Harriet Lyon and her Family

Including stories about educators Franklin Smith Lyon and Franklin N. Jewett

By Douglas Shepard
Barker Museum Newsletter
Winter and Spring, 2002

Aaron Lyon and his wife Armilla of Buckland MA must have been planning their move to Western New York for some time early in the 19th Century. Aaron contracted for a parcel on Lot 12, Township 4, Range 12 (Stockton) on 19 June 1817. However, it was not until two years later in June 1819 that the family made its slow way west.

The delay may have been to allow time to sell the homestead, complete all the arrangements and pack for the long trek. At the time, the family consisted of Aaron and Armilla, two sons and eight daughters. The sons were Aaron E. and Franklin Smith Lyon, the latter born on 27 February 1819. The daughters were Nancy, Lucy, Mary W., Electa, Rosina, Freelove, Sophronia M. and Fanny Lyon.

The party heading for Chautauqua County actually consisted of three families in three covered wagons pulled by yokes of oxen, with a milk cow being led behind the last wagon. Three-month old Franklin slept in a cradle suspended from the top of the Lyon wagon. The other two held the Ira Jennings and Samuel Shepard families. (The cradle account was passed on by E.B. Crissey from his mother, Anna Shepard, a twelve year old member of the wagon train in June 1819.) The trip took 31 days.

The area to which they came was probably not totally unfamiliar to them since Aaron Lyon, at least, may well have visited before contracting for the land. In addition, they were preceded, in 1816, by their neighbors, Philip Phillips, Aaron Smith, Gould Crissey and the Abner Putnum family of Buckland who also settled in the Town of Stockton.

Aaron began farming and, soon after their arrival, they affiliated with the Stockton Baptist Church. Armilla joined by letter from her home church on 1 July and Aaron by baptism on 8 October 1820. He became one of the first justices of the peace in Stockton and also served as a school Inspector and, from 1828 to 1834, was Town Supervisor.

Around 1825 he and David Sackett erected a dam across the Cassadaga Lake outlet and built a saw and grist mill. However, an epidemic of illnesses in Cassadaga convinced the citizens it was due to the change in the lake and outlet so the dam was taken down. With the water power gone, the two joined with Ichabod Fisher in the Cassadaga Steam Mill Co., which also failed, whereupon they established the Cassadaga Navigation Co. which was to bring keel boats loaded with salt from Warren, PA up and send produce back down the waterway. This project too failed and was abandoned. At about the same time, Franklin Smith Lyon, 10, lost the sight in one eye through some unnamed cause.

Aaron Lyon’s sister Rosina (another sister was Mary Lyon who founded Mt. Holyoke) may have gone out with the family in 1819. Certainly she was a Stockton resident in 1826 when she married the local doctor, Waterman Ellsworth, with whom she had four sons. (She died in 1832, 33 years of age.)

Despite his business setbacks, Aaron Lyon must have done reasonably well, since he was able to send many of his children to the Fredonia Academy: Nancy in 1830-31; Aaron E. and Lucy in 1831; Mary, Electa, and Rosina in 1842; Franklin in 1844-45; and Fanny M. 1853-56. The family apparently was living in Cassadaga during the 1830-31 period and then moved to Stockton in 1842-52, according to the Academy record, although Fanny was living in Cassadaga in 1853.

Aaron Lyon’s name lingered in local memory. In a brief item about Harley Handy, The Fredonia Censor of 10 March 1886 stated that Handy’s father had come from Massachusetts in 1819. "He planted the apple seeds from which grew the orchard on the old Squire Lyon place near Cassadaga Lake."

Early in 1846 Lucy married E.C. Lord, a dedicated missionary, and accompanied him to Ningpo, China. Nancy married the Rev. Jesse M. Purinton on 29 April 1848 in Stockton NY. Purinton was the Baptist minister in Forestville NY from May 1845 to August 1848. Unfortunately, by 1851, Lucy Lord was ill enough that she and her husband had to return from China. In April 1852 Sophronia was married to T.H. Hickstun by her brother-in-law, the Rev. E.C. Lord.

