ancestryink fisherman

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Jail Birds ...Literally

As I mentioned in my last post, the schooner Almon Bird holds some interest for me since Alonzo Henderson, a survivor of this unfortunate wreck of 1882, is of my family.

Today, to beat the heat for a bit, I spent some downtown time in the antique store mecca of Wells, Maine where I wandered into my favorite store for old postcards: Reeds Collectibles.  The "R"/Maine section of their vast collection yielded the following:

A very nice postcard of Beech St., Rockland, Maine, circa 1910.

But, the really interesting part is on the back of the card:

A letter written to Mr. Bert Bird, Northport, Maine from a Bert Mansfield.  The postmark is Feb 10, 1910.  Here is what it says:

"Camden, Feb 10-10
Friend Bert, 
I think we will go back to Northport the first of next week. Mr. Ritterbush said the lumber is in Belfast now and he wants us again as soon as the lumber is on the job.  Yours truly, Bert Mansfield"

From quick research on the "Almon Bird," I discovered that the schooner was named after a well-known limeburner and manufacturer from Camden: Mr. Almon Bird. Many a ship was laden with "plaster" or limerock, bound across the seas with their perilous cargo from the famous quarries of Rockland. The Bird family is fairly easy to track through the generations in the Belfast, Rockland, Camden area via online records on  Bert Bird, born in 1879,  is related.

I followed Bert Bird via his census reports.  He married Hazel Drinkwater  - from another large family known for shipbuilding. They have a daughter Velma by 1920. Bert is no mariner or limeburner. His occupation is "laborer" at a farm (this is on the 1910 Census), on another census, "nothing,"  and on the third, a "lumberman."

Why no occupation?  Well, because Bert and a certain Percy Bird were both in jail. 

Percy and Bert Bird, inmates at the Waldo County Jail, Belfast Maine, 1930

 Yes, Bert of my postcard ends up twenty years later at the Waldo County Jail, on Congress St. in Belfast Maine. For what crime we do not yet know.  His brother Percy A. Bird, (parents of both are: Frederick and Sarah Bird) is listed as a "carpenter" on his census records.  Percy Bird was born in 1885 and was married to Maud Price in 1906, but by the time he is in jail at age 44,  he is widowed.

The wonderful, newly-indexed 1940 Census also appears online for Bert Bird.  Now he is living alone (though 'married')  in the same place - Northport, Maine - and his occupation is "lumbering."

Whatever he did, he was freed from jail somewhere within 10 years time.  He passes away in 1948. Who knows- perhaps the brothers were there for a day, and it just happened to be Census Day in Belfast.

Percy Augustine Bird, his brother, seems fine as well.  He remarries to Bertha Harriman,   in Northport, in 1934.

So that, my friends, is the kind of saga one can expect from merely picking up an old postcard and having a name ring a bell.  All from news of ancestral cannibalism, aboard an ill-fated schooner named the Almon Bird, wrecked off Boon Island in a horrific, 3-day January storm in 1882.

(By the way, Mr. Bert Mansfield, author of our postcard?  He was not in jail with the Bird brothers!)

1 comment:

  1. This is extremely interesting. I'm the great-great granddaughter of Jeremiah Ferdinand Hamilton who initially survived the sinking of the Almon Bird, but succumbed to his frostbite injuries a week or so after their rescue. I'm currently writing an article for a local publication about the shipwreck and found this while researching for additional references. I was particularly happy to find the full name of your ancestor as all of my sources only listed him as "A.B. Hamilton" or "A.R.Hamilton". I also wondered where the name "Almon Bird" came from - thank you very much for that bit of info as well!