson Jones (1691-1757). William and Brigitte were married in the Morlatton Colony, at the Dutch Reformed Church, Montgomery (now Berks) County, Pennsylvania. Brigitte was born in 1710, in the New Castle Dutch Colony, New Castle County, Delaware.

Brigitte was the daughter of Marcus Lars Huling (1684-1757). Marcus was born in the Waterford Dutch Colony in Gloucester County, New Jersey and Margaret "Jonasson" Jones (1691-1775). Margaret was born in the Aronameck Dutch Colony of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

In the early 1730's William was a cordwood contractor cutting wood for Pott's Warwick Iron Furnace and Pine Forge. William served his Iron master apprenticeship under Pennsylvania's first Iron master, Thomas Rutter at Colebrookdale Furnace the first iron furnace in Pennsylvania. William was the Iron master at the following: Pine Forge; New Pine Forge; Birdsboro Furnace; Birdsboro Iron Works; Durham Furnace; Roxborough Furnace.

By 1740, William Bird had established Birdsboro and his Birdsboro Iron Works on the West Branch of Hay Creek, where it empties into the Schuylkill River. Birdsboro was named after its founder, William Bird. William had taken land warrants for land on Haycreek and Six Penny Creek, as early as 1737. On the banks of Haycreek, he established a forge about 1740, which was followed by other forges along the creek, as well as a sawmill and a gristmill. Between 1737 and 1751, he took up warrants for more than 1600 acres of land.

In 1744, William built the Bird Manor House out of brownstones adjacent to his Birdsboro Forge and Birdsboro water grist mills. This house is still standing in downtown Birdsboro.

William Bird and Brigitte HULING had thirteen known children:

James Bird (1736-1748); Margaret Bird (1738-1762); Marcus "Mark" Bird (1739-1812); William Bird (1742-1745); Rebecca BIRD Turner (1744-?); William Bird (1746-1748); Rachel BIRD Wilson (1749-1786); Jonathan Bird (1750-1762); Mary BIRD Ross (1753-1813); John Bird (1755-1762); William Bird (1757-1812); James Bird (1759-1781); George Bird (1760- 1762)

William Bird was directed in 1752, to "purchase a piece of land situated in some convenient place in the town of Reading and there on too erect and build a court house and prison, sufficient to accommodate the public service of the said new county."

Also, in 1752, William was appointed one of the first five Justices of the Peace of the newly formed county of Berks.

In 1753, He was instrumental in establishing the St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church for his workers at Birdsboro Furnace. It was located in the old building used by the Swedish Lutheran Congregation, in Morlatton, now Douglassville, Berks County. William Bird was one of the first two trustees chosen for the new church. William was elected the first Vestryman of Saint Gabriel's Episcopal Church.

In 1761, William was reappointed as a Justice of the Peace. William was the first Schuylkill River Improvement Commissioner of Berks County. William was the first Commissioner of Roads of Berks County.

This is a partial listing of the properties owned by William Bird: Hopewell Iron Works, Grist Mill and Saw Mill (all known later as Birdsboro Iron Works and Mills); Birdsboro Iron Works, Grist Mills and Saw Mill; Upper, Middle and Lower Pine Forges; Sands Forge; Roxborough Furnace; more than 8,000 acres of land located mostly in what is now Union Township and the rest in Robeson Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

On November 16, 1761, Ironmaster, William Bird died. According to his Obituary Notice, in the Pennsylvania Gazette: "William Bird Esq., died November 16, 1761, of apoplexy, in his town home in Reading, Berks County, PA.". William was buried at Saint Gabriel's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Morlatton, (now Douglassville), Amity Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. William was one of the founding members of this church. His gravestone reads: In Memory of William Bird, Esq., who departed this life November 16th , 1761, Aged 55 years."

Brigitte HULING Bird remarried in 1763, to Colonel John Patton (1716-1790) in the Bird Mansion in Birdsboro. Brigitte died in 1792, in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, at age 82. Brigitte was buried in Saint Gabriel's Episcopal Church Cemetery, Douglassville Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, next to her husband William Bird.

William Bird's Bird Mansion is a two-an-a-half story, brownstone structure that was later plastered white. It was later doubled in size by his son, Mark Bird. In 1821, the Schuylkill Canal was dug between the mansion and the river, at that time the road leading to the front of the mansion was changed to the back. Iron master, Matthew Brooke and his wife, Elizabeth, the successor owners to the Birdsboro Iron Works lived in the Bird Mansion until the canal was dug, then they moved to Reading. The Bird Mansion was made into a hotel by later owners, catering to canal traffic.

After the canal trade ended it became a private residence again. The Bird Mansion, with financial aid from the Brooke Family and public subscribers, became a Community Memorial Hall in 1919, In honor of the local Veterans of World War I. In the 1930's it was made a "Community Memorial" and the new Y.M.C.A. building. William Bird's Mansion located on Mill and Main Streets is still used today as the Y.M.C.A., Community Center.



Below illustration: William Bird's (1706-1761) "Bird Manision" illustration by J. B. Bradly, 1987.