Lucius Lyon papers (1770-1934, bulk 1833-1851)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Philip Heslip, February 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Lucius Lyon papers
Creator: Thayer, George W.
Inclusive dates: 1770-1934
Bulk dates: 1833-1851
Extent: 12 linear feet
The Lucius Lyon papers contain the public correspondence of Lucius Lyon, United States representative and senator from Michigan, and surveyor general for Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Letter writers include Michigan governors, legislators, postmasters, physicians, and other local politicians, as well as residents of Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Indiana, and national Democratic Party leaders during the years Lyon served in Congress.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1941. M-416, M-443.1, M-1258b.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Other Finding Aids:

In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created a List of Contributors for the Lucius Lyon papers . For more information on contributors see the Clements Library card catalog.

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format

This collection has been partially microfilmed


Donated to the University of Michigan by James H. Campbell in 1925, and transferred to the Clements in 1941.

Preferred Citation

Lucius Lyon Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized into seven series:
  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Chippewa Claims
  • Series III: Notebooks and Account books
  • Series IV: Business Papers
  • Series V: Legal Papers
    • Subseries I: Legal Agreements
    • Subseries II: James H. Campbell Legal Correspondence
    • Subseries III: Petitions and Wills
    • Subseries IV: Indentures and Deeds
  • Series VI: Accounts
  • Series VII: Miscellaneous


Senator and government surveyor Lucius Lyon (1800-1851) was born in Shelburne, Vermont. He trained as a civil engineer, and in 1821 moved to Bronson, Michigan, to survey public lands in what is now Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The 1833 Territorial Democratic Convention elected Lyon its non-voting representative in the United States Congress, and he served in the state constitutional convention in 1835. Michigan elected him their first United States senator, an office he held from 1837 to 1839. During that time Lyon also served on the board of regents at the University of Michigan. He helped settle the border dispute between Ohio and Michigan over Toledo, and orchestrated the admission of the upper peninsula to the state. Instead of seeking reelection in 1839, Lyon moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and accepted an appointment as Indian commissioner at La Pointe, Wisconsin. Lyon served one term as a Democrat in the Twenty-eighth Congress (1843-1845), and President Polk appointed him surveyor general for Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, a position he held from 1845 to 1850.

During his career, Lyon purchased extensive tracts of land in Michigan and Wisconsin. In his many roles, he advocated for a variety of internal improvements: the Detroit water works; the Galena, Illinois, lead mines; the development of St. Joseph Harbor; and the promotion of building canals and railroads in Michigan. He helped establish sinking salt wells near Grand Rapids, pioneered raising sugar beets on one of his farms, and supported the development of Michigan's banking and logging industries. His interests included new agricultural methods, educational movements, Swedenborgianism, temperance, and Indian affairs. Lyon never married; he died in Detroit in 1851.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Lucius Lyon papers (12 linear feet) contain the public correspondence of Lucius Lyon, United States representative and senator from Michigan, and surveyor general for Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Lyon received letters from southern Michigan governors and legislators, as well as postmasters, physicians, and other local politicians. Other contributors include residents of Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Indiana; easterners interested in land speculation, settlement, and Michigan politics; and national Democratic Party leaders during the years Lyon served in Congress.

The Correspondence series comprises the bulk of the Lyon papers. Topics discussed are Michigan statehood, Wisconsin statehood, Indian relations, government appointments, and local politics. Also included are numerous proposals and requests to the United States government for investments and improvements for harbors, lighthouses, roads and mail routes, safety, and protection on the Great Lakes. As well as letters from government officials, Lyon received letters from citizens of virtually every county in Michigan. Several of these letters relate to pension or bounty lands owed to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans and their families (e.g. January 13, 1834; December 8, 1834; January 24, 1835; March 22, 1838; January 3, 1844; November 30, 1844). Letters written during and following the boundary dispute over Toledo provide an on-the-ground view of how residents of the region experienced the conflict and its subsequent effects. A letter written April 9, 1835, accuses the Toledo Postmaster of designating his office as being in Ohio, which was seen as "having taken an improper part in the controversy now pending, between that State & Michigan Territory, which has created much excitement & dissatisfaction among the people." Though the bulk of the letters are official in nature, the collection also contains personal letters to and from Addison, Anna, Asa, Daniel, Edward, Enos, Ira, Lucretia, Mary, Orson, Sarah Atwater, Truman H., and Worthington S. Lyon. Notably, Lucretia Lyon wrote 111 letters to her brother Lucius between 1827 and 1850.

