An Only Child

Week 15: #52Ancestors – Solitude

By Eilene Lyon

I’ve previously mentioned The Putterer’s great-grandfather, Arlon F. Lyon, only in passing. Arlon was born in Chenango County, New York, in May 1860 and was a rarity for the era: an only child.1 His father, Cyrus R. Lyon, was 29 when Arlon came along. His mother, Lucy Keith, was 23.

Otselic, Chenango County, was quite rural, so Arlon likely began helping out with farm chores at an early age. He had a few maternal cousins, but none close to him in age. One of his paternal aunts did have several children who Arlon likely had opportunities to play with. Aside from that, it would have been just neighbors or classmates to provide peer-age company.

Arlon’s father, Cyrus, died in the early 1870s. Lucy, a young widow, moved with Arlon to Morris, Otsego County, close to Otselic, where her family lived then.2

According to Arlon’s granddaughter, Betty Dremann, Lucy then moved to Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois, where she supported herself and Arlon by working as a dressmaker.3 There may have been some family connection back in New York that put her in touch with Smith Rudd.

Map showing the places Arlon F. Lyon’s life events occurred. (

Smith Rudd moved to Branch County, Michigan, as a toddler, but his family probably made visits to their old home in Otsego County, New York, on occasion. He married Laura Talbot of Otsego County about 1855.4 Laura died in 1876.5 Thus Smith became a widower not long after Lucy Lyon became a widow.

Lucy married Smith Rudd in April 1877 in Michigan.6 Smith had four children by Laura, so Arlon suddenly had step-siblings, two older and two younger than him. It’s doubtful they were ever close. It appears that he remained in Illinois when his mother remarried.

In 1885 Arlon married Emma Pierson.7 Over the next 18 years they had five children: four sons and a daughter. Arlon’s solo life suddenly blossomed into a burgeoning family.

Arlon F. Lyon with his adult children and spouses, about 1951.

Sadly, Lucy Lyon Rudd outlived her second husband, who died in 1906.8 Her daughter-in-law, Emma, refused to have Lucy move in with her and Arlon. Lucy ended up at “The Old Ladies’ Home” as the Prouty Home in Princeton was derisively known.9 She died there in October 1920, her only child having previously moved on to Los Angeles, California.10 Her grandchildren all moved to California as well, though a couple still lived in Illinois in 1920.

Arlon F. Lyon and Emma (Pierson) Lyon in Los Angeles in the 1940s.

Arlon and Emma’s marriage lasted 66 years before Emma died at age 85.11 Arlon lived a few more years, to age 93.12 By that time he had six grandchildren and at least seven great-grandchildren.

Feature image: Arlon F. Lyon and Emma (Pierson) Lyon in Los Angeles at their 63rd anniversary party in February 1948.

  1. Arlon F. Lyon. California, U.S., Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000. 
  2. Arlon Lyon. Census of the state of New York, for 1875. Microfilm. New York State Archives, Albany, New York. Lucy is listed as a widow. No death record for Cyrus R. Lyon has been located to date. 
  3. Dremann, Avis Elizabeth (Betty). 1995. “This is My Life” p. 51. 
  4. Estimate based on the birth of their first child. 
  5. Laura Rudd. “Michigan Deaths and Burials, 1800–1995.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records. 
  6. Lucy A. Lyon. Michigan, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1822-1940 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016. 
  7. Arlon Lyon. Year: 1900; Census Place: La Moille, Bureau, Illinois; Roll: 238; Page: 10; Enumeration District: 0016 – via 
  9. See Note 3. 
  10. Lucy A. Rudd. “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records. 
  11. Emma Elizabeth Lyon. State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics. 
  12. Arlon F. Lyon. State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics. 

33 thoughts on “An Only Child

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    1. Maybe she was a “helicopter mom”! Hard to know what went on between them. He seems to be genuinely happy in the photos. I think Lucy had a challenging life, even with just one child.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Could not have been easy to find herself a widow with one child. And could not have been easy to be an only child and suddenly four half-siblings are foisted on you!
    Fascinating to peer into their lives through you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dale. It always fascinates me the different circumstances that people find themselves in. My difficulties in life have been minimal compared to what the ancestors went through.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no idea what her life might have been like in that facility. Might be worth looking into. Certainly wouldn’t be lux like today’s retirement communities. But not like a county poorhouse or old English workhouse, either. Maybe she spent her days playing euchre with the other biddies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That would make a difference and of course their age and feeling the need to do the right thing. I personally couldn’t be bothered training another 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m an only child and know it’d have been difficult for me to suddenly have a big family. So rare back then to be an only, but now more accepted. Fascinating glimpse into a slice of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It seems hard to be an only child in many ways. I was one for almost eight years, and I think I would have liked siblings closer to my age. Did he live in Coldwater, MI?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As an only child, I often wished for siblings to “test the waters” for me as I was raised so strictly. I can’t imagine a scenario where it was “be careful what you wish for” and you’re suddenly thrust into a large family. I had to chuckle at “The Old Ladies’ Home”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think that having an older brother somewhat smoothed the way for me, but our different personalities created unrealistic expectations in my mother’s mind about me. So it was not good or bad.

      Liked by 1 person

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