John Bird, senior member of the firm of Bird & Richardson, operating the Roller Flouring Mills, has been closely identified with the business interests of Warren since 1875. He first set foot upon the soil of Illinois in 1854, coming from Cortland County, N.Y., overland to Galena, and settling first in the mining regions of New Digging, for about one and one-half years. Then, returning to New York State, he spent a summer in Cortland County, afterward removing with his father's family to Olmstead County, Minn., they settling near the city of Rochester. Our subject sojourned there, however, only a short time, then returned to Illinois in 1857, and commenced teaching school in the vicinity of Scales Mound. He was thus occupied mostly until t860.
At which time Mr. Bird emigrated to Pike's Peak, and engaged in gold mining until 1864, meeting with very good success. The summer of that year he returned to Scales Mound, and in 1864 settled on a tract of land in Scales Mound Township, Jo Daviess County. A few months later he purchased land on sections 24 and 25, in Warren Township, this county (107 acres) upon which he lived until January, 1875. Then, selling out, he invested a part of his capital in a mill-building, within which he placed rollers and other modern equipments, and this he has since conducted with marked success.
Mr. Bird was essentially the leading man in the milling business in this part of the county, and has been from year to year adding improvements until he is enabled to turn out the best grade of patent flour known to this region. He enjoys a home trade mostly, and his mill has a capacity of 250 barrels per day, which can easily be increased to 300 barrels. Mr. Bird is considerable of an inventor (sic), one of the products of his genius being a car-mover, upon which he has obtained a patent. Another of his inventions is the only practical letter-opener seen by the writer. He also has perfected a practical receiver for flour exchanged for wheat, all of which in due time, if properly managed, will become the source of a snug income.
A native of the Dominion of Canada, Mr. Bird was born in the Province of Quebec, April 1, 1837, and lived there until a lad of eleven years. He then removed with his family to Cortland County, N. Y., where he completed his education in the Truxton High School, after which he sought his fortunes in the West. He commenced at the foot of the ladder in life, and through his own efforts has built up for himself a good position, socially
and financially. It has been a maxim of his life that honesty is the best policy, and the fact that he is highly spoken of by those who know him best, is the highest tribute that could be paid to his true character.
The 1st of January, 1861, witnessed the marriage of our subject, at White Oak Springs, Wis., with Miss Catherine Mitchell. Of this union there was born one child only, which died in infancy. Mrs. Bird was born in 1840, in Wisconsin, and is a daughter of Joseph and Mrs. Mitchell, who were natives of Cornwall, England, and are now deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Bird commenced their wedded life together in California. Mrs. Bird died in Jo Daviess County in 1876. Mr. Bird contracted a second marriage with Mrs. Julia A, Bridge (nee Griffith) of White Water, Wis., Nov. 20, 1878. Of this union there are two sons, John E. and Charles C., at home attending school. They now have one of the most pleasant homes in Warren city, and number their friends and acquaintances among its best people.
William Bird, the father of our subject, was born in Cumberland County, England, in 1793, where he was reared to man's estate, and married. Upon coming to America he settled in Lower Province, Canada, whence he removed to Cortland County, N. Y., and from there to Minnesota, in 1857. In the latter State he took up a tract of wild land, from which he improved a good farm, and which he occupied until 1871. That year he changed his residence to Cortland County, N. Y., where he spent his last days, dying in August, 1876, at the advanced age of eighty-four years.
The mother of our subject was in her girlhood Miss Ann Dodd, and was born in 1809. She accompanied her family to Minnesota, and died there in 1862. The parents were people of high moral principle and deep piety, training their children in the doctrines of the Episcopal Church. Their family consisted of fourteen children, seven of whom are living; Mr. Bird, since coming to this county, has borne his share of the burdens involved in the establishment and maintenance of schools, serving a term of six years as Director and Clerk, and making himself useful in other ways as opportunity presented. He was one of the leading men in the establishment of the Warren Free Public Library and Reading Room; an institution which has become quite indispensable to the people of Warren and vicinity. The library now comprises 1,300 volumes; and the association, of which Mr. B. is President, has been chartered under the laws of the State.
During his early manhood Mr. Bird uniformly supported the principles of the Republican party, but his warm interest in the temperance work led him, in 1888, to come out on the side of the Prohibitionists. Besides his connection with the School Board he has officiated as Township Assessor, both here and elsewhere, and also as a member and President of the Village Board. In religious matters he identified himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church twenty one years ago, and has been one of its pillars; serving as Treasurer, Steward, Class-Leader, Trustee, and being a warmly interested and efficient Superintendent of the Sunday-school. It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Bird is a man with whose services his community could not very well dispense. His liberality and his public-spritedness (sic) has rendered excellent service in pushing forward the enterprises calculated for the general good of the community, and he will be kindly remembered long after he has been gathered to his fathers. Socially, he is a warm supporter of the principles of the I. O. O. F., in which order he has risen to a high rank.
Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess Co., IL (1889)