As a Michigan official and surveyor, Lyon dealt regularly with matters concerning Native Americans and their interactions with settlers and the United States government. Much of this material concerns treaties (such as the 1833 Treaty of Chicago and the 1837 Treaty of St. Peters), and claims made by and against Indians. Tribes involved include the Black Hawk, Choctaw, Fox, Oneida, Potawatomie, Sac (Sauk), Sioux, Saganaw, and Winnebago Indians. Also discussed is the Shawnee Prophet (September 2, 1834) and payments to white doctors who vaccinated the Indians against smallpox (March 8, May, 30, and June 12, 1834). Several letters relate to the Second Seminole War and reference Thomas Jesup, Winfield Scott, and Sam Jones (July 26, 1836; February 8, 1838; March 25, 1838; and April 23, 1838).

Of note is a manuscript account, in the hand of Lyon, of Jonathan Kearsley's military service during the War of 1812. Kearsley described his job removing dead bodies from the battlegrounds and recounted the death of Major Ludowick Morgan near Lake Erie.

The Chippewa Claims series contains the 189 numbered claims and various un-numbered claims submitted by the Ojibwa Indians who ceded a large plot of land in present-day Minnesota and Wisconsin to the United States in the Treaty of St. Peters (Treaty with the Chippewa or the White Pine Treaty) on July 29, 1837. Also present are powers of attorney for "half-breed" members of the Chippewa Nation (many of whom were women), lists of the names of those who made claims, and other related documentation.

The Notebooks and Account books series contains the following nine volumes:
  • Lucius Lyon memo book, 1830-1843
  • Lucius Lyon notebook, 1838
  • Lucius Lyon memo book, 1842-1843
  • Oraculum (manuscript fortunetelling book)
  • Berrien County, Michigan, notebook
  • "Diagram of Salt Wells Sunk at the Rapids of Grand River, Michigan"
  • Lucretia Lyon receipt book
  • Account notebook, April 1850-February 1851
  • Eliza Smith account book, 1835-1849

The Business Papers series contains documents related to Lyon's business interests spanning 1820 through his death in 1851, along with papers relating to his family's finances after his death.

The Legal Papers series is made up of four subseries. The Legal Agreements subseries contains Lyon's legal papers. The James H. Campbell Legal Correspondence subseries consists of letters relating to Campbell, a lawyer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and his dealings around the state (1874-1934). The Petitions and Wills subseries and the Indentures and Deeds subseries are made up of legal documents involving Lyon or officiated by him. These are largely from Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

The Accounts series contains Lyon's personal and professional financial records, including receipts, bills, invoices, and account lists (1820s-1840s).

The Miscellaneous series contains various items, including signed bills from the United States House of Representatives, documents from Lyon's service as a Michigan congressmanand University of Michigan regent, and newspaper clippings from the Democratic Free Press.

Other items include:

In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created a List of Contributors for the Lucius Lyon papers . For more information on contributors see the Clements Library card catalog.

