When the pioneers of 1808-9 began to settle in what are now known as Green and Mifflin Townships, in this county, they found a tall, lean, aged Delaware, by the name of Thomas Lyons. From conversations held with James Cunningham, Peter Kinney, James Copus, Lewis Oliver, and John Coulter, it was learned that Lyons was born in New Jersey, near the Delaware line. It was impossible to gather from him any definite idea of the date of his birth. When interrogated on that subject, his response generally was; "One hundred fifty years" In conversation with others concerning the length of a year, "Tom" considered the winter and summer each a year. That would make him about seventy-five years of age, in 1810. Most of the settlers, however, concur in the opinion that he was the oldest Indian they had ever met. He was probably near one hundred years old when he left the country. Lyons informed Judge Peter Kinney that he was at the massacre of Wyoming in 1778. Colonel John Butler, at the head of eleven hundred Mohawks, and a few white tories who had joined the British, entered the lovely valley of Wyoming, in northern Pennsylvania, July 2, 1778. Most of the strong men were then away on distant duty, and families and homes found defenders only in aged men, tender youths, resolute women, and a few trained soldiers and friendly Delaware's. These were marched up the valley to drive back the invaders, but the savage Mohawks soon put them to flight, a large portion being slain or made prisoners. A few escaped to a fort near Wilkesbarre, where families for long distances around had fled for safety. The invaders soon appeared before the fort. They were sweeping onward towards the Susquehanna with resistless fury, carrying carnage and death in their train. The night after the battle, the yells of the infuriated savages echoed through the forest, and death seemed impending over the beleaguered refugees within the little fort. An agony of suspense rested upon all during the slowly passing hours of that dark and dreary night. Morning came, but contrary to expectations, the leader of the savages (John Butler) appeared near the fort and offered terms of safety to the inmates if they would surrender. The gates were thrown open, and most of the families were permitted to return to their homes. During the day the Mohawks scattered up and down the valley. Before sunset, all the inhabitants were doomed. Scarcely had the shades of night appeared, before their burning dwellings threw a lurid glare over forest and field, and the work of death began. The terrified people fled to the mountains and the forest to escape the hatchet and scalping knife; but alas! The red fiends, led by the inhuman Butler, left that fair valley blackened with the ruins and cinders of the homes of the pioneers, while their bodies, scalped and mutilated, were scattered through the forest, to become food for wild beasts. After this dreadful disaster, Tom Lyons and several other friendly Indians fled to their Delaware friends, on the Tuscarawas and the branches of the Mohican. Tom Lyons dwelt among the Moravians some time at Gnaddenhutten, and continued to revisit that favorite spot of the Christian Delaware's to the close of his life. When Colonel Crawford invaded the Sandusky country in 1782, Thomas Lyons, Thomas Armstrong, Billy Montour, Thomas Jelloway and a number of the Delaware's are believed to have had a village on the Clear fork, about one mile west of the old Lewis block-house, in Richland county. The name of this town was German, and signified clear, light or transparent. It was Helltown. In German the word "hell" signified light or clear. The name probably originated from some Pennsylvania captive, as the village on the Clear fork or Clear water. Upon the approach of Colonel Crawford, the inhabitants of the village fled, and when his army returned from its disastrous defeat, Armstrong and his associates located a new village called Greentown, on the banks of the Black fork, and the stream was know to the surveyors and early settlers as Armstrong's creek. This village was the home of Lyons, when Andrew Craig, James Copus, the Coulters and Oliver's came into the township in 1808-09-10.
It has been asserted that Thomas Lyons was a chief. He was only a warrior. On a few occasions he related his military achievements. He had been in many battles on the border, and taken many scalps. When under the influence of "fire water" he related many acts of extreme cruelty, and a few of his barbarities, inflicted upon the wives and children of the border settlers. Like most of his race, he delighted in the excitements of war, and was easily induced to join his red brethren in their attempt to expel the pale faces from the beautiful hunting grounds of Ohio. When Harmar, St Clair and Wayne invaded the Indian country of the northwest in 1791/94, Tom Lyons joined Captain Pipe, Armstrong and other Delaware chiefs in an effort to expel the invaders. On one occasion, while stopping a night with Allen Oliver, father of Lewis and Daniel, in Green Township, he gave a very graphic description of the battle of "Fallen Timbers."Lyons, Pipe, Armstrong, Motour, Baptiste Jerome, and other Greentown and Jerometown Indians were in the fight. Lewis Oliver, now eighty-one years of age, relates the conversation thus;
Allen Oliver. "You say you were at the battle with Wayne. What do you think of Wayne as a white chief?" Tom Lyons. "Him be great chief. He be one devil to fight. Me hear his dinner horn- way over there go toot,toot; then way over here it go toot, toot - then way over other side, go toot toot. Then his soldiers run forward - shoot, shoot; then run among logs and brush. Indians have got to get out and run. Then come Long Knives with pistols and shoot, shoot. Indians run, no stop. Old Tom see too much fight to be trap - he run into woods - he run like devil - he keep run till he clear out of danger. Wayne great fight - brave white chief. He be one devil. Mr. Lewis Oliver states that while "Old Tom" was going through this description of the fight, he gesticulated, grimaced and expressed as much emotion as if he had been in the midst of the battle. In fact, terror was evinced in the whole of the mimic battle he was then fighting over. Add to this the fact he was perhaps the ugliest Indian ever seen by the border settlers, and some idea of his emotions may be gleaned. Mr. Oliver thinks he was about six feet high, quite lean, very like a mummy in the consistence and color of his skin, with a long protruding chin, some missing teeth, short upper lip, a low forehead, a protruding crown, jet eyes, very fierce and piercing, and wore a dress, never very tidy nor clean. This was old "Tom Lyons."
