see also “Local History Publications” section, Wayne County References
The town of Lyons was created from the town of Sodus March 1, 1811. It originally included what is now the town of Arcadia, which was taken off in 1825. Lyons consists of just over 21,660 acres of a moderately rolling surface broken by sand ridges. In the southern part of the town, Ganargua Creek, or Mud Creek, as it is also known, and the Canandaigua Outlet join to form the Clyde River. Lyons is the county seat of Wayne County.
Originally called “The Forks”, Lyons was renamed by Charles Williamson, land agent for the Pultney Estate. Looking down on “The Forks”, he renamed the settlement Lyons because the junction of Ganargua Creek and the Canandaigua Outlet reminded him of the town of Lyon in France where the Rhone and Saone Rivers meet.
The first settlers came to what is now Wayne County in May 1789. William and Nicholas Stansell, brother-in-law, John Featherly, wives and children made up this party of twelve original settlers. They arrived on the site that is now the village of Lyons. They came by bateau up the Mohawk River and other streams until they reached the junction of the Ganargua Creek and Canandaigua Outlet. Here they made their home.
The Erie Canal was pivotal in the development of both the town and village of Lyons. The canal reached Wayne County in 1820-21. Because of the Canal, the population of Lyons doubled from 450 in 1824, to 900 in 1825. New roads and buildings were constructed, wages rose and real estate values increased.
Lyons was known for being the home of one of the most successful and prestigious businesses in the world. The H.G. Hotchkiss International Prize Medal Essential Oil Company was founded by Hiram Gilbert Hotchkiss in 1839 in Phelps, New York. By 1841, the business had been moved to Lyons to be nearer the Erie Canal.
It was found that Hotchkiss oil was purer than any other oil available. The oil sold for more per pound than any other, and the Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company became the largest of its kind in the world. It was said that travelers on the Erie Canal could always tell when they were nearing Lyons — they could smell the peppermint.
The H.G. Hotchkiss Company was sold in 1982 to an Indiana company, which continued to operate in Lyons until 1990, when they moved back to Indiana. The long, successful history of the H.G. Hotchkiss Company made Lyons the peppermint capital of the world for many years.
Wayne County Historical Society Museum, 21 Butternut Street, Lyons
– Located in the former sheriff’s residence and county jail. Built in 1854, the museum offers visitors a unique look at 19th century life. Permanent exhibits offer something of interest to the whole family. Open Tuesday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm, Saturdays by appointment, or by chance. (315) 946-4943
* Water Street/Broad Street Historic District,
– This historic district is a T-shaped commercial area lying along the northern edge of the Erie Canal. It includes properties on both sides of Broad Street south of Pearl Street and both sides of Water Street from #89 and #78-84 at the western
end to #35 and #38-40 at the eastern end.
* Hotchkiss Essential Oil Building, Corner Water Street and Leach Road
– Home of the H.G. Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company for over 100 years. The H.G. Hotchkiss Company, known as “Peppermint King” throughout the world, had a very distinguished history in Wayne County, and made Lyons peppermint oil capital of the world. Open by appointment only. (315) 946-0097
* Grace Episcopal Church Complex, 7 Phelps Street, Lyons
– This complex includes Grace Episcopal Church, constructed of gray limestone and built in a modified Gothic design. It was completed in 1840 and consecrated on January 14, 1841. Also included in the complex are the Rectory, just south
of the church, purchased in 1850, and a Parish House just west of the Church.
* United States Post Office, 1-5 Pearl Street, Lyons
– Constructed in 1931-32, the Lyons Post Office is significant as an intact example of the small federal buildings erected in New York State during the 1920s and 1930s. It reflects the acceptance of the Colonial Revival as the most popular
style for government buildings. It was constructed as part of the public works projects initiated by the United States government during the Great Depression.
(* Listed on New York State and National Registers of Historical Places)