Subject Terms

  • Articles of a Treaty Made at Chicago (1833)
  • Benton Harbor (Mich.)
  • Black Hawk, ca. 1832-ca. 1890.
  • Chippewa Tribe. Treaties, etc. United States, 1837 July 29.
  • Choctaw Indians.
  • Democratic Party (Mich.)
  • Detroit (Mich.)
  • Fox Indians.
  • Grand Rapids (Mich.)
  • Illinois--History--1778-1865.
  • Indiana--History.
  • Indians of North America--Michigan.
  • Ionia (Mich.)
  • Legislators--United States.
  • Lumbering--Michigan.
  • Michigan. Constitutional Convention (1835)
  • Michigan--History--To 1850.
  • Ohio--Boundaries--Michigan.
  • Ohio--History.
  • Ojibwa Indians.
  • Oneida Indians.
  • Pioneers--Michigan.
  • Postal service--United States.
  • Potawatomie Indians.
  • Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.
  • Sauk Indians.
  • Seminole War, 2nd, 1835-1842.
  • Sioux Nation.
  • Smallpox.
  • Tenskwatawa, Shawnee Prophet.
  • Toledo War, 1835.
  • United States. Surveyor General.
  • United States. Congress. House.
  • United States. Congress. Senate.
  • United States--History--War of 1812.
  • United States--Politics and government--1815-1861.
  • Vaccination.
  • Wisconsin--History.
  • Winnebago Indians.
  • Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848.
  • Baird, Henry S. (Henry Samuel), 1800-1875.
  • Barry, William T. (William Taylor), 1785-1835.
  • Bates, George C., d. 1886.
  • Beeson, Jacob, 1807-1885.
  • Benton, Thomas Hart, 1782-1858.
  • Biddle, John, 1789-1859.
  • Blake, Thomas H. (Thomas Holdsworth), 1792-1849.
  • Bockee, Abraham, 1784-1865.
  • Bridge, Henry P., 1808-1884.
  • Brown, Ethan Allen, 1776-1852.
  • Brown, John W., 1796-1875.
  • Brown, Solyman, 1790-1876.
  • Burt, William Austin, 1792-1858.
  • Bush, George, 1796-1859.
  • Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1795-1858.
  • Butler, Charles, 1802-1897.
  • Calhoun, John C. (John Caldwell), 1782-1850.
  • Cambreleng, Churchill Caldom, 1786-1862.
  • Cass, George Washington, 1810-1888.
  • Cass, Lewis, 1782-1866.
  • Catlin, George Smith, 1808-1851.
  • Chase, Philander, 1775-1852.
  • Child, David Lee, 1794-1874.
  • Clark, Robert, 1777-1837.
  • Clark, Samuel, 1810-1875.
  • Clayton, John M. (John Middleton), 1796-1856.
  • Comstock, O. C. (Oliver Cromwell), 1780-1860.
  • Cramer, John, 1779-1870.
  • Croghan, George, 1791-1849.
  • Croswell, Edwin, 1797-1871.
  • Dodge, Augustus C. (Augustus Caesar), 1812-1883.
  • Doty, James Duane, 1799-1865.
  • Drake, Daniel, 1785-1852.
  • Ellsworth, Henry Leavitt, 1791-1858.
  • Elmer, Lucius Q. C. (Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus), 1793-1883.
  • Farnsworth, Elon, 1799-1877.
  • Felch, Alpheus, 1804-1896.
  • Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874.
  • Fish, Hamilton, 1808-1893.
  • Foote, Luman, 1794-1876.
  • Forsyth, John, 1780-1841.
  • Gardner, Charles K. (Charles Kitchell), 1787-1869.
  • Grimké, Thomas Smith, 1786-1834.
  • Hagner, Peter, 1772-1850.
  • Hall, Frederick, 1780-1843.
  • Hall, Hiland, 1795-1885.
  • Hobbie, Selah Reeve, 1797-1854.
  • Houghton, Douglass, 1809-1845.
  • Howard, Jacob Merritt, 1805-1871.
  • Hubbard, Bela, 1814-1896.
  • Hubbard, Henry, 1784-1857.
  • Johnson, Edwin Ferry, 1803-1872.
  • Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850.
  • Jones, George Wallace, 1804-1896.
  • Kendall, Amos, 1789-1869.
  • Lansing, Gerrit Yates, 1783-1862.
  • Lawson, Thomas, 1781?-1861.
  • Lee, Gideon, 1778-1841.
  • Lewis, Winslow, 1770-1850.
  • Littlejohn, Flavius J. (Flavius Josephus), 1804-1880.
  • Locke, John, 1792-1856.
  • Lothrop, G. V. N. (George Van Ness), 1817-1897.
  • Lowrie, Walter, 1784-1868.
  • Loyall, George, 1789-1868.
  • Lyon, Lucius, 1800-1851.
  • Lyon, Lucretia, 1807-1893.
  • Macomb, Alexander, 1782-1841.
  • Mapes, James J. (James Jay), 1806-1866.
  • Marcy, William L. (William Learned), 1786-1857.
  • Martin, M. L. (Morgan Lewis), 1805-1887.
  • Mason, Stevens Thomson, 1811-1843.
  • McCarty, William Mason, ca. 1789-1863.
  • McClelland, Robert, 1807-1880.
  • McKeon, John, 1808-1883.
  • McLean, John, 1785-1861.
  • McNeil, John, 1784-1850.
  • Medill, William, 1802-1865.
  • Moore, Hiram.
  • Morell, George, 1786-1845.
  • Morris, Charles, 1784-1856.
  • Mullett, John, 1786-1862.
  • Noble, Charles, 1797-1874.
  • Owen, Robert Dale, 1801-1877.
  • Parker, Daniel, 1782-1846.
  • Parker, James, 1776-1868.
  • Paulding, James Kirke, 1778-1860.
  • Penrose, Charles Bingham, 1798-1857.
  • Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869.
  • Pitcher, Zina, 1797-1872.
  • Ransom, Epaphroditus, 1799-1859.
  • Rathbun, G. (George), 1803-1870.
  • Risdon, Orange, 1786-1876.
  • Stuart, C. E. (Charles Edward), 1810-1887.
  • Stuart, Robert, 1785-1848.
  • Thompson, Alexander Ramsay, 1793-1837.
  • Trowbridge, C. C. (Charles Christopher), 1800-1883.
  • Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862.
  • Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852.
  • Wickliffe, C. A. (Charles Anderson), 1788-1869.
Genre Terms:
  • Accounts.
  • Claims.
  • Deeds.
  • Legal documents.
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Notebooks.
  • Petitions.
  • Powers of attorney.
  • Receipts (financial records)
  • Wills.