The war-like fire of his youth had ceased to blaze. He was now an old man. He had long since given up the idea of driving back the pale faces. At this period, 1811-12, he was quite friendly to the new settlers. He had no wife. His two sons, George and James, occasionally visited the pioneers. George had the reputation of being a cruel and ill-tempered Indian; though he never molested the pioneers. Before the war of 1812, Tom Lyons, as I am informed by Mrs. James Irwin, daughter of Judge Peter Kinney, often came to he father's house in great haste, requesting him to hurry to Greentown and enforce quiet among the Indians, who were quarreling, and evinced an inclination to scalp each other. Mr. Kinney was then a justice of the peace, and was quite an influential man among his red-skinned neighbors. When Captain Douglas and Cunningham removed the Greentown Indians, in the fall of 1812, Tom Lyons accompanied his people to Urbana. A short time after the removal of the Indians, the Ruffner - Zimmer - Copus murders took place. The Greentown Indians were blamed for that invasion and those wanton assassinations.
After the war, a number of Greentown Indians returned and erected cabins on the site of their old village, and continued to hunt for six or eight years. Among these were Tom Lyons, Billy Dowdee, Jonacake, buckwheat, and others not now recollected. Thomas Lyons visited his old friends in the neighborhood of Greentown, among others, Mrs. James Copus and her children, at the cabin where Mr. Copus had been killed. Mrs. Copus (as I am informed by Mrs. Sarah Vail, now seventy six years of age, and daughter of Mrs. Copus,) inquired of Tom Lyons weather he was present and helped the Indians kill her husband on that frightful morning. Tom Lyons said he was not; but he knew who did it, but could not help it, as many strange Indians were along. He manifested many regrets over the tragedy; said he and Mr. Copus were good friends. On that fatal day, the same band passed by Newell's in Montgomery township, burned his cabin, and early next morning, through Carters cornfield, to Cuppy's cabin, burned it; then to Fry's, and burned it; and continued on towards Sandusky. Several years after, Tom Lyons explained this adventure to Daniel Carter, sr., who was undisturbed. He stated also, to Martin Mason, who originally had a mill where Leidigh's now stands, that he notified Fry and Cuppy several days before, to leave, which was speedily done, and their families were saved from torture and death.
This singular old Indian continued to hunt in different parts of the county up to about the year 1823. He often visited the pioneers on his way to and from Goshen, in Tuscarawas County. He, on several occasions, brought cranberries and a wild turkey, which he had shot, to be dressed, stuffed and roasted by Mrs. Copus, after the manner of the whites. She always complied; and when it was done, with many words of gratitude, "old Tom" would bundle it in his deerskin pouch and proceed on his way to Goshen or to Sandusky, as the case might be. He, on several occasions, accompanied by other Indians, stopped at the shop of Solomon Urie, father of Colonel George W. Urie, in Orange Township, to have their guns and tomahawks repaired. From there they proceeded to Mason's mill, to obtain meal and other provisions, in exchange for venison. Thence they would proceed to John Bryte's distillery, in Clearcreek, and then strike out through the forest.
About the fall of 1822, Lyons visited Mrs. Irwin, in Green Township, for the last time. He had a strong attachment for his old friend, Peter Kinney. Almost as soon as he entered the house, he inquired if Mrs. Irwin had recently heard from Judge Kinney, who had removed to Illinois some years before. Mrs. Irwin says the poor old fellow put down his head, and muttered to himself. My poor friend Kinney, I never see him any more. Peter Kinney was a good friend. Poor Peter Kinney, I never see him any more. After remaining a few hours, the old man departed. That was fifty-eight years ago. She says she never saw the old man again. He always behaved well at their house, and seemed to possess many good traits, although he had been reared amid the wilds of the forest, and among untamed savages. He never fully explained the reason that he received the name of Thomas Lyons. She thinks he had very little, if any white blood in his veins. He at one time requested Judge Kinney to go with him to the Wyoming valley, in Pennsylvania, to act as his agent, where he said he owned a large tract of land, for which the Government had never compensated him. But, for some reason, Judge Kinney could not accompany him. At a treaty, in 1814-17, territory six miles south of Upper Sandusky was set apart, as a reservation for the Jerometown and Greentown Indians. A village was built there, called pipetown, in honor of Captain Pipe, jr., who, in conjunction with Silas Armstrong, son of Captain Thomas Armstrong, was made a half chief over the remnant of Delaware's there located. Thomas Lyons resided at Pipetown, in Marion County, in 1821-23, and in company with his son Tom, Billy Dowdy, and other Delaware's, often hunted along the Whetstone or Olentangy. The old settlers along those streams, the Sharracks, Beckley's, and others, were often visited by him in their cabin homes. Old Tom was very fond of repeating his war exploits along the Delaware, the Schuylkill, the Wyoming valley and other localities in Pennsylvania, before the removal of the Delaware's to the branches of the Mohican, in Ohio. Old Thomas Lyons is believed to have died on his reservation, some time in the winter or spring of 1824. It is now believed that the stories of his assassination by white hunters, are destitute of foundation, and that the old warrior died a natural death.