The Molyneux-Warren & Bird–Warren Feuds

 

by Kermit Molyneux Bird

 


Kermit Molyneux Bird
Molyneux Family Reunion 2006
Forksville, PA
Photo by Larry Pardoe

 

Transcribed by Lyle Rockwell
Source: Daily Review
Towanda, PA
September 20, 1998

With Appended Comments by Larry Pardoe

Updated November 2019 *

Burying Family Feuds

 

This summer I attended the annual reunion of our Molyneux family. It was a weekend affair, starting Friday night and ending Sunday afternoon. We met at the fairgrounds of Sullivan County, PA. Our last session was a luncheon at nearby World’s End State Park. Beautiful place!

As I was preparing for our trip home, three ladies and a man approached me. They asked if I was the historian of the Molyneux family. I replied: “No, I’m not a historian, but what do you want to know?” They said they were descendants of the first Warren in the County, and were attending a Warren Reunion at a nearby location in the park. I learned that almost all the Warrens had moved from the Sullivan County area, but they still held their family reunions in this rural area.

They wanted me to come to their Reunion and tell them about the Molyneux–Warren Feud. I tried to put them off, explaining that I had a 450-mile drive ahead of me that afternoon, but they persisted. So, I went with them to their gathering. About fifty people were present.

They said: “Now, tell us about the Molyneux–Warren Feud.” I replied that what I knew about the feud was at least partly handed-down hearsay, although it has been written up in several historical accounts. I told them this story of William Molyneux, first settler in Sullivan County.

“In the early 1790’s, William Molyneux was a weaver in Warrington, England. Known as Willie-the-Weaver, he was 31 years old, his wife Margaret was pregnant, and they were parents of four children. One day while in nearby Manchester buying weaving supplies, he was seized by a press gang and then placed aboard a Royal Navy vessel. Months later, when the ship was anchored offshore at Havre de Grace, Md., at the north point of the Chesapeake Bay, Willie jumped ship and swam to land.”

“He joined a group of families heading up the Susquehanna River, and after a walk of a hundred miles or so, they arrived at Northumberland, Pennsylvania. At that point, the North and West branches of the river join.”

“In Northumberland, Willie looked for work, and got a job on a surveying crew hired by the famous immigrant, Joseph Priestly. Priestly owned a large tract of land in that area, and wanted to know what he had so he could sell the land and get it settled.

Willie, with the surveying crew, walked up the Loyalsock Creek to the area that is now Sullivan County.”

“During that summer, Willie took a liking to the unsettled Loyalsock Valley. So, when the surveying work was finished, he decided to stay in that area over the winter. It would be a good place to hide out from the British who, if they caught him, would shoot him for desertion. He single-handedly built a cabin near the flats of the little Loyalsock, and spent the winter there alone.”

“The following spring, Willie decided it was safe to return to England for his wife and kids. For several years now he had no contact with his family and was in for a bleak surprise when he returned home to be reunited. His wife, and an infant daughter whom he had not seen, had both died.”

“He and three of his children, two boys and a girl, took a ship to the new country, the United States. He left his eldest son, Edward, to be raised by his wife’s family, the Athertons. Edward came to this country later. Willie, with his kids and possessions, walked from the port of entry the 220 miles up to the Loyalsock area to start life anew. When they arrived there though, he found his cabin was now occupied by the Warren family whom he had known in Northumberland before he returned to England. He had told them at that time that he had built a cabin along the Little Loyalsock, and they could live in it temporarily, until he came back from England with his family. Now, he needed it, but they wouldn’t move! So, Willie was forced to build another cabin before winter set in.” That ended my Molyneux – Warren Feud story.

