Lyon Quintuplets

     I have created this page to educate the public about the Lyon Quintuplets.  I had lived in Paducah, Kentucky, all my life and had never heard about this wonderful event.  I started researching them and realized a lot of my friends had never heard of the quintuplets either.  That prompted me to create this page so others could learn about them, and they would never be forgotten.
     The five baby boys were born to Oscar and Elizabeth Lyon, at their home, a white, three-room farm-house on the Olmstead Ferry Road, located about a mile south of Mayfield, Kentucky.  (see more info on location below.)  All five babies were born between 9 and 10 pm, on Wednesday night, April 29, 1896, and all were dead by May 14, 1896.
Photos - If you have a photo to add to the collection, I would love to hear from you.
Family - I also did a lot of research on Oscar Lyon and Elizabeth Campbell and their family lineage. That information can be viewed on my Rootsweb Genealogy Site (click the tree to go there)
Copyrights - Permission has been obtained from the National Museum of Health and Medicine to use the information and photo that they provide on their website, here on this webpage. The family photos are no longer under copyright protection, and are in the public domain.
Thursday,April 30, 1896 - The babies were one day old, and Mrs Lyon wrote that they had to borrow enough long gowns for them, then they placed them in a rocking chair, and pushed it up by the door.  The sun was coming in, which is why the babies eyes are closed.

The babies were named Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul, and all died within two weeks due to starvation.  A wet nurse was acquired, but it still was not enough.  Bottle feeding was extremely frowned upon, and Mrs Lyon said they would not let her do it even though the stores sent milk to the house and bottles.  She never said who "they" were that would not allow her to bottle feed.

In trying to locate where the Lyons' house was, I have used several pieces of information.  The best info came from Bobbie Mason's book Clear Springs.   Her family lived 'right across the field' from the Lyons'.  In her book she says that her family's farm was one field to the east of the railroad track, and that she could see highway 45 from her front porch.  She also says that the family farm is now entirely within city limits of Mayfield, that there are now subdivisions to the east, an air compressor factory to the south, and to the west is the four lane bypass, and that across the road is a 30 acre field where the chicken tower for Seaboard Farms was built, and that beyond the chicken tower is the site where the Lyon quintuplets were born.  This helps get the location pretty close.  She also says that the feed mill, in 1935-1940, was right next to the house where the quintuplets were born.

   1 - Lyon House (estimated)  2 - Chicken Tower  3 - Mason Family Farm  4 - Air Compressor Plant

You may click the map to be taken to the MSN Live Search Maps website and view it interactivelly

A Mayfield news correspondent reported...
"This little city has been all excitement and intense interest ever since very early today when the news was first made known.  The occurrence has been all the talk on the streets, the business men neglecting their business, clerks and employees generally forgetting business and trade to discuss the Lyon children."
Saturday,May 9,1896
The Galveston Daily News

