The city of Lyons originated when a railroad, the SAM (Savannah, Americus, Montgomery) later known as the Seaboard, reached the area in 1891, and a station was established by H.C. Bragley. Land around the station was acquired by the Americus Investment Company and a town map was created laying out businesses and residential lots. The name Lyons was given to the proposed town by Colonel Sam Hugh Hawkins of Americus, president of the railroad company. Hawkins had recently returned to the United States from a European business trip and suggested a number of European names for towns to be established along the new line. Lyons was named for Lyons, France.
The new community quickly developed as the center of a wide trade area serving the business needs of many farm families that had settled earlier in the area. The railroad attracted new settlers and by 1893 the community organized a municipal government and elected the first mayor, Peter Clifton. By the end of 1900 the town had a population of about seven hundred and a number of businesses, including a large sawmilling firm, Garbutt and Donovan, were already established in Lyons.
Along the railroad, Lyons also had a private industry short line owned by the Garbutt and Donovan families called the Garbutt and Donavan Short Line Railway. This 14-mile line was built from Lyons to Selma in 1904. In 1910 they extended the railway another mile to Oak Park. This railway no longer exists; however, it is listed in a publication named “Ghost Trains of Georgia.”
In late 1903, L.A. Moore, a newspaper man from Savannah, moved to the community and established the Lyons Progress which published it first issue in January 1904. A campaign was launched by the Progress and the town’s citizens to create a new county from parts of Tattnall, Montgomery and Emanuel Counties. In the spring of 1904, the drive to become a new county suffered a temporary setback when lightening from an early April thunderstorm struck the railroad depot setting it on fire. A brisk wind swept over downtown and before being halted by a vacant lot and determined firefighters, a portion of the downtown, including both the Post Office and the Progress office, had been destroyed. The city rebuilt the wooden structures with brick structures and in 1905 Lyons became the seat of government for the newly-created Toombs County.
In 1905, the Elberta Hotel was built and served as the social center of Toombs County. In the 1920’s, the creation of U.S. Highway 1, the first highway built in the United States that runs from Maine to Key West, Florida, brought a tourist boom to Lyons. Some of the most famous guests to stay at the Elberta were Margaret Mitchell, who penned “Gone with the Wind” as well as the gangster, Al Capone.
The Lyons Post Office is home to one of Georgia’s greatest and most unique treasures. Commissioned as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, this 1942 sculpture by Albino Manca is a terra cotta relief entitled “Wild Duck and Deer.” It remains in its original location on the North Wall of the Post Office.
Lyons today is still an industrious community of friendly people who feel that the best part of the city’s history is yet to come.