The Immigrants
Woodstock, Connecticut
The Move to Royalton
Skinners Multiply
Calvin & Sally's Family
Lewis Skinner Family
John Calvin Skinner
Lewis & Olive Ann
Other Skinner Towns
Cheat Sheet

A War Widow
  Calvin Skinner's death at Valley Forge left Eleanor Porter Skinner with two young children to raise in Woodstock, CT. After 4 years in Woodstock as a widowed mother of two, Eleanor remarried Zebulon Lyon, a member of another large Woodstock family. There already was one Skinner/Lyon marriage: Calvin's uncle Benjamin was married to Zebulon's sister Elizabeth. Eleanor's marriage to Zebulon proved to be very significant. The high value placed on education, strong entreprenurial skills, and generosity were all qualities that Zebulon Lyon would pass on to the Skinner family through his two Skinner step children.

Zebulon Lyon, the Skinners and Royalton
  Zebulon Lyon was both a powerful influence on the Skinner family in Royalton and the town of Royalton. Many of the entreprenurial qualities of Zebulon are seen in step son Calvin Skinner and Calvin's descendents, which include Lewis Bailey Skinner. Zebulon was one of several individuals from Woodstock, CT who were the original proprietors of Royalton. Zebulon arrived in Royalton in 1778 at the age of 27. Two other individuals from Woodstock who were early settlers of Royalton, and apparently close friends of Zebulon, were Isaac and Luther Skinner, brothers of Calvin Skinner who died at Valley Forge. Both Luther and Isaac served in the Revolutionary War. Sabra Skinner, a sister of Calvin, Isaac and Luther died at Royalton, but it is unknown if she was among the early settlers, or joined the family at a later date.

Above is a portion of the original land allotments for the Town of Royalton. The White River is highlited in pink and separates what eventually became North Royalton and South Royalton. The areas highlighted in red were Zebulon Lyon's original allotments. Luther Skinner's allotment is highlighted in blue. According to land deeds, Luther purchased the lot from the proprietor's committee on October 28, 1782 and it appears that he did not settle on this land. He later purchased 2 plots on the north side of the White River, and built a house on one of the plots. Isaac Skinner, Luther's brother, did not purchase land until 1784.

The Accomplishments of Zebulon Lyon
  Zebulon was quite a risk-taker, businessman, and entrepreneur. He bought and sold land frequently--when a landowner was not able to 'make it', Zebulon would purchase the landowner's property inexpensively (sometimes at tax sales) and later sell it at a higher price. Some of his holdings were donated to improve the community. He donated the land for the town hall, for the church and probably most importantly for Royalton Academy. Royalton Academy was unusual in that if offered an excellent education in a very rural and fairly remote area. The first Lyon immigrant came to America from Cambridge, England, so it is likely that the Lyon family was well educated and valued high quality educational institutions. A significant (and probably disproportionate) number of Royalton children educated at Royalton Academy continued their educations at New England colleges. One of these individuals you will read about later, Dr. Calvin Skinner (not the same Calvin discussed at this point) attended Royalton Academy and earned his M.D. from Dartmouth in Hanover, NH.

Zebulon Lyon often used his land holdings and generosity to attract businesses to Royalton. To attract a shoemaker, Zebulon offered Ebenezer Herrick a location for a rent of one dollar per year forever. Mr. Lyon also built the building for what was likely the first general store in Royalton (known as "The Red Store"), owned by the firm of Chandler and Mower.

The town meeting place (now church) at the left and the Royalton Academy, both built by Zebulon Lyon. The photo shows the second Academy building--the first building, also built by Zebulon, burned in the raid of 1780.

The Royalton Raid of 1780

Although the established date of American Independence is July 4, 1776, the Revolutionary War ended with the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in the fall of 1781. Hostilities did not officially end until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. In the fall of 1780, a British officer name Houghton, led a raid on Royalton similar to others in small New England rural towns intended to terrorize and disperse the settlers. Houghton and a band of Indians based in Canada raided Royalton, burned the town, killed 4 residents and took 26 captive. The captives were taken to Canada and sold as servants for $8.00 per person. The buildings burned included Zebulon Lyon's home and farm buildings and the Royalton Academy. Zebulon survived the raid, rebuilt both his home and the Royalton Academy and, in February 1781, moved his wife Eleanor Porter and step children Sally and Calvin Skinner from Woodstock, CT to Royalton. For a detailed account of the Royalton Raid see

Zebulon Owns the Town
  When Zebulon died in 1823, a Judge Collamer read the eulogy at his funeral. The eulogy states that about the year 1785, Zebulon made an extensive purchase of land including all the land that constituted the village. The eulogist states "I feel authorized to state that he was principally governed, in this purchase, by the desire to promote the growth and prosperity of a village here." Land deeds show that Zebulon, in April of 1784, purchased 11 lots, or 893 acres from a Barnabas Strong, who was not able to pay the taxes on the land. In 1788, Zebulon purchased a lot known as 46 Dutch, which included most of the property that eventually became the center of town. Most of the land purchased by Zebulon was later sold to others at a higher price, enriching Zebulon and greatly contributed to the growth of the town. The eulogist at his funeral also states that Zebulon was viewed as 'a friend of science and literature', further evidence that he was well educated.

Above is the Zebulon Lyon house. Calvin Skinner (Jr.) and his sister Sally Skinner, children of Eleanor Porter and Calvin Skinner (died at Valley Forge) grew up in this house. The exterior was restored by a Royalton resident. The current owners, Steve and Wendy Judge, restored the interior and added the mud room at the back.

Civic Servant
  In June of 1781, Zebulon was appointed collector for funds the proprietors assessed themselves (one dollar per proprietor) so they could pay for the survey of some additional partitions of land. With this money, they also paid Agent Elias Stevens to petition the State Assembly for a grant of the additional land. The town records indicate that 4 of the initial proprietors served in the role a regular lawyer would today. One of these men was Zebulon Lyon. In 1791 according to tax records, Zebulon paid the fourth highest taxes, indicating his property was in aggregrate, the fourth most valuable in Royalton. By 1807, carriages were taxed for the first time and there were only four in town, one of them owned by Zebulon.

And a Large, Blended Family
  As mentioned earlier, Zebulon 'inherited' the two children of Calvin Skinner when he married Calvin's widowed wife Eleanor Porter. Zebulon and Eleanor also had three children of their own: Oliver, Polly and Porter. Son Oliver's wife died in childbirth with their fourth child and the three orphaned children of Oliver were also raised by Zebulon and Eleanor. With one exception, all of Zebulon's children, regardless of parentage, were educated at Royalton Academy. The one exception is Porter, who was "mentally deficient" and became the ward of Calvin Skinner, his step brother.

A Pauper
  Although wealthy and successful throughout most of his life, Zebulon died a poor man. Through a combination of his generosity and some bad business dealings late in life, he spent his last days in the jail at nearby Woodstock, VT where he died. His funeral took place in Royalton and he was buried at the North Royalton cemetery next to his wife Eleanor (photo below). This cemetery dates to December, 1794 when a committee including Zebulon Lyon was appointed to determine the location of a town cemetery. In January 1795, Abel Stevens and Isaac Skinner were chosen to raise money for purchase of land for the cemetery. The purchase of the land did not occur until February, 1797 when Timothy Durkee was paid $33 for one acre of land. By that time, there were already 8 graves at the site.

A Legacy
  Although he died a pauper, Zebulon Lyon left behind quite a legacy of contributions to the Town of Royalton and its residents. One of the greatest beneficiaries of Zebulon's wisdom and generosity was his step son, Calvin Skinner.

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(c) Jerry Gottsacker, 2008