Mark Bird (1739-1812) Brief Historical Sketch
Brief Historical Sketch
Terry L. Linton © 1983
Linton Research Fund Inc., Publication © 1987
All Rights Reserved
Linton & Bird Chronicles Volume II, Issue 2, Spring © 2007, ISSN 1941-3521
Colonel Marcus "Mark" Bird son of William Bird (1706-1761) and Bridget Hulling. Mark Bird was born, January. 1738/9, in the Swedish colony of Morlatton, on the banks of the Schuylkill River, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Mark died, in 1812, in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Mark was christened, 4 February 1738/9, in Dutch Reformed Church, Morlatton, Berks County Pennsylvania. Mark was buried, in 1812, in the Concord Cemetery, Bostic, Rutherford County North Carolina. Mark graduated, in 1753, from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
On December 31, 1762, Mark married Mary Ross (1744-1790) at a double wedding with his sister Rebecca Bird marring Peter Turner Jr. The ceremony was preformed at the Christ Church in Philadelphia. Mary Ross was the daughter of Reverent George Ross Sr. (1679-1754) and Anna Catherine Van Gezel (1689- ). George Ross Sr., was born in Balblair, Ross Shire, Scotland. George immigrated to Dutch colony of New Castle as a missionary for the English Anglican Church. Anna Catherine Van Gezel was born in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Mary Ross was born, in 1744, in New Castle Colony, Delaware. Mary died, 10 June 1790, in the home, of Mark's brother, William Bird II, in Alexandria, Virginia. She was on her way to North Carolina to be with Mark. Mary was christened in the in Episcopalian faith. Mary was buried June 1790, in the Episcopal Christ Church Cemetery Yard, Alexandria, Virginia.
Marcus "Mark" Bird was a prominent ironmaster, politician, miller, planter and Revolutionary War Colonel. On April 6, 1765 Mark was elected a Vestryman of the St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Mark build Hopewell Furnace in Berks County, Pennsylvania on the headwaters of French Creek in 1771. Mark was appointed the Commissioner of Roads of Berks County. On April 28, 1773, Mark was appointed the Commissioner of the Schuylkill River Improvement Commission. Mark took a leading part in patriot politics. On December 5, 1774, Mark was elected a member of the Committee on Observation. On January 2, 1775 Mark was elected a Delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Conference and served as a member of the Pennsylvania Committee of Correspondence. All of these radical patriot groups were very active in the movement for independence from England.
This is a partial listing of the properties owned by Ironmaster Mark Bird Esquire: Birdsboro Iron Works; Birdsboro Slitting Mill; Birdsboro Steel Furnace; Birdsboro Grist Mill; Birdsboro Saw Mill; Birdsboro Rolling Mill; Hopewell Furnace; Spring Forge; Roxborough Furnace; Jones Good Luck Iron Mine; Hopewell Iron Mine; Middle Iron Mine; and over 8,000 acres of land. All of these were located in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Also, the Mary Ann Furnace, York County, Pennsylvania; Glasgow Forge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; Collender's Mills, containing 1,069 acres on the Canedogwinet Creek, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.; Mossy Creek, Mount Vernon and Muddy Creek Furnaces, Augusta County, Virginia; Hibernia Furnace, Chelsea and Bloomsburg Forges, in New Jersey; Delaware Iron Works, Bucks County, Pennsylvania; Bird Ironworks, Bird Forge, Bird Furnace and Bird Mills in High Shoals North Carolina and South Carolina. In 1779 Mark establish the Delaware Iron Works, the largest ironworks at the time in America and founded the town that later became known as Morrisville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Mark and his brother-in-law, Peter Turner, owned and outfitted the schooner "United States" for trade with China. Please note: Mark Bird did not own all of these properties at the same time and was co-owner of many of them. However, Mark was the Ironmaster at Hopewell, Birdsboro, Delaware Ironworks and the Bird Ironworks, Forge, Furnace and Mills in North Carolina.
When the American Revolution broke out, from 1775 to 1776 Mark was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Second Battalion of the Berks County Militia. Mark provided uniforms, tents and provisions for 300 men, who were recruited in the vicinity of his iron works at Hopewell and Birdsboro.
In 1776 Mark was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly and elected a member of the Provincial Convention of 1776.
Also in 1776, Mark was appointed a Judge of the Berks County Court. In 1776, Mark became the Deputy Quartermaster General of the Continental Army. On May 6, 1777, Mark was one of the signers of the Appeal to the Supreme Executive Council and Board Of War. In February, 1778 as Deputy Quarter Master General under General Mifflin, Colonel Mark Bird was given the "impossible" order of getting food to General Washington's starving troops at Valley Forge. This task General Mifflin had failed to do earlier. Colonel Bird managed to float 1,000 barrels of flour from his own water grist mills in Birdsboro which were stored in Reading down the Schuylkill River in the dead of winter. On February 19, 1778 the Executive Council of the Continental Congress shows the shipment of these barrels.
Mark also supplied armaments and munitions, including cannon, shell and shot to the Continental Army from his furnaces and forges in Hopewell and Birdsboro for the American Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress recommended orders to be issued in 1778 and 1780 in Mark's favor for $50,000 and another for $125,691. Mark Bird, however, never collected these amounts owed him by the Congress.
