Skip to main content

William E. Bird Collection

Identifier: MSS 80-34

Content Description

This collection is grouped as follows: private correspondence, writings, genealogy, folk ballads, newspaper clippings, and a church ledger.

Bird's private correspondence mostly contains letters to and from family and friends, although there are some personal business letters and a segment of correspondence from 1960-1964 regarding his book, The History of Western Carolina College.

His writings include his unpublished autobiography, a manuscript of Level Paths: New Songs by the Laymen, and copies of poems and papers. Bird's autobiography concerns the development of Western Carolina College and his own life story. Among the papers are articles discussing the mystery concerning the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the legend of Soco Creek, and "Some Highlights of the History of Jackson County." The last paper is one that Bird read before the Town and College Club in 1970.

The genealogy section contains a brief Bird biography paraphrased in this collection guide and a historical and biographical sketch of earlier members of the Bird family. The sketch begins in 1295 and then picks up the Bird genealogy in Virginia and North Carolina.

Bird's interests included folk ballads. The fourth grouping consists of some collected ballads and notes on folk schools.

Topics in the newspaper clippings concern western North Carolina. Most of the articles apparently were clipped from the Asheville Citizen during the 1920s. There are articles concerning what is purported to have been the final battle of the Civil War in Waynesville, North Carolina; life of the Cherokees in the 1920s; and on North Carolina authors, including Thomas Wolfe, O. Henry, and Paul Green.

The church roll ledger contains the names of members of seven churches of undetermined denomination in southwestern North Carolina. The churches are Oak Grove, Williams, D.H. (?), Dunns Rock, East Fork, French Broad, Cashiers Valley, and Bohana. The ledger may have been compiled in the late 1860s. It contains a State of Life and State of Soul notation for each members entry.

The first addition to the collection contains poems by Bird and unidentified photographs.

The second addition consists primarily of correspondence from 1937 to 1955 concerning the formation of a museum for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Also included are (1) Tenth Annual Handbook of the Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1935); (2) B.W. Wells, "The Remarkable Flora of the Great Smoky Mountains" (Asheville, N.C., n.d.); and (3) "General Information Regarding Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina - Tennessee" (Washington: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1933).

The third addition is made up of the draft and final versions, revisions, and carbon copies of William E. Bird's The History of Western Carolina College. Also included are seven (7) photographs featuring Cullowhee High School and/or Cullowhee Normal Industrial School and seven (7) commencement programs from the Cullowhee school (1899, 1905, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1923).

The fourth addition onsists mostly of his personal correspondence in relation to his duties at Cullowhee.

The small addition is a telegram from W.E. Bird to John H. Wilson, Jr., of Fort Bragg, stating intention of Western Carolina Teachers' College (later, Western Carolina University) to confer degrees upon students who left school to enroll in the armed forces.


  • 1891 - 1975


Conditions Governing Use

No publication fee is made for use of Western Carolina University Library special collections material in scholarly publications. The Library retains sole right to judge what constitutes a non-scholarly or commercial publication. Permission to publish commercially, in circumstances where the Library is qualified to grant it, requires proper authorization. Please contact Special Collections at for more information.

Biographical / Historical

William Ernest Bird was born in the Qualla area of Jackson County, N.C., on July 21, 1890. He attended local schools and graduated from Cullowhee Normal & Industrial School in 1915. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina in 1917 and an M.A. in English from George Peabody College in the summer of 1920.

Bird served as principal of high schools at Wilkesboro and Sylva, N.C. In 1921 he returned to Cullowhee Normal & Industrial School as vice-president. In 1921 his title was changed to dean, a position he held through several name changes of the school until his retirement in 1957. Bird served as acting president of the school in 1947-1949 and 1956-1957.

He published the basic history of the institution, The History of Western Carolina College: The Progress of An Idea, in 1963. He also wrote three short volumes of poetry: Lyrics of a Laymen (1962) Level Paths: New Songs by the Laymen (1964), and New Spring Overflowing - More Lyrics of the Laymen (1972).

Bird also was a lay-leader in the Cullowhee Methodist Church and officer in the local Rotary Club.


6.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Condition Description

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Hunter Library - Special Collections Repository

Cullowhee United States