The Kentucky Quintuplets are Attracting World-Wide Attention.
Messages, Money and Well Wishes are Pouring in.
Police Required To Keep Back Crowds.
_____ Enquirer
    Mayfield, KY, May 2 - This city is still _____ _____ in the pleural birth which occurred in this country, one mile south of Mayfield, last Wednesday night at 10 o'clock.  The birth, which was noted in dispatches to the Enquirer, according to statistics, is one of the most remarkable known in the history of the world, and the occurrence is attracting more attention than anything that has ever occurred in this portion of the country. 
    On the night referred to, at the home of Mrs. Lyon, the mother, five well-developed boys were born and bid fair to live.  Dr. Mathews, who officiated, states that the case eclipses all others known to the medical world, and that there is no reason whatever why any physician should doubt that the children will live.  They are as sprightly as any children could be at their present age, and the doctor says that all are in a more favorable condition to live than the majority of children at their age.  At their birth the children weighed in as follows: One tipped the scales at 4 1/4 pounds, three at 3 1/2 and one at 3. 
    Mrs. Lyon, the happy mother of the quintuplets, was born in Warren County, near Bowling Green, and is of the Alexander Campbell family, well known in that section of the Bluegrass region.  She is 39 years of age, and is very small.  She is quite good looking and of pleasing address.  Mr. Lyon, the father, who is now talked of and eyed more than any other man in this vicinity, is 46 years of age and is also small.  He came to this county eight years ago from Logan County, this state, and has resided at his present home since that time.  Mr. Lyon is a farmer in ordinary circumstances.  He is the father of six children besides the recent arrivals, all of whom were born to his present wife.  The oldest one of his children is 20 years of age, and the rest of them range down to 2 years.  Four years ago he lost one child.  Since the birth of the children there has been a large amount of money contributed at the home, and papers are in circulation which have been eagerly signed with liberal amounts given. 
    The Ladies ald society of this place has taken the matter in hand and have designed plans by which it is expected very large sums will be obtained at once.  Most every baby food company in the country has wired the father of the boys stating that they are ready on short notice to deliver, free of charge, any amount of food requested.  Telegrams of all kinds have been received asking for information concerning them. 
  Preachers from various portions of the country have wired asking for the privilege to administer baptism, and, in fact, messages of every kind are pouring in in a constantly increasing stream.  The first question here in the morning and last at night is "How are boys getting along?" 
    Thousands of people have visited the home of the babies, and still there is a continual crowd pouring in during the hours of daylight.  Few of them get to see the children, and the physician was finally forced to place officers around the place to prevent the crowd entering the premises by force.  Arrangements are being effected in the neighboring towns to run excursions here to witness the quintuplets next week, but the visitors will probably be disappointed, as it is now the plan to have the boys moved into the city and not to permit one person outside of the nurses to enter the room until they become old enough to bear the worry of callers and until their mother is beyond danger.
    Interesting Figures: Dr. J.D. Landrum, an experienced and well known medical man, gives some interesting figures in connection with the Lyons birth.  He says that, as gleaned from well authenticated statistical reports, twins occur once in 75 births, triplets once in almost 5099 births, quadruplets being so rare no reliable data is had, but is believed to be once within 59,000 births, and quintuplets are exceedingly rare, but the following authentic cases are found on the record: In the museum in the college of surgeons of London are five fetuses well preserved and are from one birth, advanced five months only.  Two cases are reported in Gentlemen's Magazine in 1786 of five at one birth each in one case, and they lived long enough to be baptized.  A woman at Naples in 1824 had five children, and all were males: they were seven months' children.  In 1836 a lady in Russia, was delivered of five girls, of whom four were living and likely to do well.  It is stated that another woman was delivered of four boys and one girl, all of whom died in the first hour in the year 1838.  Another lady in Saxony was delivered of five girls, all of whom died in the first hour, in 1838.  A New Hampshire lady gave birth to five living children in ???? and Mrs. Manger of Jersey was delivered of five girls, at six months, May 29, 18??.  Mrs Wright of Westminster, England, was delivered of five boys, at seven months, January 14, 1849. 
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)
I do not know when this photo was taken.  It appears the babies are alive, and it is possible it was taken at the same time as the photo above when the babies were one day old. 
Wednesday,May 6,1896
Front Page of The News - Frederick, Maryland
    Mayfield, KY., May 6 - Mr and Mrs Oscar B. Lyon have refused all offers of museum managers who want the them to exhibit the quintuplets, all boys, born to Mrs. Lyon last Wednesday night.  One Cincinnati man offered them $10,000 for a limited number of months.  The children are all doing nicely.  Their aggregate weight when born was twenty-two pounds, the largest weighing five pounds, and the others, almost to an ounce, four and a quarter pounds each.  The couple have six children.
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)

Thursday,May 7,1896
Front Page of the Newark Daily Advocate - Newark, Ohio
    Mayfield, KY., May 7 - This city is greatly shocked over the death of John, one of the Lyons quintuplets born last Thursday.  Death resulted from violent spasms.  * (this story also appeared in the Steubenville Daily Herald (page three) 1896 May 7 Thursday - Steubenville, OH)
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)

Tuesday,May 19,1896
Page Seven of The Newark Daily Advocate - Newark, Ohio
    The quintuplets born to Mrs. Oscar Lyons of Mayfield, Ky., on April 29 are all dead.  The first one died on May 4 and the others on May 11, 12, 13 and 14 respectively.  In each case death was sudden, each little victim giving a scream as it expired.  They were fully developed, and for awhile appeared to be in perfect health, but they soon became emaciated.  The mother, though greatly distressed by the loss of her babies, is otherwise doing well.  The bodies of the children have been embalmed.  It is believed that the little ones were worried to death by the sightseers who thronged to the Lyons house. - New York World.
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)
The above picture was taken shortly after the babies died, I don't know the exact date. 
The babies had been embalmed. 
(the picture was sent to me by Jay Campbell, gr-gr-grandson of Charles Campbell, Elizabeth's brother)