In the intervening years, Franklin had gone on from the Fredonia Academy to Madison (now Colgate), and then to the University of Rochester where he graduated in 1852. Immediately after graduation he became the Principal of the Male Seminary at Tahlequah, OK, a town established by the Cherokee Nation in 1839. In May, his sister Lucy T. (Lyon) Lord died in Fredonia. On the following 25th of August, Franklin married Miss Harriet Amanda Johnson, of Albion NY, in Fredonia. The ceremony was performed, once again, by his brother-in-law, E.C. Lord. (Harriet had been born in 1830 in Clarkson NY and was educated in Rochester.) At some time in the same year, Freelove Lyon married her late sister’s husband and returned with him to Ningpo.

Franklin and Harriet went back to Tahlequah and remained there until 1855 when they moved to her home town of Albion where he headed the Albion Academy. (They must have come "home" first since their first daughter, Florence, was born in Chautauqua County in 1855.) A second daughter, Harriet Eliza Lyon (she seems always to have been "Hattie" to family and friends) was born in Albion on 30 January 1863. They were in Albion until 1863 when he resigned in order to go back to Cassadaga and care for his elderly parents. At some time before this move, Freelove Lyon Lord died in Ningpo. (In 1863 the Rev. E.C. Lord married a Mrs. Bausum, a recently widowed missionary in China. She died in 1869 and Lord married for the fourth time. His wife, Angie M. Lord’s death was reported as occurring in Chefoo, China on 28 August 1881.)

The 1865 Census for Stockton gives a detailed picture of the Lyon menage. There were two families living together. The Franklin Lyon family probably lived in the old homestead on the west side of the Frisbee Road, just south of the Bachellor Hill Road. Across the way, slightly south of them, was the home of Franklin’s sister’s, Mary and Fanny who had the care of the five Lord children. In Franklin’s household were Franklin and Harriet with their daughters Florence, 10; and "Hattie," 2 1/2; as well as his parents Aaron, 76; and Armilla, 72. Also living with them was a 16-year old servant girl, Julia L. Sullivan, who was from Albion. She must have come with the family when they moved. The other household consisted of Mary Lyon, 44; her sister Fanny, 29; and the Lord children: Lucy L., 11; the twins, William and Franklin, 9; Fanny A., 7; and Mary F., 5.

They later lived with E.C. Lord’s sister, Mrs. Esther Lord McNeil. She and her husband, dedicated temperance workers, had moved to Fredonia in 1868. According to the 1870 Federal Census, the McNeil household consisted of Esther McNeil, 57; (James McNeil, 73, had died in Fredonia in February 1870); Lucy Lord, 16; Frank and William Lord, 13; Fanny Lord, 12; Mary Lord, 10; William Bausum, 18; Jennie Dunham, 19 (born in Siam "of a foreign mother"); Sarah C. Davis, 40; and J. Cady Davis, 9. (Mrs. McNeil’s work for the W.C.T.U. in Fredonia was honored by the placing of a water fountain at the corner of Barker Common and West Main Street in June 1913.)

According to the 1880 Federal Census, Edward C. Lord, 63, was living with his sister, Mrs. McNeil in that year, at least. He did return to China, however, because his death was reported as having occurred Ningpo in 1888.

While these many events were unfolding, Frederick and Harriet had remained with his parents until, in 1867, his mother died. No longer needed to help his ailing parents, he accepted an appointment as Professor of English at the newly established West Virginia University in Morgantown. The story of the Lyon family’s relationship with the University is a complex one. The University was established in February 1867. At its second meeting, on 26 June 1867, the founding Board of Visitors named F.S. Lyon Professor of English. (He also served as Principal of the Preparatory School which had preceded the formation of the University.) In 1870 he left Morgantown to become head of the Baptist Seminary established in Fenton , MI by his sister (apparently named for their aunt, Rosina Lyon Ellsworth) Rosina Lyon Dayfoot. (However, in 1871 President Grant appointed him U.S. Agent for the Creek Indians, which post he held until 1873 when he returned to West Virginia University.

The Board of Visitors had shown an early interest in coeducation, requesting the President in 1871 to look into the possibility of some involvement with the Morgantown Female Collegiate Institute in the teacher training classes being planned for the spring semester. Although no formal action was taken, the idea of women attending the University was clearly in the air.

