Britain to America




Family Data



L yon is a name well known throughout the world. There are millions with the name. Our branch can confidently trace itself to Henry Lyon about 1650 in Fairfield, Connecticut. When we venture further back things begin to get less clear. Controversy about heritage is fairly common but when we begin to talk about royalty, it becomes fierce and hot. Some would argue we are related to the Queen Mother whose family is Bowes-Lyon. There is no proof of this.

At the turn of the century, a set of books was released called collectively The Lyon Memorial. Two volumes appeared from 1905 to 1907. They  were written by scholars from the Lyon family; two physicians and two historians. The work they did was truly remarkable considering their resources. The second volume was written by a woman; Sydney Elizabeth Lyon and edited by Louisa Lyon Johnson and Dr. A. M. Lyon, one of the authors of the first volume. He was careful to say that some of Sydney's research was lacking complete documentation but was nevertheless valuable. It was in this volume that our ancestor Henry is studied in depth. Much of the following information is based upon her work which I consider excellent in most of its content. Occasionally she gets caught up and facts seem to merge with romance. A quote of Ms. Lyons should be kept in mind. "If  faith is the evidence of things not seen, history is the evidence of things half known." At such a distance and with family pride always at work, tradition may be somewhat colored.

For instance, there is a long standing tradition that Henry, Richard, and Thomas Lyon were guards in Cromwell's army outside the building at which King Charles I was executed in 1648/49 and that they then fled to America. At first glance this seems quite like an adventure story. Nevertheless, Lyon families separated by time and distance who descend from these brothers all claim the same story as true. In fact, that they were actually brothers is only supposition if documentation is the only source of truth.. However, three men by the same name and nearly the same age in the same small American locale in 1650 suggests that they were brothers. Recent DNA testing of descendants of these men indicate that Henry and Richard were indeed brothers but Thomas was not. Interestingly, William Lyon, who came alone to America proves to be closely related to Henry and Richard.

As decoration for this page are the arms of the Lyon family of Scotland. Also seen are the badge of the Farquarson Clan of which the Lyon family is a member. The tartan at left is also of the Farquarsons. Very strong and consistent family tradition holds that our Lyon family is English in origin. The direct line of descent from England to America is so far not possible to list. That Henry Lyon was decended from the Lyon family of Great Britain is sure, but not documented as yet. That will have to serve for the time being. The interested reader is directed to a line of descent traced by a professional genealogist at the turn of the 20th century that takes the family back at least to the Norman conquest of England and perhaps further.

Of more concern in America is the career and family of our founder, Henry Lyon. We can accept 1648/49 as the date of the immigration of Henry, Richard, and Thomas Lyon. We can further assume they came by boat, but its name is lost. They probably came to New Haven where another Lyon lived who spelled his name Lyne. Henry was first seen in Milford, Connecticut in 1649 where he was accepted into the church. Everyone living there had to belong to one of the Congregational faiths. He did not stay long. In a short time he moved to Fairfield. This may have had something to do with the fact that William Bateman lived there and he had an attractive daughter named Elizabeth. Henry and Elizabeth were married in May of 1652 and went to live in Fairfield. They had several children: 

    • Thomas b. 1653 m. Elizabeth Ward d. 1694
    • Samuel b. 1654 m. Sarah Beach d. 1707.
    • Mary b. 1656 m. John Ward
    • Joseph b. 1658-60 m. (1) Mary Pierson (2) Sarah Brown d. 1726 
    • Nathaniel b. 1663 m. Mary Camp d. bef. 1702
    • John b. 1665 m. Hannah Baldwin d. 1694
    • Benjamin b. 1668 m.Bethiah Condit
    • Ebenezer b. 1670 m. Elizabeth Winans d. 1739

Henry lived fourteen years in Fairfield, farming and raising his family. Between the births of John and Benjamin the family joined a group from Milford, Branford, and Guilford Connecticut to start a new town in New Jersey. They called it Newark after the town in England where their minister, Rev. Pierson, had studied. Below is a map of the first settlement. Henry occupied lot number 8.

Establishing this town, of course, meant dispossessing the Native people. They were of the Catawba tribe. Originally, a meeting was held and a group of Indians who claimed to be representing the tribe made a deal for the land in exchange for "50 double hands of powder, 100 bars of lead, 20 axes, 20 coats, 10 guns, 20 pistols, 10 kettles, 10 swords, 4 blankets, 4 barrels of beere, 10 paire of breeches, 50 knives, 20 bowes, 850 fathoms of Wampum, 2 ankors of Licquers, or something equivalent, and 3 troopers coats." It is sure that the natives did not understand that they were giving away any part of their land permanently. They saw themselves as users of the land, not owners and were giving permission for the settlers to use it as well. Also, the tribal members who met were not neccesarily speaking for all the Native Americans in the area. This made for an inevitable problem when they both understood what was meant by the other and the fact that the settlers had made a very well armed group out of their neighbors.

Further complicating the matter was the fact that the crown grantee, Phillip Carteret, who was given the land by the Duke of York, expected to be paid by those who settled there. He did not recognize as binding the sale directly from the Indians to the settlers. He claimed a rent of one half penny per acre was due to him. The Governor was appealed to and it was agreed that the rent should be paid but not in coin, of which they had none, but in kind. Henry Lyon was appointed town treasurer and had to receive each man's allottment of wheat or corn. No doubt he was trusted but held this honor for no pay. As Ms. Lyon says in her text, "Henry Lyon was a public slave rather than a public servant." He had to collect the grain, make sure there was no cheating in the amounts, collect from those who were delinquent, and assure prompt delivery to the Governor in Elizabeth Town. He held this office from 1668 to 1673. The effort was rewarded however, in added status and power in the community. Henry was one of several men given  authority for maintaining order in town meetings and trying and punishing anyone who disrupted the tranquility of the town. They acted as a panel of judges.

Henry was then entrusted to operate an "ordinary", or inn for the community. This was done to provide a place for travelers and new settlers to stay so as not to put a burden on any given family. This required a sturdy, fair, and authoritative man and an equally strong wife. Elizabeth Lyon now had to take in strangers and see to their comforts along with raising her children. Henry, of course, was expected to operate at his own expense and retain the profit. The profit was not only financial. The inn was the place where many town activities and meetings were held. The inn-keeper was privy to all the politics and goings-on in the settlement and got all the news from outside as he met strangers coming in. Henry rose in prominence and was trusted by his peers. He became wealthy by colonial standards.

In 1675, Henry and Elizabeth moved to Elizabeth Town, the seat of the colony's government. There he hit his stride in politics. In 1675 he was Delegate to the General Assembly. In 1681 he was made Justice of the Peace, colonial equivalent of a Supreme Court judge. In 1682 he was commissioned to lay out all highways, bridges, passages, and landings for the county of Essex, and in 1684 was named to the Council of the Governor of New Jersey.

Elizabeth must have had an easier life in those times with servants and nicer living arrangements. Yet her enjoyment was to be short lived as she died before 1689. Henry remarried and had two daughters by his second wife whom we know only as Mary. They moved back to Newark. Henry was a wealthy and influential person and landowner and had been more than fifty years in America when he died in 1703. His sons Thomas, John, and Nathaniel had predeceased him. It is from his son Samuel that we descend.