Jesse J. Bird was born in Patrick County, Virginia on June 2, 1831 to parents Benjamin and Lucy (Grady) Bird. Benjamin served for about six months during the War of 1812 in Virginia’s militia, as evidenced by a pension application submitted by Lucy. Benjamin died in 1837 when Jesse was about six years old.
Jesse, the oldest child, struck out on his own at the age of nineteen. In 1860 he was working as a farm laborer in the St. Mary’s Township of Hancock County, Illinois. In 1864 he left Illinois after hearing about gold discovered in Montana the year before.
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