A Little Local History
The Bush-Lyon Homestead
By Paul Hicks
Among the most notable of the early settlers in this area were descendants of Thomas Lyon, who became a landowner in Stamford as early as 1650. He later moved to a homestead in the Byram section of Greenwich, which still stands on the Post Road, just over the state line.
His eldest son, Thomas, inherited the Byram property, while another son, Joseph, settled in Rye, where he operated a grist mill on Blind Brook in the early 1700s. A grandson of the patriarch (also named Thomas) inherited a large farm property that fronted on King Street in present-day Port Chester.
The property was later purchased by Justus Bush, a wealthy merchant from New York City who became a farmer and eventually moved to the Town of Rye. This land extended from King Street down to the Byram River. In 1750, Justus Bush gave this land to his son, Abraham Bush, who married Ruth Lyon, thus explaining the joint family names on the homestead.
Part of that historic site has been preserved and remains today as the Bush-Lyon Homestead. It is located at 479 King Street within Lyon Park and is maintained and operated by the Village of Port Chester, which acquired it in 1925. One of a few remaining pre-revolutionary homes in Westchester County, the homestead was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
It is widely believed that the original home was used by General Israel Putnam as his headquarters at various times during the Revolutionary War. A hero of Bunker Hill, he was known to have visited the home many times, and some of his effects are at the homestead, which was rebuilt shortly after the Revolutionary War. In 1790, the year of the first U.S. census, there were 123 slaves in the Town of Rye (out of a total population of nearly 1,000), including two who were owned by Abraham Bush. Among the out buildings at the homestead is one that is believed to have been the slave quarters.
For a number of years, The Port Chester Historical Society opened the Bush-Lyon Homestead and its memorabilia to visitors on a regular schedule. When the Society ceased to operate in the late 1990s, it led to the eventual shuttering of the Homestead.
However, the celebration of Port Chester’s Sesquicentennial in 2018 created a renewed interest in the history of the village. A Port Chester Girl Scout, Molly Brakewood, who was completing her Gold Award Project, spearheaded the brief re-opening of the Bush-Lyon Homestead. Among her achievements was the production of a very professional video describing the history, architecture, and contents of the Homestead, which is posted on the village’s website: (https://sites.google.com/view/bush-lyon-homestead/home).
According to the Jay Heritage Center website, the Slave Dwelling Project is coming to the historic Jay Estate in Rye on June 9. The Slave Dwelling Project has visited over 90 sites in 18 states where its founder, Joseph McGill, gives presentations to the public and sleeps in historical slave quarters to highlight the experiences of his enslaved ancestors.
Another daytime stop on Mr. McGill’s itinerary will be the slave quarters at the Bush-Lyon Homestead, which is being considered as a potential addition to Westchester County’s African-American Heritage Trail. The newly reconstituted Port Chester Historical Society is researching the individuals who are believed to have been enslaved by the Bush and Lyon family and housed in a small red-shingled building that still stands today.