The Warrens asked me if I knew the history of the Bird-Warren Feud. I replied: “Yes, Dad was a Bird and Mom was a Molyneux.” Here’s what I related to them about that feud:

“As we’ve discussed, William Molyneux was the first settler in Sullivan County. The Warren and Bird families were the next settlers. Joseph Priestly owned that whole area of the state and the three early families bought their farms from him. In order to get the land settled, Priestly offered $50.00, or thereabouts, to the family that had the first child born in that remote area of the state. The Powell Bird family received that award when their daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1802. The Warren family contested the Bird family getting the award, on some technicality, and that incident started the Bird-Warren feud.”

“These were not shooting or killing feuds like the famed Hatfields and McCoys of Kentucky and West Virginia, but from then on neither the Molyneuxs nor Birds would have anything to do with the Warrens. No social or business contacts! No inter-marriages! There have been a number of inter-marriages between the Molyneux and Bird families, like my own parents, but neither family would allow their children to associate with, let alone marry a Warren family member. Hard feelings last a long time! In this case, two centuries.”

The Warrens asked if I could verify these stories. I told them they should visit the Molyneux Cemetery, along the Little Loyalsock Creek, near the village of Millview. That beautiful family cemetery has one little corner, down by the creek, with a fence around it to separate the Warren graves there from the graves of the Molyneuxs and other families in the main part of the cemetery. Some of the Warrens at the reunion had visited the cemetery, and had wondered about the fencing off of the Warren gravestones.

I asked the Warrens if they would like to end these feuds. They talked it over, and agreed the feuds should end! They asked me if I could speak for the Molyneux and Bird families. I replied that, although I was speaking for myself, I was willing to assume authority to end the feuds. We did! We shook hands on it! We buried the Molyneux-Warren and Bird-Warren Feuds!

That’s my experience as a feud terminator!

Is there a moral to this story? Yes! Don’t let hard feelings continue!

Better yet, do not let them get started! The Bible tells us that “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. Make friends quickly.” And “If our brother has aught against us, we should first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matt. 5:22-25)

 

Kermit Molyneux Bird

Sullivan County

In July 2008, we received the following informative comments from Larry Pardoe, a frequent contributor on this site:

Kermit states: "The Powell Bird family received that award when their daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1802. The Warren family contested the Bird family getting the award, on some technicality, and that incident started the Bird-Warren feud."

I show Rebecca Bird was born January 1, 1797. From "Genealogy of William Molyneux and His Descendants", by George Molyneux Pardoe, about 1790 (Call No. 929.273/M739a): "Rebecca (Bird) Molyneux, wife of Edward Molyneux, was not only born on the first day of the year, but was also the first white person born within the limits of what is now Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. She was also distinguished during the whole of her life of more than 85 years as a woman of many virtues."

And from: Transcription of the Old Molyneux Cemetery, Forks Twp., Sullivan Co., PA: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~pasulliv/churches/OldM.htm
Molyneux, Rebecca Bird
Jan. 1, 1797
July 24, 1882
Same stone as Edward Molyneux- Wife of Edwd
."Our Father & Mother""Tis With Believers Well"

Interestingly when you check out the children born to John Warren and Mary (Ward) Warren, you will note that first child, Sarah Warren (who married James Harding), was b. April 22, 1791 ("The Warren Family Record" as compiled by Ruth May (Warren) Rogers shows Sarah was b. April 24, 1790). She probably was born before John Warren moved his family to what is now Sullivan County, PA. Their next child, a daughter named Jane Warren (who married John Lambert), was b. May 25, 1795 enroute to what is now Sullivan County. Later, a third child, Joseph, became the first male child born in the county. Allow me to elaborate:

The obituary of Josiah Warren [May 10, 1808 to March 9, 1904], son of John and Mary (Ward) Warren, reads as follow:

Josiah WARREN
Josiah Warren *, whose recent death occurred in Canton at the age of 96 years, was born May 10, 1808, in Lycoming County, what is now known as Sullivan county. His father died when he was only 5 years old, leaving his mother with a large family of small children. His parents came from England when they had only two children, burying one in the ocean, and the other in Philadelphia. They came to Sullivan county in 1790, where their oldest son Joe, was born, he being the first white child to be born in that county. He was married to Sarah Glidewell on the 8th of January 1838. To them were born eleven children, three of whom died in infancy. They went to Ohio in a wagon in the fall of 1834, when their son Chas. was only six weeks old, only staying one year, when they came back in the wilderness of Canton township, where they went to clearing land to make themselves a home. Funeral services were held at Alba. Rev. R. F. Delmont officiating. Interment at Windfall.


