William Newton Byers played a distinguished role in the histories of both Nebraska and Colorado. Born in Ohio in 1831, he accompanied his parents to Iowa in 1850 and a year later joined a government surveying party working in western Iowa. By 1854 Byers was in Nebraska and living in Omaha. He was the first deputy surveyor appointed in Nebraska Territory. He issued the first official plat of Omaha and shortly afterward formed a partnership with Andrew J. Poppleton under the firm name of Poppleton and Byers. Byers made the first map of the city of Omaha and was a member of the first city council. He was also a member of the first session of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature, convened January 16, 1855, in Omaha.
Byers recalled in an 1896 letter to the Nebraska State Historical Society: “It [Territorial Legislature] was a large assembly for the first in a new territory, and it seems to me now that it was a very wasteful and extravagant one. . . especially in the line of printing, and before it adjourned the country surrounding the capitol building was literally ‘snowed under’ with waste paper in the form of printed bills, journals, roll calls, reports, and such like documents, for which there never had been any use in the world. . . . However, that assembly laid a good, broad foundation for what has become the great state of Nebraska.”
In 1859 Byers moved to Denver to take advantage of recent gold strikes in the area. He and J. H. Kellom were the authors of a Hand book to the gold fields, published that year. Robert W. Furnas, in 1859 associated with the Nebraska Advertiser, later recalled that Byers had bought the equipment of the defunct Bellevue Gazette and had it taken by ox team to Denver, Colorado, where he used it in the publication of the Rocky Mountain News.
Byers afterward had a distinguished career in Colorado, particularly in Denver. He was a member of the first constitutional convention of Colorado in 1864. In 1882 he was elected vice president and chairman of the finance committee of the Denver Tramway Company. Later he became vice president of the Union National Bank. He died March 25, 1905.