Posts Tagged ‘Clyde M. Lyon’

Doing research... (Author photo)

Doing research… Bill McGee (right) at the Clyde Park Tavern, Clyde Park, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

In September 2013, Bill and I visited his home state of Montana. Our objective: A research trip to fill in the blanks of Bill’s family history in preparation for our next book Growing Up in Montana, 1925-1941: A Memoir.

Destination #1 – Livingston (pop 7,000, elev 4,501 feet)

We began our research in Livingston where Bill was born in 1925.

In 1925, Bill’s father, Harry Ellwood “Mac” McGee, was homesteading in the Shields River Valley about 30 miles north of Livingston. When Bill’s time came to be born, his “rich” Uncle Clyde M. Lyon drove Bill’s mother, Vivian (Lyon) McGee, to the Lott Birthing Hospital in Livingston. Maternity patients at that time were not usually kept in regular hospitals, and numerous “maternity houses” or “birthing hospitals” (as they were called) were scattered throughout Livingston before hospitals were thought important for “lying in”.

The former Lott Birthing Hospital, Livingston, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

The former Lott Birthing Hospital, Livingston, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

The Lott Birthing Hospital, at 128 S. Yellowstone Street, was originally a private residence built in 1889 (the year Montana achieved statehood) in the affluent West Side neighborhood known as “Bankers’ Row”. From 1920 to 1929, the residence housed the Lott Birthing Hospital run by local nurse Edith Lott. Nurse Lott, renowned for her compassion, never asked if a patient could pay. She also took care of “the ladies from B Street” (Red Light District).

Today the former Lott Birthing Hospital is once again a private residence and is on the National Register of Historic Places. (See photo.)

Livingston was established in the 1880s around the Northern Pacific Railroad. Situated on the Yellowstone River, the town soon became known as “The original gateway to Yellowstone National Park”. Tourists en route to the park had to change trains in Livingston and many spent the night in town before continuing their journey. By 1882, Livingston was a thriving community with 40 businesses, 30 of which were saloons. Rough and tumble, the town attracted the likes of Calamity Jane who is said to have lived in a local hotel with periodic stays in the local jail.

Today, Livingston’s historic Main Street is a reminder of the past, with grand old buildings that have been restored. The town is a haven for artists, writers and actors, with good restaurants — and still a healthy number of saloons. (Photo Livingston Chamber of Commerce)Cover Photo

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Doing research... The Bank, a bar in Wilsall's former bank building. Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Doing research… The Bank, a bar in the former bank building, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

In September 2013, Bill and I visited his home state of Montana. Our objective: A research trip to fill in the blanks for Bill’s family history in preparation for the eBook, Growing Up in Montana During the Great Depression: A Memoir.

Destination #2 – Wilsall (pop 237 at the 2000 census)

In 1911, Clyde M. Lyon (who would become Bill’s uncle), was roaming around the West looking for a satisfactory place to locate, and came to Wilsall, a small community about 30 miles north of Livingston in the Shields River Valley. Already established in the Midwest as a successful businessman, Mr. Lyon began a new career in ranching and, by 1919, owned several ranches in Park County, a mercantile store in Wilsall, and was numbered among the prosperous and well-to-do citizens of his community. In 1921, Clyde M. Lyon was written up in a Montana “Who’s Who” as “one of the well-known agriculturists and ranchmen of Southern Montana…never losing the dignity which is the birthright of the true gentleman”. (Source: Montana: Its Story and Biography, Vol. II, 1921)

Bill recalls:

“When Mother and Dad married in 1921 in Livingston, my father, Harry Elwood “Mac” McGee, had quite a reputation around Montana as a top hand with horses. Clyde Lyon, my mother’s brother, who owned several ranches at the time in Park and Meagher counties, immediately spotted Dad’s talent with horses and hired him on the spot to work. Dad moved around a lot while working for Uncle Clyde, thus my three siblings and I were each born in a different part of the state.”

Betty and Doris with their mother, Vivian (Lyon) McGee on Clyde M. Lyon's Catlin Ranch near White Sulphur Springs, MT, 1923. (Author collection)

Betty and Doris with their mother, Vivian (Lyon) McGee on Clyde M. Lyon’s Catlin Ranch near White Sulphur Springs, MT, 1923. (Author collection)

Bill’s oldest sister, Doris, was born in 1922 on Uncle Clyde’s home property near Wilsall. Bill’s next oldest sister, Betty, was born in 1923 on Uncle Clyde’s Catlin (or Caitlin) Ranch near White Sulphur Springs (pop 965 at the 2012 census) about 40 miles north of Wilsall. (See photo.) Bill was born in 1925 at the Lott Birthing Hospital in Livingston. Bill’s younger brother, Bob, would be born in 1927 in Malta on the Hi-Line.

Back then: Clyde M. Lyon's Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 1921 (Building on the right.) (Wilsall Museum)

Back then: Clyde M. Lyon’s Wilsall Mercantile Company (building on the right), Wilsall, MT, 1921. (Wilsall Museum)

Now: Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Now: Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

 
 
Doing research... (Author photo)

Doing research…

In September 2013, Bill and I visited his home state of Montana. Our objective: A research trip to fill in the blanks for Bill’s family history in preparation for the eBook Growing Up in Montana During the Great Depression: A Memoir.

Destination #3 – Montana’s capital, Helena (pop 29,351, elev 4,090 feet)

The Montana Historical Society in Helena had a wealth of information on Bill’s Uncle Clyde M. Lyon and Frederick A. Lyon. We’re researching Bill’s relationship to the latter Lyon; however, in the meantime, we gathered this information about the man.

Frederick A. Lyon (sitting, right), Mary Elizabeth Lyon (sitting, left), and their seven children, Forest Grove, MT, 1897. (Author collection)

Frederick A. Lyon (sitting, right), Mary Elizabeth Lyon (sitting, left), and their seven children, Forestgrove, MT, 1897. (Author collection)

Frederick A. Lyon arrived in Montana in 1879 and, a few years later, went to Forestgrove, near Lewistown. He courageously began his career as a homesteader on what was practically desert land. His operations grew and prospered, and, by 1921, he owned 2,000 acres of valuable and productive land. He was one of the pioneers in the business of alfalfa growing in Fergus County.

Today: The site of the former Frederick A. Lyon ranch, Forestgrove, MT, 1990s. (Author photo)

The Frederick A. Lyon ranch, Forestgrove, MT, late 1800s. (Author collection)

To be continued in Spring 2014… “God willin’ and the Creek don’t rise”.