The Baird Family of Western North Carolina


In 1912, the Asheville Gazette-News reprinted a letter (A portion of which is above. Click on the image to sell the full letter), originally from 1858, from Bedent Baird of Watauga County to Zebulon Baird Vance, who at the time was a very young Congressman. Bedent Baird describes what he knows about his family lineage and wonders if his Watauga County Baird clan was in any way related to the Buncombe County one represented by Vance. The paper itself adds a little bit about the family’s history for context. Unfortunately, the matter could not have been settled with this information, because the family tree described in the article is wrong.

To make a somewhat complicated story (filled with many Zebulons and Bedents) short: the two Baird clans in Western North Carolina are indeed related. Their common ancestor was John Baird, born in 1665 in Scotland. He came over in 1683 and settled in New Jersey. He and his wife, Mary Bedent, had five sons: Andrew, John Jr., David, William, and Zebulon.

The Watauga County Bairds are descended from Andrew. Andrew’s son Ezekiel was the first of that line to end up in North Carolina. They have been quite prominent in the community, particularly for being some of the earliest settlers in Valle Crucis. Bedent Baird, author of the 1858 letter, was also a magistrate and politician, representing the part of Watauga that used to be Ashe County.

The Buncombe County Bairds are descended from John Junior. John Junior’s grandsons Bedent and Zebulon were some of the earliest settlers in Buncombe County, about 1793. The brothers had the first grist mill in the county and they played significant roles in the early days of what is now the City of Asheville. They bought a large amount of land, with Bedent settling on Beaver Dam and Zebulon near the French Broad. Zeb rose to some political prominence, serving as Senator for multiple terms. They also forged a friendship with David Lowry Swain, who helped manage Zeb’s affairs after he died in 1824. Swain also helped his deceased friend Zebulon’s grandson, Zebulon Baird Vance, attend UNC-Chapel Hill.

There are couple things that the article and letter in the Asheville Gazette-News get wrong, therefore muddying the process of answering the question about a common ancestor. The most confusing is in the listing of John Baird’s children. In doing so, they completely skip a generation. Bedent, Samuel, Obadiah, Borzilla, Jonathan, Ezekiel, etc. were the children of John Baird’s son Andrew, and therefore grandchildren of the patriarch. Bedent himself completely forgets to mention his own grandfather, Andrew, the actual son of John and Mary Baird, which is a bit of a glaring omission. The letter also claims that his uncle was the “first Bedent.” As is probably clear, the two Baird families in North Carolina did not seem to know much about each other, and therefore Bedent Baird didn’t know about his own cousin Bedent, son of William, over Asheville-way.

It is unclear if this relationship between the clans was resolved, at least not in the public’s imagination. The article is certainly curious for how much it got wrong. And for featuring a letter over 50 years old that quite possibly never made it into the hands of Zeb Vance. Most importantly, though, it shows the affection and curiosity the readership and citizens had for Vance and for the Bairds. Indeed, the significant roles that both families played in the history of Western North Carolina make them a fascinating study, and not just due to the predilection for naming children Bedent and Zebulon.

For further reading:

Arthur, J. P. (2002). A history of Watauga County, North Carolina : with sketches of prominent families. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co.

Arthur, J. P. (1973). Western North Carolina; a history, 1730-1913. Reprint Co.

Biddix, C. D. (1981). The Heritage of old Buncombe County. Asheville, N.C.: Hunter Pub. Co.

Blackmun, O. (1977). Western North Carolina, its mountains and its people to 1880. Boone, N.C.: Appalachian Consortium Press.

Dowd, C. (1897). Life of Zebulon B. Vance. Charlotte, N.C.: Observer Print. and Pub. House.

Edwards and Broughton Company (Raleigh, N.C.). (1890). Western North Carolina : historical and biographical. Charlotte, N.C.: A.D. Smith & Co.

Gaffney, S. R. (1984). The heritage of Watauga County, North Carolina. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Heritage of Watauga County Book Committee in cooperation with the History Division of Hunter Pub. Co.

McKinney, G. B. (2004). Zeb Vance : North Carolina’s Civil War governor and Gilded Age political leader. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Sondley, F. (1977). A history of Buncombe County, North Carolina. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co.


Episode and Interlude. (February 20, 1912). Asheville Gazette-News. p. 4.


