Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]
William G. Kirby comes, on the paternal side, from good New England stock; his father, John Kirby, having been
a Rhode Islander by birth. His mother, whose maiden name was Prelove Lyon, was a native of New York. The paternal
home is in New Lebanon, Columbia Co., N. Y. Here the family, consisting of eleven children, nine of whom grew to
be men and women,—were reared. Seven are living. Elihu resides in New York; Wm. G., the subject of this sketch;
Patience, the wife of Lewis J. Haight, one of the wealthy farmers of Pavilion, this county; John W., a thriving
farmer of Charleston, Kalamazoo Co.; Samuel H., of Cleveland, Ohio; Adam C., of Columbia Co., N. Y., on the old
homestead; and Catharine, the youngest, the wife of Dr. Henry D. Jones, of Columbia Co., N. Y. Thomas, one of the
brothers, was a Methodist clergyman, and, after twelve years of successful labor in the cause of his Master, died
(1846) in Granville, Vt. Mr. Kirby received the benefit of a New York common-school education, which was supplemented
by training in that best of industrial schools, the farm, under the instruction of his father, who was an energetic
business man. He remained at home until 1846, when he married Miss Rhoda Swetland, of Clifton Park, Saratoga Co.,
N. Y. In 1850 he engaged in mercantile pursuits in Saratoga, N. Y., in which he continued until 1858, when, with
his family, he removed to Michigan, settling in Charleston, Kalamazoo Co., on the farm on which he now resides,
being the northwest quarter of section 5. He now owns some five or six hundred acres of land in Charleston and
Ross. The family lived in the old pioneer log house for the first two years, when it was consumed by fire. Mr.
Kirby then büilta frame dwelling-house, in which his family resided till 1870, when he erected his present
fine farm home. He came in possession of his farm when there were but twenty acres cleared of timber, on the rest
of the improved lands the girdled trees were yet standing, and he has made it not only one of the best-cultivated
farms in Charleston, but in the eastern part of the county.
At the age of twenty-two Mr. Kirby was elected assessor of his native township, in New York, and was continued
in the office for three successive terms. He has also filled local offices of importance and trust, with faithfulness
and honor, in all the places where he has lived. He has represented the township of Charleston as a member of the
board of supervisors for more than half of the time during the last fifteen years. He has been the unanimous choice
of the Democratic party in his district for representative in the State Legislature. He is one of the founders
of the Oak Grove Cemetery, of Galeaburg, and president of its board of directors.
Mr. Kirby is a man of close observation and broad views. He has not only been a successful farmer, but the pursuit
of agriculture, in itself unselfish and ennobling, has been a good schol to him. For no trade or profession that
man has turned his hand to has given him more useful instruction. Mr. Kirby early learned how to do work; that
there was a best way in farming as there was in any other pursuit, and that the business of the farmer was to get
the best ideas, the best plan and modes of carrying on his work. Governed by such views a man’s vocation is his
best teacher. One great difference in men is in observation. One man sees things without specially noting them.
Another, like Hugh Miller hewing stone, gets all the hidden truths his vocation can teach him, because he closely
observes them as they are brought to view in his daily toil. What is called science in our Agricultural Colleges
the farmer picks up in his accustomed round of labor, but indifferent to its value lets it escape him; while another,
called a professor, collects the same facts, and, arranging them in systematic order, is called a learned man.
With such men as William G. Kirby managing our farm interests, Michigan will take still higher rank among the States
in industrial and agricultural importance. He has been identified with all that would promote the interests of
this county; and in all public measures in the State he has been an advocate for the greatest amount of good to
Mr. Kirby in polities is a Democrat; a highly social and valuable man in society; and to make the world better
for having lived in it is the object of his religion. He is a diligent reader of the best newspapers and books;
ready and able in discussing the topics of the day; at home on questions of ethics or matters of history or national
interest, he ranks with our best class of men.
Having husbanded well his resources as a farmer, he has sought larger fields of operations in other directions,
and has used his money in financial investments with a success which proves him to be a business man of practical
sagacity and sound judgment.
To be worthy the confidence of those who know him best he has ever considered the highest meed of praise. The following
well-remembered counsel of his father he has ever endeavored to carry out in life: “Be honest and prompt in paying
your debts, always do as you agree; this will give you a good name among men, which is rather to be chosen than
gold or great riches.”
Mrs. Kirby, his faithful and devoted wife, has done her full part in securing the fine home they now possess, and
the ample means and prosperity they now enjoy; and Mr. Kirby attributes to her thrift, skillful industry, and wise
counsel much of his success in life.
They have been blessed with a family of five children, three of whom are still living, Millie, who married Dr.
H. U. Upjohn, of Kalamazoo; William, who married Alice, daughter of Dr. George R. Wightman, of Galesburg, lives
in the old home, and manages the farm; and Mary, the youngest, still living with her parents.
History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of its Men and Pioneers.
Everts & Abbott., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.