Thomas Alexander Lyons, universally known as Uncle Tom, was born in Augusta Co., West Virginia, July 15, 1830 and died at his home in Lincoln Township, Union County, Iowa, October 31, 1925 at the age of 95 years, three months and 15 days.  His mother having died soon after his birth, he was cradled and nursed by a colored mammy who was more than likely a slave on his father's farm at that time.

      Those who have known Uncle Tom can say that she was a faithful mammy to the baby left in her care for he developed into a splendid specimen of manhood, that was typical of his Virginia ancestry, an inheritance that he possessed to the end of his days.  At the age of three years his father moved to Covington, Fountain County, Indiana, on the celebrated Wabash River where young Tom grew to manhood and in 1859 he was married to Phoebe Jane Denny who was especially fitted to pioneer in a new state and to take care of the home provided by her husband.

     For fifty years she was wife, mother, grandmother and friend in the truest sense.  In 1866 he with his wife and step children loaded and head their possessions into two wagons and headed them toward Iowa where he had traded sight unseen for an 80 acre farm in Section One in Lincoln Township where they arrived November 10 of that year.  The improvements were very poor, consisting of a small log house and small out buildings

      A well was dug and the rock to wall it with was hauled from Winterset.  Soon after taking up his residence here and because of his love for children, by common consent he became Uncle Tom to all of them and later he was hailed as Uncle Tom by everybody and his wife, because of her mothering, was christened Grandma, which was shortened to Granny and remained thus to the end of her days.

      Their home was a Mecca where the way-farer found food and shelter for the asking and no questions asked.  For fifty years this home continued.  The log house and stable were replaced by the splendid commodious home with ample barn and outbuildings that stand as a monument to the hardy pioneers of 1866.

      In 1909, after eight years of suffering, Grandma passed to her reward.  But many years before her going she took into her heart and home a granddaughter only 18 months old, to take the place in their home made vacant by her children who had gone to homes of their own, and this foresight has been a blessing to Uncle Tom in his declining years.  Her devotion to her grandfather has been most beautiful and as a shing lifht it will shine on until the perfect day.

     The Patriarch of Lincoln Township has passed to his reward and will no more extend his cheery greetings to us, but his memory will always remain as a hallowed benediction to all who knew him, and as we go down the dark valley one by one, Uncle Tom will be waiting to say good morning in the land of fadeless day, wherein the city is no night there.

J. W. Yard


[The preceding story was printed in the Afton Star Enterprise.  The story did not reveal that Tom Lyons was buried in The Evergreen Cemetery in Lincoln Township.  His wife, Phoebe, born August 7, 1833, died April 19, 1909, and is buried beside Tom.]



Union County Family Histories