Sunday, March 3, 2013

John Lyon

John Lyon
Writer, weaver, poet and ardent church worker, John Lyon was born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland on March 4, 1803.  He was the third of four children born to Thomas Lyon and Janet McArthur Lyon.

John’s father, Thomas Lyon, was a Doctor and was Inspector of Hospitals in Britain.  He died in 1812 when John was only nine years old.  John went to live with an Uncle.  His mother died in 1831 in Glasgow.

John had a good education and an intellectual mind which was manifest when he was very young.  He devoted all of his energies to the acquirement of knowledge.  His efforts in the direction of education were so successful that very early in life he had achieved quite a literary reputation through the publication of poems and articles in the local press.
The real commencement of his literary career began, however, when he was engaged as a reporter for a local newspaper.  In 1822 a great stagnation took place in the commercial world, especially was this so in Scotland, where thousands of people were out of work.  The destitution was so widespread that a committee of twelve was appointed to investigate and report upon the worse cases.  John Lyon was appointed to one of these committees, and was requested to draw up a paper on the unparalled destitution prevailing at that time, creating a decided sensation.  From this time on the young reporter had no difficulty in securing employment at his chosen calling.
When a young man of twenty two, John met Janet Thomson, a pretty girl of sixteen.  She was the daughter of Robert Thomson and Janet Lamont and was born on March 15, 1809 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.  The young couple was married February 23, 1826 in Kilmarnock.
John and Janet became the parents of twelve children, six boys and six girls.  John’s earnings as a writer and reporter was not sufficient to keep his large family.  To supplement their income two looms were installed in their home for weaving.  Janet supervised the looms while John gathered material for his writing and for the weaving.  The two oldest children, Thomas and Janet, were trained to work the looms.  Young Janet would much rather weave than help tend the younger children.  She enjoyed talking with her father who always had such interesting things to tell.  Thomas became a proficient weaver.  They made woolen plaids, paisley and tartan.  Their material was in demand as John insisted on perfection in their work.  Paisley seemed to be their specialty and they were reported to be especially beautiful.  Four more looms were added so more help was needed.  George Speirs was hired and he became an expert weaver.  He lived with the family and fell in love with young Janet.  They were married November 15, 1848.
In 1844 John heard elder William Gibson preach the doctrines of “Mormonism” and immediately became convinced of its truth.  He was baptized into the Church March 30, 1844.  In April of 1844 he was ordained an Elder and appointed to preside over the local branch.  Later he was called as a traveling Elder and labored for some time in that capacity, after which he was appointed president of the Worchestershire (England) conference, where he labored for three years.  In 1852 he was called to preside over the Glasgow Conference where he continued one year and was then released to gather to Utah.
During his missionary labors, John Lyon wrote many poems, some of which were published in the Millennial Star.  So favorable were they received that in 1853 just before embarking for America, he published the first volume of poems ever issued by a member of the Mormon Church, under the title of The Harp of Zion.  The book was donated to the Perpetual Emigration Fund and thousands of copies were printed and sold.  Several of the selections in the collection were set to music and included in the early Latter Day Saint’s hymn book and often sung.
John and Janet with children, Ann, John Jr., Lillias, Matthew and Mary, began the final preparations for their journey to America.
On February 21, 1853, they put their first luggage on board the ship International  The ship did not sail until February 28, 1853 because of unfavorable weather.  They were “tugged” out by a steamer for twenty miles and were on their way to a new country and a new way of life.  They encountered the usual early spring storms and at times conditions were very difficult with many being ill.  They sailed from Liverpool to New Orleans.
John wrote in his journal: “We stopped in New Orleans for four days, then started in two companies to St. Louis…..where we arrived eight days thereafter, and the same evening embarked on the Jeannie Dene, and in 24 hours landed in Keokuk all in good health and spirits, and joined the Camp of Israel.”
John and his family immediately began preparations for crossing the plains.  They arrived in Salt Lake City on Friday, September 26, 1853, with the Jacob Gates Company.

They made their home in the 20th Ward where they purchased a full block between First and Second Avenue and F & G Streets.  They had two homes on the block with a large stable.
After his arrival in the Valley, John wrote articles and poems for the Deseret News, Tullidges Utah Magazine, The Mountaineer and other publications.  He also acted as critic of the Salt Lake Theater for several years.  He served for a time as Territorial Librarian under William Carter Staines.  He was ordained a Seventy (37th Quorum) on January 12, 1854.
Three years after coming to the Salt Lake Valley, John married sixteen year old Caroline Holland.  They were the parents of seven children.  For more than thirty years John was Superintendent of the Endowment House in Salt Lake City in which capacity he enjoyed the confidence of all who knew him.  He would wend his way daily, except when detained by illness, to his post in the Endowment House, then located in the northwest corner of the Temple Block.
John Lyon was ordained a Patriarch by President Wilford Woodruff on May 7, 1872.
 He died at the age of eighty six on November 24, 1889, and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery on November 28, 1889.  His tombstone is engraved with the following lines:
                        We’ll meet together yet
                        Where the sun shall never set
                        With a welcome of the hand
                        And a love without regret.


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  2. Thanks so much for sharing this information. I am also a decendant of John Lyon. I was particularly looking for his address and am glad you mentioned where he lived in the avenues. Do you know if either home still exists?