The saga of the Phelps and Lyon families is, in the American tradition, one of westward movement and fortune-seeking. Both families were of English descent and started out in Connecticut. After marriage to Sarah Stevens, Phineas Lyon, Sr. settled in Otsego, New York, where he worked as a tanner and shoemaker. The Quaker couple raised six children and, at a time of life when most settle down to a quiet retirement, joined son Phineas, Jr. in migration to the new state of Michigan in 1837. They bought land in Oakland County, became farmers, and lived out the rest of their years there. Sarah died in 1843 at 67, while Phineas, Sr. survived her by 16 years, living to be 89. Phineas, Jr. was seemingly content in Michigan, for after a period of work away from home he married and settled down on the family farm for good. Two of his brothers were of a more adventuresome spirit. Thomas went to Louisiana territory as a surveyor and Elijah moved westward to Chicago, then to Wisconsin, and wound up in New Orleans.
Connecticut-born Alexander and Elizabeth (Eno) Phelps also decided to try their luck in Michigan, and moved their family to Scio Township, Washtenaw County in 1831. Son Amos, born in 1824, caught gold fever and headed for California in 1851. He stuck it out for three years, then returned home, not much better off than when he had started, to marry his long-suffering fiancée, Elizabeth Pacey. Pacey, the daughter of English immigrants Edward and Hannah (Swales) Pacey, was born in Dexter, Michigan in 1832. The Phelpses spent their entire married life on a Scio Township farm, where they raised four children. Amos died in 1879, Elizabeth in 1891. Adaline, a daughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Phelps, married Phineas Lyon, Jr. in June, 1846 and moved to his farm in Oakland County.
Another family member represented in the collection, Edgar A. Phelps, was the son of Norman Phelps, older brother of Amos and Adaline. In 1862, while a student at the University of Michigan, he enlisted as a private in Co. D, 20th Michigan Infantry. Promoted to corporal in 1862 and sergeant in 1863, he was shot in the back at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. He died from his wounds at Carver's Hospital, Washington, D.C., on June 4, 1864 and was buried in Washington.
Many other Phelpses and Lyons figure in the correspondence, but there is not enough information available to warrant noting them individually. They can be identified by referral to the collection guide's family tree and to the genealogical material in folder one.