Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


July 26, 2012

Dalton column: Lawsuit concerns one of town's most interesting yet forgotten

Andover's Steven T. Byington was such an exceptional person that, 55 years after his death, he and his life's work, "The Bible in Living English," are indirectly the subject of a lawsuit in New York state. I was contacted by the plaintiff because I'd written about Byington several years ago. The facts of the case are still unfolding.

From the 1930 to 1957, Byington (1868-1957) often walked between Ballard Vale - as he always called it - and Memorial Hall Library. He had a long beard, making him look taller than his medium height, wore sneakers but never a hat and always had a book bag over his shoulder. He would politely decline an offer of a ride, although he wouldn't hesitate to stop and chat along the way. He took shortcuts through others' land to reach his home, the stone house on Ballard Vale's High Street, where he lived with his mother, until she died in 1935, and with his sister, Martha, who was the librarian at the Ballard Vale library. He'd moved to Andover with his mother in 1906.

Those who knew him well, especially in the old Union Congregational Church of Ballard Vale, understood he was an intellectual with an intricate knowledge of the Bible. Others knew of him because of a 1956 feature article in the Andover Townsman that highlighted Byington and the 40 years he'd spent translating the Bible into modern English. He was a renowned translator and in his early adulthood was one of the intellectual pillars of a form of peaceful anarchism called "individualist anarchism." Byington's translation of three seminal books on anarchy can still be purchased today.

He stuttered, which likely caused him to be an avid reader and prolific writer, but may have kept him from his chosen profession, being a Congregational minister, although he spent a year and a half in theology school. His "letters to the editor" touched on a immense variety of subjects and were published all over the country. He published 25 articles in the journal "American Speech" from 1926-1946 and had a lifelong interest in English language use.

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