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LYON, Rev. Frederick Finney - 1890 Bio (1816-1897)


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 8/14/2007 at 18:48:06

Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties, Iowa, Printed 1890 by Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago
Pages 312-314

Rev. Frederick Finney LYON, who is familiarly known as "Uncle Fred," has an acquaintance throughout the county which embraces almost every man, woman and child within its borders. Not to know him argues oneself unknown. He was born in Otsego County, N. Y., on the 6th of August, 1816, and is a son of Abel and Nancy (FINNEY) LYON, both of whom were natives of Connecticut. In an early day they removed to the Empire State, and located in what was afterward Otsego County. In 1829 they became residents of Wayne County, and in 1836 they removed to Cattaraugus County, where their last days were spent. The father died in his eighty-ninth year, and the mother also reached an advanced age. Theirs was a Christian home and in accordance with the teachings of the Methodist Church, of which they were consistent members, they reared their family of children, consisting of six sons and six daughters, and two of the sons became ministers -- Moses, now deceased, who for some sixty years was engaged in preaching the Gospel; and Frederick F. The father took a most important part in church work, his home was the place of entertainment for the Methodist ministers, and his tent was always found upon the camp meeting grounds. No church duty was ever neglected by him, and his religion imbued his whole life, making him a kind, benevolent and charitable man, ever ready to aid the oppressed, to lift up the fallen and give to the poor and needy.

The subject of this sketch was the sixth child in the family. His father operated an extensive farm, was a hard worker himself, and taught his sons the same valuable lesson of thrift and industry. Thus reared in a Christian home and trained to habits of labor and enterprise, Mr. LYON laid a foundation upon which a noble character has been reared. When a lad of thirteen years his parents removed from Otsego to Wayne County, N. Y., but while they were making preparations for providing a comfortable home, young Frederick was left with an uncle, and while there had a narrow escape from being burned to death. One night he was sleeping on some shavings in a sawmill when the building caught fire, and he was not awakened from his slumbers until a cousin had rushed through the flames which filled the room, gathered him up, bed and all, and carried him away from the burning building, thus saving his life. He received fair educational advantages in his youth, and at the age of nineteen years began teaching school, which occupation he followed through two winters in his native State. He then helped to prepare a raft and started down the Allegheny River, working his way on the raft to Louisville, Ky. The men were there forced to accept half pay for their work. The man who had employed them sold the raft and left, but they forced the new owner to give them one-half the money due them. Mr. LYON continued his journey by river to Ft. Madison, Iowa, but after a short time spent at that place went to West Point, where he was engaged as clerk for a time and afterward worked in a mill.

On the 5th of June, 1837, Mr. LYON arrived in what is now Jefferson County, and with its growth and progress he has ever since been prominently identified. Riding to the place where he judged the county seat would be, he staked a claim, but found that Henry B. Notson had located the same claim about a week previous. As he had no money with which to purchase land he did not then secure a farm, but turned his attention to school-teaching, which he continued for nineteen terms with the most gratifying success, his labors being always highly commended by his employers. The first land for which he held a deed was located in Keokuk County, and continued to be his home for some nineteen years, when, in 1870, he removed to his present place of residence on section 17, Black Hawk Township, Jefferson County. He now devotes his attention to the care and cultivation of his farm, and is ranked among the substantial citizens of the community.

On the 8th of November, 1858*, Mr. LYON and Miss Rachel F. HARRIS were joined in marriage. Mrs. LYON is a native of Kentucky, was born July 15, 1828 (sic - 1825), and is a daughter of Samuel M. and Margaret (McVAY) HARRIS, the former a native of Virginia and the latter of Tennessee, where their marriage was celebrated. For some time they made their home in Kentucky, and in 1825 took up their residence in Macoupin County, Ill., whence they came to Jefferson County in the month of June, 1836. Mr. HARRIS was a farmer by occupation, and both he and his wife were members of the Methodist Church. They were parents of twelve children, seven sons and five daughters, and one of the number, Samuel T., became a minister of the Baptist Church. Mr. and Mrs. HARRIS lived to a ripe old age, but both are now deceased.

