Caleb Lyon

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Caleb Lyon
Caleb Lyon.jpg
2nd Governor of Idaho Territory
In office
Preceded byWilliam H. Wallace
Succeeded byDavid W. Ballard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 23rd district
In office
March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1855
Preceded byLeander Babcock
Succeeded byWilliam A. Gilbert
Personal details
Born(1822-12-07)December 7, 1822
Greig, New York
DiedSeptember 8, 1875(1875-09-08) (aged 52)
Rossville, Staten Island, New York
Political partyIndependent (1850s), Republican (1860s)

Caleb Lyon (December 7, 1822 Greig, New York – September 8, 1875 Staten Island, New York) was Governor of Idaho Territory from 1864 to 1865 during the last half of the American Civil War.


Caleb Lyon was the son of Marietta Henrietta Dupont (1788–1869) and Caleb Lyon (1761–1835). In 1841, he married Mary Ann Springsteen. They had a son Caleb (b. 1842) and a daughter Henrietta Frederica (b. 1843).

He attended and graduated from the American, Literary, and Scientific Institute (later Norwich University) Class of 1841.[1][2]


In 1847 he was appointed US Consul to Shanghai, but never made it to China – instead he moved to California, and was credited as the designer of the California State Seal adopted in 1849, although the actual design was by Robert S. Garnett.[3]

Lyon was an Independent member of the New York State Assembly (Lewis Co.) in 1851. He resigned his seat on April 26, and was elected to the New York State Senate on May 27, serving during the 74th New York State Legislature's special session in June/July 1851. Lyon was elected as an Independent to the 33rd United States Congress, holding office from March 4, 1853, to March 3, 1855.

Appointed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, as Governor of Idaho Territory, Lyon proved to be extremely unpopular. One journalist wrote he was "a conceited, peculiar man, who made many enemies and misappropriated much of the public funds." During Lyon's administration, the territorial capital was moved from Lewiston to Boise, reputedly because Lyon thought it was better to have the capital in a larger city.

Lyon started a diamond-prospecting frenzy when he claimed that a prospector had found a diamond near Ruby City, Idaho. Although hundreds of men staked claims, no genuine diamonds were found as a result.[4]

In 1866, an audit showed that Lyon had embezzled $46,418 in federal funds which were intended for the Nez Perce people. He was never convicted on any charges.[5]

Later life and death[edit]

After Lyon's governorship ended, he returned to his home in Rossville, Staten Island, New York,[6] where he purchased a home known as "Ross Castle" in 1859.[7] A small collection of Lyon's papers is preserved by the Staten Island Historical Society at Historic Richmond Town in New York, along with various artifacts associated with the Lyon family.[8]

He died on September 8, 1875 and is interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York USA.[9]


  1. ^ "LYON, Caleb - Biographical Information". Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ California State Capitol Museum: Great Seal of California
  4. ^ Dan Plazak – A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top (2006) ISBN 978-0-87480-840-7
  5. ^ "Caleb Lyon". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  6. ^ "Caleb Lyon". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
  7. ^ Roswell S. Coles, "Caleb Lyon's Trip Around the Horn," Staten Island Historian, Vol. 1, No. 4, October 1938. Published by The Staten Island Historical Society.
  8. ^ Lyon, Caleb, People Record. Collection Database, Staten Island Historical Society, New York.
  9. ^ "Caleb Lyon". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved September 13, 2012.

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
John Newkirk
New York State Assembly
Lewis County

Succeeded by
Dean S. Howard
New York State Senate
Preceded by
Alanson Skinner
New York State Senate
21st District

Succeeded by
Ashley Davenport
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Leander Babcock
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 23rd congressional district

Succeeded by
William A. Gilbert
Political offices
Preceded by
William H. Wallace
Governor of Idaho Territory
Succeeded by
David W. Ballard