Matthew John McBird (1818-1903), Architect
DBA: M. J. McBird, Architect
Matthew J. McBird [c] was born June 28, 1818 in Manchester, Oneida County, New York, to Matthew McDonald McBird, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Elizabeth Lockwood. He appeared as an architect in Logansport, Indiana as early as 1855, and was still in practice there in 1869 when he designed the first building for the University of Nebraska. He moved his practice to Council Bluffs, Iowa during his Lincoln work, and for a time also had an office in Omaha. By 1880 he was practicing in Denver, Colorado, where he lived for the remainder of his life. In 1865, his architectural drawings were on exhibition at the state fair in Indiana. He was married to Mary M. Noah on November 2, 1852 in Ohio, and they had 5 children together. Mary died in 1870, and McBird was later married to Harriet C. Sweet in Denver from 1881-1884. He died on April 23, 1903.
McBird gained some unwelcomed notoriety as a subpoenaed witness in the impeachment trial of Governor David Butler, 1871, where Butler was alleged to have compelled McBird to deliver to him a portion of the warrant due McBird (as approved by Butler) for his work on the State University building. McBird was not to be found; the prosecutor alleged that W. H. B. Stout had gone to Council Bluffs to urge McBird to flee the state.[6:66, 69-70]
Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings
1848-1858: architect, Washington, D.C.
1855-1870: architect, Logansport, Indiana.[5:4][7: n.137, p.74]
1874-1875: architect, Omaha, Nebraska.
1881-1900: architect, Denver, Colorado.
Educational & Professional Associations
Nebraska Buildings & Projects
Carroll County Courthouse (1855-1859), Delphi, Indiana.
Pulaski County Courthouse (1861), Winamac, Indiana.
b. Roberts mistakenly attributes the building to “Bird.”
c. Both the 1860 and 1900 United State federal census very clearly spell his name, “Mathew.” In 1880 he is listed as “M. J.,” and he was not found in the 1870 census.
d. Directory listings are sporadic during these years.
1. Nebraska State Journal (August 14, 1869).
2. 1860 United States Census, s.v. “Mathew J. McBird,” Eel Township, Cass County, Indiana, accessed through HeritageQuestOnline.com.
3. 1880 United States Census, s.v. “M. J. McBird,” Denver, Arapahoe County, Colorado, accessed through HeritageQuestOnline.com.
4. 1900 United States Census, s.v. “Mathew J. McBird,” Denver, Arapahoe County, Colorado, accessed through HeritageQuestOnline.com.
5. John Q. Magie, II, “Notes on John K. Winchell, Kennard House Architect,” TS, July, 1967. Nebraska State Historical Society, Museum Collections, Kennard file.
6. Artemus Roberts, “Memoirs,” TS, courtesy of Mrs. A. H. Sorensen, Tecumseh, Nebraska. Nebraska State Historical Society, Museum Collections, Fairview file.
7. Julius Sterling Morton, Illustrated History of Nebraska Vol. 3 (Linoln: J. North, 1913).
8. Allen County Public Library, Genealogy Center website, “Indiana County Courthouse Histories-results,” accessed September 12, 2012, http://www.genealogycenter.info/results_incourthousehistories.php?county=8
9. Charles O. Brantigan, MD, comp. “Summary of Biographical Information: Matthew John McBird (and his children),” TS (Denver, Colorado: 1995). Copy in Nebraska State Historical Society, Historic Preservation, Architect files.
Messrs. Bell, Hall & Brown, Official Reporters, Impeachment Trial of David Butler, Governor of Nebraska, At Lincoln. (Omaha: Tribune Steam Book and Job Publishing House, 1871)
“David Butler,” Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Nebraska, 1854-1941 (Nebraska State Historical Society, 1941), 259-260
Albert Watkins, “Scandals in State Government,” History of Nebraska Vol. III, First Edition. (Lincoln: Western Publishing and Engraving Company, 1913), 46-58.
James L. McKee, Lincoln The Prairie Capital (Northridge, California: Windsor Publications, Inc., undated), 40-42, 85.
Arthur Duerschner & James L. McKee, Lincoln: A Photographic History Published in cooperation with the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Facilities Management Department, University Hall 1870-1948 (May 1991).
J.H. Ames, Lincoln, the Capital of Nebraska (Lincoln, Nebraska: State Journal Power Press Print, 1870), 13.
Wm F Cullen & Wife, SS, M.J. McBird. Warranty Deed, TS. (June 11, 1870) [Written version in NSHS file]
D. Murphy, “Matthew John McBird (1818-1903), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, February 24, 2015. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, April 15, 2021.
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