The first furrow in Logan Creek Valley was made by Riley Hart on July 4, 1866. He and his brother James, Civil War veterans, and four others, came to Nebraska from Hustisford, WI, to establish homes. Josiah Everett put a dam across the river and assembled a saw mill on his property, then built the first house in the valley.
Waldo Lyon, for whom the town is named, didn't arrive until 1868. His barn is said to be the first structure built in what is now Lyons. The next year he and his son started to build a roller mill on Logan Creek. Because of bad weather, it was not operational until 1870.
Lyon established a post office and laid out streets for the town. School was held in Everett's home in 1868, with money raised for a schoolhouse the following year. The community also joined forces to build a Presbyterian Church in 1868. Methodist Sunday school was established in 1870, but a second sanctuary was not completed for several years.
In 1871 the Grange was established. This strong agrarian brotherhood provided a forum where community affairs were discussed and promoted. The Grange Hall was the site for social events, dances, debates, and quilting parties.
At the time that Waldo Lyon established his town, he required "... that no malt, spirituous, or vinous liquors [kept or sold] in the town." His wishes were challenged in 1902 when a man from Omaha attempted to establish a saloon. The matter was taken to the state supreme court, which upheld the original decree, and kept the town "free of the demoralizing effect of such a business." Some citizens felt, however, it would be an improvement over the "bootlegging system" then in place. Not until 1968, when the matter was placed before the voters of the community, was the ordinance abolished.
The citizens of Lyons were, from the beginning, prominent in government. One year they held so many offices they were accused of "trying to run the county." The town has also had a good number of representation in the state senate and house over the years.
By the time the Omaha & Northwestern Nebraska Railroad was built through the county in 1878-81, incorporation was being discussed. Lyons formally moved from a settlement to a village in 1884. Over 40 businesses were listed in an atlas published that fall. With transportation available, Mr.Lyon built a brick yard that contained six drying sheds and a huge kiln plastered with mud.
Laws promoting forestry were in place in 1870. Walnut, boxelder, and fruit trees were planted in abundance. As a result, Lyons soon became known as "The City of Trees," a name it has retained through the years.
The mile-long race track was organized in 1890-91 in the shape of a kite, with room to start 12 sulkies abreast. While some people expressed concern about crowd control, gambling, drinking, and "fakers," the track brought great notoriety to the town. When the depression of 1893-94 struck, business fell off, and the Kite Track was plowed back into farmland.
When the Burlington Railroad line from Ashland to South Sioux City came through Lyons in 1906, the first civic improvements were made. A municipal water plant was established, and later a power plant was installed to replace gas lights. The first paving appeared in 1919, with more than 60 blocks paved soon after the sewer system was installed in 1927. A new bridge was constructed over the river in 1982-83, helping to alleviate the road repairs caused by annual flooding on the Logan.
In 1959 George Bacon established the first of four sodding businesses in the area, making Lyons the "Bluegrass Capital of Nebraska." A big festival is held each Fourth of July. A newly constructed sod house in the park symbolizes the importance of the industry to the town.
Lyons, now in its second century, recorded its highest population of 1,212 in 1980. It continues to flourish as an agricultural community and provides a strong base for family-oriented values and businesses.
Material gathered by Jane Graff. Pictures supplied by Maxine Sandquist, Box 249, Lyons, NE 68038.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Lyons Heritage Book , published 1984