Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The History of Lyon County Kentucky - Part 1

Our Heritage
A Look Back
At The
History of Lyon County…
A Special Publication of the
Lyon County Historical Society and
The Herald Ledger Newspaper
July 3, 1996

[I won’t attempt to copy the photos since my copy of this newspaper is quite faded. I’ll just describe the pictures located on each page.]

[There are two pictures on this page. One picture is a copy of a painted portrait of Matthew Lyon and the other is a drawing of the Tennessee Rolling Works. It also has the words: Ewald Iron Company. It’s a picture of a very busy factory with smokestacks and two ships in the water next to the factories. One of the boats is a paddle wheeler.]

The History of Lyon County – by Odell Walker

Before Kentucky became a state in 1792, present day Lyon County was a part of Fincastle County, VA. Lyon County has been a part of a succession of counties until it gained its present identity in 1854 when it was carved out of Caldwell County.

Lyon County is located in western Kentucky, 190 miles west of Louisville, and 40 miles east of Paducah. The Cumberland River flows from south to north through Lyon County.

Lyon County was named for a native son, Chittenden Lyon, who served in Congress four terms – 1827-1835. However, at the time he served, Lyon was still part of Caldwell County. Chittenden was the son of Matthew and Buleah Lyon.

Matthew Lyon was a distinguished Congressman from Vermont who cast the deciding vote that made Thomas Jefferson president over Aaron Burr. Buleah Lyon was the daughter of Thomas Chittenden first governor of Vermont.

The county seat of Lyon County is Eddyville. Eddyville holds the distinction of having been the county seat of three counties – Livingston, from 1798 – 1804, Caldwell, from 1809 – 1817, and Lyon from 1854 – present.

Eddyville was founded in 1798 by David Walker of Virginia. David Walker was a distinguished veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served in several important campaigns. He was with Lafayette when Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown.

Virginia had set aside certain lands of the Green River to reimburse Virginia soldiers for their service in the Revolution. David Walker received two 1,000-acre grants of land on the east bank of the Cumberland River where the town of old Eddyville now stands.

David Walker wished to make improvements on the land to increase the sale value. At the present site of old Eddyville, Walker surveyed and laid out 60 lots for a town. He named the town Eddyville, because of the “eddies” or swirls in the Cumberland River. The town was chartered in 1798.

Walker advertised the lots and land for sale in the “Kentucky Gazette”, a Lexington, KY newspaper. The paper came into the hands of Matthew Lyon in Washington, D.C. while Lyon was serving as a Congressman from Vermont. Lyon had for some time been considering moving west. Lyon was a good friend, and politically aligned, with Andrew Jackson of Tennessee.

Jackson advised Lyon that there was business opportunity on the lower Cumberland. Lyon came to Tennessee to visit Jackson and came on downriver to Eddyville. He liked what he saw and bought more than half of the town lots and several acres of land on sight.

Matthew Lyon went back to Vermont, sold his holdings and finished his term in Congress. Lyon and his family and 12 other families left Fair Haven, Vermont in the fall of 1800 and came in wagons to Pittsburgh where they spent the winter and built flatboats. In the spring of 1801 they loaded all their goods, equipment and livestock on the flatbeds and floated down the Ohio River to Smithland and from there up the Cumberland River to Eddyville.

Lyon was a good businessman and political leader. The people that came with him were skilled artisans of all types. Very quickly they had in operation a grist mill, saw mill, tannery, harness and saddle shop, wagon and buggy shop, blacksmith shops, lime kiln, pottery shop, etc. Because of Eddyville’s location on the river, it quickly became a center of commerce. For many years Eddyville was the larges and most thriving center of commerce between Nashville, Tenn. And Cairo, Ill.

In all of this move, Matthew Lyon lost only one term in Congress. In 1803 he was elected back to Congress from the Western Kentucky District and served four terms, 1803 – 1811.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The part about Lyon stopping at Eddyville after visiting Jackson and buying lots and land is not correct. There is no evidence that he visited Eddyville on his return from his visit with Jackson, and he certainly did not buy property then. In fact, when he left his party for the winter in November 1799 (at New Geneva, not Pittsburgh) he told them "go down the Ohio - to the Mouth of Cumberland & the up that river until they are suited with regard to the Situation of the Country, & the price of Land & there set down. I have rather given a preference to Kentucky because land I believe may be had Cheaper there than in Tennessee, however I have given them Latitude to go up as far as they chuse." (Matthew Lyon letter to Jackson, 28 Feb 1800) Clearly he had not yet decided exactly where to settle.

The earliest documented purchases by Lyon were 22 July 1801 and 23 August 1802 when he purchased at least 28 town lots from Walker, and likely all the 48 of the total of 120 lots in the town which he is known to have owned, and two parcels adjoining the town of about 200 acres each.