Thursday,August 21,1902
In 1902, the Lyons again made the news.  This time it was over legal issues arising from the gifts received over the babies...

published in The Murray Ledger, Murray, Kentucky
  The remarkable and celebrated 'Lyon quintetts' are again brought to notice by a suit at Mayfield appealed last week to the higher court. It is the case of M. L. Lyon and others against Elizabeth Lyon, to sell property on a debt.  When the Mayfield woman gave birth to five children several years ago, which case was known all over the United States at the time, people gave her money with which to purchase a home. The home was bought and creditors of her husband, O. D. Lyon, swooped down and attempted to sell it for his debts.  Judge Robbins decided the case in favor of the mother and the plaintiffs have now taken it to the Court of Appeals.
I located the following information pertaining to the case in A Treatise on the Law of Domestic Relations by James Shouler & Arthur Walker Blakemore, page 348 (published in 1921)...
Property Acquired by Gift, Grant, Devise or Bequest during Coverture.
  ...the wife's separate estate also included property acquired by use of the proceeds of such gifts, and property acquired with the proceeds of gifts from his relatives, and property given her by her own relatives, as well as transfers of personal property, whether gifts or as payment for her money or property used by him, even though made by parol, and gifts made by strangers to the wife on the occasion of giving birth to quintuplets.  Where a husband, indebted to his wife's father on notes, took one of the notes as her share of the father's estate, it was held that the note so taken was her separate estate.

Saturday,November 13,1915
     The babies were embalmed, and plots were purchased for them at Macedonia Church of Christ Cemetery (which at one time was just "Macedonia Cemetery" and not affiliated with a church), but they were never used.  I have read that the first baby to die, John, was actually buried for a brief time, but Mrs. Lyon had his body exhumed after hearing talk of people wanting to rob the grave and take his body.  The babies bodies were kept by Dr Matthews (the delivering physician), and for a period of two years,  Dr. Mathews displayed the mummified babies, contained in glass cases, at county fairs in a three state area.  While being stored in his office someone stole them and had them shipped by rail to Louisville, however they were quickly returned to Mayfield and hidden. 
     After the doctor's death the babies were kept in the Lyon home until Mrs. Lyon wrote to President Woodrow Wilson on Saturday, November 13, 1915.  Mrs. Lyon wrote:
Dear Sir
In the year of our Lord 1896 I gave birth to five boy babies on April the 29th but had the missfortune of loosing them all and was afraid to bury them for fear the grave would be robbed of there boddies as there was such excitement over them I had them embalmed and they ar now in a mummified condition.  And I wish to know if they would be any benefit to the Goverment for Educational Purposes I have any amount of affidavits which I can furnish with them to the fact I dont want to sell them but will let them out on a limited time for a reasonable sum.  My husband and I both are getting old and have lost all of our family but four.  And we both are in very bad health and will ask you if you can do any thing for us. Please answer soon as possiable.  I am living at Kevil Ky R#4.
Mrs. O.D. Lyon

click to see part of
letter Mrs. Lyon wrote.

     Mrs. Lyon's letter was sent to the Army Medical Museum, and they replied to Mrs. Lyon informing her that they did not accept loans, but would be willing to purchase them.  They also asked for some kind of medical verification of the babies.  Dr. Thomas E. Moss replied to them and assured that they were authentic.
     Mrs. Lyon wrote the museum on December 6, 1915, and stated that she would sell them to the museum for the sum of $1500.00.  The museum wrote back on December 9th, and declined her offer.   Mrs. Lyon again wrote on December 13th, saying she thought that was a reasonable amount, and now asked them to make her an offer.  The museum wrote back on December 15th declining to make an offer as they had limited funding for purchasing exhibits.  Mrs. Lyon again wrote on December 29th saying that if the funding was so limited that they could not offer her anything, she would rather donate them so they would be safe with the government museum.  The museum replied on January 3rd, 1916, saying that they would purchase the babies for the sum of $100.00.
     Mrs. Lyon replied with
"I will say that I had much rather have the credit of donating the quintuplets than to sell them but I am not able to do so.  I have had several offers to sell them for much more than your price but never thought of selling them until now and I had much rather for the government to have them than anyone else for I might stand a chance to see them some time there otherwise I would not.  And I am willing to dispose of them to the government for $200.00 which I think is little enough and if you accept my proposition you can send me directions for preparing and shipping them to the museum."
     But, on February 12, 1916, Mrs. Lyon accepted the museum's price of $100.00, and shipped the babies to the museum packed in newspapers.  She also requested that the transaction not be made public.  She feared others would not understand.