In the year Lyon returned, 1873, Daniel Boardman Purinton received his A.B. from WVU. Born in Preston County on 15 February 1850, he was the son of Jesse M. and Nancy Purinton, Franklin’s sister and brother-in-law. After receiving his A.B., Daniel Purinton continued his studies while he taught in the Preparatory Department of WVU. He received his A.M. degree in 1876 and, on 6 July 1876, he married his cousin, Florence A. Lyon, eldest daughter of Franklin and Harriet Lyon.

At this time, Franklin’s father, Aaron, came to live out his last years with his son’s family in 1876, and remained with them until his death in July 1879.

Daniel Purinton continued to teach in the Preparatory Department until he was named to the chair of Logic in 1878. In 1880 he took the chair of Mathematics and, when President Thompson resigned on 1 January 1881, he was named Vice President and Acting President, although he was passed over for the Presidency in 1882 due to conflicts between the Board and the Faculty over politics and policies, including the still simmering matter of coeducation.

In this early period, Lyon’s daughters had been permitted to sit in on college classes as a courtesy to him. Florence did so in the 1870s before marrying the young Professor Purinton, and Harriet did as well, probably in the early 1880s. As part of the skirmishing over the question of coeducation, Professor William P. Willey contrived to have other young women from Morgantown sit in on a history class in the fall of 1883, which pressured the Board into further consideration of the matter as well as the State House of Delegates and Senate. Using another tactic, on June 1884 three recent graduates charged a chemistry Professor, W.C. Latham, apparently on the wrong side of the issue, with drunkenness, profanity and other personal failings. This was followed by a letter signed by twenty enrolled students asking for Latham’s dismissal.

Charges and countercharges flew, including the accusation that Professor Franklin S. Lyon was the leader of the rebellious faction. It was noted at the time that one of the three graduates, George B. Foster, happened to be married to Lyon’s daughter Florence.

George Burman Foster had been born in Alderson, WV on 2 April 1858. He studied at Shelton College in St. Albans from 1876 to 1879, when he was ordained to the Baptist ministry. He then attended WVU receiving his A.B. in 1883 and an A.M. in 1884. It was on 6 August 1884 that he married Mary Lyon. Following their marriage, the young couple moved to Rochester, NY where he studied at the Rochester Theological Seminary, graduating in 1887 and going on to a very distinguished career.

The Purintons remained in Morgantown where he became Professor of Metaphysics in 1885, a position he held through 1889. During his tenure there, the controversies continued. Finally, in an odd kind of compromise, in June 1885, the Board accepted the resignation of the Professor Latham who had been accused of personal misconduct by members of the Lyon "faction," but at the same time did not renew Professor Lyon’s contract.

At that point Franklin Lyon accepted the Presidency of the Broaddus Female College in Clarksburg (now Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi) serving there from 1885 to 1888. His poor eyesight weakened enough that by 1887 he was totally blind. After finishing his term of office in 1888, he retired, moving back to Chautauqua County, NY. The family first rented the handsome brick residence of their old friend Dr. Alonzo P. Phillips at Fort Hill, 47 Lakeview Avenue, Fredonia. Dr. Phillips was in the process of building another home nearby while he transferred ownership of this one to his brother, Philip Phillips, "The Singing Pilgrim," at the time a world-renowned gospel singer who was coming home to rest after a strenuous world tour. Dr. Phillips and his wife boarded with the Lyon family while Franklin Lyon was having his own new house built nearby on six acres he bought from Phillips, 51 Lakeview Avenue. Franklin Lyon, his wife and daughter Elizabeth moved into the new home in 1889 while daughter Harriet was off at school. Harriet was one of the women who had sat in on college courses during her father’s tenure at WVU, and in 1888, the year the family’s move to Fredonia, she enrolled at Vassar College.

Her brother-in-law, Daniel Purinton had remained at WVU into 1889 in which year fate intervened in the University’s history. On 23 April 1889 fire destroyed the building housing the Morgantown Female Seminary – which had been approached about being involved in teacher training classes at the University in 1871. Seizing the opportunity, by early June a resolution was adopted by the Board of Regents admitting women to all departments at WVU from 1 September on.

