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History of Lyons, NY

The first white settlers, the Featherly and Stansell families, made their way to what was to become Lyons in May 1789. On their journey from Albany, they made a left turn which brought them up the Clyde River to “The Forks” instead of their planned destination. Canarqua (Mud) Creek and the Canandaigua Outlet formed the Clyde River at the “Forks”. In 1796 Charles Williamson gave the settlement the name of Lyons because the topography was similar to Lyon, France. The Village was incorporated on April 18, 1854, while the Town had been set off on March 1, 1811. Wayne County was set off from Ontario, the mother of counties, in 1823.

Other settlers gradually arrived and built log homes and mills, especially along the outlet. Church groups were established along with taverns and other businesses necessary to the growing community. The Joppa land Company, formed by local leaders, opened up the land east of William Street for settlement in 1821.

Early names in the history of Lyons include Judge Dorsey, Rev. John Cole, Jacob Leach, Daniel Westfall, Perrine, Van Winkle, Rodgers, Towar, and Dunn.

Transportation through the years was by horse, stagecoach, boat, train, trolley, and motor vehicle. The Erie Canal provided an impetus for business and agriculture. With cheap transportation assured, products could be shipped around the world. The enlarged Erie and Barge canals continued to provide transportation for products to and from Lyons until the last quarter of the last century. Improved land transportation handles most of the raw and manufactured products now. The Erie Canal continues to be developed for tourism and recreational purposes.

Some businesses existing at the turn of the 20th century were banks, barbers, bookstores, cigar shops, clothing, drug, dry goods, grocery, and variety stores. Also, hardware, insurance, jewelry, liquor, livery, lumberyard coal, meat markets, newspaper, photographers, tailors, and undertakers.

Among the industries that have come and gone are sugar beet, apple processing, blacksmiths, bottling, bricks, burial vaults, carriages, malt houses, peppermint, pottery, shoes, silver, and tanneries.

A few of these deserve special mention. Peppermint was the cash crop for many farmers in the mid-1800s. Hotchkiss, Hale, and Parshall are synonymous with the distillation of peppermint oil. The Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company continued until 1990. The peppermint industry is remembered each July in Lyons with the “Peppermint Days” Festival.

The Taylor family owned the mail pouch factory, which stood where Taylor Park is currently located. Among the scions of the family was Myron C. Taylor, who became president of U.S. Steel, served as envoy to the Vatican, and was a benefactor of his hometown and elsewhere.

Pottery was made for many years in Lyons with names such as Harrington and Fisher. The crocks, jugs, and bowls, often decorated with blue designs, are now in demand by many collectors.

As the population grew, people soon wanted more cultural and fraternal activities. Schools, both public and private, sprung up and were well attended. Fraternal and other civic organizations made their appearances. Several of these organizations provided libraries for members’ use.

In December 1920, the large school on the corner of William and Lawrence Streets burned to the ground, resulting in the death of two students. The school was rebuilt on the same site and houses students in grades K through 6. The high school on Clyde Road opened in September 1955. Additions have been made to both schools over the years.

Built in 1796 by Williamson, the oldest building in Lyons still stands on the north side of Jackson Street in the Village. Originally built on the banks of the Clyde River, it was later moved to the site of the present Presbyterian Church on Broad and Queen Streets. Over the years, the building has served as a warehouse, church, school, and court.

Among the many architectural gems are homes, churches, business blocks, and barns, all of various styles. The Greek Revival courthouse on Church Street is the centerpiece of the Village.

“The Forks”, like the name, has changed as time demands. Businesses and enterprises have come and gone. Organizations and churches flourished and then disappeared while others continued. The names of prominent men and women changed with the years also. Lyons natives made marks in the world of art, business, and finance. Today, Lyons continues to be the hub of the County government and home to many people.

Carol Bailey
Former Lyons Historian
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