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Waterford Biographies: Henry Birge
HENRY BIRGE, who has occupied his fine farm of 180 acres of land in section 3, Waterford township, Oakland County, for more than a half century, was born in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, October 24, 1816. His father was William Birge, a clothier and wool comber by trade. William Birge was a son of Elijah Birge, who was born in Connecticut and was an officer in the Revolutionary War, a descendant of one of the passengers on the "Mayflower," the three Birge Brothers, who came on the "Mayflower" being John, Hosea and Ezekiel. Elijah Birge had five sons,--Elijah, William, Augustus, Ezekiel and John,--two of whom took part in the War of 1812. The children of our subject's parents, William and Minerva (Fox) Birge, the latter of whom was born in Connecticut of English parentage, were as follows: William, now a resident of Whitewater, Wisconsin; Leander a wealthy farmer; Henry, of this sketch; Dana, a successful farmer of Wisconsin, and Franklin, a prominent farmer living in Dodge County, Wisconsin. The father was a successful, high principled man of business and was engaged for a number of years at both Ithaca and Newfield, New York. His latter days were spent in the home of his son Henry, where he died at the age of 80 years. He was a pillar of the Methodist Church and was an honest, upright man of the highest personal character. The parents of our subject moved to Tompkins County, New York, when he was a babe and he grew up on a farm, which he left at the age of 20 years, and removed to Waterford township, Oakland County. He then joined his two brothers at Whitewater, Walworth County, Wisconsin, where he farmed 160 acres for a few months, but returned to Oakland County, and first bought a farm near Pontiac and then spent a short time at Lansing, later locating on his present farm where he has continued to reside for more than 50 years. About 80 acres had been cleared and there were two log houses and a barn 32 by 70 feet on the place, but the country was still unsettled, game was abundant and he can recall a tribe of Indians passing single file by his door for the space of two hours. Mr. Birge cleared his own property and much land for others. He has done general farming in a sensible, practical way, and has been particularly successful in raising sheep, cattle and horses, taking prizes for his fine Durham cattle and Southdown sheep. While not as extensive a grower as some, his flocks and herds have always been considered of the finest. Twice he has practically stocked the State Agricultural Farm with sheep. He sold to Van Colt of New York the finest pair of horses that ever left Oakland County, and has taken premiums at all the fairs. Mr. Birge was married to Sallie Staples, who was born in Tompkins County, New York, and died some seven years since, a daughter of John and Catherine (Buzzard) Staples, and they had these children: Mrs. Fannie Coffron, the widow of a wealthy lumber dealer of Lapeer County, who has five sons and five daughters; Minerva, who died aged 17 years; John W., who resides with his father and helps to operate the home farm,--he has three children; George S., a resident of Le Roy, Kansas, who has three children; Mrs. Jennie Swift, of Harbor Springs, Michigan, who has six children; and Mrs. Minnie Drewatt, of White Lake, Oakland County, who has two children. All of these sons and daughters have had high school educations. Mr. Birge has held many local offices and has always been prominent in the township. In politics he is a Democrat. He is probably the oldest of the name in the United States and is one of the patriarchs of Oakland County, where he has witnessed wonderful developments and has taken an honorable part in its growth and progress.