DECEMBER 23, 1814
200 years ago today in Salem, Washington County, Indiana Territory John DePauw sold lots 5, 6, and 136 of the Salem plat to Jonathan Lyon for the total sum of $295. With this transaction, DePauw had now issued deeds for 10 lots in his plat of April 4, 1814. Lots 5 and 6 comprised the northwest quadrant of the lots on the Public Square. Lot 136 was a larger lot located at the southwest intersection of North Water and West Walnut Streets. This was where the ford over Brock Creek was located that connected the Original Plat to DePauw’s First Addition. As the Washington Circuit Court had awarded the contract for the construction of a Court House to John DePauw for the sum of $2,940, the sight of a rising seat of justice gave a sense of permanence to prospective businessmen such as Jonathan Lyon who were interested in the opportunities presented by a growing new community.
Jonathan Lyon was a businessman who laid out Madison, Indiana with John Paul and his father in law, Lewis Davis, in 1810. John Paul was a soldier, major land holder and frontier entrepreneur. He was the owner of the newspaper, The Western Eagle, where notice of the sale of lots in Salem was published by John DePauw. Lyon and Paul engaged in several joint business ventures including the operation of a ferry across the Ohio River. William Hendricks who was a young attorney in Madison often came to Salem in 1814 to represent clients before the Washington Circuit Court. Hendricks became the son in law of John Paul in 1816. He must have been impressed with the prospects of Salem and Washington County thereby encouraging Lyon to consider moving to Salem.
Lyon was born in Fayette County Pennsylvania in 1774. His grandfather came to Maryland from England. His parents would have taken the Braddock Road to move from Maryland to southwestern Pennsylvania contrary to the Proclamation of 1763. He moved to Columbiana County, Ohio where the Ohio River entered the Territory of Ohio. He married Elizabeth Davis there in 1804. They followed the Ohio River downstream to Madison Township, Clark County, Indiana. After buying the lots in Salem, Lyon moved his family here in 1815 and opened the first general store in Salem on the Public Square. Lyon’s business partner was his cousin, Christopher Harrison, who also came to Salem from Madison. Lyon’s commercial dealings were lucrative for him as he invested his profits in land. He invested in 42 different registered land claims with the General Land Office in 6 different Indiana counties. These numbers do not include any real estate that Lyon purchased from private landowners. For example, on August 19, 1822 Jonathan Lyon bought 80 acres and a mill on Blue River built by William Lindley which he then sold to my great, great grandfather Eli Wright on March 26, 1832. The foundation stones for the dam and the mill race are still visible today.
When Jonathan Lyon relocated his family and business interests from Madison, Indiana to Salem, Indiana in late 1814, this meant that a critical mass of social and economic forces had formed to build the foundation of an enduring community on the frontier of the Indiana Territory. Jonathan and Elizabeth Davis Lyon remained in Salem for the remainder of their lives. One of their sons, Dawson Lyon, was a pillar of the Salem and Washington County business community as was his father. Lots 5 and 6 remained in the Lyon family for over sixty years. The part of the Public Square now occupied by PNC Bank, Salem Apothecary, Ernie’s Pizza, and the Hair Elite salon is still known as the Lyon Block. Dawson and Martha Newby Lyon lived for many years in the 300 block of North Water Street. After Martha Lyon died in 1907, her family granted this residence and lot to the Salem Schools for the construction of a new high school in 1909. A separate gymnasium was was built in 1926 and was named Lyon Hall. It served as the community sports arena, theater stage, concert hall and banquet hall for many years. The Salem High School yearbook has always been The Lyon. And finally, the Salem High School athletic teams have been the Salem Lions since the Salem-Washington County Centennial of 1914.
JONATHAN LYON GRAVE MONUMENT
CROWN HILL CEMETERY, SALEM, INDIANA