This is an age of progress and of mammoth enterprises, and in no section of the country are so important or extensive interests controlled by the individual--as taken in contradistinction to corporation--than in California, where most business is conducted on a large scale. Among the representative citizens of the Santa Clara valley now engaged in the promotion of the fruit-raising is William Penn Lyon, Jr., a man of resourceful ability and of manifest business discernment. He stands to-day as a typical representative of American manhood, alert, energetic and purposeful, and whil he has achieved splendid success it is the legitimate outcome of his own labors and careful management.
Mr. Lyon was born on the 23d of August, 1861, in Racine, Wisconsin. His father, William Penn Lyon, Sr., was one of the distinguished citizens of that state and is now an honored resident of San Jose. He is descended from the old Coffin family of Nantucket, Massachusetts, that was established in New England at a very early epoch in its colonization. His birth, however, occurred in Chatham county, New York, October 28, 1822, and in that state he was married to Miss Adelia Duncombe, who was born there. About 1844 they removed to Wisconsin, and in the years of his early manhood Judge Lyon worked on a farm in the Badger state, also engaged in teaching school and in the meantime took up the study of law, which he diligently pursued until 1846, when he was admitted to the bar. From that time forward he devoted hsi energies to the practice of law for many years. In 1850 he became a resident of Burlington, Racine county, Wisconsin, and five years later took up his abode in the city of Racine, where he was destined to rise to prominence that was not limited by the confines of the municipality but extended in the state and ultimately won him the position of chief justice of Wisconsin. In the early part of his professional career he served for four years as district attorney at Racine, Wisconsin, and in 1859, having been elected a member of the state legislature, was chosen speaker of the house and served through that session of the general assembly. In 1861 he offered his services to the government as a defender of the Union cause and for one year was captain in the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment, after which he was promoted and served for three years as colonel of the Thirteenth Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. Patriotic devotion to the nation has ever been one of his strongest characteristics, and he has left an impress for good upon the public life and allowed no opportunity to pass for the promotion of the welfare of his country along substantial lines. He has ever felt a deep and earnest interest in the soldiers, and he was called upon to deliver the oration at the time of the presentation of the battle flags of Wisconsin to the state. On many other public occasions he was selected as orator, and as a public speaker gained fame because of his eloquent and earnest presentation of every subject which elicited his attention.
Following the close of his military service, Judge Lyon returned to Racine and for five years served on the bench of the district court. In 1871 he was elected a member of the supreme court of Wisconsin, and continued in active connection with that high tribunal until 1894, acting for two years as chief justice. He came to the supreme bench by appointment of Governor Fairchild, and he carved his name deeply on the keystone of the legal arch. He has great respect for the dignity of judicial place and power, and no man ever presided over a court with more regard for his environments than did Judge Lyon. His opinions are specimens of judicial thought, alway showing logic, and he never enlarged beyond the necessities of legal thought in order to indulge in the drapery of literature. His mind during the entire period of his course at the bar and on the bench was directed in the line of his profession and his duties. For two years after the retirement from the judgeship he engaged in no active work, but in 1896 was offered an appointment as a member of the State Board of Control, and assuming the duties of chairman of the board, he maintained a watchful, intelligent, just and kindly interest in the great charitable, reformatory and penal institutions of the commonwealth. His term of service would have extended until the 15th of April, 1905, had he not tenered his resignation to Governor LaFollette in 1903. The motive power that prompted his resignation was his desire to come to California that he and his wife might spend their remaining days with their two children, William P. Lyon, Jr., and Mrs. Jay O. Hayes, and now he is living in retirement from further professional labor, enjoying in large measure the real comforts and pleasures of life, which should ever crown an era of great activity and usefulness such as has been the business career of Judge Lyon.
William Penn Lyon, Jr., was a lad of ten years when he accompanied his parents on their removal to Madison, Wisconsin. He pursued his education in the public schools, was graduated on the completion of a high school course and afterward entered the University of Wisconsin at Madison at the age of sixteen years, being graduated in that institution in 1881 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He then entered upon his business career in the auditing department of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he remained until 1884. In that year he returned to Madison, and after one year spent as a student in the law department of the State University, during which time he acted as amanuensis for his father, who was then serving on the supreme bench of the state, he entered the law office of Knight & Hayes at Ashland, Wisconsin, continuing his reading under the direction of these well known attorneys. In the spring of 1886 he once more matriculated in the university and was graduated with his class, at which time the degree of Bachelor of Lqws was conferred upon him. He then located for practice at Ashland, and while there became interested with Hayes Brothers, now of San Jose, in the iron mines of the Gogbic range in northern Wisconsin. He remained in his native state until 1890, when he came to California, locating at Edenvale, Santa Clara county, where he has since engaged in the production of fruit and the cultivation of fine orchards, carrying on business on an extensive plan, his fruit orchard covering more than one hundred acres. In the fall of 1903, in connection with the Hayes Brothers, he organized and incorporated the Edenvale Fruit Company and erected a large plant for the purpose of drying and curing the fruit of this section of the state for shipment to the eastern markets. He is a man of enterprise, watchful of opportunities, alert in their utilization, and his business integrity also stands as an unquestioned fact in his career.
In the fall of 1889 Mr. Lyon was united in marriage to Miss Ellen L. Chynoweth, a native of New York and a daughter of Thomas and Emily chynoweth, who were early settlers of the Empire state and went to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1855. Two children were born of this marriage, but the elder, Carroll, died in infancy; William Penn, born in 1894, is at home with his parents.
Since coming to California Mr. Lyon has taken a very active and influential part in Republican politics and in public affairs bearing upon the improvement of existing conditions in the state. He is now an active member and was one of the organizers of the Good Government League of the county, formed to prevent the rule of machine in politics. He was nominated by the Good Government party in 1900 for the position of state senator, but was defeated. He is greatly opposed to misrule in municipal affairs, and to anything that partakes even of the nature of indirectness, believing that political affairs should be conducted as business is, upon a straightforward, honorable course. He belongs to the Phi Kapa Psi fraternity, with which he became identified when a university student. He was a president of the Farmers' Club for the year 1902, and has put forth earnest and effective effort in behalf of the promotion of agricultural and horticultural interests in the state. The consensus of public opinion places him in the front rank among the representative honored citizens of his county, and his prominence is not less the result of a successful career than of an honorable private life characterized by consideration for the rights and privileges of others and by kindliness and heniality manifested in his social and home relations.
Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine
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