US GenWeb

This biography is from Landmarks of Albany County, New York, edited by Amasa J. Parker of Albany, N. Y., Syracuse, N. Y.; D. Mason & Co. Publishers, 1897.

William Wilberforce Byington

The Byingtons in the United States are descended from two brothers, John and Willliam, who came to this country from England in the early part of the seven-teenth century. The family dates back to the twelfth century, and its ancient coat of arms can still be found among the descendants. In America its members have always been active, influential, and industrious citizens, holding positions of honor and distinction in the civil, social, military, and business life of their respective communities. Justus Byington, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was born in Great Barrington, Mass., April 17, 1763, and served as a soldier in the Revolutionary war. His son, Rev. John Byington, was born in Hinesburg, Vt., October 8, 1798.

William Wilberforce Byington, youngest of seven children of the Rev. John, was born in Potsdam, St. Lawrence couuty, N. Y.. December 36, 1840, and attended the district school at Buck's Bridge, West Potsdam, working at intervals on his father's farm. During the winter of 1856, when sixteen years of age, he taught school, and then went to Battle Creek, Mich., where an elder brother resided, and where he attended the public schools, teaching winters. In 1861 he entered the Michigan State Normal School at Ypsilanti, at that time one of the first and best known Normal Schools in the country, and was graduated therefrom in one year. After teaching for a year in Battle Creek public schools he secured, by competitive examination, the position of junior principal of the Barstow Union School in Detroit, and shortly afterward, while but twenty-five years of age, was made principal of one of the largest educational institutions in the same city.

While teaching in Detroit he was married, December 36, 1865, to Kate M. Preston, at Battle Creek, Mich., Miss Preston having just graduated from Kalamazoo College, Mich. After teaching successfully for five years in Detroit, Mr. Byington decided to engage in business, which was unselected at the time he resigned his position. The resolutions passed by the Detroit School Board on receipt of his resignation contained not only a laudatory expression of their esteem and respect, but the very highest encomiums on his character, ability, and success as a teacher. He selected the insurauce business and went vigorously to work. For three years up to 1869 he labored in various places in the West, mainly in St. Louis and in Indianapolis, Ind. In 1869 he received a tempting offer to remove to New York city, which he did and shortly afterwards was made the State agent for New Jersey for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, and removed from New York to Newark, N. J., where he resided for ten years. He filled this position of State agent with great credit for a period of three years, when he resigned to accept the position of superintendent of agencies of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company of Newark, N. J. Several years were spent by him in vigorous travel, during which nearly all the agencies of the company were revised and a number of those most important at the present day were created. After a very successful service in this capacity he determined to create an agency for himself, and with that end in view he removed, in the latter part of 1883 to Albany, where he has since resided. He came to the capital city as State agent for New York and Vermont for the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company of Newark, N. J., and now has one of the largest and most successful life agencies in the country, having general offices in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo.

Soon after taking up his residence in New York, Mr. Byington became an active and vigorous factor in the literature of life insurance and particularly in its statistics. For some time he published a life insurance chart, covering the business of all the companies for periods of ten years. This chart was long the standard of authority among solicitors. He was also for about fifteen years the insurance editor of the New York Independent, where his weekly articles on various phases of the business attracted much attention. He still writes occasionally for this paper. After locating in Albany he ceased regular work for the press, but has written much in a general way. In 1886, at the request of General Taylor, editor of the Boston Globe, he wrote an article, historical and statistical, filling thirty-two columns of that journal, and when published in pamphlet form it had a circulation of over 300,000 copies. Since that time he has written many articles for the Globe by special request.

Mr. Byington has always taken an active interest in fishing matters and in protective societies, and for some fifteen years his summers were spent on the St. Lawrence. He organized the Anglers Association of the St. Lawrence River and was its secretary, and afterward its president. This organization is known as one of the most successful protective associations in the country. He is still one of its most prominent members, and is also a member of the Fort Orange Club, the Society of the Sons of the Revolution, and the Albany Camera Club, of which he has been president for several years. To him is due in a large measure the success and present fiourishing condition of the last named club, which has long received his able services and guidance.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

Go Back to Albany County Biographies
Go Back to Home Page