George Edward Lyons was my paternal great-grandfather and he was a real challenge to find information on! I knew he was the father of Clarence Lyons, my father’s father, as the relationship was written down for me years ago by my grandmother, Cammie Swanson Lyons. I still have the original information in her lovely handwriting!
My grandmother wrote that George was born in the state of Virginia but evidentially did not know where in Virginia! Later the records I found put his birth on 24 August 1860 in a place called Walkers Creek in the county of Giles, Virginia. His parentage was correct, George being the son of Joseph Cloud Lyons, a blacksmith, and Mary Lavalett Dudley. George was born the 7th of 14 known children! His father, Joseph Cloud Lyons was born in North Carolina and of the Cloud Family lineage and was a veteran of the Civil War where he served as a Confederate Soldier in the 4th Virginia Infantry. Joseph was the grandson of Col. James Lyon, distinguished officer of the Revolutionary War and trusted conferee of George Washington! Pretty impressive ancestry and I do wonder if George was named after our first President and after one of his father’s brothers named George. Interesting! George Lyons’ mother, Mary Lavalett Dudley also had an interesting lineage of Dudley’s in Virginia and England.
In the census records, George was not listed in the 1860 census because the census was taken 2 months before his birth which added to my confusion in confirming his birth date. However, in the 1870 census for the family, I found George as being 10 years old and in the 1880 census, he was 19 and working on a farm. His mother, Mary, died of unknown causes in 1877 at the young age of 48 in Wytheville, Wythe County, Virginia. George was 16 at the time and the youngest child Emma Locket Lyons was only 2 years old. In 1880, his father was a widower with 9 children yet at home and he had buried not only his wife but also four children that died throughout the years.
So I had found where George Lyons grew up and a bit about his family and the next record was about his marriage to my great-grandmother, Susanna Virginia Ashlin on the 17th of December in 1884 in Smyth County, Virginia. The marriage record lists George E Lyons as age 28 and born in Bland Co. VA and the son of Joseph C and Mary Lyon. The county of birth was incorrect on this record and also his age was incorrect as, according to his birth record, he should have been 24. Susannah Virginia Ashlin was born 12 October 1856 in Sugar Grove, Smyth, VA and was the daughter and first born child of Columbus Perry Ashlin and Mary Ann James Ashlin. According to her birth information, Susannah would have been 28 at the time of marriage, not 24, as listed in the record. Perhaps, their ages were transposed. However, it seemed a lot of records of George Lyons had misinformation making the research a bit more difficult!
George’s sister, Willie Anna Lyons, married Susannah’s brother, William German Ashlin (see blog on William German and Willie Anna Ashlin) which further confirmed for me that I had the correct George Lyons.
George and Susanna, living in Sugar Grove, had three children. Their first son, James Columbus Lyon, was born 22 Jan 1886 and their daughter Mary Ann Lyon, named after Susannah’s mother, was born 24 Feb 1888. Their last child was my grandfather, Clarence Edward Lyons, born 6 Nov 1891. Clarence became the father of LaFon Lyons, my father. Please note that some records used the surname Lyon and some used Lyons which added to the challenge! Which is correct was, I assume, a matter of personal preference as Clarence used both surnames in different records while his brother and sister always used just Lyon. Now that I got this far in my research, something happened to George – he disappeared!
Where did you go, George? Somewhere between 1891 and 1895, George and Susanna separated! In the 1900 Census for St Clair District, Smyth, Virginia, Susan V Lyons (Susannah Virginia) is now 44 and living in the household with her parents, Columbus and Mary Ann! Susan is listed as divorced! The three children, James, Mary and Clarence are with her also. Columbus has a large farm and it was probably a great place for the children to grow up and their Uncle Samuel Ashlin also lived on the farm. But where was George? I searched extensively for divorce or other records but in vain. In the 1910 Census for Lynchburg, Ward 1, Virginia, I found Susan, listed as using her middle name, Virginia Lyons, and living with 19 year old Clarence. She listed herself as “widowed” but there was no Virginia death records for George Lyons!
The next census for Virginia Lyons in 1920 in St Clair, Smyth VA listed her as married indicated that she never really divorced George. Her widowed mother, Mary Ann, was living with her but passed away in 1921. In 1923, Virginia moved to Michigan with her three children and their families. In 1930, she was living with her son James, whose wife Lillie Almond Lyons, had died, and Susan Virginia was most likely caring for James’ children, Savannah, age 13 and William T., age 9. Their home was in Royal Oak, Oakland County, Michigan. In 1934, James died of a cerebral hemorrhage and the children went to live with James’ sister Mary Ann and her husband, Edward Bruehl. Susan Virginia Lyons died in 1939 of lobar pneumonia and bronchialplegia and was buried in Grand Oakland Cemetery, Oakland County, Michigan.
