The Lyon School was built in 1885 and served the needs of the area school children for more than 60 years. It also served as the Brighton Township Hall before becoming the headquarters for the Brighton Area Historical Society. The Lyon School has since been fully restored and is now a historical asset of the local community.
The school also serves as a functional classroom. The Lyon School has a third grade curriculum and is available for teachers to use as a resource to show their students what school life was like in early twentieth century rural Michigan.
The Lyon School story is one of rich history that begins with the first settlers over 165 years ago. The Richard Lyon family was among the first area pioneers immigrating to the region in 1832 after a cholera epidemic in their native New York City prompted a move. Lyon, a member of an artist’s guild, used guild funds to purchase over 1000 acres of land for him and other guild members.
Lyon was soon joined by other well known pioneer families as noted in early Brighton Township records. These family names include Arms, Woulds, Young, Prosser, Rogers, Warner, Beach, Morgan, Conely, and McDonald.
Upon arrival, the first priority was survival. Log cabins were constructed to provide housing and farm land was quickly cultivated to provide food. Once the primary needs were addressed, education of the pioneer children became the next priority. In 1842, a log cabin was built on property owned by the Lyon family to serve as a school building serving area children who lived within walking distance. The ‘Lyon’ log cabin school would serve the community for more than forty years.
In 1885, the local school board decided it was time to replace the log cabin structure with a new framed school building. The new building was heated by a woodstove, used a well for water, the sun and oil lamps for lighting, and two out houses as sanitary facilities. The teachers were young themselves and taught about 20 students.
Around 1940, an addition was built to bring water and sanitary facilities inside, and electricity was installed along with a larger wood stove. Even as progress moved forward, lunch still came in a tin bucket, and games like baseball, Annie-I-over, and musical chairs were played at recess. The last day of school picnic, the Christmas program and spelling bees often were community events.
The introduction of highways after WWII greatly reduced the commuter time from the Detroit area to Brighton. This led to many more families immigrating to the Brighton area. The rural schools were no longer able to meet the needs of the growing community. As such, schools were consolidated into modern facilities and the one room school houses, including the Lyon School, were closed.
The Lyon School building went onto to serve as the Brighton Township Hall for many years. When they too outgrew the venerable school building, a new town hall was constructed in 1984 and the Lyon School was empty once again. Fortunately, the Lyon School was offered to the Brighton Area Historical Society as a new base of operations. The school has since been fully restored and is now preserved as a historical treasure for the community for years to come.