Lyons probably has more books about its history than any other small town in Colorado. Yes, Lyons is famous for its red, hard sandstone, but it also is lucky to have many people dedicated to preserving the town’s history and produce quality historical books and DVDs.
The big push to collect Lyons history started with Frank Weaver. He came from a family of Iowa farmers. He knew the meaning of hard work and determination because he had to get up before daylight to feed and milk the cows, load corn, and more before going to school. The list goes on.
He eventually took off to go to the University of Iowa, and through hard work he got his B. A. Degree in 1926. He taught high school for 35 years, while continuing his education, getting a Master Degree. He was proud to say that he worked at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. from 1941 to 1957. In 1957 he transferred to their Boulder offices. When he retired in 1965, he was section chief in electrical measurements. He contributed a number of oral and published papers in the field of Electrical Measurements. He was a member of I.S.A., IEEE and RESA at the time of his retirement. At the conclusion of his government service, he received a Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service.
In Boulder, he was a member of the Congregational Church and a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge. He retired to Lyons in 1957, bringing him full circle, from his childhood small town life in Iowa to the small town of Lyons. He became of a member of the Old Stone Church, Lyons. He was their historian, and worked on the board for several years.
But retirement could not keep him down, and he was eager to do more hard work. He soon joined the Lyons Historical Society. He started slow with a few articles on pioneer families. He wrote the booklet “History of the Old Stone Church” in 1974.
Next, he covered 100 years of the Billings Family in “They Came by Covered Wagon.” The four brothers came with their families and settled in Lyons in 1880.
In 1978, he wrote “That Beautiful Valley, E. S. Lyon: A Man with a Dream.” It also gives the life stories of E. S. Lyon’s family. For instance, daughter Lillie married T. J. Thorne. They established Thorncroft, which was a sanatorium for patients with “consumption” (TB). He taught at the Lyons school, and eventually became a lawyer.
But Weaver’s biggest challenge was yet to come. He took all he had collected and made it the start of a five-year pursuit of a first-ever thorough history of Lyons. The 20-year collection included not only research in government archives (which there was little), cemetery records, and newspaper articles; but he sought out families who lived in Lyons for a long time, and collected their memoirs and photographs and more. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1981, and the material was never published.
In the meantime, the Lyons Historical Society was raising funds to publish the material into book(s). They had an ongoing garage sale in Schuyler’s garage. It was held every weekend from April to November, from 1978 to 1983! It paid off when Denise Berg came on the scene and offered to go through the boxes and boxes of material and organize it. She also did some of her own research to augment the family stories. It took her several years, but she was able to publish two books from the material. There was too much material to put in one book. One book is 242 pages and the other 356 pages.
In 2009, Berg published “Double Gateway to the Rockies, Lyons, Colorado 1900’s.” This book has brief lists of the town’s history, like listing the ten coffee shops, cafes and restaurants in the 1950s and who owned them, and to whom and when they were sold. It goes through the five owners of the restaurant building that would eventually become the Black Bear Inn. Truthfully there are still some small holes in the history lists, and some things will take some sleuthing through the chapters to find the entire history of a business, but it’s all fascinating reading, and it will be hard to put the book down once you’re started.
It includes an abundance of photos of the town, such as: Main Street over the decades, the many phases of the Burlington Hotel, the many locations of the post office, the inside of old saloons, and more. It is divided into decades, and each starts with a poem about the area, written by locals. A popular lovely one by Lucy A. McCain is called “Where Time Stands Still.” There are about 50 pages at the end of the book that covers (1) Noland, (2) Schools, and (3) Churches.
In 2010, the remainder of the material was published by Berg in “Piecing a Town Together, Families of Lyons.” The name comes from the image that a quilt gives one—each person’s story is like a piece of the fabric that, sewn together, make up Lyons.
