Question: How old was William Bird when he served in the Mormon Battalion in 1846?
Answer: William Bird was born July 18, 1823 at Southport, Cheming Co., New York, the youngest of twelve children of Benjamin Freeman Bird and Maribah Reeves. In 1832, a Mormon elder traveling through the area asked Benjamin and Maribah for room and board. During the course of his stay, he gave them a Book of Mormon. After reading the book, they were convinced of its truthfulness, but the elder moved on before they were baptized.
When William was nine years old, his mother died, and his father remarried Margaret Crane Dailey. That fall Benjamin wrote a letter to Kirtland asking for more missionaries, who came the next summer. Benjamin and his wife Margaret were baptized in June of 1834. In 1838 Benjamin’s family, including the families of his sons, Charles and James, left the Chemung Valley and traveled the three hundred miles west to Kirtland. Certainly Benjamin’s younger sons, Richard and William, by now seventeen and fourteen, would have been very helpful on the journey.
This would have been a difficult time to arrive in Kirtland. Persecution was strong and the members of the Church who could afford to travel to Missouri had already left Kirtland. Likely Benjamin only passed through Kirtland and then continued on to Missouri. In Missouri the family endured persecution, and Benjamin Bird lost everything he had and moved on to settle for a few months in Clayton, Illinois, in Adams County. It was here that sixteen-year-old William was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Charles C. Rich.
In January of 1840, Benjamin purchased a lot on Main Street in Nauvoo for $300. He dug a cellar and built a small, two-room cabin over it. He also dug a well on the property. Benjamin and his sons also worked on the construction of the Nauvoo temple.
In 1843, twenty-year-old William was ordained an Elder and was called to serve a mission to Connecticut. When the Saints were forced out of Nauvoo, Benjamin and his family moved on to Winter Quarters, a Nebraska camp across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs.
When Brigham Young asked for volunteers to join the Mormon Battalion, twenty-two-year-old William enlisted. He was assigned to Company B as a Private. By July 10, four companies were organized. The company elected Jesse D. Hunter as their captain. Company B left Winter Quarters on July 16, 1846. William Bird celebrated his twenty-third birthday on the trail to Fort Leavenworth.
While on the march, William Bird suffered a serious injury in an accident. He was thrown by a mule which then fell on him, fracturing his right elbow. The injured William Bird traveled with the second division of the sick detachment. The battalion leaders then determined that the sick and injured would be sent north to Pueblo to join the Mormon Branch there. Commanding this unit was Captain John Brown, formerly the leader of Company C.
William Bird, still suffering from his injuries of the previous month, left Santa Fe with this detachment on October 18, 1846. William and the members of his sick detachment arrived at Pueblo, Colorado in mid November. There, William Bird spent the winter with about one hundred and fifty soldiers from the battalion and one hundred members of the Church from Mississippi.
On the 29 of July, 1847, Captain Brown’s detachment arrived on the east mountains overlooking the Salt Lake Valley, five days after President Young’s Vanguard Company had arrived. William then left on August 17, 1847 with a company of 71 men and 33 wagons for Winter Quarters to rejoin their families.
William then immigrated back to the Salt Lake Valley, and settled in Springville, Utah County, Utah. He married Ann Roylance on September 28, 1851 in Springville, Utah. They had eight children together. Ann was born on October 8, 1833, in Lower Peover, Cheshire, England to John Roylance and Mary Ann Oakes. William and Ann’s first six children were born in Springville. Then in 1865, William moved to Paris, Bear Lake County, Idaho, where their last two children were born. William was one of the first settlers in that area and soon had a nice large farm, where the family lived for many years.
William’s wife, Ann, died on August 28, 1887, at age 53, in Paris. William died on April 18, 1894 in Paris, Bear Lake, Idaho, at age 70 and was buried in the Paris Cemetery.