Jefferson County Historical Society

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John T. Byrd, a native of Plattin Township (Survey 1245), Jefferson
Co., Mo., and a successful farmer and stock raiser of the same, was
born in 1827, and is the fourth of twelve children born to Benjamin 
B. and Mary Ann (Johnston) Byrd.  Benjamin B. Byrd was born at 
Salisbury, Md., in 1796 and received a good English education. He came
with his father to Jefferson County in 1818, and one year later married
and settled on the tract of land where John T. now resides. He was one 
of the enterprising, industrious citizens of the county, and spared no
pains to give his children a good education. He served many years as 
justice of the peace, and did a great deal toward the advancement of 
the country.  He died in July, 1860 and was one of the few who paid 
any attention to education. His father, John Byrd, was born in Maryland,
and at the age of twenty had served five years apprenticeship at the 
carpenter's trade.  After he had accumulated some means he purchased 
a $4,000 farm and a negro.  He married a widow with some means, and 
continued to accumulate wealth. In 1818 he boarded a keel boat at 
Wheeling, Va., came to St. Louis, but, not being satisfied with the 
society there, then a small French trading post of French Creoles and 
Indians, he dropped down to Herculaneum, bringing with him thirty negroes
and about $70,000 from Maryland.  He then purchased the survey already 
mentioned, where he lived about two years. He then went to Washington 
County, where he died, in 1840, at the age of eighty-six. His father 
was an English doctor, but came to America at an early day.  The mother 
of John T. was born near Louisville, Ky., in 1799 and when four years 
of age came with her parents to what is now Jefferson County, and there 
died in 1864.  Her father, Benjamin Johnston, settled on Sandy Creek, 
where he passed his last days. He was a man of education and of influence 
in Jefferson County. He was in public office for many years, and, perhaps, 
married more couples than any other man in Jefferson County in his day. 
His wife was a daughter of old Col. Thompson, so famous in early Tennessee 
days. The subject of this sketch was reared at home, and educated by a 
private tutor. In 1849 he crossed the plains to California, being seven 
months in making the trip.  After spending two years in successful mining 
he returned, and in 1852 married Miss Lou Catherine, daughter of Achilles 
and Patience Smith.  Mr. Smith was born in Virginia, and at the age of 
twelve went to Davidson County, Tenn., and served with Johnson in the War 
of 1812.  He soon after came to St. Louis County, Mo., where he married, 
and where he passed the remainder of his days. He died in Jefferson County, 
in 1886.  His wife was born in Jefferson County, and, when but a child, 
came with her parents to St. Louis Co., where Mrs. Byrd was born. Mrs. Smith 
was a sister of Gov. Marmaduke's mother. Of the six children born to Mr. Byrd
and wife, two are now living: Mary Ann, now Mrs. William A. Smith, who lives 
on the farm with our subject; and Prof. Thomas S., a teacher and merchant at 
Hematite, one of the foremost educators of Jefferson County. Mr. Byrd has 
always made his home on the farm where he was born, which consists of 321 
acres well cultivated and well improved.  After coming from California
he purchased 360 acres.  From 1864 to 1865 he spent eleven months on 
the Pacific Coast, California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington Territory, etc.  
He is one of the prominent and upright citizens of Jefferson Co., where he 
is universally esteemed.  His son spent three years at Caledonia High School 
and one year at Fayette.  Politically, Mr. Byrd was formerly a Whig but is 
rather conservative, acting with the Democratic party. His first vote was 
for Fillmore, in 1856.  He is a member of the I. O. O. F., and also a member 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, of which his wife was also a member. 
She died December, 1884.