For some reason, Daniel and Florence Purinton chose that time to move, going on to Denison University in Ohio where Daniel served as President for the next ten years. Harriet, on the other hand, left Vassar and returned to Morgantown, as one of the first ten women admitted under the new roles. Receiving credit for the classes she had sat in on as well, she was able to graduate in 1891, two years ahead of her classmates. She was the only student in the school to have perfect grades in all her classes. When she graduated in 1891, she was not only the first in her class of fourteen but the first woman to receive a degree from WVU, signaling the end of the first phase in this aspect of the University’s life and the beginning of a second.

However, these triumphs were not without a heavy price. In a piece she wrote for the April 1936 issue of the WVU Alumni Magazine, Harriet Lyon described her school experiences as a "co-ed," a term she very much disliked. There can be no doubt about her academic preparation. Although it is not clear where Harriet had her earliest schooling, she had studied Latin in her "teens," which must mean some of the classes she was allowed to sit in on at WVU during her father’s tenure there. She obviously took real advantage of her opportunities since, when her father’s contract was not renewed and he accepted the Presidency of Broaddus Female College in 1885, she began teaching Latin there herself. She was then in her early 20s. Coincident with the family’s move to Fredonia in 1888, she was able to obtain a free-tuition scholarship to Vassar and completed a year’s work there. During the summer of 1889, although reluctant to leave Vassar, she was persuaded by some WVU friends to transfer and join the first coeducational class. One of the persuaders must have been her sister Florence and brother-in-law Daniel Purinton.

One reason for her reluctance to act as an educational pioneer was the still fresh memory of how she had been treated when she had sat in on classes with a few other girls as a teenager. She was right to be reluctant. She worked very hard in order to finish her courses in two years taking more advanced Latin and Greek, which she had begun at Vassar. Although she participated in a number of extra-curricular activities such as forming a school choir, her sense of isolation was increased by the unexpected departure of the Purintons for Denison University in 1890.

Her sister Mary was with her husband, George Foster, in Saratoga Springs, NY; Florence and Daniel Purinton were now in Granville, OH; and 13-year old Elizabeth was with her parents in far-off Fredonia, NY. One close friend, her roommate, Sallie Norris, must have been a real support throughout the unpleasant, often mean-spirited treatment they received. Sallie wrote her account of those times in 1928. As she described it, the doors of the University were not exactly flung open. The young women "found the doors only ajar, and their reception was anything but cordial." Most of the faculty were vigorously opposed to coeducation and "did not hesitate to let us feel their disapprobation, no provisions were made for the comfort or the convenience of the girls, and it was many weeks before even a cloak room with toilet facilities was provided." But that was only a temporary annoyance compared to what lay ahead.

The worst was the concerted effort, apparently with the collusion of at least one faculty member, to prevent them getting the benefit of their scholarly attainments. Although Harriet Lyon tried to describe the incident diplomatically, her account makes very clear the nasty pressures put upon them.

"In a certain final examination abundant opportunity was given to and availed of by most of the class in a certain course, to crib and cheat all they pleased. An effort afterwards was made to penalize a few of us who had not cheated but had been letter-perfect in the particular subject. In righteous resentment of that effort, we made complaint to the University authorities, and prevailed." Despite these pressures, during 1890 Harriet was the only student in the entire school to have perfect marks in every class; in addition, as a member of the Parthenon Society, she won the Regents’ literary prize for essay writing.

Since she graduated first in the class, as the custom was, she read two of her essays at Commencement "notwithstanding my nerves were close to the breaking point and I was in a state of near-collapse." As a result of that ordeal, "I was ill and under medical care for nearly two years. And my nervous system never has fully recovered from the strain." Thus, in fragile state, she left Morgantown for her new home in Fredonia to rest and recuperate in 1891. The 1892 State Census shows neighbors, Philip Phillips and his family at 47 Lakeview (It was destroyed by fire in 1937.) and F.S. Lyon, "Fruit Grower," at 51 Lakeview with his wife and daughter Elizabeth. Harriet is not included, so she may have been staying with relatives as part of her recuperation.

