James H. Lyons, doctor, legislator, and mayor of San Antonio, was born on February 8, 1805, in Kentucky. He moved to the vicinity of Urbana, Illinois, during the Asiatic cholera epidemic in 1833 and helped bring the disease under control in 1834. He was elected to the Tenth General Assembly of the Illinois legislature (1836), in which Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas served. In 1836 Lyons and Joseph Davis borrowed $10,000 to build a town on a proposed railroad, but in the depression of 1837 the railroad plans were cancelled and Lyons was financially ruined. His wife, Sarah, divorced him, and he moved to Texas with a new wife, Eliza Jane. Later, three of five children of his first marriage moved to Texas.
Lyons practiced medicine in Bunker Hill, Rusk County, now known as Poindexter. His medical practice failed because of the economy. He was elected to the Texas legislature in 1847. He was captain of the Second Texas Mounted Volunteers in the Mexican War, and Gen. T. J. Rusk commended him for leading his company in storming Monterrey. Lyons was promoted to assistant surgeon volunteer and honorably discharged in December 1848. That year he was among the petitioners for a charter of the Medical and Surgical Society in Texas. The 1850 Texas census placed Lyons and his family in San Antonio. In October 1849 they became charter members of Saint Mark's Episcopal Church. In June 1852 Lyons started a Main Street drugstore. In September 1852 he and J. S. McDonald published a twenty-eight-column weekly paper, the Western Texan. On September 22, 1853, the Bexar County Medical Society was founded, and Lyons was elected treasurer. In 1854 he was elected city treasurer of San Antonio.
On November 5, 1860, Lyons married his third wife, Belle Cotton, daughter of H. C. Cotton. He was mayor of San Antonio from January to October 1865. In October 1865 D. Cleveland was appointed mayor by the provisional governor. Lyons was reinstated as mayor by the legislature and served from August to December 1866. He was reelected in January 1867 in a charter election. He served through the turbulent beginning of Reconstruction, until November 1867. He then retired to Pleasanton to live with his son Edwin and Edwin's family. Lyons was a Mason. He died on January 1, 1881, and is buried in Pleasanton. His gravestone mistakenly reads "H. J. Lyons."
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S. W. Geiser, "Men of Science in Texas, 1820–1880," Field and Laboratory 26–27 (July-October 1958, October 1959). Medical History of Texas Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, vol. 27, Medical Biographies. Pat Ireland Nixon, A Century of Medicine in San Antonio (San Antonio, 1936). Pat Ireland Nixon, A History of the Texas Medical Association, 1853–1953 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1953).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lois Burmeister Talley,
“Lyons, James H.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
March 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: