Portrait and Biographical Album
of Washington, Clay and Riley Counties
Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1890
JOHN BYERS ANDERSON. President of the First National Bank of Manhattan, has been a Director in that institution since its organization, and not long after that event was elected its President. When the Manhattan Mill and Elevator Company was organized he was elected its Treasurer, and has assisted in the work of the company until the mill and elevator were erected. In 1889, the Manhattan Electric Light Company was organized, and of this body also he was elected Director. He is very popular not only in Manhattan but in other sections where he is known, and his wife shares in the esteem in which he is held. Both are very charitable, and many have cause to bless their generosity. We append a sketch taken from "The Annual of Washington and Jefferson College for 1886":
"John Byers Anderson, L. L. D.. was born Nov. 22. 1817, being the second son and youngest child of the venerable John Anderson, D. D., a native of Guilford County, N. C., and for forty-three
years, ending in 1833, the honored pastor of the Upper Buffalo Presbyterian Church, in Washington County. Pa. His mother was Rebecca Byers of Cumberland County. Pa. Dr. Anderson was eminently pious and talented, a fine scholar and able theologian, a recognized instructor of candidates for the ministry, a prominent leader in the church, and President of the Board of Trustees of Washington College from the date of the charter, in 1806, until his resignation in 1831, on account of the infirmities of age. His eldest son. the Rev. William C. Anderson, D. D., a son of the college, and afterward a Trustee, who died at the age of sixty-six years, was one of the most popular ministers of his generation.
Our classmate, inheriting the blessings of such a parentage, could well receive his preparatory education at home. He entered the Freshman class in the autumn of 1832. We remember him as a genial companion, an honorable friend, a generous rival, a fair scholar and a general reader. Even then he gave tokens of the reserve power which the actual competitions of life have so signally drawn forth into success. With his mind set upon the legal profession, he turned to teaching as a temporary expedient to supply the necessary means. But marked success in this line of necessity overruled his choice, and the irrepressible demand for his services as an educator, not only delayed professional preparation, but crowded out the practice after his admission. Beginning with a school in Breckenridge County, Ky., he was advanced to the
leadership of Meade County, Academy, the following spring (1837). and two years later was made principal of a seminary at Hardinsburg, continuing there until 1841. Meanwhile having been married, in 1838, to Miss Cecilia Geraldine Alexander, who has ever since been the joy of his life as well as his most efficient helper, he came to feel himself committed to teaching as his calling. Opening a school for boys in 1842, at New Albany, Ind., he purchased the next year the lease and fixtures of a female school in the same place. For each of these institutions he obtained a charter, one under the name of Anderson Collegiate Institute, and the other that of Anderson's Female Seminary. Both nourished, drawing pupils largely from the Western and Southern States. Some of his teachers were distinguished sons of his own Alma Mater.
But out of the passion and energy of the teacher was developed the still more successful railroad engineer and superintendent. His own advancement in higher mathematics, and his practice in surveying with his students for their benefit, made him an engineer of the first class with a reputation which flooded him with applications to engage in that business. As early as 1851, he constructed a highway road from New Albany to Corydon; in the year 1852, he was chosen chief engineer of a proposed road from the Ohio, below the falls to Sandusky; for three years, ending in 1858, he was General Superintendent of the New Albany & Salem, now the New Albany & Chicago Railroad. All this was accomplished while still holding and conducting his educational institutions. But, retiring absolutely at that crisis, he devoted himself wholly to railroading, and accepted the place of Division Superintendent of the Pennsylvinia Railroad. In February, 1859, he was advanced to the General Superintendency of the Pittsburg, Ft. Wayne & Chicago Railroad. In less than a year, however, he was called to be Superintendent of Transportation on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, a position in which the opening of the Civil War found him. The General commanding the army of the Ohio (afterward the Cumberland), gave him charge of all the United States Military roads of his department, and by renewed appointments he was held at the head of transportation and the construction of roads and bridges along the whole line from Louisville to Huntsville and Chattanooga, until his resignation in the summer of 1863. Later he was appointed by the Secretary of War, the general manager of the United States Railroads, but at his own request was retired in 1864, only, however, to engage with others in the construction of the great Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern division. For the sake of rest, he spent the years of 1866-68 in making two trips to Europe, accompanied on the first by his brother and in the last by his wife. Nor even yet was repose allowed him, until in the years of 1875-77 he wound up the affairs of the Maysville & Lexington Railroad as President and General Manager, after which, who could challenge his right to affluent resources and a dignified and quiet life upon the broad acres of his chosen Kansas? But even that quietness has been more or less disturbed by the care of the public buildings at Topeka, under the Governor's appointment. Even yet the art of repose is his most difficult lesson."
Surely these facts establish Col. Anderson's right to a place among the leading men of a most eventful time. His quick perception, accurate discrimination, prompt decision, and comprehensive and energetic execution, explain his distinguished success. His services were never offered, but always yielded to imperative demand. His calls to duty came for the most part from the master spirits of the difficult enterprises needing him, upon their own discernment in him of the rare qualities demanded by the crisis. And their approbation, so uniformly given, was a surer reward than mere public applause, so often bestowed on superficial grounds. The Superintendent of Transportation, for example, both of men and supplies for the Western and Southern States, at the perilous crisis of our Civil War, holding his commission now from Department Commander, and now again from the Secretary of War, himself, the one who could meet his high responsibilities without complaint, is no ordinary man.
It was not until 1871 that Col. Anderson saw his way clear to fulfill his baptismal vows, by his own confession of Christ before men in the full communion of the church. One year later, the confidence of his Christian brethren was expressed in his election as a ruling Elder. In 1877, he represented the Presbytery of Topeka in the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, in session at Chicago, Ill., also in 1888 at Philadelphia. He is active and liberal in all Christian enterprises, enjoying most of all the work of Sabbath-school Superintendent. Providence has given him ample provision for declining years, with a heart to honor the Lord with his substance, and with the first fruits of his increase. Without children of his own, save by adoption and love, he grows to be more and more a friend of Christian education, alike for his country's sake and for the church of Christ. He is one of the chief benefactors of the young college of Emporia. in his own State. and the President of its Board of Trustees. His late gift of $2,500 toward the endowment of the Presidency of his Alma Mater (Washington and Jefferson College), proves his abiding love. Her estimate of him and her pride in his achievements, may be faintly read in her unsolicited and unanimous bestowment on him of the honorary title of Doctor of Laws (L. L. D.). an honor to herself in the gift, but a total surprise to he recipient, if not even a shock to his sensitive modesty.
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