Juan E. Byers, president of the Ottawa Brick & Tile Company, one of that city's leading industries, is a native of Trumbull county, Ohio, where he was born in 1845, reared to farm life and educated in the district schools and at Mt. Union College. His parents were Ebenezer and Jane (Reno) Byers, the former a native of Pulaski, Pa., born in 1802, the son of a Scotchman who emigrated to the United States in an early day and settled first in Virginia, and later in Pennsylvania. Ebenezer Byers was reared in Pennsylvania and learned the tanner's trade in his youth, but turned his attention to agricultural pursuits early in life. He met and married Jane Reno of Sharon, Pa., where she was born in 1807, of French descent. Soon after their marriage, they removed to Trumbull county, Ohio, in which county they were pioneers, and continued to reside there until their respective deaths, the former passing away in 1895, at the age of ninety-three years, while the latter died at the age of seventy-eight years. They became the parents of five sons and three daughters: Adah Zelia, Allen, Edmund B., Ephraim A., Juan E., Benjamin F., Emma J. and Anna L., of whom the last four are living.
Juan E. Byers' first business venture was at merchandising in Ohio, but soon after the close of the Civil war, or in 1869, he and his brother, Edmund B., decided to try their fortunes at sawmilling in Arkansas and purchased a plant on the St. Francis river, near where it empties into the Mississippi, where for six years they were successfully engaged in the manufacture of cypress lumber. They disposed of the plant in 1875 and returned north, as prior to this, or in 1874, Juan E. Byers had visited Franklin county, Kansas, where he had purchased a tract of land just north of the present city limits of Ottawa, and at that time he had fully decided to make his home on or near this tract of land as soon as he could arrange his business to do so. It was not until 1891, however, that he became a permanent resident of Ottawa, although he had built a residence there on South Mulberry street in 1876, for he could not adjust his business interests at Brookfield, Ohio, and at other points until 1891 as stated. In that year he took charge of the old stone grist mill on the south side and operated it for two years, after which he was engaged in various enterprises until he conceived the idea of developing the mule industry in Franklin county by importing from Kentucky and Tennessee the finest sires to be obtained for breeding purposes, and thereby raise the standard of home bred mules, not only in size but also in disposition. At the same time Mr. Byers began to buy and ship mules, on a large scale, his field covering western Missouri and the whole State of Kansas to the Colorado line. However, within a few years after his introduction of the finely bred jacks, he succeeded in enlisting the support of the local breeders to such an extent that thousands of the best mules he ever bought were Kansas mules. In 1897 he, with Frank Brown and Joseph Cary, organized the local Independent Telephone Company, the operation of which proved a success and continued until 1905, when they sold their interest to the Independent Telephone Company of Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Byers retaining an interest in the latter company. In 1903 Mr. Byers purchased an interest in the Ottawa Brick & Tile Company, which is one of the most successful plants in the state and turns out about 10,000 tile a day of an exceptionally fine quality, as well as thousands of vitrified brick for street paving and other uses. The clay from which this product is manufactured is regarded by experts as being equal in quality to the best eastern clays, and brick and tile manufactured from it exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair won the first prize in the absorption test as well as in the crushing test for strength and durability. While Mr. Byers is not one of Ottawa's pioneers, still he has taken a leading part in its business and commercial life since his coming, and his interests are many and varied. He still owns his fine farm adjoining the city limits on the north and another farm in Lincoln township, both of which are highly improved and under his direct supervision. His home is at 530 North Main street, where he is preparing to spend the remainder of his life in ease and comfort after a long and active business career.
He has been twice married, first to Miss Amelia Powers of Chicago, Ill., in 1876, who died in 1895. His second marriage was in 1897, when he wedded Elizabeth Chamberlain, a native of Ohio. By his first marriage he has a daughter, Jessie Reno, who at present is engaged in kindergarten work in Forsythe, Mont., and who not only passed through the local school, but spent two years at Baker University, and later took special kindergarten work at the University of Chicago, graduating from that great institution in 1908. By his second marriage Mr. Byers has a son, Juan C., born in 1898 and at present attending the Ottawa schools. Mr. Byers is a Republican in politics, and is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, while he and his wife are both members of the Methodist Episcopal church.Pages 1400-1401 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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