The ABCs of Lowell History: L is for Lyon Brothers

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about the Lyon Brothers who were early settlers to the Lowell area. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.


Brothers Morgan and William Lyon came from New York and settled in the Lowell area. The brothers were sons of Major Thomas Lyon, who was killed in battle near today’s Toronto, Canada during the War of 1812. Though they grew up poor, both brothers owned and farmed their land. Both brothers made a lasting impact on Lowell, but in different ways.

In 1837 Morgan Lyon came to the Lowell area (section 20 in Vergennes Township) after a brief stay in Howell Michigan. His farmland is still in the family and is designated a Michigan “Centennial farm”.

Morgan had married Mary Purple and after her death he married her sister, Louisa. The Purple family also came to the Lowell area, including Dr. Martha Purple, sister to the wives, who was the first woman doctor in Lowell. She never married because on the eve of her pending nuptials her fiancé was tragically killed. Instead she went on to become an eclectic doctor which meant she was a doctor who included botanical remedies and physical therapy in her practice. Her office was in the Old Wooden Row.

Morgan served the community as Treasurer of Vergennes, Justice of the Peace, Township Supervisor, and when the Grange formed in 1874 he was the first ‘Master.’

Morgan stored his wheat crop, not selling for 50 cents a bushel. Instead he was able to sell it for $3 a bushel to the Union Army during the Civil War. With his wealth he invested in more land. He added acreage to his farm until it totaled 270 acres. In addition, he purchased the eastern half of a block in Lowell after the Franklin Hotel burned in 1882. He purchased it in the name of his niece Califernia Edmonds, who was his live in housekeeper, and built the Lyon building there. The Lyon building stands today and consists of 4 storefronts: 215, 211, 209, and 207 West Main. The first businesses in the Lyon building were: J. Q. Look Drugs, Dry Goods, R. VanDyke Grocery, and C. J. Church and Son Bank. Today this block is home to Reagan Family Dentistry. He also owned a building in the Union block across the street.

Morgan died in March 1893, days after an odd accident. He had been to Lowell and was standing in front of a store when the shop keeper pushed an intoxicated man out of the door and inadvertently knocked Lyon down. It was reported that Mr. Lyon was given every attention, but he was ‘very aged’ and grew worse daily. He finally called for his lawyer and made a will. Today he and his family rest in Fox’s Corner Cemetery on Lincoln Lake just south of Vergennes Street.

In 1839, William Brown Lyon joined the others from New York, including his sister Lucinda Newton, who had settled on the ‘Old Grand River Road.’ William saw much heartache in his lifetime. His first wife died young, along with several children. He saw two sons march off to the Civil War and only one returned home.

Though he didn’t own great quantities of land, he owned historically important land bordering the Grand River’s north shore, just west of today’s Cumberland. The Grand River Road cut through his land. The Grand River Road came from Ionia, by the way of Fallasburg where a bridge over the Flat River was built in 1840, previous to that the river was forded. It then went south and west past the Walker Tavern, until it was about two miles west of the mouth of the Flat, then straight down to the Grand River, near the side of the bluffs. Today we understand this route to be through Fallasburg, south to Vergennes, west to Cumberland, and south to M-21 and west to Ada. This trail turned road was used as the stagecoach route.

William died in 1897. He did not leave a lot of money or land behind, but it was said of him that he “lived the life of a pioneer and did his share toward making the wilderness habitable for the people of the present time.”

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