click to view the receipt
for the babies bodies.

     Mrs. Lyon supplied information about the birth including birth weights, number of placentas and cords, how the bodies were preserved, and the family history of multiple births, and correspondence continued after the acquisition of the quintuplets  In return, the museum fulfilled Mrs. Lyon's wishes for safety of the bodies and their contribution to education and medical science.

Monday,February 21,1916
     The babies arrived at the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D. C., and became exhibit # 43411.
The museum is now known as the National Museum of Health and Medicine, and the babies are no longer on display.
the following text is taken from the National Museum of Health and Medicine website...
    Mrs. Lyon contributed substantially to our accession records, and correspondence continued after the acquisition of the quintuplets.  Mrs. Lyon inquired if the President of the United States had seen the quintuplets on exhibit.  This supportive relationship was continued by the sister of the quintuplets, Mrs. Mamie Lyon Tilford, who in 1950 reviewed for accuracy the exhibit text accompanying the quintuplets and shared with the museum additional documentation about the quints.  She requested that her father be acknowledged in the label and asked for a "photograph of my brothers to see for my self (sic) the little bodies..."

    Her request was echoed more than forty-five years later when Mrs. Kaufman, a cousin of the quintuplets, inquired about the infants.  We informed her that the quints were no longer on display but were still in the collections and offered her a picture of them.  She was thrilled with this offer and requested several copies to share with other family members.  Mrs. Kaufman was planning a visit to Washington, and we promised her time at the museum to see the quintuplets herself.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Kaufman died before she could make the visit.  Her husband, however, fulfilled her wish visiting on June 3, 1999.  Many pictures were taken of him with the five babies.  As he departed, he remarked that his wife would have loved to see them.  This visit was as much in his wife's memory as it was to see the Lyon quintuplets.

To see pics of when the babies were on display, click the images below for full size...


* The medical information provided by Dr. S.J. Matthews, gives total birth weight of all five babies at 21.75 lbs
* Mrs Lyon gives weights as Matthew (5 lbs), Mark (4.5 lbs), Luke (4.25 lbs), John (4 lbs), Paul (5.5 lbs)
* All five babies were born between 9 and 10 PM
* There was one placenta and five cords, making the babies identical quintuplets.

Thursday, November 16,1916
Mrs. Lyon wrote the museum to check on the babies on November 16, 1916...
     "Will you be so kind as to let me hear from the Lyon quintuplets as I study about them so much my health is give down and that causes me to study more than I would if I was well. Do they create much interest among people and do you know whether the President has seen them or not I have a curiosity to know."     The museum promptly answered her letter and assured her that they were safe at the museum which had guards on duty day and night.  They also let her know that they were being viewed by almost all the visitors to the musuem, and that if the President happened to visit the museum they would make sure he viewed them.

Oscar & Elizabeth Lyon
The date on this picture is not known, but I am estimating it to be between 1910 - 1918. 
Oscar passed away ca 1918. 
This picture is from the
Graves County, Kentucky, History & Families book, by The Graves County Genealogical Society, published in 2001.

