John Byington (1798-1887)
John Byington was born in Vermont, son of a Methodist preacher who had served as a soldier in the Revolutionary army. John was baptized into the Methodist church at age 17. He shortly was given a license to preach as a lay preacher.
After moving to New York state, he helped build a house of worship for the Methodist Church around 1837 in Buck’s Bridge. He became strongly involved in the antislavery movement, which eventually led to a schism in the Methodist church. John joined the new Wesleyan Methodist Church and helped to build its church building and parsonage in Morley.
In 1844 he heard sermons on the soon coming of Christ, and began studying the prophecies. In 1852 H. W. Lawrence gave him a copy of the Review and Herald containing articles on the seventh-day Sabbath. He accepted the Sabbath truth before the year was out, and was baptized. He helped then to build the first Sabbath-keeping Adventist church built for that purpose. James & Ellen White invited the Byingtons to move to Battle Creek in 1858. John bought a farm nearby, and from there would travel to minister to the scattered believers. In 1863 at age 65 he accepted the first presidency of the newly organized Seventh-day Adventist church. He worked as a genuine shepherd and pastor during his term in office. Then he returned to his farm, but continued his visitation of believers throughout Michigan for the next 22 years. “I must feed the lambs of the flock,” he wrote.
(Vol. 1, No. 3 of “Lest We Forget” features John Byington.)