14 thoughts on “The Baird Family of Western North Carolina”

  1. Yes this is most interesting as the Bairds are my relatives. My branch is from the Watauga NC branch. Thanks for this article.

  2. To Sue Allen Ash on June 27 -at 3:28-

    I’m adecenden’t of the Baird’s of Watauga Co. I was born and raised in
    this county. I have lived here all my life, Franklin Baird was my Great
    Great Grand Father. Anddrew Jackson Baird,my Great Grand Father,
    andJoseph Caroll my Grand Father, father of Omar.

    If yoy want to get in touch with me my address is.

    Marie B. Farthing
    1161 Bethel R.D.
    Vilas, N. C. 28692

  3. Hello
    I’m also a decendent of the Baird’s of Watauga Co. Bedent E. Baird is my 5th Great Grandfather.

    Our lines last living Baird is Mark Allen Baird of MO., Mark is my 1st cousin.
    From Mark our line goes
    Mark Allen Baird
    — Paul Allen Baird, Jr.
    —- Paul Allen Baird Sr.
    ——Martin Monroe Baird
    ——–Andrew Jackson Baird
    ———-Franklin Baird
    ————Bedent Baird
    ————–Ezekiel Baird
    —————-Andrew Baird
    ——————John Baird (1666-1755)

    Our family has joined the DNA tracebility of our BAIRD roots. Mark has given us DNA that has been filed and is available.

    We are attending the Highland Games near VC, NC. I am hoping to find out that our Clan is represented in the Highland Games and that we can meet our cousins at the event. Please advise.


  4. Grandson of Henrietta Baird (Nebraska Edmiste’s) born and raised Southern California.

  5. I am looking for the Zebulon Baird cemetery. It is somewhere between Asheville and Weaverville, Bucombe County, NC. It was on the old Zebulon Baird place, but I have not located where the cemetery is. Can anyone help?

    1. If you are speaking of the Zebulon Baird Vance home, which is owned by the State, it is in Reems Creek Road in Weaverville, NC.

      1. My grandmother, Virginia Aileen Baird-Carroll born 1915, was from Weaverville. Her parents were Donald and Laura Baird. She had 2 brothers, John and Harry Baird. Just looking for any relatives. I know her Father’s Dad’s house used to be a Bed and Breakfast.

    1. To whom may be my my kin folks, I can not express my desire to make any contact possible! If you decide to continue this quest, please contact me @ 267 3124746. If you are a descendant of James Baird, William, Abner, Palmer,or Zebulon, with a lineage to the Amboy of N.J you are of my blood! ! Please contact me if you desire, but please leave me a response! Thank you,God bless !

  6. Hello I have a book that I purchased from a antique store. And it’s name is the addresses to the president and life of zebulon baird and is taken me to this site I would like to know more if any one has knowledge of this item thank you ..delmer jack

  7. I am from SW Missouri and I am desperately trying to track my “Baird” line. My lineage goes…

    —-Myrtle Ivy “Fannie” Baird
    ——James Andrew Jackson “Isom” Baird (m. Rose Mae Fairman)
    ——-Millard Filmore Baird
    ——–Andrew Jackson Baird
    ———-Franklin Baird
    ————Bedent Baird
    ————–Ezekiel Baird
    —————-Andrew Baird
    ——————John Baird (1666-1755)

    If you have any information on this line, and are willing to share, please reach out to me at

    1. It is a pleasure to run across your acquaintance! My family was from Mantney, North Carolina near Boone. My grandfather, Sherman, great-grandfather Abner, great great father, Palmer. Zebulon,and William were also of the family. James Baird was my great uncle, whom had 16 children!

    2. Hello Candace, my name is Carol Walker McGuire. My father’s name is Guss Leonard Walker. He is the fourth and youngest son of Violet Edith Baird Walker Blackwell. Violet is the eldest daughter of James Andrew Jackson Baird. My father , Guss (known as Leonard) was born in Oronogo, Mo., in 1920. Both my father and my grandmother, Violet, and Marigold (Aunt Goldie) lived in North Carolina when they died. I knew Great Grandpa Baird (his children called him Pappy) and I knew his son, Martin. I met Aunt Myrtle once when we were in Mo. I also knew Aunt Pansy Pearl. We visited her and her son Orville at or near Redding, CA once. How are you related to James Andrew Jackson Baird? I would love to share what I know with you.

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