On October 4, 1779, Mark was deeply involved in the "Fort Wilson Riot". Which took place at his brother-in-law, James Wilson's house located on Third and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia, where 4 militiamen and a Negro boy were killed and 14 militia men were wounded. At the legal trial of the defenders of Wilson's home, Colonel Mark Bird was fined the most. All of the concerned men were officially pardoned in March of 1780. Today a brass plaque on a brick wall marks the site of the "Fort Wilson Riot".
Shortly after the Revolutionary War a flood on Hay Creek ruined much of his iron works and the postwar depression started Marks financial troubles. By 1780 and 1781 part of his iron furnaces were out of operation completely.
In 1784 Mark attempted to avoid complete financial collapse by borrowing 200,000 Spanish milled dollars from John Nixon a wealthy Philadelphia merchant.
In 1785 Mark and James Wilson tried to obtain a long term loan of 500,000 Dutch florin from a group of financiers in Holland. They were unsuccessful and in April 1788 to satisfy his debt Mark assigned all his interests to John Nixon to the Hopewell and Birdsboro properties.
On September 18, 1783, Mark in a letter to the Continental Congress requested the "Great Chain" which was stretched across the Hudson River at West Point to obstruct British navigation be delivered to him as payment for his war efforts, but his request was denied on September 29, 1783.
In 1788, after suffering financial disaster from the economic downturn, flood and fire damage to his iron holdings Mark was forced to relocate to North Carolina. At the time North Carolina was a well known debtor's refuge and the Governor had just opened the State up tax wise to any one who would establish a ironwork or mills in the state.
Mark Bird established four unsuccessful iron works near High Shoals, North Carolina. On November 7, 1791 Mark received from Governor Charles Pinckne of South Carolina 7 grants of land along Rocky River in the Pendleton District totaling 4,859 acres.
On August 14, 1793 Mark paid $1,000 for three tracts of land on the north bank of the Second Broad River in Rutherford County, North Carolina adjoining the above and below High Shoals. At about the same time Mark purchased land in the York District, South Carolina about three miles south of the present town of Grover, North Carolina. This area was formerly known as Whitaker, South Carolina until the Post office was moved across the state line in 1885, at which time it was named in honor of President Grover Cleveland. The North Carolina tract had some iron ore and the South Carolina tract was rich in limestone. Several attempts were made to run iron furnaces in this vicinity. They were dependent upon charcoal for fuel, therefore none of the attempts were successful.
On August 18, 1801, Mark entered into an abortive partnership with Arthur Clark to manufacture iron in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Mark put up 300 acres along High Shoals and the services of three slaves, one as a foreman. Arthur Clark put up an adjacent tract and money to construct the iron works. Clark also was to set up and operate a store, while Mark attended the iron works. There are several ore holes left on Mark's tract in South Carolina near Grover, North Carolina. With the partnership with Arthur Clark failing Mark, in 1803, granted his son, Edward Bird, power of attorney to dispose of the land grants in Pendleton District, South Carolina. These tracts were sold in 200 and 500 acre parcels from 1803 to 1813.
In 1805 Mark had to sell his slaves and part of his land to remain solvent, but lost the High Shoals tract in a Sheriff's sale in 1806 to satisfy a creditors claim against him. Mark Bird, age 74, died in 1812 at the home of his youngest son, George Bird Sr. and was buried at what is now the Concord Baptist Church Cemetery, near Bostic, North Carolina.
Mark Bird was one of the founding fathers the United States Of America, having been present at many of the turning points in American history. Mark's family also was very prominent in establishing the United States with three of his brother-in-laws, Colonel George Ross, Chief Justice James Wilson and Chief Justice George Read, signing the Declaration Of Independence. James Wilson also signed the Constitution. Mark's wife, Mary Ross, was the aunt of John Ross, who eloped with the Quaker girl Elizabeth Griscom. Elizabeth is better known as the seamstress Betsy Ross, who stitched the first flag.
The known children of Mark Bird and Mary Ross:
i. Charlotte Bird (1764-1827) Pennsylvania; North Carolina; South Carolina.
ii. William Bird (1765-1812) Pennsylvania;
iii. Captain John Bird. (1767-1812) Pennsylvania; North Carolina.
iv. Major Ross Bird. (1770-1814) Pennsylvania; North Carolina.
v. George Bird Sr. (1774-1847) Pennsylvania; North Carolina; South Carolina.
vi. Catherine "Kitty" Bird. (1775- ) Pennsylvania; North Carolina.
vii. Colonel Edward Bird. (1781-1856) Pennsylvania; North Carolina; South Carolina.
viii. Henry C. Bird. (1782- ) Pennsylvania; North Carolina; South Carolina.
ix. James Bird (1783- ) Pennsylvania.
x. Mary Bird (1785- ) Pennsylvania.
xi. Lawson Bird. (1786- ) Pennsylvania. North Carolina.
Descendants of Ironmaster William Bird (1706-1761)Linton Chronicles a publication of the Linton Research Fund Inc.
Mark Bird (1738-1812) Brief Historical Sketch Page