William Newton Byers

October 3, 2010

William Newton Byers, founder of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, has always been one of my heroes.

First Rocky Mountain News Office. Circa, 1859.

When 28-year-old William Byers hauled his thousand-pound printing press to Colorado, the dusty settlements along Cherry Creek were perched on the edge of the frontier, their futures in doubt, their possibilities unimagined.

So Byers imagined them – and gave Denver a future.

“You can’t separate Byers’ history from the early history of Denver. They are one and the same,” said David Halaas, chief historian for the Colorado Historical Society. “It was almost as though Denver was his personal creation.”

Indeed, Byers did more than found the Rocky Mountain News, Denver’s first newspaper, in 1859. He was a kingmaker in a city that needed leaders. A moral authority in a lawless land. A visionary who saw what would Denver could become.

But above all, Byers was Denver’s chief promoter, its biggest booster. He believed in the city – and people believed him.

“In the pioneer days of our state every man was an optimist,” Byers said late in life. “The people who crossed the plains in prairie schooners . . . did not wait for something to turn up. They believed in action, and in acting at once.

“You know, we might just as well have been on an island in the South Seas or on an oasis in the desert. We didn’t belong to anybody. We were like Robinson Crusoe.”

His accomplishments are staggering – both in number and in scope.

He was instrumental in bringing telegraph lines to Denver. Then railroads and water and mail delivery and streetcars. He championed statehood and helped write Colorado’s first constitution. He helped found the University of Denver, the Colorado Historical Society, the Natural History Society and the city’s first library. His land deals shaped Denver’s growth and led to the establishment of Longmont, Greeley, Hot Sulphur Springs and Meeker. When famed explorer John Wesley Powell made the first ascent of Longs Peak, Byers, a self-described “mountain tramp,” tagged along.

“Byers was a pioneer, an opener, a pass-crosser of a pure American breed,” author Wallace Stegner wrote, “one for whom an untrodden peak was a rebuke and a shame to an energetic people.”

From: Rocky Mountain News, May 2, 1999


One Response to “William Newton Byers”

  1. JPBitz Says:

    You are my hero. xo

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