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Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 1999

S MARKER RETURNS HOME

April 13, 1999

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— History buffs, distant relatives and the family that found William Lee Lyon's tombstone honored the Civil War veteran Monday at his final resting place.

As taps rang out over the sounds of chirping birds Monday afternoon, William Lee Lyon came home again -- in spirit anyway.

"I just got goosebumps," said Dennis Hanna as Bud "Norm" Younger leaned William Lee Lyon's heavy tombstone up against a tree in a small family cemetery west of Lawrence. "I figure he's up there smiling."

Lyon's grave marker is back where the Civil War veteran was buried just shy of 137 years ago.

Wearing white gloves, American Legion color guard members Bill Boswell and Jack Starkey steadied the American and Legion flags to honor Lyon, who died of pneumonia April 20, 1862, 12 days after enlisting in the fight against slavery.

Younger found Lyon's tombstone about 11 years ago on some property he and his wife, Nancy, purchased four miles north of Tonganoxie. How the marker -- still in excellent condition -- got from the Lyon family cemetery off of Kansas Highway 40 west of Lawrence to the Tonganoxie area remains a mystery.

But where the tombstone belongs no longer is a mystery, thanks to the efforts of several people who came together through their passion for history and genealogy.

Hanna, who runs Hanna Research Services in St. Louis, worked with Judy Sweets of the Watkins Community Museum of History in Lawrence to trace Lyon's roots. Nancy Younger's cousin, Hanna makes a living doing genealogy and looking for missing persons, and he enjoyed the challenge of helping solve a Civil War-era conundrum.

A distant relative of Lyon's, David Aspelin of Dwight attended the ceremony and said he had met Sweets two years ago while doing family research in Lawrence. His family long has tried to locate Lyon's tombstone, he said. Aspelin's family tree can be traced back to Col. Samuel Wood, who married Lyon's sister Margaret. Historians regard Wood as one of Kansas' founding fathers.

A couple of months ago, Sweets called Aspelin and said, "You won't believe what (we've) found," Aspelin told the crowd gathered around the small plot.

The Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14 of the American Legion gave Lyon a formal ceremony, complete with taps by bugler Jeff Miller. Civil War re-enacters Judi Lacefield and Douglas Lane wore dress of the day, volunteering their time as well.

"If you were to think about the history of mankind, you'd see it is dotted with wars," Legion Chaplain John Studdard. "I'm going to suggest it takes courage to put on a uniform."

That was true 137 years ago and is now, he said, noting the American troops currently fighting overseas.

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

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