Although Professor Lyon had become blind, he was still active in retirement, particularly with the Fredonia Baptist Church. He taught Bible classes there and, at the end of 1889, agreed to serve as Superintendent of the Sunday School. He was taking over from Professor Franklin N. Jewett, science teacher at Fredonia’s State Normal School since 1886.

Jewett, who was born in North Bangor, NY in 1852, had studied at the University of Rochester and the Rochester Theological Seminary. According to one son’s account, "he found he could not conscientiously preach the creed he had been taught." At some point he affiliated with the Unitarian Church in Dunkirk. It was begun in 1880 as the City Hall or Independent Congregation by the Rev. E.P. Adams, after he was deposed from his four-year Presbyterian ministry by the Buffalo Presbytery. Part of the congregation went with him and held services for a time in City Hall, voting to join the American Unitarian Society in 1899.

Nevertheless, Franklin Jewett was involved with the Fredonia Baptist Church at this time. During 1888 he offered a lecture with stereopticon views of Palestine to a meeting of his fellow Superintendents, and substituted for his ailing pastor one Sunday, although the Clerk confided to his records that he couldn’t be heard. And, of course, he served as Sunday School Superintendent for 1888 and 1889 before turning it over to Professor Lyon.

It must have been through this contact that Harriet, once she moved to Fredonia in 1890, met Franklin Jewett and, on Christmas Day 1893, married him. He was then 41, Harriet was one month shy of 31. As it turned out, Christmas Day in Fredonia in 1893 was green. But their "wedding journey to Professor Jewett’s home near Malone, N.Y. transported them into the realm of snow and ice."

Jewett had been rooming at 54 Center Street since he had first arrived in Fredonia. He bought the house at 48 Eagle Street and the newlyweds returned there to begin their housekeeping. By 1898 they had moved into 51 Lakeview Avenue, her parents’ home. They had three children by then -- Rexford (1894), Marjorie (1895), and Harold (1897) -- so it could have been a matter of economy, although the deciding factor, much more likely, is that Harriet’s mother, Harriet Amanda Johnson Lyon, had suffered a fairly serious stroke in 1896 from which she only partially recovered. That would have left Elizabeth, 19, caring for two elderly parents, one blind, the other severely incapacitated.

There is one minor mystery about the elderly parents. In 1894 and 1895 they had in their family two young people who were attending the District School on Center Street. The Trustees’ Annual Report does not give their names. Whoever they were, relatives, orphans, or just needy children, they could not have remained with Mrs. Lyon so ill. Elizabeth had been President of the Fredonia Baptist church’s Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society in 1894 to 1895. She must have given that up because of the needs at home.

The Lyon and Jewett families continued to live at 51 Lakeview until Mrs. Lyon’s death on 2 January 1900. Soon after, the family had increased by one. Eugene L. Jewett was born in March 1900. It was not long after that event that they moved to 48 Green Street (now 48 Cushing Street) their final, permanent home.

For the next five years the household of eight continued unchanged. Franklin and Harriet Jewett; the children, Rexford, Marjorie, Harold and Eugene; Aunt Elizabeth; and Grandfather Franklin Lyon. Then, on 16 March 1906, at the age of 87, Professor Franklin Smith Lyon died and was buried beside his wife in Forest Hill Cemetery. The next significant change took place just about six years later. Harriet’s youngest sister, Elizabeth, married Lewis Roesch at the home of George and Mary Foster, her sister and brother-in-law (who performed the wedding ceremony) in Chicago on November 1912.

Lewis Roesch was born in Germany in January 1851 and came to the U.S. with his family in 1868. He and his father developed a large nursery on Berry Street. In September 1879 he married, for the first time. His wife was Sophia H. Miller, with whom he had three children. She died in January 1909. When he married Elizabeth Lyon, he was 61 and she was 45.

