The Lyon Line
I can lay no claim to any original research on the Lyon line. On a visit to the genealogical section of the Los Angeles County Library, I stumbled on two books, Lyon Memoirs, Volumes 1 and 4. In the latter, there appeared the name of my maternal great-grandmother, Mary Lyon Wright. It was a rare coincidence that this was really my great-great grandmother, but I had heard of many of the names of her brothers and sisters as the appeared in the book. It was a good fortune that I was able to buy an original 1905 edition of volume one from a genealogical book dealer. This was a long, well-written work, and with little embellishment of the truth. Since I enjoyed reading many parts of it, and did indeed use much of its form for this book, I have copied many parts of it in my history of the Lyon line.
A. B. Lyon wrote in his introduction to the Lyon Memorial, the motto of Lords de Rohan (of which the Lyons belonged) was:
King I care not to be, Prince I deign not, Rohan I am. The sentiment of family pride among these people was productive of good results. As to the good, noblesse oblige made the cavalier brave, even to rashness, polite to a punctilio, honorable, and polished to a degree that has left its mark upon Europe. True, it led to haughtiness, to a disregard for those not of his order, and for its logical sequence the Revolution; but these ills were the outcome, rather of such other factors as prodigality and selfish pride.
Many years ago, professional genealogists traced the Lyon family in Europe. Sir Roger de Leonne, son of a follower of the Conqueror, born in 1040, joined himself to King Edgar and received land in Perthshire, called Glen Lyon. His son went to the Holy Land and afterwards settled in England. His son had lands in Norfolk and his son, John Lyon, born in Norfolk in 1150. The line thus continued and A. B. Lyon devoted twenty-two pages to the Lyon family in England. There were many land, baptismal, marriage, and other records in England. He claims to have thereby traced the family to my ancestor, William Lyon of Roxbury, Massachusetts, the American immigrant. A reader of Mr. Lyon’s book can well judge for himself, the validity of his introduction to our Lyon family.
The Lyon Line of Ascent
William Lyon Married Sarah Ruggles
John Lyon Abigail Polley
John Lyon II Elizabeth
Caleb Lyon Margaret Lyon
Caleb Lyon, Jr. Elizabeth Hodges
William Lyon Rhoda Millet
Mary Lyon Wright
William Lyon came to America at age fourteen on the Hopewell and settled in Roxbry, Massachusetts. He was perhaps an orphan, but well established as the son of William and Anne (Carter) Lyon. He was in the care of Isaac Heath, an armorer. He married Sarah Ruggles in 1646. Her parents were a member of the “Nazing Colony”, a group of Puritans known for their great piety. He received in 1648 a grant of six acres of land in Roxbury, and was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Roxbury. When the new settlement of New Roxbury, now Woodstock, Connecticut, was determined in 1686, he was one of the “goers” and was assigned a lot there. He did not actually occupy it, since he was then at the age of seventy and died six years later, but several of his grandsons became prominent members there.
The first William Lyon in New England was well documented in the vital records of Roxbury, appearing in town and church records, as to his marriages, numerous land transactions, and a lengthy will. He sired eight children, my ancestor John, being the first. He married after the death of his wife Sarah, Mrs. Martha (Philbrick) Casse, widow of John Casse, but had no more children. He also used the family name “Lion” in many documents.
Since the mid-seventeenth century in New England, was a time of many small Indian wars, his occupation of an armorer, allowed him to prosper. His house still stands in the town of Roxbury, and a street is named after him.
The oldest son of the pioneer was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts in April 1647. He inherited the landed property of his father, and lived and died in Roxbury. He married May 10, 1670, in Roxbury, Abigail Polley, born June 4, 1654, daughter of John and Susanna Polley. Her father, John Polley had been born in England about 1618, was in Robury as early as 1650, when his wife Susanna was admitted to the church. He died in 1688 and made bequests to his son-in-law, “John Lion”.
John Lyon and his wife died (it is said of smallpox) on the same day, Jan 15, 1670 and were buried in one grave in West Roxbury Cemetery. Their headstone still exists.
He died intestate. Administration of his estate was granted to his oldest son John. This extensive estate was divided among his eleven children, four of whom were minors. The oldest, again John, was my ancestor.
John Lyon II
John Lyon, II was born May 14, 1673, and died January 23, 1725, at the age of fifty-two. He had moved in 1698 to Woodstock, Connecticut, to land granted to his grandfather twelve years before. His wife’s name was Elizabeth. They had nine children, Caleb being the seventh. He also lived in Pomfret, Connecticut and moved frequently. He was a husbandman, and did not prosper as his grandfather, leaving only a house, orchard and twenty acres of land.
The first Caleb Lyon was born April 15, 1709. He was sixteen when his father died, and Daniel Carpenter was appointed his guardian. In his seventeenth year on February 29, 1729, he married his own cousin, Margaret Lyon. He took his freeman’s oath in Woodstock in 1749. Several of his sons and at least one son-in-law left records of distinguished service in the Revolution. Among his descendants were General Nathaniel Lyon and the Hon. Caleb Lyon, first territorial governor of Idaho. They had fifteen children. His third son, and fourth child, was my ancestor, Caleb Jr. Caleb Sr. died in 1792.
Caleb Lyon, Jr.
Caleb Lyon, Jr., was born June 29, 1734, and baptized in the Newman Congegational Church, Seekonk, Massachusetts. He moved to Woodstock, Connectict with his family in 1742. In 1756 he married Elizabeth Hodges. Only one child was born in Woodstock, and they then presumably moved to East Windsor, Connecticut where son John was born in 1757. There are no further records on the family.
John Lyon II
He was born in 1757 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He and his first wife had passed from the remembrance of the family one hundred years later, but his grandson, Alva E. Lyon of Perry, Iowa, says that he was one of twelve or thirteen children, one of them named Horace. They were probably not of the same mother. Another of the brothers was named Rufus. One of the sons of Rufus was named Horace. This branch of the family remained in Massachusett, New York and Vermont. My great grandfather William, also named a son Rufus, indicating that the family remained in contact, although separated by nearly two thousand miles, from New England to Illinois.
William Lyon II
This namesake of the immigrant William Lyon was born July 25, 1790, in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He had a long and migratory life. He left home at the age of fourteen, his mother having died and his father having married again, and went to Vermont where he lived ten years. It seems likely that he spent those years in Craftsbury, where Nehemiah Lyon, his father’s own cousin, had settled. About 1814 he moved to Allegheny County, New York where he married Rhoda Millett on March 22, 1815. There were many Millet families in Colonial America, but I was unable to place her in a particular family. This could probably be done through a search of the census and vital records of New York State during the early 1800’s.
He remained in that region twenty-eight years, then went west, locating in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. There he was probably a miner. When his wife died, he moved in with his daughter Mary and his father-in-law, Columbus Perry and moved to Marengo, Illinois with them. He died April 25, 1881, at the age of ninety-one years.
My great-grandmother was the fifth of six children of William Lyon and his wife Rhoda Millet. She was born in 1843 in Allegheny County, New York. She married Columbus Perry Wright in 1856, in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. In 1880 they moved to rural Boone County, Illinois. Their home and farm were across the road and county line from the Tanner homestead. She bore him six children, the youngest being my grandmother. I can recall going with my Grandmother Tanner to visit her. At that time, she was of an ancient vintage, but apparently was quite comfortable. She lived in Marengo in a large Victorian house, with an attendant who was called “Sadie”. This was no doubt in the early 1930’s, since listening to the radio was in vogue at that time. All of her children survived her and were devoted to her. However I heard stories after her death, of much family quarreling over her possessions. In particular was a silver tea service, which I had many years later.
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