Tuesday,June 12,1934
    Kevil, KY., June 11 - The mother of five quintuplet boys born 28 years ago at Mayfield, KY., rolled back the years today to recall the time when the world was talking about her babies, those babies, she said with a note of pain, who were killed by "too many people."  The woman is Mrs. Elizabeth Lyon, now 78 years old, who lives near here with a son, Marion Lyon.  She bore 13 children, four of whom are still living.  The quintuplets died one by one after five days, the sturdiest of the five, John, lived to be 14 days old.  Mrs. Lyon blamed "those crowds," who swarmed to their humble home and handled their babies, for their early death.  "I'm going to write to this mother in Canada tomorrow," she said, "and tell her what to do.  I'm going to tell her to keep everybody away from those babies of hers; if she doesn't she will lose them all.  But I don't think the doctor will let anybody touch them."  Mrs. Lyon expressed a keen desire to go to Corbell, Ont., and visit Mrs. Oliva Dionne and her babies.  She produced from a closet a large picture time worn and water smeared, but showing the quintuplets, all in the long baby clothes of their day.  With a smile of pride she pointed them out, one by one.  "I'm the only one who could tell them apart," she said, "here's Matthew, he weighed 5 pounds and Mark weighed 4 1/2, and Luke here, 4 1/4; John only weighed 4, but Paul weighed 5 1/2."
    Was Warned In Dream - In a dream, Mrs. Lyon said, she was forewarned that she would have not one, but many babies.  "It was all so nice and yet so terrible, she said, wistfully."  "Sure enough, Oscar (her husband-now dead) thought I was going to die, and so did the doctor.  But I just laid back and laughed at them."  "I'd had a dream.  And in that dream I knew I was going to have a lot of babies this time - I knew it because the names I would give them came to me.  Not one or two names, but five.  The names?  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul."  "Then they came that night. In less than an hour, too, and there I had five baby boys.  And I wasn't a bit surprised; as I said, I'd had the dream.  I was proud of my boys, proud of everyone and only sorry that they couldn't all have lived.  No, I don't remember what Oscar said, and he's been dead 16 years now.  Wait; He did say, when he looked down at those babies: 'Well, mama, five more boys! I will be the proudest man in the world if I can raise them all.'"  "Poor Oscar, they all died.  The oldest lived to be 14 days old, and John - he died first - lived to be five days old."  "It got so bad before my babies died that the sheriff - I forget his name - had to put officers all around the house and not let anybody bother us."  "People were good to us toward the last.  We were poor folks and the doctor said, 'I think that anybody who wants to see these babies ought to pay or donate.' so people began giving something.  It amounted to $500 before people stopped coming."  Until the quintuplets arrived in the home of the Dionnes the Lyon babies had lived longer than any other quintuplets.  Medical histories record only 81 such births.  Lyon was French, Mrs. Lyon was of Dutch and Irish descent. *this story also appeared in Charleston Gazette (front page) 1934 June 12 Tuesday - Charleston, WV
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)

