Biography of Willard E. Lyon
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Willard E. Lyon, of Lincoln, is an old time Kansas man, having lived in this state from early infancy. He became widely known in educational affairs, but in more recent years had applied his time and energies to a rapidly developing business as a real estate and oil man at Lincoln.
Mr. Lyon was born at Chilton, Calumet County, Wisconsin, March 30, 1874, but came to Kansas too early in life to have any distinct recollections of his native locality. His grandfather, Christopher C. Lyon, was born in Western New York in 1817, was a farmer by occupation, and lived successively in the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Kansas. He came to Kansas in 1877, homesteading 160 acres at Yorktown, then called Allamead. When quite an old man, about 1887, he retired into Lincoln, and had twenty years of quiet enjoyment of the fruits of his prosperity before his death, which occurred in Lincoln in 1907, at the age of ninety years and one month. He was one of the older men who helped fight the war of the rebellion. He enlisted with a Wisconsin regiment and took part in the great campaign when Sherman marched his troops to the sea. Christopher Lyon was twice married. His first wife, grandmother of Willard E., bore the family name of Clark. She died in Calumet County, Wisconsin. His second wife was a Miss Hitchcock.
Frank Lyon, father of Willard E., was born at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1850 and died at Lincoln, Kansas, in 1906. When he was a boy his parents removed to Chilton, Wisconsin, where he grew up and married and where he had an active experience in the lumber woods. In 1876 he came to Kansas and settled on a farm at Lincoln. He was also active in civic affairs as city marshal and deputy United States marshal. Though too young for service in the regular army during the Civil war, he was a member of the State Guard of Wisconsin. Politically he was identified with the democratic party. Frank Lyon married Jennie Modlin, who was born in Calumet County, Wisconsin, in 1854 and is still living at Lincoln, Kansas. Her father, Henry Modlin, was born in England in 1816 and became a prominent man in Northern Wisconsin, where he founded the Town of Hayton in Calumet County. He died in that community in 1872. He was a successful flour and sawmill man, attained considerable wealth, and during the Civil war he helped many widows and orphans of soldiers. Henry Modlin married a woman who was one-eighth Indian, and thus Jennie Modlin, their daughter, was Indian to the one-sixteenth degree, while Willard E. Lyon had Indian blood in his veins, though it would be necessary to go back six generations to find a full-blooded Indian ancestor.
Willard E. Lyon was the only child of his parents. They also had an adopted daughter, Vona, who is still living with her mother. Willard E. Lyon was educated in the public schools of Lincoln, finishing his high school course there at the age of sixteen. For the next three years he conducted a cattle ranch in Lincoln County. His success in a business way was early assured, but one of his strongest ambitious was for a higher education, and with that purpose in view he entered in 1897 the State Normal School at Emporia, where he was graduated in 1900 valedictorian in a class of 106. In the fall of 1900 Mr. Lyon was elected county superintendent of schools of Lincoln County and filled that office two terms, four years. The following year he was chosen to membership on the State Text Book Commission, and then for a year was in the publishing business at Lincoln, publishing the Lincoln Sentinel and a school paper known as the Farm and School. He sold both of these enterprises, and had since looked after a business in real estate, investments and more particularly the handling and developing of oil land. He is interested in several oil companies, owned the building in which his offices are located on College Street, and also owned a residence on Yauger Street.
Mr. Lyon served as representative of Lincoln County in the State Legislature during the session of 1913, having been elected from the Eighty-Second District on the democratic ticket in the fall of 1912. During his term he was a member of the judiciary and education committee and his name is connected with some very important legislation of that term. He introduced the bill giving commission form of government to cities of the third class. This bill passed and many cities of that class have since adopted that type of government thus provided. He also introduced the bill permitting the municipal plant to work their employes more than eight hours a day in order to compete with other privately owned plants. He was an able advocate in securing the passage of the bill to improve qualifications of teachers.
His interest in educational affairs had always been keen, and he is now president of the Lincoln School Board. He is also superintendent of the Sunday school of the Presbyterian Church, of which he is an active member. Fraternally Mr. Lyon is affiliated with Center Lodge No. 111, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at Lincoln; Lincoln Camp No. 3457, Modern Woodmen of America; Lincoln Lodge No. 206, Ancient Order of United Workmen; Lincoln Tent of the Knights of the Maccabees; the O. M. B. A., and the Lincoln Commercial Club.
In 1902, at Emporia, Kansas, he married Miss Mabel Austin, daughter of the late Mrs. Minerva Austin, of Emporia. Mr. and Mrs. Lyon have five children: Austin, born June 20, 1903; Francis Halbert, born November 16, 1904; Franklin, born July 25, 1906; Louise, born August 26, 1908; and Harold, born May 4, 1913.