Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project



WHEELER, J.H. Vol. II. Pp. 647-49. Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910


Full of vim and energy, wide-awake and enterprising, William M. Colby holds a high position among the influential citizens of Mason City, and as a promoter is among the foremost to forward all enterprises conducive to the general welfare and advancement. He was born, March 14, 1875, in Dane county, Wisconsin, which was the birthplace of his father, Colburn Colby.

Spending his early life in Wisconsin, Colburn Colby came with his family to Iowa in 1876, locating in Lake township, Cerro Gordo county, where he purchased land and was subsequently engaged in general farming and stock raising until his death, in 1904, at the age of sixty-six years. He married Annie Oscar, who died in Lake township on the home farm in 1906, aged sixty-seven years. Fourteen children were born to them, William M. being the third child in succession of birth of the seven now living.

Brought up on a farm and receiving a practical common school education, William M. Colby began his active career as agent for the Plano Harvester Company, for which he traveled ten years. He afterwards represented a life insurance company in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, being first located at Minneapolis and later at Sioux Falls. In connections with the Cowan Company Mr. Colby located at Mason City in 1906, and here built the Northwestern States Portland Cement Company, after which he started in business on his own account, becoming one of the leading promoters of northern Iowa.

Since 1907 Mr. Colby has promoted the North Iowa Brick and Tile Company of Mason City; the Fort Dodge, Iowa, Brick and Tile Company; has promoted and built the Lehigh Sewer Pipe Company at Lehigh, Iowa, a two hundred thousand dollar corporation; promoted and built the Farmers' Co-operative Brick and Tile Company of Mason City, of which he was president until resigning the office in March, 1910; was promoter, in 1909, of the Washington Brick, Tile, and Sewer Pipe Company, a two million dollar corporation in Spokane, Washington; and was one of the organizers of the People's State Bank of Mason City, and served as a director until his resignation, in March, 1910. In 1910 he promoted and organized the Colby Motor Company of Mason City, capitalized at one million dollars and he is president of the same. The Colby Motor Company manufactures automobiles, and are now at work erecting their factory. Starting in life when married with forty dollars worthy of furniture, given him by his home people, as his only wealth, Mr. Colby has surely made a grand success in life, being already near the topmost rung of the ladder, and if his life and health be spared, will doubtless be associated with many important enterprises yet to be established in this and other states. He has accumulated considerable property, and is the owner of six hundred and forty acres of land in Geneseo and Dougherty townships.

Mr. Colby married Mary Agnes Boyle, who was born in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, June 22, 1876, a daughter of Neal and Magdalena (Campbell) Boyle, who came to Cerro Gordo county, Iowa, in 1877, and are now living in Rockwell. Mr. and Mrs. Colby are the parents of six children, namely: Colburn, Marjorie, Mary, Joseph, David and William. Politically Mr. Colby is identified with the Democratic party, and fraternally he belongs to the Knights of Columbus; the Catholic Order of Foresters; and to Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Religiously he and his wife are esteemed members of the Holy Family Catholic church.

NOTE: The first Colby Motors car was entered the public eye on November 10, 1910. Although Colby cars performed to all expectations, competitive business brought an end to Colby Motors Company in 1914. 900 cars were manufactured but very few have survived. One is housed at the Kinney Pioneer Musuem, Mason City IA.

William M. Colby died in 1926 at Mt. Pleasant IA. Mary Agnes (Boyle) Colby died in 1927. They were interred at Saint Patrick's Cemetery, Dougherty IA.

  • Colby Collection, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries

  • Automobile Manufacturing in Iowa, Iowa Pathways, IPTV

    Transcription and note by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2014



  • Return to Biography Index Page

  • Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page


    © Copyright 1996-
    Cerro Gordo Co. IAGenWeb Project
    All rights Reserved.