Centennarian of St. Clair County Dies
John R. Lyons, Who Celebrated His Century Birthday Sep 14, Last, Passed Away Last Friday Evening.
John R. Lyons, whose one hundredth birthday The Plaindealer publishers helped to celebrate at his home in Marissa September 14, 1914, over 8 months ago, died at his home Friday evening, May 21, 1915. The Plaindealer gave an extended biography of its fifty years subscriber and friend on this occasion. For many years of his life he was acquainted with most of the Sparta people, and did trading here. He was brother of Mrs. McGuire, mother of President E. B. McGuire of the First National Bank.
The funeral was held Monday afternoon from the R. P. church, of which he had been a leading member for 60 years. The service was in charge of his pastor, Rev. Wm. Patterson, who preached the sermon, and was assisted by Rev. W. J. Smiley, of Sparta, a friend for fifty years, Rev. Douglas, of the U. P. church, and Rev. Hearn, of the M. E. church.
Accompanied by a photograph of himself and his only surviving child, W. M.K. Lyons, and his grandson and great grandson, in a group, he last April provided Lesalie’s Weekly with the following sketch of his life written by himself, and the reader will find it very interesting and highly instructive:
“I will attempt to give a brief sketch of my career and narrate some of the many changes that have taken place during my life, which in some ways seems to be brief, even now. I was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina on Sept.14, 1814, of Scotch Irish parents, who emigrated to America in 1805. Not finding conditions in South Carolina congenial, our family moved to Illinois in 1833. Illinois was at that time only 15 years old and very little of the land had been taken up by settlers. I settled in the southern part of St. Clair county in Marissa township and have lived there continuously in this locality for 81 years. My first dwelling was of logs and had no windows. As there were no cooking stoves then: the open fireplace was used for cooking and heating. St. Louis, Mo., at that time, was only a very small river town, and Chicago had very recently found a place on the map.
When I was a boy no steamboat had ever been seen on the Mississippi or any of the Western rivers. No steamship had ever crossed the ocean. The first railroad had not been built, and there were no faster means of transportation than the old stage coach. The lazy canal boat was the luxurious mode of travel in that day. The telegraph was an unheard of thing, and postage stamps and envelopes had not come into use nor were matches, lead pencils not steel pens in existence. I did not own or ride in a buggy until middle life.
“The one hundred years of my life certainly comprise the greatest century of progress the world has ever seen. The changes in farm life during the past seventy-five years have been marvelous. Our first wheat crops were harvested by hand, men doing the cutting with scythe, and cradle. The first power harvesting machine was introduced during the 1850 period and was a very crude affair. A few years later the McCormick reaper made its appearance, followed later by the McCormick self raking machine. In the 1870 period a binder attachment was perfected and the wheat harvesting business was in a large measure revolutionized. Our first wheat crops were thrashed by horses treading out same. Later horse power separators were introduces, which could turn out two or three hundred bushels a day, while now with a progressive steam thrashing outfit one thousand bushels is often thrashed in half a day.
“In January, 1843, I was married to Miss Mary McKee, of Randolph county, who proved to be a most valuable helpmate in every phase of pioneer life. Six children were born, all of whom have since died except one son, William McKee Lyons, a prominent business man of Marissa, Illinois. The oldest son gave his life for his county in 1863, during the was between the states.
“I have always lived the simple life, always very regular in my habits – ate three square meals a day, drank no intoxicating liquor and never worked hard enough to break down my constitution. I was never a robust man, and many of my friends of early days predicted that I would not live to be half a hundred years old. They have all long since passed away, I believer the Lord has a purpose in prolong my life.”
Miss Maggie E. Lyons became a member of decease’s household twenty years ago, and by her thoughtful and kind attentions succeeded in assisting greatly in making the declining years of his life a time of happiness and contentment.
Source: Sparta, The Plaindealer, 28 May 1915, Pg 1 (Has nice picture)