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Correspondence [series]
Box   1  
 30 June 1770 - 24 December 1833
Box   2  
 25 December 1833 - 14 March 1834
Box   3  
 15 March 1834 - 10 October 1834
Box   4  
 11 October 1834 - 7 April 1835
Box   5  
 9 April 1835 - 23 December 1835
Box   6  
 24 December 1835 - 31 March 1836
Box   7  
 1 April 1836 - 1 December 1836
Box   8  
 3 December 1836 - 25 April 1837
Box   9  
 29 April 1837 - 24 December 1837
Box   10  
 25 December 1837 - 12 May 1838
Box   11  
 14 May 1838 - 2 February 1839
Box   12  
 4 February 1839 - 30 July 1840
Box   13  
 1 August 1840 - 30 March 1842
Box   14  
 1 April 1842 - 4 January 1844
Box   15  
 5 January 1844 - 20 April 1844
Box   16  
 21 April 1844 - 26 December 1844
Box   17  
 27 December 1844 - 7 April 1845
Box   18  
 8 April 1845 - 6 August 1846
Box   19  
 7 August 1846 - 22 January 1849
Box   20  
 23 January 1849 - 1854
Chippewa Claims [series]
Box   20  
Claims 1-49
Box   21  
Claims 50 - 189 and un-numbered claims; Miscellaneous documents re. Chippewa Claims
Notebooks and Account Books [series]
Box   21  
 1830-1851 (9 volumes)
Business Papers [series]
Box   22  
 1820s - 1842
Box   23  
 1843 - 1879
Legal Papers [series]
Box   23  
Legal Agreements
Box   24  
Letters of Campbell Interest, Petitions, Wills, Indentures, and Deeds
Accounts [series]
Box   25  
 1820s-1840s and  undated
Box   26  
 1820s-1840s and  undated
Miscellaneous [series]
Box   27  
Various essays, congressional bills, ephemera, and miscellany

Additional Descriptive Data

In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created a List of Contributors for the Lucius Lyon papers . For more information on contributors see the Clements Library card catalog.

Alternate Locations

The following two maps are housed in the Clements Library Map Division: The following books and pamphlets are located in the Clements Library Book Division: The following broadsides are located in the Clements Library Book Division:

Related Materials

The Following Clements Library collections contain items to or from Lucius Lyon: The Clements Library holds two additional maps created by Lyon: The following institutions also have Lucius Lyon collections:
  • Bailey/Howe Library, University of Vermont
  • Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
  • Grand Rapids Public Library


Lane, Kit. Lucius Lyon: an Eminently Useful Ctizen. Douglas, Michigan: Pavilion Press, 1991.