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Robert Bird

Page history last edited by John Healey 9 years, 1 month ago

Springdale Well, 1888 work force. Robert Bird is standing. 

(Canton Historical Society)

 

Robert Bird1

 

Robert Bird was born on June 21 or 22, 1862 in Canton to Robert Bird (Sr.) and Eliza Bird. Not much is known about his early life or schooling. The 1887 Canton resident and business directory lists him as an insurance broker. In 1901, Bird was elected town treasurer and tax collector: a risky combination, as the treasurer verifies the tax collector’s figures. Over the next decade or so, Bird embezzled $82,112.64 ($56 million in modern money), a sum almost equivalent to the entire tax levied in 1917. Though creative accounting and “cooking the books” covered his crime for years, Bird eventually fell under suspicion; state auditors were called in to investigate. Bird attempted to block the investigation, but to no avail. Auditors discovered that checks made out to “Town of Canton, Robert Bird Treasurer” were regularly deposited in his personal account at the Neponset Bank. Around this time, the town’s selectmen secured an assignment on Bird’s possessions, which were estimated to be worth $10,000.

 

On the night of June 15, 1918, Bird was “in session with the Board of Selectmen until midnight and subjected to a most severe examination”, throughout which he denied everything, according to the 1918 town report; his parting words were that he “never took a cent of the town’s money.” After the meeting, however, consumed by guilt and fear of exposure, Bird made his way to the Canton Corner Cemetery, where the family plot was located. He shot himself at his mother’s grave (his blood contaminated her stone, causing red lichen to grow on it), and was buried next to her in an unmarked grave. If one looks closely, a coffin-sized depression with no headstone next to the family plot can be seen.

 

Resources

 

Canton Journal June 21, 1918.

 

Historic Homes of Canton: North Canton Corner, vol. II by Patricia Johnson. 404-405.

 

Town of Canton, "Annual Town Report, 1918," 12-16, 20, 59-60.

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