Tuesday, November 26,1935
The El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso, Texas
78 Year Old Mother Tells How Her Brood of Five Arrived Way Back in '96
    Paducah, KY., Nov 26 - In a white, three-room farm-house on the Olmstead Ferry Road, 17 miles north of Paducah, Ky., lives a 78-year old, gray-haired woman who was the wonder of the 19th century - the mother of the Mayfield quintuplets.  Spry, active and adventurously inclined, Mrs. Elizabeth Lyon looked out over the brown, terraced flanks of the fields, and turned back the years to recall her five baby boys, who lived from four to 14 days.  She believes they would have lived if they had had the same medical attention and scientific aid that the Dionne babies have had.  It was nearly 40 years ago, that night of April 29, 1896, that Mrs Lyon became the mother of the Mayfield quintuplets.  This happened years before Mama Elzire and Papa Oliva Dionne were born and the event perplexed the medical profession of the 19th century.  Mrs Lyon and her husband, Oscar Lyon, were living with their six other children on a 30-acre tobacco farm in Graves County, just out of Mayfield, KY.
    Prophetic Vision - Just before the babies came Mrs. Lyon had a dream while sitting before the open fire in her little Kentucky home.  She had to sleep sitting up.  When Mrs Lyon had her dream it was at a time when men worried about the effects of comets on crops, the medical celery compound were accepted and supernatural interpretations were often given to physical phenomena.  "I dreamed I was going to have five or six babies," said Mrs. Lyon as she sat in a rocking chair before the coal stove of her son's modest home.  I even dreamed their names - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul.  The day before they arrived I had a letter from my sister saying she and my brother also had a strange dream about me having a number of babies and asking if I was all right."  Mrs Lyon brushed back the curly gray bobbed hair with her hand and went on.  "That night, I sent Claude - he was my oldest boy - for the doctor.  That was Dr. Mathews.  His initials were S. J.  He lived in Mayfield.  Pretty soon, I heard Dr. Mathews come galloping up on his horse.  He brought his saddle bags in with him."
    Others Worried; She Didn't - "The doctor was worried, but I wasn't.  I had sent for a neighbor, a Mrs. Richardson, a Mrs. Fanny Richardson, but she didn't get there until after the second baby was born.  Dr. Matthews asked me what he was going to do with 'em.  He and Mr. Lyon were scared.  I just laughed at them.  I said, 'Give 'em to me.'  They would rub each baby with olive oil and pass 'em over to me.  I remember it was cold enough to have a fire going in the fireplace.  There were five boys weighing from four to five pounds.  I knew there would be five of 'em.  I wasn't surprised at all."  Mrs. Lyon stopped chewing gum - she still has her own teeth, no store-bought teeth for her - and laughed at the next question.  "Pain?" she smiled.  "No. I didn't have any trouble. The doctor left about midnight.  The babies were born between 9 and 10 o'clock.  I was all right.  Dr. Matthews went back to Mayfield and told 'em all about it.  The next morning the people began to come in to see my babies.  We had their picture made that first day.  We had to borrow enough long dresses to go around, but we put the babies in a rocking chair and pulled it up to the door for the picture.  That's why they all had their eyes shut.  I named them like I dreamed their names, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul - but I was the only one who could tell them apart.  Three had brown hair and dark eyes and two had light hair and blue eyes."  A question about feeding so many babies made Mrs Lyon pinch her lips together.  "My babies starved.  That's one reason they didn't live," declared the 78-year old woman, as she relived those days of 39 years ago.  "My babies starved to death.  We couldn't feed 'em.  A woman came over to help me, but that wasn't enough.  The people sent me all kinds of milk and the druggists sent me bottles, but they wouldn't let me use them.  Nobody thought much of using bottles in those days.  My babies were all fully developed, but they just starved to death - that and the crowds. You never saw the like.  The road from our house to Mayfield would be just black with people.  The railroad would stop the trains, and people would get off and come in to see my babies.  They would nearly smother us.  Even after the deputies came to try to keep some order, the people kept coming.  Some would crawl in the windows.  Dr. Matthews suggested to the people that they might make some kind of a donation to help out.  He said anybody who wanted to see those babies ought to pay or donate.  So people began giving something.  They would put it in a glass jar by the head of the bed.  I saw some of them take out rather than put in.  It amounted to about $600 before people stopped coming."  On May 4, at 3:20 PM, the smallest child died, living four days, 17 hours and 20 minutes;  May 11, at 6:30 AM, the second died, living 11 days, 8 hours and 30 minutes; May 12 at 11:30 PM the third died, living 13 days and 2 hours; May 13 at 2:30 PM the fourth died, living 13 days, 17 hours and 30 minutes, and May 14 at 12:30 PM the fifth died, living 14 days two hours and 30 minutes.  Mrs. Lyon was in bed only eight days.  One of Mrs. Lyon's unfulfilled desires has been to go to Corbell, Ont., to see Mrs Dionne and her five daughters.  Mrs Lyon now has an 87 year old sister, four sons, a daughter, eight grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
* this story also appeared in:
- Indiana Evening Gazette, 1935 November 27 Wednesday - Indiana, PA
- Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1935 November 29 Friday - Ogden, UT
- Daily Globe, 1935 November 29 Friday - Ironwood, MI
- The Port Arthur News, 1935 December 1 Sunday - Port Arthur, TX
- Star, 1935 December 13 Friday - Anniston, AL
- The Olean Times-Herald, 1935 December 16 Monday - Olean, NY
- The Lima News, 1936 January 6 Monday - Lima, OH
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)

