Byrd Couple Buried with Pet Parrot named Polly

December 2, 2012 |

photo of Jesse Holesapple by Burke Shires. Early in the 1900s, if you were to find yourself walking into the old Second Creek store in Monroe County, you might see a flash of green ruffled feathers as a parrot takes off above your head, over the barrels of rice and beans and out through the open door. Pay the bird no mind, she’s just stretching her wings.

I learned of Polly the parrot from Dixie Lee Hoke-Webb, of Second Creek, when I went to ask about the old store. Dixie tells me that the parrot is buried along with her owners, Joseph and Lucy Byrd, in a small brick mausoleum at the Highland Park Cemetery, not far from Second Creek and the little store that the Byrds ran for nearly thirty years.

Like many country stores, the Byrds’ store was a regular gathering place for the people of Second Creek. Joe and Lucy were regular jokers and were the kinds of people who never told a story the same twice. People would go by just to talk to Joe and Lucy. And their parrot was not at all shy to strangers either. “Polly was great to entertain them, and would run to chase people periodically. So some people were afraid of Polly and some of them weren’t,” says Dixie. “The McDowell girls are the ones that told me about their experiences with Polly. I think one of them was afraid of it. But she was quite the character.”

Even if the parrot wasn’t exactly polite to all the customers, Polly made herself useful in her own ways. When Mrs. Byrd wanted to let her husband know it was time for dinner, she would send the parrot out to fetch him.

The Byrds had no children themselves, so their parrot became a very familiar companion to them both. Mr. and Mrs. Byrd would also take in people who needed some help, and the couple was remembered for opening their homes to people in need. For years their nephew lived with them while he was teaching himself to make watches. He had a little display case at their store where he sold his timepieces.

Lucy Smithson Byrd passed away in 1928, and her husband Joe Byrd passed away in 1931. Very close to the time Joe died, the parrot met her tragic end in the store when she somehow crashed into a bucket of brine that had been set aside for preserving food, and drowned in the liquid. Mr. Byrd discovered Polly when he returned to the store, but it was too late to save her. He asked that Polly be placed in the mausoleum with him when he went, and today he and his wife Lucy share their resting place with Polly.

After World War II, the Byrds’ store was bought by Jesse Holesapple, a local chairmaker. Jesse ran the store in the front of the building and ran a small chairmaking workshop in the back. Sometimes if the weather was nice, he would be out on the porch working. Today, the store is used for storage, and from the outside it appears to be close to collapse. Jesse Holesapple has passed away, and his son Jim says the store was a long time ago to him.

The old Byrd//Holesapple Store building, once the home of Polly the cantankerous parrot, is located across the street from Reed’s Mill on Second Creek Road, and just over a mile from US 219.

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