We think Almon Bird began farming on Cedar Street on the land we now call Three Bird Farm sometime between 1870 and 1874. When we started researching the property back in 2012, we heard a lot of stories. The consistent points in those stories were that the house was built by Almon Bird in 1880 or 1882 and that it was unlike the larger mansions built by his brothers closer to town because Almon lacked the same ambition for business that they have. As Rose Waterman writes in her 2005 book Mayard S. Bird – The Saga of a Maine Son:
Almon Bird, the third son, was content to follow in his father’s footsteps in the role of shopkeeper. Whether his goals were more limited than those of his brothers or whether he was differently motivated, he seems never to have sought anything beyond managing the original Bird store at Blackington’s corner.
A Different Story?
While the Bird Store at Blackinton’s [Blackington’s] Corner was indeed just around the corner from the Cedar Street farmhouse, the narrative we kept hearing doesn’t seem to be wholly born out by the records with which we are familiar. Records indicate, for example, that Almon didn’t just work in the Bird Store at Blackinton’s [Blackington’s] Corner. While he is listed as a “laborer” and living in his father’s house at the age of 24 in 1850, by 1860, he is farming in Camden and continues to do so until at least 1870, according to the City Directory.
The late 1860s were a time of significant change for Almon, as they were for the country. His father died in September 1868 and his first wife, Sarah S. Keene, died in December at the age of just 35. Almon married Helen M. Sylvestor in June of 1870, and by 1875, he was listed in the Rockland City Directory as “overseer, h. Cedar”. Did he return to Rockland and build the house on Cedar Street to take over the Bird Store at Blackinton’s [Blackington’s] Corner? We don’t know (yet!), but we do know that by 1877, he’s listed as “Bird, Almon, farmer, house Cedar, near Old County road”.
Twelve Acres, a Cow, a Pig, a Horse, and 15 Poultry
The best record we have to date regarding his farming activities is the 1880 Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules. According to those records, Almon owned 12 acres in Rockland of “Tilled” land and 70 nacres of “Unimproved” land (“Woodland and forest”). The value of his farm was $3,500 including land, fences and buildings. The value of his livestock was $125. He paid $25 for farm labor in 1879, and he reported 4 weeks of hired labor.
The estimated value of “all farm production” in 1879 was $225. During that year, he harvested hay from nine acres of mown grasslands, made 200 pounds of butter and produced 25 dozen eggs. He had one milking cow, one calf, one horse, one pig, and 15 poultry.
In 1880, Almon, now 55, is listed in the US Federal Census as a “Lime Burner” and living on Cedar Street with his wife Helen, son Ulysses (15), daughter Delia (8), son Almon jr. (6), daughter Emma Sylvester (17), and a servant named Dora Andrews (27). In the 1882 City Directory, he is listed as a farmer again, and then in 1889 he’s back to being listed as a lime manufacturer, but his son, Ulysses is listed as a farmer boarding at the Cedar Street House.
Almon Bird died in his house on Cedar Street on 9 February 1902 at 76 years of age.