Monday, December 2, 1935
Page three of The Port Arthur News, Port Arthur, Texas
    Another gray-haired mother, this one from Port Arthur, has followed the fortunes of the Dionne quintuplets with unusual interest.  Mrs. G. M. Ladner, 210 Sixth, not only remembers the Lyon quintuplets, described in Sunday's News, but saw them the morning following their birth and contributed $5 to their welfare fund.  "They were very tiny," Mrs. Ladner said, "the five together weighing little more than 12 pounds.  My contribution wasn't much compared to some.  The governor of Kentucky came down on a special train, suggested the Biblical names for the boys, and presented them with $100 each."  Mrs. Ladner, who was born in Fulton, Ky., in 1878, was reared in Paducah, near Mayfield, where the boys were born in 1896.  She said the babies had not had much chance to live, as bottle feeding, their only hope, was frowned upon in those days.
    Offer Refused - "A good mother was expected to breast-feed her children then," she said, "whether there were one or a dozen. As the babies died they were embalmed and exhibited in the windows of Guy Nance's undertaking parlor.  Later the family refused a large offer from a promoter who wished to mummify the bodies and show them throughout the country."  Crowds that rushed to see the quintuplets probably contributed to their early death, Mrs. Ladner said, as even Illinois Central trains stopped while crews ran in to see the babies.  There was room for only 10 or so in the house at a time.  Every hurdick, a four-horse drawn vehicle that met trains, was crowded with people bound for the Lyon's home. 
    Born Within Hour - "To me the most remarkable part of the affair is that all five babies were born within an hour," Mrs. Ladner said.  "Now it is remarkable for twins to be born within that time.  I was last in Paducah in 1906, when I buried my parents, and at that time the Lyon family was living well on a farm bought with money contributed and realized from the sale of pictures of the babies."  Mrs. Ladner, whose maiden name was Clara Wilson, is herself the mother of five.  One of these is still living, Carl Wilson, who is a member of the local fire department staff.  "I have mentioned the Lyon quintuplets before," Mrs. Ladner said, "but people simply shook their heads and said the story of the Dionne girls was difficult enough to believe."
(Click HERE to view the actual newspaper image in PDF)

the following text is taken from the National Museum of Health and Medicine website...
    Despite the long and mutually supportive relationship with the Lyon family, others not related to the babies have argued for their return to Kentucky.  Their motive?  Profit.  In 1975, Avery Courtney, president and founder of United Charity of Mayfield, Kentucky, mounted a campaign to have the quintuplets placed in his care.  He took his case to then President Gerald Ford, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the Congress.  Ignoring all documentation, he claimed that Mrs. Lyon never intended for the babies to remain in Washington.  She was, he claimed, poorly educated and not of sound mind, living with the delusion that "she was a miraculous person, perhaps, like the Virgin Mary."  Courtney stated that such a person was unable to make such an important decision as to the final deposition of her children's bodies.  Mr. Courtney claimed that the most suitable place for the quints was Mayfield, under the watch of United Charity, so that the community could "benefit from the bodies.  Washington has had the bodies on display since 1916 and have received many great and important benefits."  The benefit of which Mr. Courtney spoke was "the income from the bodies".
    The request was duly considered by the Museum and their legal counsel.  The decision was made to keep the quintuplets, consistent with the agreement made with Mrs. Lyon and reflective of her wishes.  Although Mr. Courtney may have been correct that some inhabitants of Mayfield could profit from the quintuplets, there seems to be no way to misinterpret Mrs. Lyon's statement that she would "much rather for the Government to have them than any one else."
on the same subject, I found the following in The Army Lawyer, November 1974, page 14
    "Finally, a few days ago, we were requested by the Surgeon General to assist in clarifying the legal status of five mummified children whose remains are on exhibit in the Army Medical Museum.  It appears that in 1896, Mrs. Oscar Lyon gave birth to the first quintuplets to be born in the United States.  They died shortly after birth, and Mrs. Lyon was reluctant to bury them because of fear of grave robbers.  Their remains were embalmed and retained by Mrs. Lyon until 1916, when she sold them to the Army Medical Museum for $100.  After the passage of all these years, a museum in Kentucky, near the birthplace of the Lyon quintuplets, is agitating for the return of these mummies to their native state for purpose of display as a part of the Kentucky Bicentennial Celebration.  I can only hope that the museum in Kentucky will file suit and then I can turn the problem over to Bill Neinast and the Litigation Division."

click the tree to view
the Lyon Family genealogy

The babies story is also told
in the following books:
by Christine Quigley, page 125
by Arthur C Aufderheide, page 84
by Bobbi Ann Mason
(a fictional account based on the true story)
Clear Springs
by Bobbi Ann Mason, chapter one


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