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Archive for Sunday, April 11, 1999

S MARKER MYSTERY SOLVED

April 11, 1999

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A Civil War veteran's tombstone will be returned to the family cemetery where it belongs Monday, thanks to the efforts of several people brought together by a search for the monument's rightful place.

William Lee Lyon, brave and true, has been a part of Bud "Norm" and Nancy Younger's family for more than 10 years.

On Monday, the Tonganoxie family will take the Civil War veteran's tombstone to what they hope will be its final resting place.

The Youngers found Lyon's grave marker about 11 years ago while they were clearing some overgrown property they purchased four miles north of Tonganoxie. The tombstone gave them a few clues about Lyon's history, but solving mysteries behind the headstone's origins was an adventure in itself.

The Youngers still don't know how the marker ended up near Tonganoxie from the grave that it marked in a small cemetery west of Lawrence.

"It had to be purposely carried there for one reason or another," Bud Younger figures. "The property was very weedy, and we'd been mowing when we found it. It was halfway grown over with grass. It's in excellent condition."

The Youngers have kept the tombstone in their barn for years. In a way, Lyon is like family.

Search leads to service

According to his tombstone, Lyon belonged to Company B of the Ninth Regiment of the Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He was born July 5, 1839, in Lexington, Ohio, came to Kansas in July 1854 and died in service in Atchison on April 20, 1862.

"He was brave and true," the marker says.

Because the marker said Lyon died in Atchison, that's where the Youngers started looking first.

From time to time, they'd try to piece together information about where the tombstone belonged. They didn't make it a full-time effort, but they gave it a go over the years. A few months ago, Nancy Younger turned the mystery over to her cousin Dennis Hanna of St. Louis.

Hanna runs a genealogy/missing persons business and solved the case.

He first sent for Lyon's military records. Though they contained no personal information about the veteran's family, they did say Lyon had died of pneumonia after only a few weeks of service in the Union Army, said Judy Sweets, registrar and exhibit coordinator at the Watkins Community Museum of History in Lawrence.

Sweets got involved when Hanna -- who also consulted the 1860 census for Kansas and records in Leavenworth and Atchison counties -- called her about a month ago.

"He was reading to me what was on the Lyon tombstone," Sweets said. "He had called two other counties before he got to me."

Sweets used the "Complete Tombstone Census of Douglas County, Kansas" to help narrow the search.

"We compared notes with what was on the tombstone and determined it was the same one (mentioned in the book)," she said.

On Monday, will take the marker back to the family cemetery where it belongs. The American Legion plans to honor Lyon with a color guard and by playing "Taps."

Chaplain John Studdard will say a few words, said Leo Langlois, commander of Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14 of the American Legion.

"Although the American Legion didn't have us beginning until 1919, we recognize veterans before then," Langlois said.

Preserving history

Lyon's father, William Lyon, was an abolitionist who was tarred and feathered for his Underground Railroad activities in Ohio, Sweets said. An advocate of women's rights and women's suffrage, William Lyon moved to Douglas County instead of California at the urging of Col. Samuel N. Wood, one of Kansas' founding fathers, Sweets' research says.

William Lee Lyon's sister Margaret married Wood, records indicate.

Sweets is keeping mum about the exact location of the Lyon family cemetery because she's afraid vandals might be tempted to destroy the tombstone that's made it this far.

David Aspelin, a distant relative of Lyon's from Dwight, plans to attend the ceremony at 2 p.m. Monday, Sweets said.

"It was wonderful to be able to determine where this tombstone belongs," Sweets said. "People still are concerned about veterans, and it's good we're honoring him this way."

Part of the family

Late last week, the Youngers tidied the tombstone in preparation for the ceremony.

"I gave it a bath," Bud Younger said. "I pressure-washed it."

The stone weighs probably 250 to 300 pounds, he said. He uses a two-wheeler to cart it around.

Over the years, friends have kidded the couple about the gravestone in their barn.

"Some people think it's a little morbid," Bud Younger said with a chuckle and grin. "But you don't just find something like that and throw it in the dump."

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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