This is a picture of my dad, LaFon Lyons, with his family. I was extremely lucky to know all of them! Judging by the ages, I think this picture was taken in the late 1940s in Mount Clemens, Michigan. This is one of my favorite pictures because it is so rare in our family! You see, my grandmother (above) had stored all her photos and other things in a friend’s garage when she had to move probably after her husband died in 1939. When she went to retrieve her possessions a few years later because her friends were moving, alas! all the photos were ruined, nothing was salvageable! I have never yet seen a picture of my grandfather, Clarence Lyons, but I was so happy to know my uncles and aunts. By the way, I do have the original photo of this one and just a few others.
Clarence Edward Lyons, my grandfather, was born in Sugar Grove, Virginia 06 Nov 1891. He was the third and last child of George Edward Lyons and Susan Virginia Ashlin. Remember Columbus Ashlin and Mary Ann James from last week’s blog? Well, they were Susan Virginia’s parents! Clarence had an older brother named James Columbus Lyon and an older sister Mary Ann Lyon, both born in Sugar Grove. You will notice that some relatives use Lyon and some use Lyons. I have found both spellings throughout my research! Clarence’s parents were married about 8-10 years separating somewhere in the early 1890’s and records were found on George living in Letcher County, Kentucky married to Susan Holcomb. George was a deputy sheriff and died in Upper Poorfork, Harlan, KY in 1920. But let’s get back to Clarence. He and his siblings and mother moved in with grampa Columbus Ashlin and lived on the big farm. Some where around 1905 or so, Susan Virginia and Clarence move to Lynchburg, Virginia as Columbus had died and his siblings moved out.
In 1913, Clarence married Cammie Lyster Swanson in Lynchburg, Virginia – my grandmother in the picture! Clarence was 21 and Cammie was 20. She was the daughter of William Domman Swanson and Cora Virginia Phillips and was one of 11 children. Future blogs will delve into her interesting family story! Clarence and Cammie had 6 children and 5 are in the photo. (They lost a daughter, Rosemary, to a late miscarriage in 1928.) In 1913, they lived at 100 Withers, Lynchburg City and Clarence was a carpenter. At sometime, they moved to Sugar Grove VA because their first 2 children were born there- William Lilburn Lyons in 1914 and Edward (or Edwin) McWayne Lyons in 1915. By 1917, they were back in Lynchburg and my father, LaFon Camlyn Lyons was born that year. That year, Clarence had to register for the WWI draft and the draft card described him as tall and slender with gray eyes and brown hair. He was working as a carpenter at Jno P Pettyjohn & Co, Lynchburg.
I always wondered where my dad’s name came from – I mean LaFon is not an ordinary name! Actually he was named Camlyn LaFon but always used LaFon as his first name. I do think I solved the mystery. The name LaFon probably came from a relative named Randolph Lafon Huff. A family story handed down claims the name LaFon was taken from the name of a neighbor and good friend. This can be true as Randolph Lafon Huff was born in 1916, the year before my dad and they lived in Sugar Grove near the Lyons family and were actually cousins through marriage!
Everyone in the family was working on a large tobacco and sugar cane plantation – possibly the large farm owned by Columbus Ashlin. At least this was a family story I heard growing up.
On Valentine’s Day, 1922, Dreama June Lyons was born in Lynchburg. When Dreama was about 1 year old, Clarence and Cammie packed up their whole family and moved to Detroit Michigan to find work in the auto industry. Along with them came Clarence’s brother James and his wife Lillie and daughter Savannah AND Clarence’s sister Mary Ann and her husband, Edward Bruehl. Later came their Uncle Sammy and his family. (Sammy was Columbus’s son) and finally, Clarence’s mother, Susan Virginia. It must have been like a mass migration! Clarence got a job with the Packard Motor Company in Detroit. In 1930, the family lived at357 St. Aubins Street in the 9th ward of Detroit and Clarence worked as a mechanic in Aeroplane Manufacturing, he owned his own home and a radio but did not work full time because of ill health.
In 1931, Aug. 22, their last child, Coralie Jean Lyons was born in Detroit. Dreama June contracted mastoiditis as a child and lost part of her hearing and needed surgeries. My aunt June (we always called her June) wore hearing aids all her life. On May 24th, 1939, Clarence passed away from pulmonary tuberculosis and heart failure. He is buried in the Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Novi, Michigan. Cammie was widowed at age 46. LaFon and Eddie both had to quit high school to work and support the family. LaFon was a truck driver and Eddie worked as a paint sprayer in an auto factory. Bill was already married. Cammie worked taking care of an elderly couple. Coralie was only 7 when her father died. Coralie told me stories about her dad. He was very intelligent and was a mechanic, carpenter and worked on the railroad for a time. He and his sons helped build a house for his sister and husband Ed Bruehl. He and Ed started building an airplane at Ed’s house. They finished the fuselage and started on the wings when Clarence became ill with TB. The plane was never finished and sat next to Ed’s garage for years.
I did not get to see my grandmother a lot as she eventually lived with Coralie and her family in Mount Clemens, lower MI, and we lived way on the western end of Upper MI in Bessemer. When I was young, we had to take the ferry across the Mackinaw Straits to get to lower Michigan (before the Mackinaw Bridge was built) and we couldn’t visit that often. However, on some summers, my grandmother Cammie would come to live with us for awhile and she made sure we all went to the Baptist church in Ironwood with her! I remember her as having long hair she would brush out at night and wear in a net during the day. She was always so kind and loving to us but always had an air of sadness about her.
My Uncle Bill, I knew the best because he moved with his family up by us when I was about 9 or 10. He lived on a farm in south Bessemer and I spent a few summers living with them and taking care of his 4 youngest children while he and my Aunt Marion worked. He has a long story that I have discovered and will save it for another blog. My Uncle Eddie was always my favorite and he has a story that I would like to share also in another blog!
Now you have an introduction to the Clarence and Cammie Lyons family. They are all dear to me because I knew them as I was growing up. Of course, my dad had the most special place in my heart and I miss him greatly. More on his story will be coming, too!