Back to our question, “Where was George Lyons?” It seems George was a bit of a rascal! He did leave or desert his family around 1893. He was hard to track down but was found in the 1900 Federal Census for Line Fork District 6, Letcher County, Kentucky with a new wife named Susan! This county abuts the Virginia state line. The census noted they were married for 5 years so George had married again in 1895. The age of George was listed as 38 which matches up with his birth date but he was listed as born in Kentucky which was an error. Perhaps he gave the wrong information to prevent being found? (I searched further and found the same George Lyons in the next census of 1910 which showed him born in Virginia!) His new wife Susan was born Sept of 1879 and was 20 years old in 1900 which means she married 38 year old George at age 15 or 16. They also had a daughter, Allie born Nov 1897 so Susan must have been about 18 when she had Allie. George’s occupation was listed as farmer and he can read and write. Susan does farm labor and cannot read nor write.
In the 1910 Census, they are living in Cumberland, Kentucky and have 3 daughters. Susan’s parents were born in Kentucky as was Susan. Their daughters were Allie M Lyons, age 14 and Mary C Lyons, 5, and Millie Sylvania Lyons, age 1 1/2. George is still a farmer and rents his farm. Fast forward to the 1920 Census and they live in Upper Poorfork, Poor Fork town on Fields Street. This census was dated Jan 5-6, 1920 and listed George as age 71 which was incorrect as he was 58. However, George’s place of birth was listed correctly and his parents places of birth were correct. His occupation is Deputy sheriff for a coal company.
One month after the census was taken, George passed away on 9 Feb 1920 in Poorfolk, Harlan Co., Kentucky. Cause of death was mitral regurgitation. On examining the death certificate, it confirmed that George was indeed the son of Joseph Lyons and Mary Dudley. So I had found the right George Lyons after all! I was surprised the death certificate listed his age as 71 which would have made him born 2 years before his parents were even married! Recall he was the 7th of 14 children. He was really 59 years old. The informant on the certificate was his wife Susan who, according to census records, could not read or write, so it is possible she gave the incorrect age due to her grief of losing her husband.
I wanted to find the birth name of his second wife Susan (coincidence that both his wives were named Susan which complicated research!) so I researched their children. I could only find information on one daughter, Mary C Lyons. The 1920 Census for Upper Poorfork, Harlan Ky revealed Mary C was married to Millard Lewis. Mary was 14 and wife of Millard, age 23. They rented a home and Millard worked as a laborer for the railroad. Kind of unbelievable that Mary married at 14! The only other record found for Mary C Lewis was a death certificate that confirmed she was the daughter of George Lyons and Susan Creech – finally I had the birth name of Susan! Mary Lewis died at age 76 on 24 Aug, 1980 in Wayne County, Indiana. She was married to Millard Lewis and her occupation was cook in a truck stop. Cause of death was cardiac standstill and myocardial infarction. Mary Lewis was buried in Webster Cemetery in Webster, Indiana.
A Creech family did live in the area of Harlan, Kentucky and there was also a Creech mining company. I do wonder if this was Susan’s family and if George worked as a Deputy Sheriff at that company. Also, how did he meet Susan? Did he meet her after he left his first wife? Did he ever have any contact with the children of his first marriage? I still have so many questions about my great-grandfather George although I have learned a lot about him in my research, some things I will probably never know. All I have for a burial record is from the death certificate that he was buried in Poorfork, Ky. I have searched cemeteries on line in the area of Poorfork and Cumberland, KY with no clues to where he really is buried. So looking for his final resting place brings me back to my first question – Where did you go, George Lyons?
Virginia Births and Christenings 1584-1917, database, FamilySearch, FHL microfilm 2,046, 933.
Virginia, Compiled Marriages for Select Counties, 1851-1929 [database on-line], Provo UT, USA, Ancestry Operations Inc., 2000.
Virginia, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865, database, FamilySearch, NARA microfilm pub. M324, roll 1050.
Find A Grave, Findagrave.com, memorial page for Joseph Cloud Lyon No. 165301248.
United States Federal Census 1860, Post Office White Gate, Giles, Virginia, NARA pub. M653, Ancestry .com Operations, Inc.
United States Federal Census, 1870, for Newbern, Pulaski, Virginia, FHL 553,173.
Hockett, Thomas Jack and Hunt, Shelia Steele, transcribed, annotated and edited, Smyth County, Virginia Marriages 1851-1891 and the 1860 Census, 1999, p.. 106.
Certificate of Death for Geo. Lyons, Poorfork, Harlan, Commonwealth of Kentucky, File No. 4114.
Virginia, Births and Christenings, 1853-1917, Index, FamilySearch, FHL microfilms: 33,991 and 2,046,967.
United States Federal Census 1900, Gladeville District, Wise, Virginia, Enumeration District 124, sheet 9.
United States Federal Census 1900, Blue Springs Precinct, Enumeration District 9/87, Sheet 10, FHL microfilm 1,241,728.
Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing: FHL microfilm 1,973,013. (James C Lyon)
Certificate of Death for Virginia Lyon, Michigan Dept. of Health Bureau of Records and Statistics, Macomb County, State Office No. 50-7848, Register No. 31.
United States Federal Census 1900, Line Fork Magisterial District 6, Letcher, Kentucky, Lines: 32-34, George Lyon.
United States Federal Census 1910, Magisterial District 4, Cumberland, Letcher, Kentucky, FHL 1,374,504.
Medical Certificate of Death, Indiana State Board of Health, Mary C. Lewis, State No. 80-034612; Local No. 535.