GEN. HYLAN B. LYON was born in Lyon County, Ky., February 22, 1836. His grandfather, Mathew Lyon, was born in Ireland about 1750. At eight years of age, he ran away from home, and took passage in a vessel for America; arriving in America the captain of the vessel sold him to a Vermont farmer for a yoke of oxen, to pay passage money, which Lyon soon refunded to the farmer from earnings at the printer's trade. By correct deportment and industry, he acquired distinction and wealth, and was sent from Vermont to congress. There he opposed the foreign policy of President Adams, and delivered a speech of such bitter denunciation that he was fined $1,000, and imprisoned. Vermont endorsed his course, and while yet in prison elected him to another term in congress (the $1,000 with the interest has since been returned to his heirs). Finishing his term in congress about 1799, Mr. Lyon came to Eddyville, Ky.; two years afterward returned to Vermont and brought out a colony, and at the same time a printing press, and started a paper. He built government gun-boats; operated a nail factory and engaged extensively in shipping between New Orleans and Eddyville. He was elected to the State and afterward to the national legislature, serving in Kentucky from 1803 to 1811, when he was appointed Indian agent, or as then called, factor, among the Cherokees in Arkansas; was sent by that territory in 1822, as its first delegate to congress, but died en route. His remains were brought to Eddyville and there buried. His (Matthew's) wife was Beulah, daughter of Gov. Chittenden, of Vermont. They had seven children, of whom Chittenden Lyon was elected to congress, and in honor of whom Lyon County was named; Matthew, Jr., father of subject, was born in Vermont, and came to Kentucky in 1801; was captain of State militia, and represented his district in State senate. He married Elizabeth Martin, a native of Vermont, and the union was blessed with eight children, Hylan B., being next to the youngest. Both parents died when Hylan B. was yet a child (the father in 1839 and mother in 1844). Hylan B. was left a large estate, which his guardian, Fred H. Skinner, applied in securing him a liberal education. After the common schools, he attended the Masonic University of Kentucky, at La Grange, Cumberland College at Princeton, and at sixteen years of age was admitted as a cadet at West Point, from which he was graduated in 1856, being the nineteenth in a class of forty-eight. Soon after he was brevet second lieutenant of Second Artillery, and was assigned to duty at Fort Myers during the Seminole war, and there first met Gen. Hancock. At the close of the war he was promoted to full rank of second lieutenant of Third Artillery, and ordered to Ft. Huyma, Cal. After one year was ordered to Washington Territory, where he was in two battles with the Indians. During that expedition he witnessed an act of treachery on the part of Col. Wright wholly uncalled for. Chief Qualshan, the Indian commander, was sent a polite invitation to visit the soldiers' camp; complying with which he with his wife were seized and in ten minutes hanged. In 1859, Gen. Lyon was a volunteer with Col. John Miller's expedition opening a wagon road from Walla Walla to Ft. Benton. He was detailed to a special duty with a Flat-head guide, who deserted him among the hostile Blackfeet; was captured, but was saved by addressing them in their own tongue. Returning to Ft. Vancouver, he secured a leave of absence and returned home; while there the civil war broke out, and he was appointed first lieutenant of Third Artillery, but resigned and raised Company F, Third Kentucky Infantry, and went into the Confederate service, which was detached from the regiment, and organized into an independent battery known as Lyon's—afterward as Cobb's Battery, which the general himself equipped. He was promoted in January, 1862, to lieutenant-colonel, Eighth Kentucky Infantry; commanded that regiment at Ft. Donelson, and was there taken prisoner; first confined in Camp Morton at Indianapolis, then at Camp Chase, Ohio, and lastly with other Confederate officers was taken to Ft. Warren, Mass., and was exchanged. His regiment was reorganized as the Eighth Kentucky, and he was made colonel. He was with Van Dorn against Grant at Coffeyville, Champion Hill, etc.; was assigned to Pemberton and guarded his retreat to Vicksburg; was in the siege of that place, but with 250 of his men escaped; joined Johnston, who attempted to relieve Vicksburg; failing in this went to Jackson, Miss., from whence after a severe battle fell back and went into camp at Meridian, Miss. Lyon was placed by Gen. Bragg in command of two regiments of cavalry under Wheeler, in the rear of Longstreet's army at Knoxville; was placed in command of Bragg's artillery immediately after the battle of Missionary Ridge, during the retreat of Bragg, and saved the artillery from capture. He was next placed in charge of cavalry belonging to Forrest in Mississippi in 1864; then assigned to command in western Kentucky and Tennessee, his special duty being to gather provisions and men to facilitate a raid by Hood, but which failing he with 800 men retreated south and regained Forrest's command in Mississippi. Near the close of the war, Gen. Lyon was surprised in his tent, and taken prisoner by strategy by a young Lieut. Lyon, of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry; the General succeeded in killing the Lieutenant and making his escape. After the close of the war, Gen. Lyon went with Gov. Harris of Tennessee to Mexico, intending to join Maximilian, but instead united with a civil engineer corps; was in Mexico nearly a year. In the winter of 1865-66 returned to Eddyville. After farming for a while he was one of the lessees of the State Penitentiary, and cleared as his share of the profits $150,000. He now manages his various farms, and does a mercantile business in Eddyville. He was recently appointed one of the commissioners to build a branch penitentiary, the location of which, he secured for Eddyville. General Lyon has been twice married; his first wife, Laura O'Hara, to whom he was married in 1861, died in 1865, leaving one son: Hylan F., now deceased; his second wife was Grace Machen, to whom he was married in August, 1869, died in 1873, leaving four children: Grace, Frank, Hugh and Earnest.
Source: J. H. Battle, W. H. Perrin, & G. C. Kniffin. Kentucky. A History of the State. Louisville, KY, Chicago, IL: Battey, 1885. Pages 858-859.