Horace G. Lyons

HORACE G. LYONS. One of the most interesting personalities surviving the pioneer decade of Kansas is Horace G. Lyons, who for four years has had his home in the Highland Park suburb of Topeka. Mr. Lyons is now eighty-four years of age. His has been not only a long but a broad outlook upon life. The experiences, the adventures, the hardships and the constructive enterprise of the early settlers were all his. The fruits of his life have been more than the material. Many persons who are not acquainted with his personal history know the depths of his philosophic thought and the written expression of the truth ingrained in his experience and his thoughtful consideration of the various phases of mortal life.

To begin at the beginning, he was born at Great Bend in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, August 2, 1832. He was reared to manhood on a farm. As a youth he had the advantages of the district schools and the select schools of his state. His parents were Daniel and Anna B. (Smith) Lyons, the former a native of Massachusetts and the latter of Connecticut. They represented some of the sterling qualities of the old New England. Daniel's father was David Lyons. He was one of those who disguised as Indians boarded a British vessel in Boston harbor and threw overboard the boxes of stamped tea--in other words, he was a member of the historic Boston Tea Party, an event which more than any other precipitated the conflict of the war of the American Revolution.

Daniel Lyons, the father of the pioneer Kansan, was twice married. His first wife, whose maiden name was Rebecca Barker, had ten children. His second wife, Anna B. Smith, became the mother of eight children. In these Horace G. Lyons was the fifteenth in order of birth. Daniel Lyons was a carpenter by trade, also owned a farm, and removing from New England to Pennsylvania, he settled in the woods of Susquehanna County and as a pioneer helped to develop that locality. He and his second wife spent the rest of their lives there.

The time which shaped the destiny of Horace G. Lyons was the spring of 1856. In that year he came west to Kansas. The journey was made by railroad as far as St. Louis, and thence a boat brought him up the Missouri River to the present site of Kansas City. Accompanying him was his brother Silas. On board the Missouri River boat they formed the acquaintance of a Congregational minister, Jonathan Copeland, whose name should be specially mentioned for the zealous missionary labors he performed in early Shawnee County. He was a Congregational minister with the training and principles of the rugged New England school of theology and social and economic belief. He had at one time been a school teacher. His avowed purpose in coming to Kansas was to affiliate himself with the free state and wrest the territory from the control of the pro-slavery element. Mr. Copeland brought with him his wife and two children. Arriving at Kansas City, the party outfitted and with a wagon drawn by oxen traveled across the rude trails to Topeka. The Lyons brothers and Mr. Copeland each pre-empted a quarter section of land in Monmouth Township in Shawnee County. This land was absolutely fresh from the fashioning hand of the creator. Later Mr. Copeland moved away, but the two Lyons have ever since resided in Shawnee County

Through the teaching of Mr. Copeland, Horace G. Lyons was converted and has ever since been an active member of the Congregational Church and church work in general. The farm which he pre-empted in Monmouth Township was his home and the principal scene of his labors until 1913, when having passed the age of eight[sic] he removed to Highland Park at Topeka. His old quarter section he still owns, and it is not only valuable from the money standpoint, but is also endeared to him by the many associations of his early career.

That quarter section might well serve as a text for a typical story of pioneer life. There Mr. Lyons used a yoke of oxen to break up the virgin prairie soil When the grain was grown white for harvest, he swung a cradle day after day in cutting it. In cultivating his farm he used an old-fashioned single shovel plow, and employed practically every primitive implement and method of early Kansas agriculture. He combatted the chills and fevers so prevalent fifty or sixty years ago and the average modern man would consider himself unfortunate indeed who would have to exist as Mr. Lyons did in the early days. For three weeks in 1856, whcn the border ruffians cut off all supplies from Kansas City, Mr. Lyons and many of his neighbors had to live on stewed pumpkin with a little corn meal and milk.

There was one personal asset which gave Mr. Lyons some decided advantage as a pioneer. Being of a mechanical turn of mind, he built a small forge, and having the necessary tools he sharpened plowshares and did general blacksmith work for himself and his neighbors. Thus he performed an invaluable service to the early communities, and at the same time he carried on his farming.

All the early years he spent as a bachelor, and a part of the time he looked after the domestic management of his own household as well as the outside work. On November 9, 1875, he married Sarah A. G. Bush, a daughter of John H. Bush, who came to Kansas in 1857, locating at the head of Tecumseh Creek in Monmouth Township of Shawnee County. To Mr. and Mrs. Lyons were born four children: Nellie E., deceased; John H., deceased; Jennie M., Mrs. Calvin J. Huyett; and George, now deceased.

Mr. Lyons was one of the members of the Congregational Church organized by Reverend Mr. Copeland in Monmouth Township. For the past forty years he has been a deep student of the problems of life from a philosophical rather than a religious standpoint. The kernel of his philosophy is that life is governed by a fixed law emanating from the law giver and that nothing "happens." For years he has written in explanation, interpretation and expansion of this theme, and on various philosophical-religious subjects, and his writings have received a wide current of publication and reading. He possesses a striking vein of originality in thought, and his statements and principles have never been successfully controverted. In the early days he was a township trustee and has always been a republican since the organization of the party.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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