Biography of Byron Benjamin Taggart


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BYRON BENJAMIN TAGGART was for more than thirty years one of the most enterprising and successful business men of Watertown and its vicinity, and his sudden and untimely death was regarded as a serious loss to the entire county. He was a native of Le Ray, born April 28, 1831, and was the sun of Henry a prominent farmer of that town, and the grandson of Joseph Taggart who came to the Black River country from Rhode Island, about the beginning of the nineteenth century. The ancestor of the family in this country was Henry Teggart, a Scotchman, Who emigrated from the Isle of Man more than a century and a half ago. The wife of Henry Taggart was Julina Dighton, daughter of John Dighton, the latter an early settler in Pamelia, and of English descent, his father having first visited America during the Revolution as a soldier in Burgoyne’s army; but after the surrender at Saratoga (Stiliwater) he became a citizen of the United States and served in the American army.

Byron B. Taggart was one of eight children in his father’s family, and his young life, until about his eighteenth year, was spent on the old farm in Le Ray. He attended district school, and when old enough began teaching winter terms; but appreciating the necessity of a more thorough education, he became a student in the State Normal School at Albany, remaining a year, after which he spent three years in the West. In the spring of 1856 he returned east, and in May following was married with Francis L. Brown, daughter of Jabez and Lefa Brown, of Watertown. After his marriage Mr. Taggart remained in the county until the second year of the war of 1861—5, when he recruited and organized Company K of the 10th N. Y. Heavy Artillery, he, by virtue of his services in enlisting the men, being commissioned captain. The company served for a time in New York harbor, but soon went to the defenses of Washington, serving at Fort Ricketts and its vicinity. Camp and army life, however, worked injuriously upon Capt. Taggart’s health, and on November 23, 1863, chiefly on account of physical disabilities, and in part through the need of his presence at home, he resigned and returned to Watertown.

In 1865 Mr. Taggart purchased a small stock of manila flour sacks, also a hand printing-press, and established a business on Beebee’s island. Here he remained about a year, realizing a fair profit, but as he could not procure a sufficient supply of manufactured sacks to meet the demands of his trade, he conceived the idea of making them himself, and thus realize a profit on the entire business. To do this satisfactorily required more capital than he then possessed, therefore, in 1866 a company was organized (comprising George West, Lewis Palmer, William W. and Byron B. Taggart) for the manufacture of manila paper, in which Mr. Taggart was a leading factor. It was the first industry of its kind on the river, and was operated successfully a little more than five years, when William W. and Byron B. Taggart succeeded the former partnership, and originated the firm of Taggart Brothers, which has ever since been known in connection with several of the most extensive and successful manufacturing enterprises of northern New York. In all their various undertakings the brothers comprising the firm worked in perfect harmony, and the statement may be made, with a full measure of truth, that until his death in 1897 Byron B. Taggart was the active man of the concern, and devoted himself wholly to business affairs.

In 1886, for business convenience, the firm of Taggart Bros. was incorporated under the name of Taggart Brothers Company, which has been preserved to the present time. Byron B. Taggart was president of the company to the time of his death, and was also one of the founders and president of the Taggarts Paper Company, doing business at Felt’s Mills.

But notwithstanding the number and magnitude of his business operations, Mr. Taggart always found time to successfully direct their management, and also to take an active part in various other enterprises. Briefly we may note some of them: He was one of the founders and for a time vice-president of the Watertown Thermometer Company; was one of the organizers and a director of the Watertown National Bank; was a stockholder and director in the Watertown Spring Wagon Company: was founder in fact and president of the Watertown Savings Bank; was president of the Alexandria Bay Steamboat Company, and of the Central Park Association of the Thousand Islands; was one of the originators and at one time president of the Watertown Electric Street Railroad Company, and was largely interested in the Hotel Eastman, at Hot Springs, Ark. Mr. Taggart was also the president of and a large stock stockholder in the Taggart-Moffett Land Company, operating in Buffalo, besides which he owned extensive land interests in Watertown and its vicinity.

In all these business operations Mr. Taggart found time to give sufficient attention to each of them, and in all their details, the care of which would distract the powers of men less favorably constituted. He was apparently seldom worried and never complained; his time always seemed ample for every requirement and his capacity equal to every emergency. He found time, too, to take an active interest in almost every measure which had for its end the welfare of Watertown, and was always regarded as a liberal, public spirited citizen, a generous contributor to all worthy enterprises, and held an open purse for every deserving charity. He was an earnest, outspoken Republican, and stood high in the councils of the party in the county. Yet he was not a seeker after office and often refused it. On May 14, 1878, he was appointed by Governor Robinson one of the trustees of the Soldiers’ Home at Bath, and was reappointed by Governor Cornell May 4, 1881. He was elected mayor of Watertown in 1879, and was re-elected in 1880. He was also deeply interested in the city schools and an earnest advocate of every measure proposed to advance their efficacy. He was brought up under Methodist influences, and though not a member of any church, an application for aid therefrom was never refused by him. Indeed, Mr. Taggart was looked upon as a model citizen and a business man of undoubted capacity, probity and worth. He was successful in business life, and honestly earned and deserved all the success he achieved. His domestic and social life was always pleasant, and the companionship of family and friends within the sacred precincts of home after the day’s work ended, was his source of greatest comfort and enjoyment.

As we have stated, on May 28, 1856, Mr. Taggart was married with Frances L. Brown. Their children were Grace, who married with P. R. Dillon, and now lives in Cleveland, Ohio; Mary L., who married with Morris F. Tanner, of Buffalo, and Byron Taggart, who, with his cousin, manages the extensive mills of the Taggart Bros. Company at Watertown, and also upon whom has devolved the care of his father’s other interests.

Several weeks previous to his death, Mr. Taggart started on a trip through the South and West. While traveling from Louisville, Ky., to Cincinnati, Ohio, he was stricken with apoplexy. His physician and son at once went to his assistance, and brought him home, but despite every attention which love and wealth could furnish he gradually failed until January 20, 1897, when he died.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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