Ellen G. White Writings

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Advent Pioneers Biographical Sketches and Pictures, Page 8

JOHN BYINGTON

Picture:

FIRST GENERAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENT
October 8, 1798 - January 7, 1887

John Byington was a Methodist circuit rider before he became a Seventh-day Adventist preacher. He was also a vigorous opponent of slavery and his home was said to have been a station on the old underground railroad that offered shelter for slaves who escaped from the South and sought their freedom. He did not accept the Seventh-day Adventist message until he was past fifty. Then he became a vigorous preacher of the truth. He helped organize one of the first Seventh-day Adventist churches, in Buck’s Bridge, New York. He was a practical man and helped to build several early Seventh-day Adventist churches.

In May, 1863, representatives of the Sabbath-keeping Adventists were sent to Battle Creek for the first General Conference Session. Twenty delegates came, representing six conferences. An executive committee of three was named. Elder John Byington, on May 21, was chosen the first president of the General Conference.

The church in Buck’s Bridge, where Byington made his home, was built in 1855, the same year the first church was built in Battle Creek. But the Buck’s Bridge church was probably built earlier. It was not a large church, about twenty by thirty feet with a fifteen-foot extension in the rear. The foundation stones, scattered but still lying on the scene, testify to the beautiful situation of this old, historic landmark.

The Buck’s Bridge church school was apparently started in the year 1854. This church school was founded two years before the first elementary church school in Battle Creek. John’s daughter, Martha, taught this school. She married George Amadon, who was well known at the Review and Herald in Battle Creek as a foreman and a printer. Byington lived to see the church he helped to establish become a missionary church with a work begun on several continents. He died when he was 88 years old.

Interesting Facts About John Byington

We do not have much information about John Byington. We know that he was elderly in comparison with the younger workers like John Andrews, Uriah Smith, John Loughborough, Myron Cornell, Stephen Haskell, George Butler, James White, Ellen White, etc.

In the early days of our church there was a trio of venerable pioneers who were older in years and much respected. They were Hiram Edson, John Byington, and Joseph Bates. These men were benign, vigorous leaders and counselors.

In 1857 John Byington moved from New York to Michigan. He did evangelistic work, criss-crossing the country with horse and buggy. People would say, “No one knows Michigan like John Byington.”

He was a courageous man. We see him joining the James Whites at Round Grove, Illinois, and calling a conference of believers there in November, 1856. He brought strength to the Whites who were journeying through to Waukon, Iowa, in bad weather, there to recover several ministers who had become discouraged.

His son, John F. Byington, taught church school in Battle Creek in 1860 and became a physician. In fact, he and Dr. H. S. Lay were the first physicians of the Western Health Reform Institute, our first Seventh-day Adventist medical institution.

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