Mr. and Mrs. LYON, in their declining years, are surrounded by the comforts and luxuries which to go make life worth living, but their lot was not always such. They began their domestic life in a ent (sic - tent?), where a quilt served as a door, and thus lived until a cabin could be built. In the long nights the howl of the wolf could be heard, and the Indian was frequently a visitor at their home, but these were not the only disadvantages to be borne. It was no easy task to develop from the wild land a farm which could supply all their wants; means of travel were very inferior, and it was a difficult task to go to market or mill, but as the years rolled along prosperity came to them as the reward of their honest efforts, and they now have an abundance of this world's goods. These worthy people were the first couple legally married in the county. A marriage had before taken place, but was not considered legal.

Thirteen children were born to Mr. and Mrs. LYON, the eldest of whom is Nancy A.; Margaret, the second daughter, is the wife of Noah EMBREE; Samuel T. is engaged in farming in Nebraska, and William A. follows the same occupation in Oregon; Rachel J., deceased, was the wife of Jehu EMBREE; Clarissa is the wife of William McCLINTOCK; Frederick L. is a farmer; Mary E. was followed by John S., now a farmer in Nebraska; D. N. is engaged in the same pursuit and dealing in stock in Black Hawk Township; Susan I. is the wife of Alex W. McCLINTOCK; and Nathaniel B. and Ulysses W. complete the family.

Mr. LYON was converted under the preaching of Henry Summers in the neighborhood where Prairie Chapel now stands, when about twenty-four years of age, and about six months later was licensed to preach. He has continued his labors as a local minister throughout the ensuing years, with the exception of eight years. One year he spent as Methodist minister on a circuit, and seven years as a circuit preacher in the United Brethren denomination. His voice has been heard in proclaiming the Gospel all over this part of the country. Often times, after a day spent in the school room, he would mount his horse, fill some appointment to preach, and then ride home probably ten or twelve miles and perform the evening labors of the farm. After preaching for a time in the Methodist Church he became connected with the United Brethren, and was ordained as Elder in 1861, but after eight years he returned to his earlier faith, and has since been one of the most faithful and consistent members of his home church. His work cannot be estimated by any common standard of measurement, for we cannot tell upon whom our words are taking effect, or what will be the result of impressions formed, but it is known that his Christian influence has been a power for good in the community, and that his life work has made others better, so that when his time comes to die it can be said of him that it was well that he lived. He possesses considerable poetic talent, and his poems breathe a fervent piety in every line. Many have been printed, and his friends would gladly see the rest in print, for in many are expressed gems of thought. He has written upon the following subjects, which, as will be seen, contain deep thought, but should be read to be appreciated: Fall and Recovery, Preaching of the Apostles, Tongue of Fire and Heart of Flame, Apostacy, Reformations under Luther and Wesley, Millenium, Faith of Abraham, David and Other Old Testament Worthies, and the General Judgment, which is terribly sublime in its word painting.

Until the war Mr. LYON supported the Democratic party, and then became a Republican, but during the last few years he has been a Greenback and Labor Union man, believing that the interests of the laboring classes are best cared for by that party. He was appointed the first Sheriff of Jefferson County, by the Governor, on the organization of of (sic) the county and held the office two years. He has been Chaplain of the Old Settlers Society five years and takes great interest in its meetings. He has been a resident of this community for fifty-three years, and little is known concerning the early history of the county with which Mr. LYON is not familiar. His reminiscences of the pioneer days are both valuable and interesting, and we greatly regret that space forbids us giving a more extended account of the same. He well deserves a representation in the history of his adopted county, for he is known throughout the neighborhood as a worthy citizen and honored pioneer.

*Transcribed for genealogy purposes; I have no relation to the person(s) mentioned.

*Note: It was brought to my attention by a researcher that the marriage date of Rev. and Mrs. LYON was incorrect - the year should be 1838, not 1858. This marriage occurred under the authority of Henry County, IA, which is just east of Jefferson County, IA, but our county records show the date as November 8, 1838.


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