This obituary indicates "his parents came from England when they had only two children, burying one in the ocean, and the other in Philadelphia". And goes on "They came to Sullivan County [part of Lycoming County until 1847] in 1790 , where their oldest son Joe, was born, he being the first white child to be born in that county." I show Joseph "Joe" born January 27, 1798. As Rebecca Bird was b. January 1, 1797, Joe couldn't have been the first child born in Sullivan County.

Here is another interesting piece of history that is published in the "Genealogy of William Molyneux and His Descendants", by George Molyneux Pardoe, I reproduce here some portions from pages 1 and 2 of the original book:

I find in the report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the year 1874, the following statement concerning Sullivan County: William Molyneux came here in 1794, and then returned to England. Then he came back in 1797, and found Powell Bird and John Warren living here with their families. They had located in 1795.
This statement is very nearly, but not quite, correct. Josiah Warren of Canton, a son of John and Mary Warren, who was born on the old Warren homestead near Millview on May 10, 1808, and who knew all of those pioneers well, told the writer that in 1890, "William Molyneux came up first with a surveying party for Joseph Priestly, Jr. of Northumberland. Soon after that, he came back and brought Powell Bird with him, and that Molyneux at least built his house at that time. They then went back to Northumberland and Molyneux went to England to get his family. The next spring, Josiah's parents, John and Mary Warren, came up with their family and lived in the Molyneux house until they had built a house for themselves on their land above and adjoining the Molyneux land. His sister Jane was born on the way up, at Abram Webster's on the old Genesse Road, between Muncy and Hillsgrove. The father and the oldest child, Sarah, came on and left the mother and babe at Webster's who, a few weeks after, completed the journey on horseback. His sister Jane was born May 24, 1795. Molyneux and Bird came afterwards with their families, he thought, in the fall of the same year. He also stated that his mother, Mary Warren, was the first women to bake bread in Sullivan County. Rebecca Bird (Molyneux) was the first white person born there. Josiah Warren was, at that time, the only living member of either of the three first families, and also the oldest person living who was born in the settlement.
This statement as to the date of his sister Jane's birth I find verified in the old family bible of the Warrens, now in the possession of William Warren on the Elklands. I see that "Now and Then" for January and February, 1892 gives the date of Jane Warren's birth as May 5, 1795. Since I get the date May 24, 1895, from the original family record and, I understand it, in the handwriting of Mary Warren herself, I think I can not be wrong.
I think it is reasonably certain that, of the permanent settlers, William Molyneux was the first to come and spy out the land, and the first to make improvements, which was in 1794, just one hundred years ago. In all probability, Powell Bird was the second to come and view the land, which was also in 1794, and that John Warren, who came with his family in 1795, was the third to come and the first to bring his family, and that William Molyneux and Powell Bird brought their families in the fall of the same year.

This overview pretty much explains that Rebecca Bird was in fact the first white child born in what became Sullivan County later in time.

