Robinson Lyon 1810 - 1885
|Robinson Lyon was the seventh child and third son of Baillie George
Lyon and Elspet Philip. He was born in Inverurie in 1810, noted
in the Parish Register: "Baillie George Lyon, Vintner in Inverury
had a son by his wife Elspet Philip born January 22 and baptized
5th of February and named Robinson before witness James Philip and
James Thomson both there."
Family researcher Antoinette Nielsen, whose husband Fred is a descendant,
states that Robinson was well educated in the fine arts. His education
evidently was comprised of music and dancing lessons as well as
horse back riding. He was known to be a superb horseman and a superior
He had a child out of wedlock at the age of 20 with Mary Ann Banks,
the daughter of the town doctor. He had met her at his dancing lessons
with the dance master, Mr. George Balfour. The birth of the son
is recorded as follows in the Parish Register: "1830 - Robinson
Lyon, son of Baillie George Lyon, had a son in fornication with
Mary Banks born 18th April 1830, baptized 22nd current 1830 and
named George Balfour, before witnesses Baillie George Lyon his father,
William Hosey, his uncle, and George Balfour, dancing master all
Robinson married Mary Ann shortly after: "Robinson Lyon and MaryAnn
Banks both in this parish were contracted on 03 October and after
proclamations on one sabbath were married on 30th of October 1830
by the Minister."
Another Register entry appears in 1831: "Robinson Lyon, farmer in
Conglass had a child by his wife Mary-Ann Banks born 5th August,
baptized the 20th current and named Robert before witnesses James
Stephen and William Morrison in Burgh Muir of Inverury." The final
entry to appear is in 1834 for a girl named Elspet born on July
and baptized on August 5th witnessed by Baillie George Lyon, William
Morrison and Mrs. Alex Munro, midwife. Other research states that
in Inverurie, Robinson had taken up the occupation of his father,
that of inn-keeper.
Researcher Nielsen concludes that Baillie George Lyon must have
died in 1835 or 1836 and that Robinson came to Canada in 1835. It
is known from his tombstone in Bass Cemetery in Inverurie appearing
in research completed by George Mackenzie of Glasgow, Scotland that
Baillie George died in 1837. It is noted in other research that
Robinson Lyon came to Richmond, Ontario from Scotland three years
after the death of his younger brother Robert in the Duel which
took place in 1833; thus, the date of emigration to be used will
On arrival in Richmond, Ontario, Robinson ran a hotel in that location.
The family was to experience considerable tragedy very soon in their
lives. Their son Robert, a child of 5 years, died. Then their older
son George Balfour Lyon was accidentally shot in a hunting accident.
All of this took place in their arrival year of 1836. Robinson Jr.,
from whom researcher Nielsen's family is descended, was born in
Richmond in 1838 and a brother William in 1841. In the 1851 Census,
we find the family of Robinson Lyon Sr. (41 years of age) living
in Bytown in the West Ward with his 2nd wife Flora (25) and his
sons Robinson Jr. (13) and William (10 yrs.) and two young daughters
Betsy (3) and Mary-Ann (1).
It must be assumed that his first wife Mary-Ann Banks had died just
before the time of the move from Richmond to Bytown. He had married
Flora McMi(u)llan in Packenham, Ontario in 1848.
"March 24, 1848. At manse in Packenham, 14th inst. by Rev. Mr. Mann,
Robinson Lyon Esq, Bytown to Flora, 6th daughter of Mr. John McMullen
In 1846-47, Robinson opened another hotel in Bytown (later Ottawa),
The Exchange Hotel. The hand-written lease appears in the Ottawa
Archives: "Innkeeper Robinson Lyon Indenture 10th day of 1847 will
pay yearly to Nicholas Sparks 72 pounds on quarterly installments
of 18 pounds with no deduction, defalcation or abatement for the
property situated in Bytown and inscribed as Lot No. 11 N. of Sparks
St. and extending toward Wellington St. along the old market place...."
This location was on the corner of what is Sparks St. and Lyon St.
Based upon information in a book "The Lyon family"
by Jim McTavish.
||Advertisement of Lyon's Exchange
|In the book "Pioneer Inns & Taverns" by Guillet, an interesting
picture of Old Ottawa Taverns is painted through quotations and
OLD OTTAWA TAVERNS
As Bytown is not overrun with Americans it may probably turn out
a moral, well-behaved town and afford a lesson to its neighbours.
-John Mactaggart: Three Years in Canada.
Ottawa is a sub-arctic lumber-village converted by royal mandate
into a political cock-pit.
BYTOWN, as Ottawa was first called, owed its early importance to
lumbering and as the terminus of the Rideau Canal, an important
military work intended to avoid danger from possible depredations
of the republican and democratic Americans. At first Bytown was
intended to be fortified, but instead it became a wild and turbulent
village, full of lumbermen, Irishmen, and liquor. Charles Daubeny,
who was there in 1837, noted that the Irish retained `their lawless
habits, and in this wild country it is not very easy to bring them
under the dominion of law'. The streets of Bytown, at least in wet
weather, he found `almost impassable from mud': and `puddles, or
rather ponds' were allowed `to collect at the very threshold of
Among many taverns was Isaac Firth's near the Slides Bridge,
... an old John Bull.
