JAMES P. BYFORD, interested in farming in Montague county, was born in Lawrence county, Alabama, March 3, 1845, his parents being John and Elizabeth (Guthrie) Byford. The grandfather, Quilla Byford, was a native of England and in early manhood came to America, where he married. He then began farming in Alabama, where he spent his remaining days as an upright and reliable agriculturist. His children were: Benjamin, William, Samuel, John and Polly.
Of this family, John Byford was born in Alabama and there followed farming for a few years. Subsequently he removed to Arkansas, casting in his lot with the early settlers there. His attention was given to general farming, which he was successfully carrying on up to the time of the outbreak of the Civil war, when he joined the Confederate service. His possessions were greatly depleted through the exigencies of war and soon after the close of hostilities he removed to Texas. He married Elizabeth Guthrie, a native of Tennessee and her death occurred soon after the removal to Texas. Later the father again married and made various removals subsequent to that time. He died in Texas, where he had lived the life of an unostentatious, honest farmer. His first wife was a Missionary Baptist and was a devoted Christian lady. In their family were seven children: James P.; Stephen, a farmer of this county; William and Samuel, both deceased; Benjamin, of Arkansas; Emily, the wife of Joshua Barrett; and Columbus.
In his early youth James P. Byford was taken by his father from Alabama to Arkansas and remained under the parental roof there until the latter part of the Civil war, when he enlisted in Hester’s company for service in the Confederate army. Soon after he was detailed as a scout and did varied service to forward the interests of the cause he espoused. He was connected with the exchange of prisoners in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, and was at Tyler, Texas, at the time of General Lee’s surrender, the regiment then disbanding. Not long afterward Mr. Byford found employment in Texas as a farm hand and it was not long after this that he was married. A few years later he returned to Arkansas, where he rented a farm and subsequently purchased land, continuing its cultivation until 1888, when he returned to Texas and rented a farm in Montague county for a year. He then purchased eighty acres which he yet owns and subsequently bought the adjoining one hundred and five acres. Few improvements had been made upon it and he at once began its further development and cultivation, erecting a commodious residence, good barns and outbuildings. He also sunk wells and set out an orchard. Later he added eighty acres, making a total of two hundred and sixty-five acres and now has a good farm, well improved, of which one hundred and sixty acres is under cultivation. He raises some stock and in fact produces on the place nearly everything that is needed by the family for consumption. His business discernment and unfaltering energy are the strong and salient features of his career and have made him a substantial resident of this part of the state.
Mr. Byford has been married twice. He first wedded Louisa Edwards, who was born and reared in Texas. Her father, William N. Edwards, was an early settler, prominent farmer and a minister of the Christian Union. He was recognized as a local preacher of force and ability and was untiring in his work for the church. He was also an exemplary member of the Masonic fraternity. His last years were spent in the home of his daughter, Mrs. Byford, in Arkansas, and there he passed away. His children were: Joseph, James, Richard, George W., John W. [Edwards], Mrs. Mornin Epperson, Mrs. Mary Holland, Louisa, Mrs. Sarah McCay and Mrs. Ellen Newton.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Byford were born eight children: Joseph, a farmer of Montague county; Mrs. Elizabeth Stepp; Monroe, a farmer; Sarah the wife of W. M. Duncan; Minnie, the wife of A. Smith; Mrs. Lulu Ellis; and Hester, the wife of Thomas Parsons. The mother of these children was called to her final rest May 25, 1892. She was a member of the Methodist church and her loss was deeply deplored by those who knew her. On the 22d of August, 1893, Mr. Byford married Mrs. Cynthia Scott, the widow of Staunton Scott, who was a prominent farmer and at his death left five children: John, Clyde, Ina, Fred and Ruba. Mrs. Byford is a daughter of Enoch Burcham, who was born in Indiana and afterwards removed to Jasper county, Illinois, where all of his children were born and where he successfully carried on farming until 1879, when he became a resident of Grayson county, Texas. In 1898 he removed from this state to Idaho, where his death occurred. His children were: Milton and Ely, of Illinois; Nancy, the wife of J. Todd; Mrs. Byford; Mrs. Sarah Salliard; John and Thomas, in the Indian Territory; Mrs. Lou Mullen; and Mrs. Pearl Chaney. Unto the second marriage of Mr. Byford four children have been born: Otha, born October 27, 1894; Alva, May 1, 1897; Esther, September 6, 1899; and Etta F., March 10, 1920.
Mr. and Mrs. Byford hold membership in the Missionary Baptist church are interested in its work and contribute generously to its support. In politics he is a Democrat but has always preferred to leave office holding to others and give his attention to his business interests. The success of his labors results from his close and earnest application and the determined manner in which he has put aside all of the difficulties and obstacles that have barred his path.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 700-701.