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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Lyman C. Byce

The subject of this sketch was born in Canada in 1852. His earlier years were spent amid the rigors of severe winters and toil incident to farm life, where he grew up into young manhood. Schooling was obtained by walking three miles to a little old log school house, the attendance being confined to the winter months, as the farming operations required the labor of old and young throughout the spring and summer months. Being raised in a country where the timber had to be cleared away to secure a patch of ground for a home and land for farming, his early days were naturally fraught with plenty of hard work and little opportunity for play. Naturally precocious and apt at learning, he greedily absorbed everything in the reading line that the home and its environment could afford, which, coupled with his natural mechanical propensity, found him at an early age working out problems in the realm of invention that would do credit to those of more mature years. A workshop in the then undeveloped section of country meant an improvised bench hewn from a stick of timber and erected in the shade of a tree or some rudely constructed outbuilding, but it is out of such surroundings that boys and men have arisen that have produced some of the most marvelous mechanical devices and advanced ideas, astonishing to those whose lives have been cast in more pleasant places. So this boy, having but the poorest tools and few at that, principally a pocket knife to work with, his own initiative and originality became so strongly developed that we find him while yet very young the inventor of a potato digger, which has been successfully used throughout the United States and other countries and improvement in farming mills, a mold board for plows, a sewing machine, a conveyor for sawdust for mills, a gauge lathe for turning long slim handles for rakes and similar purposes, a log carriage for saw mills, a lumber tallying device for saw carriages, a kiln for drying starch, an acoustic telephone, a surgeon's spring lancet, and other articles.

Throughout the varied experiences of a young inventor, working on the farm, going to school a few months in the yea, there was still prominent above all other things?all other ideas and thoughts?the one thing he has so successfully worked out and which has made his name known almost throughout the world. While not yet twelve years of age he became interested in his father's operations in hatching chickens by means of heat generated from decomposing horse manure and at once improvised a hatching machine, using dry goods boxes and a tin tank to contain water from which chickens were hatched. Although leaving the farm to take higher branches in school work and later taking up the study of medicine, there was still present the ever dominant thought of a perfected hatching machine, and hence ever opportunity was used to experiment, oftentimes not under the most favorable circumstances, but with a determination that knows no defeat he followed it up to a successful culmination, and when the history of future years is written, the name of L. C. Byce will appear among the benefactors of the race, as the man who gave to the world the method of modern successful artificial incubation of eggs.

In 1878 Mr. Byce established in Petaluma, Cal., a factory for building incubators and brooders and these successful hatching machines are know and used in all parts of the world. He is also known and acknowledged to be the founder of the great poultry industry of the Pacific coast.

It is the busy men who usually have the time to do things, so Mr. Byce has found time out of the fast fund of his knowledge to contribute articles to medical, scientific and mechanical journals, as well as articles of literary merit to popular magazines, and stories to boys' papers, and he is also a voluminous writer on the subject of artificial incubation and practical poultry raising, which have been eagerly sought by the journals of this class in various parts of the world.

In 1888 Mr. Byce was married to Miss Lily C. Gray, a native of London, England, from which union two sons grace a home known far and wide as a model American home, richly endowed with kindness and hospitality.

Mr. Byce is a man of retiring disposition, though aggressive and brave in any cause which he believes to be right. Though often sought and urged to fill public positions he has always shrank from the notoriety which would naturally follow, preferring to do for his fellowmen and community what he can in the more modest way which is characteristic of the man. Not a few know what it is to receive encouragement and advice from him freighted with wisdom, as well as aid in a very substantial manner to assist them in attaining the object sought.

He is liberal to a fault, charitable, ever ready to help in time of need, and a great friend of boys many of whose careers he has helped to shape, temperate in all things, a close observer of the needs of the community, and a hearty participator in public and private enterprises. Mr. Byce is a member of the Congregational Church; and occupies a prominent place in social and fraternal circles.

In “California, Her Industries, Attractions and Builders,” is the following?”In the great rustle and bustle of life there are modest, unassuming men who guide and control great enterprises, give tone and character to our leading industries and fraternal organizations and become the leaders of society by common consent. Their tact and ability are recognized and their counsel is sought in pushing and promoting business interests in all the commercial, mechanical, and educational projects of our country.

“Mr. Byce has already filled a station in life to entitle him to rank with the leading business men of the country, and as one of the big hearted, level haded, and efficient members of the community has done more to promote and advance the great poultry industry of the Pacific Coast than any other person.

“He has a fine physical organization, a quiet impressive manner, genial, frank, firm in his convictions of right and duty, and a magnetism that gives him a popularity and the highest respect and esteem among his fellow citizens.

“He is a Past Master of Petaluma Lodge No. 180, F. & A. M., Past High Priest of Petaluma Royal Arch Chapter No. 22, Past Commander of Mt. Olivet Commandery of Knights Templar No. 20, Past Patron of Morning Star Chapter No. 61, O. E. S., Past Grand Patron of the Granc Chapter O. E. S. of California, Member of Petaluma Lodge No. 30, I. O. O. F., and of Relief Encampment No. 29, I. O. O. F., of Petaluma'

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011