Remembering Livery Pioneer William C. Lyons (1871-1926)

My great grandfather, William C. Lyons, was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1871 and moved to Danvers, Massachusetts in 1890 at the age of 19.

He was a farm hand and used his strong frame to move and deliver very heavy cases for the shoe and leather factories on the North Shore. In 1902, at the age of 31, after seven years of driving a two-horse delivery buggy for the Pettengill & Barry Company in Danvers, Massachusetts, he was involved in a terrible accident with a car traveling at a high rate of speed, causing 6 months of debilitation and his retirement from the demanding physical aspects of the livery business.  He formed a partnership with his long-time colleage in the express business, George W. Curtis.

Curtis & Lyons acquired the established hack, boarding, and livery business of Harvey H. Pillsbury, who had been building high quality carriages, sleighs, and harnesses in Danvers since 1868.   The business, called The Danvers Carriage Exchange also provided the leading livery, hack, and boarding stables in the area.  The phone number for the business was “87-3”.  The partnership dissolved in 1908 and Lyons continued the business. From an obituary article in “The Salem Evening News”, Salem, MA, August 2, 1926:


“Mr. Lyons established an enviable reputation for the high class of this equipage, both carriages and hacks.   His patrons came from the surrounding cities and towns as well as Danvers (Massachusetts).  He was a keen judge of horseflesh and was ever alert to add a good one to his stable.  This ability was the chief secret of his success as a livery man.  In 1911, he expanded the business by purchasing the livery business of Clarence Hilton on Maple Street and leased his stables.  He erected a large barn on the Hilton property, having a capacity of 50 horses.  

The original stable was converted into a carriage house. Then came the great increase in gas-propelled vehicles. Seeing with a clear vision what this meant for the horse, both in pleasure vehicles and in the commercial world, Mr. Lyons began to motorize his equipment.  In 1916, the first limousine was added to the livery stock and gradually motor vehicles supplanted horse-drawn ones until the last horse was sold, and the 50-horse barn was torn down and the capacity of the great garage was doubled.  The first garage was built in 1922. He followed the same progressive policy in his garage that he had in his stable.  He had the largest number of boarders in Danvers and added an ambulance service to his taxi and funeral business.  He was the long-time president of the North Shore Taxi Association.  His “emergency car” was also a familiar sight at the scene of accidents.”

Today, five generations later, Mr. Lyons’ pioneering spirit lives on.  In addition to my son and I operating Dulles Coach Services in the Washington DC metropolitan area, my cousins operate a number of businesses in Danvers today that were originally started by livery pioneer, William C. Lyons,  including the Lyons Ambulance Service and the C. R. Lyons and Sons Funeral Home.