1905 History of Crawford County Kansas


S. H. Lanyon

picture of S. H. Lanyon

In the midst of a life of strenuous activity, little abated by the passage of sixty-year cycles, S. H. Lanyon was stricken down by death at the close of his day's business, September 13, 1897, and by this lamentable event Pittsburg and the county of Crawford, as also the entire industrial world, were deprived of a producing factor and energizing, vitalizing character.

Living contemporaneous with the epoch of modern industrialism and a potent power in that phase of development which has changed the currents of civilization in recent years, Mr. Lanyon's life represents more than the humdrum of existence and its definite results have helped swell the tide of material prosperity and social progress which are the wonders of our nation and our time. If his contribution to the world at large was of no mean degree, his worth and influence in the city of Pittsburg, where he was one of the earliest settlers and a founder of its industrial wealth, were indeed inestimable. He came to Pittsburg in 1878, when the place was unknown by name outside of the immediate neighborhood. He was one of the first to realize the value and make use of the possibilities of the great undeveloped coal fields of this region. In company with Robert Lanyon he founded the great zinc smelter with which the name and fortunes of the Lanyons have since been identified, and which have been at the foundation of the progress of Pittsburg. Thenceforward from that pioneer year of the city's history he was intimately connected with all the enterprises of a public nature and many of business and industrial kind which expanded Pittsburg from a village to the proud city of thirteen thousand inhabitants as was its status when he was called from earth's labors. Throughout this history of Crawford county and in the biographies of the Lanyon family members to be found in the following pages can be read many of the achievements of the men of this name, as also much of personal and family history, and at this point only the briefest resume of the life and character of Mr. S. H. Lanyon will be given.

Born in Zelah, a village of Cornwall, England, on September 2, 1837, he had just rounded out the full sixty years of his life when death came upon him. With his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Simon Lanyon, he came in infancy to America, settling in Iowa county, Wisconsin, near Mineral Point. After growing up he became a blacksmith's apprentice, and learned his trade thoroughly, conducting a shop at Mineral Point, and later for a period of five years having one of the most complete blacksmith and horseshoeing establishments in San Francisco, California. In 1862 he went back to the land of his birth and in his native village met and married Miss Emily Dabb, who survives her honored husband and resides at Pittsburg. He returned with his bride to this country, and for some time following was at Mineral Point. In the seventies he became connected with the zinc industry, first at Mineral Point, later at LaSalle, Illinois, and about the date mentioned transferred the industry to southwestern Missouri and to this county, the Lanyon smelter being the great industry which made the city of Pittsburg in its present-day attainments possible.

Mr. Lanyon was a man of unlimited industry and activity, and his death, brought on by heart failure, occurred while he was attending to his business transactions in Pittsburg. In the course of the day he had conversed with many of his friends and associates, had mingled with men and affairs in his customary way, so that when the news of his sudden death spread from person to person it seemed incredible that the honored citizen had passed from the throngs of the living to the abodes of silence. "In the midst of life we are in death."'

Henry Lanyon was a rare character, rugged and sturdy. Measured by the closest standards, his life was remarkably successful, and successful not alone in the fact that by frugal care and perseverance he had amassed a competency. His life was grand in nobler attributes. He was more than ordinarily reticent, yet aggressive in what he believed to be right, and when an opinion was formed as to a proper course to pursue that course was pursued without vacillation or swerving. His was a charitable nature, and what finer eulogium could be pronounced upon any man than that "Many a poor person will miss him this winter," a sentiment expressed and echoed by many in Pittsburg at the news of his death. Simplicity always marked his giving, which was tactful and without ostentation. He was not a little in public life, where his influence was steadying and conservative, and his performance marked with utmost fidelity to the public weal and with untiring energy. Devoted to ideals which had led him to personal success, he could not easily be turned aside from applying these same principles to all matters in which he participated, and seldom indeed was his judgment or action at fault. However counterwise the winds of adversity might blow he kept his rudder true and at last made the port of noble ideals.

It has been mentioned that Mr. S. H. Lanyon was a native of Cornwall, England, and it will be of interest to append here some items concerning the ancestral history and the family seat in that ancient English shire. The Lanyons in origin were Norman-French, dating back perhaps to the time of the English conquest. The estate of the family in Cornwall was in the parish of Gwinear, where it is said the first progenitors settled along with Isabella, wife of King Edward II; in which parts the Lanyon posterity have ever since flourished in gentle degree. That they originally came from the town of Lanyon, situate upon a seahaven of France, is proved by the fact that the family coat of arms is the coat of arms of that town of Norman-France; namely, in a field sable a castle argent, standing on the waves of sea azure, over the same a falcon hovering with bells. Locally the name Lanyon was pronounced "La-nine."

In the parish of Madron, Cornwall, is Lanyon, properly Lanion, which was in former days the property and residence of the ancient family of that name. The site of the old mansion is occupied by a substantial farmhouse. The estate measures four hundred and seventy-one acres. This place has unusual historic interest, especially for the archeologist, for it is one of the spots of England associated with the life and customs of the earliest aboriginal inhabitants of the island, as some remains of primitive architecture in the vicinity indicate.

On the coarse land of this estate, by the side of the highway leading from Madron churchtown to Morvah, stands the celebrated cromlech (perhaps more properly dolmen) called Lanyon Quoit. It consists of a large granite table 17 1/3 feet in length, and at its greatest breadth 8 3/4 feet; its form is irregular, and its average thickness about eighteen inches. This table or capstone is supported by three unhewn pillars also of granite, its elevation being about five feet.

Borlaise describes this ancient monument as high enough for a man on horseback to pass under it, but this cannot now be done.

About one-half mile west of Lanyon farmhouse, in the middle of a hilly field on the same estate, is another cromlech, known as west Lanyon Quoit. It was discovered in 1700 within a mound of earth and stone, after one hundred cartloads had been removed. The capstone, which had slipped off, measures 18 2/3 feet in length by 10 1/2 feet in breadth. In digging under this cromlech there was found a broken urn with ashes, half of a human skull, and most of the other bones of a human body, thus indicating the sepulchral character of this ancient monument.

On the boundary of the parish near the Lanyon estate is the mentol or holed stone, locally called "crickstone." It is claimed that a person crawling through the hole in the stone will be cured of rheumatism and cricks.

The Men-Scriffys spoken of by Hals is about one mile northeast of Lanyon. It is a rough granite pillar 9 3/4 feet long, 1 2/3 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet thick, and has this inscription "Rialobram the son of Conoval." The popular tradition is that a great battle was fought near this pillar; that one of the leaders was slain and buried here; that this stone marks the place of sepulture: and that its length was the height of the warrior.

Pages 198-203 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Cassie Seeman and Joana Joseph, students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in January, 2003.


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