I am not an expert on the genealogy of the Molyneux, Bird and Warren families; however I have built up a relatively large family tree that contains many individuals descended from William Molyneux, Powell Bird and John Warren. Since beginning my genealogy "hobby" in the late 1990's, I hadn't heard of the Bird-Warren feud. I began to do a search to see if any of the Bird family had married a Warren family member or vise versa. I also took the photo, shown here, of Kermit Bird at the 2006 Molyneux Family Reunion. I'm not sure when he wrote the "feud" article in which he mentions "ending it", so I don't know if it was at this same reunion or at a previous one. In any event, my search did not reveal any direct Bird-Warren or Warren-Bird marriages, but interestingly there was one marriage that I noticed that did include Warren and Bird descendants that had married. This would have been Ruth May Warren (1913-2003), whose 2nd great-grandfather was John Warren. Ruth married Laurence Eugene Rogers (1909-2003), whose 3rd great-grandfather was Powell Bird. Although there may have been others that I am unaware of, this was the only "Warren" surname that shows up in the Bird family tree thus far. I have found that there were many families that both the Warren family and the Bird family married into, thereby creating an in-law relationship. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knows of any other direct descendant marriages other than the one I have listed.

* Editor's Note: In October 2019, Bob Sweeney received the following e-mail from Jeff Warren, a living descendant of Josiah Warren:
I am a 7th generation descendant of John and Mary Ward Warren. I have the original deed for the cemetery in Sullivan County where they are buried and am trying to identify other parties interested in erecting a sign at the cemetery. Please respond if you would like to join this effort. I have EXTENSIVE family tree information on the Josiah Warren tree. Our branch of the Warren Family is descended from Josiah Warren and is located primarily in near Canton in Bradford County (Josiah Warren relocated to Canton Township in the early 1830's). Every year, we hold a Warren Family reunion in Bradford County. While small, our group has A LOT of Warren family historical information, pictures, family trees, etc. (including many pictures of Josiah Warren). We have the info to fill in virtually all of the gaps on your Warren Family page. Our group has contracted for the maintenance of the Warren cemetery at Millview and, to the best of my knowledge, we still hold ownership/control of the cemetery (and as I mentioned, have the original deed). Last year at our annual reunion we discussed projects that we might pursue. The suggestion of a sign of some type at the Millview cemetery was approved. At this time, we have no further plan, design or budget beyond that initial approval. We just think it is a good idea and want to move forward through the planning stage. We have funds that we can contribute to this project. Our family has always considered John and Mary Warren as the "First Permanent Settlers in what is now Sullivan County". Mary Warren was definitely the first woman to set up housekeeping and bake bread in Sullivan County. For this sign project, we would like to work with the other families that have ancestors buried the Millview cemetery to create a sign that briefly explains/describes the origins and history of the settlers buried there. Are you able to put me in contact with representatives of the Molyneux and Bird families (and any others with ancestors buried there) that might share our interest in this sign? I replied that I would look into the matter and then contacted the Sullivan County Historical Society in Laporte. Their President, Melanie Norton, once more brought up the history of the feuds. Jeff Warren replied once again as follows:
I am very familiar with Kermit Molyneux's write up on his 'resolution of the feud'. I was personally at the reunion meeting he referenced. While there certainly may have been bad feelings between the two families in the very distant past, I can assure you that none of the members of the Warren family present at that reunion meeting (and we had some very old family members in attendance) had ever heard of the feud. As it was at the reunion meeting, any negative feeling that might have been present in the distant past remain a complete non-issue for us. I can say very confidently, that we are eager to work with any families that have descendants buried in the cemetery.
Every year at our annual Warren Family Reunion, I am elected as family president. Trust me when I say that the office repeatedly comes to me, not because of skills, but because no one else wants it. Due to title, I am the defacto depository for all papers related to our family. I'm probably as good a place as any to start with your questions. While very few of the papers are compiled in any formal fashion, one of the most helpful pieces is a fairly complete family tree prepared by my great Uncle Leslie Warren. If you would like a copy, I can scan it and e-mail it over. While rough and hand written, it is 95+% complete back to John and Mary Ward Warren. It is approx. 6-8 pages.
Jeff sent this genealogical informaion thereafter and it is posted in The Genealogy of William Molyneux as a biographical footnote in the paragraph on Josiah Warren. The issue of the proposed sign was still under discussion in late 2019.

The cemetery at the center of this historical debate is the Millview Cemetery.

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