Of milk of human kindness full,
Of rotund form and smiling face,
Who kept an entertaining place
For travel-worn and weary fellows
Who landed where Caleb S. Bellows
Out on `the Point' his habitation
Built in a pleasant situation,
Before the days when piles of lumber
Did first fair Nature's face encumber.
And then there was the musical hotelkeeper, Robinson Lyon, and his
predecessor Joseph Kirk, both of whom kept tavern in James Elder's
pioneer Bytown schoolhouse. In 1846 Lyon advertised that he had
`enlarged and improved his House in such a manner that lie can now
offer to them such accommodations as are not to be surpassed this
side of Montreal'. The best and choicest viands and wines supply
his table, and he pledges every effort `to render his customers
both comfortable and at home'. He adds that his Livery Stable will
provide Saddle Horses and `every sort of seasonable Vehicle', and
that his Omnibus will carry passengers free of charge. `Stages',
he concludes, `will run daily from the Exchange Hotel to Aylmer
to meet the Steam Boats on the Chats Lake.'
||Although Bytown was its
it later became known as Ottawa,
now the capital of Canada.
|LYON'S EXCHANGE HOTEL, BYTOWN,
| William Lett has this to
say of the hotel:
In fancy I away have stepped
From where his school James Elder kept,
In that old house remembered well,
After, as Joseph Kirk's Hotel,
Ere it was haunted by a sound
Which shed such melody around,
Sweet almost as the songs of Zion.
From violin of Robinson Lyon,
Who drew such music from its strings
Scotch reels, strathspeys, and highland flings,
And Irish jigs in variation,
As made one feel that `all creation'
Could scarcely match his wizard spell'
Twas he that played the fiddle well!
The Exchange Hotel burned down in 1854 and though Robinson suffered
considerable loss, being uninsured, he managed to re-establish himself
in his trade moving to Arnprior, a town further up the Ottawa River
where he managed another hotel in about 1857. The Census of 1861 finds
him in Arnprior listed as Inn-keeper and owning a house, a stable,
a hay house, ice-house, 2 sheds, 2 horses, 1 cow, 1 pig, and having
4 servants Isabella and Margaret McMillan, Mary Wesiman. Robinson
is 50 years old, his wife Flora is 33 years of age and born in Scotland.
Children are Robinson Jr. (22), William (19), Elizabeth (12), Mary-Ann
(9). Isabella (8). George (5) and John B. (1) Flora's tombstone reads
that she was born on July 22. 1826 in Glengarry. Another two children,
Alexander and Florence were born after 1861.
Researcher A. Nielsen speculates that Robinson Lyon probably retired
from hotel-keeping in 1880, a conclusion reached from reading the
following in Historical Sketch of Lanark County dated 1887:
Lyon's Hotel - (J.B. Lyon proprietor) corner Madawaska and Hugh Streets
known for 30 years. centrally located in Arnprior fully equipped contains
24 bedrooms, 2 parlors and 8 sample rooms. Robinson Lyon (1810-1885)
the late proprietor of the hotel was most widely and favourably known
and his son who has conducted it for 7 years makes an excellent successor
being most competent and very popular.
||old Ottawa Taverns - Public
Archives of Canada
|Researcher A. Nielsen suggests
that Robinson Lyon Sr. retired to Richmond, Ontario around the age
of 70 years. This conclusion is highly unlikely since there were almost
no Lyon family members left in the town after 1880. It is likely that
Robinson retired in Amprior and regularly visited his son Robinson
in Ottawa. At this age around 1880, Lyon was decorated as the best
violinist in Canada by Queen Victoria through her son-in-law, The
Marquis of Lorne, who had married her daughter Princess Louise and
who had become Governor General of Canada. Robinson Lyon Jr. had married
Margaret, a cousin by her father to the Marquis. Robinson Sr. regularly
had entertained his son's celebrated guests. It is quoted that "He
was the possessor of an unusual combination of talents, being an accomplished
horseman and a skilful violin player. In the Caledonian Society's
Hallowe'en Concert at Montreal in the year 1866 `R. Lyons' (sic) was
declared the best violin player in a contest in which five competitors
each had to play a reel, a strathspey and a Scottish air."
Robinson Lyon is buried in the Arnprior Presbyterian Cemetery (Albert
Street Cemetery, Arnprior, Ontario) with his wife Flora. Also buried
there are a daughter Margaret - January 15, 1867, aged 5 days, the
daughter Mary Ann Lyon who died of heart disease on Nov. 16, 1870
at age 19 years and George Inveruary Lyon (spelling error on tombstone
- Inverurie) who died at Fort Steele on Aug. 6, 1898 at the age of
||where is daughter Margaret
on tree ?
|Left - Odd shaped stone
- Front Face Robinson Lyon born at Inverurie Scotland Jan. 13, 1811
(note - date of birth listed here is incorrect - Birth Date was Jan.
22, 1810). Died at Arnprior Nov. 17, 1885
|East Face - George Inverurary
West Face - Robinson's second wife Flora McMillan 1903
Middle - Flat Stone - Mary Ann Lyon 1870
|Right - Small Vertical White
Stone - In Memory of Margaret, 1867