Montana Memoir Research – Second stop: Wilsall (Post 2/3)

Posted: September 11, 2013 in This 'n That
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Conducting research: The Bank Bar & Vault Restaurant, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Bill and I spent the month of September in his home state of Montana

Objective: To research and fill in the blanks of Bill’s family history for his upcoming memoir, Montana Memoir: The Hardscrabble Years, 1925-1942.

Second stop: Wilsall (pop 237 at the 2000 census) 

In 1911, Clyde M. Lyon — who would become Bill’s uncle in 1925 — was visiting the West, looking for a good place to raise cattle. Clyde Lyon had already established himself in the Midwest as a successful businessman. However, like so many entrepreneurs of his time, he was drawn to the West seeking new opportunities. 

When he visited Wilsall, a small community about 30 miles north of Livingston in the Shields River Valley, he was convinced it was a good place for cattle ranching. 

By 1919, Clyde Lyon owned several ranches in Park and Meagher counties, as well as the Wilsall Mercantile Store, still doing a thriving business today (see below for then and now photos).

At the time, Harry Elwood “Mac” McGee, a cowboy and blacksmith, had a reputation around Montana as a top hand with horses. Clyde Lyon spotted Harry McGee’s talent with horses and hired him on the spot to work on his  ranches in Park and Meagher counties.

While working for Clyde Lyon, Harry McGee met Clyde’s sister, Vivian, who was working in the Wilsall Mercantile Store. In 1921, Harry and Vivian married, much against Clyde’s wishes, who did not want his educated sister to marry a cowboy. Harry and Vivian had three children while living on Clyde Lyon’s ranches: Bill, and his sisters, Doris and Betty. 

Clyde Lyon would be numbered among the prosperous and well-to-do citizens of his community. In 1921, he was written up in a Montana “Who’s Who” as “one of the well-known agriculturists and ranchmen of Southern Montana. . . never losing the dignity which is the birthright of the true gentleman”. (Montana: Its Story and Biography, Vol. II, 1921)


Clyde M. Lyon's Wilsall Mercantile Company (on the right), Wilsall, MT, 1921 (Wilsall Museum)

Back when: Clyde M. Lyon’s Wilsall Mercantile Company (on the right), Wilsall, MT, 1921 (Courtesy Wilsall Museum)


Still in business today: Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)

Still in business today: Wilsall Mercantile Company, Wilsall, MT, 2013 (Author photo)


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