The book consists of the material that is specifically a chronicle of the lives of many of the important families who lived in old-time Lyons. Learn about George Washington Webster, who lived from 1834 to 1904. The lure of gold drew him to Colorado in 1860 (which is when the first farmers came to the Lyons land site –remember the town was officially formed in 1881). He did not find gold, but he did find out that he was good at farming. Later, in 1865 he returned from the Civil War to the farm. He took up blacksmithing for the whole countryside. And, there are a few old timers in town who remember O. J. Ramey, who was an excellent business man and ran the Lyons bank for a while. LaVern Johnson worked as a clerk in his insurance sales office as a new high school and business school graduate! Note, the book does not tell narrative stories, but is lists of facts.
These two books, and many more can be found on the Lyons Redstone Museum’s book page. Also, Diane Goode Benedict wrote an excellent book on the 1800s called “Birth of a Quarry Town.” She started out documenting the Lyons Cemetery with Frances Brodie Brackett, a pioneer descendent and President of the Lyons Cemetery Assn., and she became fascinated with tracking down people’s history. This book is written as a narrative, based on facts.
Alfred C. Pace wrote a book based on the Lyons sandstone quarry history, grounded on video interviews done by the Lyons History Video Project (LHVP), and augmented by further research, entitled “A History of the Lyons Sandstone Quarries.” It covers the ups and downs of the industry, its production methods, and focuses on the people who made it happen, like the Loukonen’s and Vasquez’s. Including Beech Hill, Noland, and the trains.
There is a fascinating DVD documentary, almost two hours long, with segments of interviews of prominent figures in the town’s history, that tell the story of Lyons, done by LHVP. It includes many old family album photographs. Plus on-site videos of the quarries today, and the ruins of old boarding houses and stone huts, and quarrying sites.
Its Director, Kathleen Spring, also did a DVD on the “Geology of Lyons” for $9.95, which includes a view of Lyons and surrounding quarries from a low-flying airplane. Plus, an interview of the Geology Curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, while he was standing in a Lyons’ quarry, with his many geology maps.
Also, in the summer months, when the museum reopens, anyone can go to the museum to see, for free, some of the 60 video interviews LHVP conducted over a 20 year period. Most of these pioneers are now deceased. LHVP is soliciting funds to publish the transcribed interviews into a book. The intriguing life stories will augment the factual history books in a fresh way. Contact them at LyonsHistory@yahoo.com, check out their web page, or send donations to Lyons History Video Project, P. O. Box 274, Lyons 80540. (Note, the director is also the writer of this article).
The Lyons Redstone Museum is closed due to burden of instigating the COVID-19 health restrictions, but the books can be ordered through the Museum Director LaVern Johnson at email@example.com or (303) 823-5925. There is a $3 postage charge per book, or arrange to meet LaVern in town. (See the Museum’s advertisement on the Front Page of the Lyons Recorder for more book ideas). All three Lyons history books are $24.95 each. The quarry book is $14.95; and the DVD is $20.00.
There are multiple booklets for $10: The three booklets by Weaver are $10 each. There is also a souvenir booklet published during the State and Lyons’ Centennial; one about the History of Meadow Park, including the train, the baseball field, the old shelter, and more (from 1874 until the year it was renamed LaVern M Johnson Park); one that lists all the graves in the Lyons cemetery; one that list all the graduates of Lyons High School, from approximately the 1920’s to today; and a favorite one—a narrative story about growing up on Blue Mountain.
All the books contain an abundance of photographs. These books and DVDs make great history teaching tools or reference guides for home-schooled kids during “any year,” even after the COVID-19 virtual schooling and other restrictions are lifted. They also make great gifts. The museum is in possession of some books about the 2013 Great Flood that cannot be found anywhere else. Researchers can buy one year’s worth of newspapers, from the week of the flood on forward ($40). You can check out the museum web pages or request a list of books to be mailed to you.
If you thought about buying a book on Lyons history, this would be a good year to do it, as the museum is struggling for funds. It had to keep the museum doors closed all year, which meant no donations and no gift and book sales. But the museum archival work continued with part time staff. Donations can be sent to Lyons Redstone Museum, P. O. Box 9, Lyons 80540. Provide your email address, and you will be put on the list to get the annual newsletter.