At the wedding, the bride entered to the strains of "O, Perfect Love," sung by Harriet Jewett accompanied by their sister, Florence Purinton. Although "erudite" seems an appropriate term to apply to the Lyon-Jewett family, "musical" should be emphasized as well. Franklin Jewett, according to his son Harold (a practicing musician himself) read Latin, and subscribed to newspapers in French and German as well as the Manchester Guardian. But he was also "one of the most scrupulous and capable critics of musical performance whom I have ever known."

Harriet was musical from an early age, as witness her choir activities while at WVU, and, after her marriage to Franklin Jewett, "specialized in fields of musical education, particularly voice culture, choir and choral conducting, and song writing" according to "The Lyon Family" by Elizabeth Crocker (Yesterdays, V:39), who knew her well. "She was active in the Fredonia Music Club, and she organized and directed a Dunkirk-Fredonia choral society. She is remembered as having written and staged `A Comedy of Hats’ and produced the musical play, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’"

"For five years Mrs. Jewett studied harmony with A.T. Webster of Buffalo, noted organist, teacher and director of St. Paul’s choir and the Philharmonic chorus. She taught voice in the Erie Conservatory of Music and trained a chorus of girls in the Larkin Company’s office in Buffalo."

"[She] directed the Fredonia Baptist choir for five years and between 1912 and 1920 she established choral and voice culture classes in various branches of the Y.W.C.A. from Buffalo to Erie…. She wrote many songs and set many poems to music. At Last’ was written in memory of Phillip Phillips, an old family friend known throughout the world as The Singing Pilgrim.’ This was dedicated to the widow, Mrs. Olive Phillips….Mrs. Jewett once stated that her own favorite songs were an old, very sad one, called A Lute Song’ and ‘Sea Fever’ a song written to the words of John Mansefield [Masefield?], and for which her son, Harold, wrote the accompaniment. This son, while very young, was Mrs. Jewett’s regular accompanist in the [Fredonia] Baptist Church. A Fireside Lullaby’ was written about her father and youngest son, Eugene."

The Jewett household, now reduced to six, continued at 48 Cushing Street as the children made their way through the District School and on to the Fredonia Normal School. Rexford graduated in the Preparatory program in 1913 and went on to Cornell; Marjorie graduated in 1914 (she became a Health Teacher at the Normal beginning in 1919); Harold graduated from the Piano Music curriculum in 1914 and from the College Preparatory program in 1915, going onto join his brother at Cornell. Having studied under Jessie Hillman, he was proficient in classical and ragtime music, so he started the "Tige Jewett and the Collegians" jazz band which helped pay for his and Rexford’s tuition and for them to go on to Harvard. They were followed at Cornell by Eugene who graduated from the Normal School’s College Preparatory program in 1917. He became a well-known orthopedic surgeon practicing in Florida.

We have one very brief snapshot of family affairs in an item in The Fredonia Censor of 4 July 1917. Lewis and Elizabeth Roesch attended a Nurserymen’s convention in Philadelphia. "While there they visited the Jewett boys [Rexford and Harold] at Wilmington, who are in the employ of the Benzol Product company at Marcus Hook. Rexford Jewett is in the research laboratory."

The Jewetts saw their children marry and move on in their careers. Marjorie married William Phillips Hillman in July 1922 in Brooklyn, NY. Rexford married Lydia E. Cloward in Wilmington, DE in November. In Boston, MA in December, 1927, Eugene Lyon Jewett married Zoe Shippen. (She did the crayon portrait of Dr. Jewett that hangs in Jewett Hall on the College campus in Fredonia.) Harold "Tige" Jewett married Eunice Bolton of Griffin, GA in Newark, NY in February 1935.

Franklin Jewett, after heading the Normal School science department for 45 years, retired from teaching in 1937, but not from intellectual activity. He had been an active member of the Fredonia Monday Club and was an honorary member of the Fredonia Rotary club, where he was a frequent speaker. He last spoke there early in June 1940 on "Mein Kampf" which he had read during the winter in the original German. He died on 23 June 1940, age 88. Harriet, then in her late 70s, apparently went to live with her son Dr. Eugene L. Jewett of Orlando, FL, where she died in May 1949. With her passing, the Jewett-Lyon family was gone from Fredonia, leaving only a memory of a family of character, intellect and culture.