Lyman Wiswell Gilmore
Inventor, eccentric, and aviation pioneer. Lyman’s first attempts at flight were with gliders he had designed. He was awarded in 1902 – a year before the Wright brothers announced their aviation success - a U. S. patent for a steam engine to be used in aerial vehicles. Lyman asserted that in 1902 he had built and actually flown a monoplane with a 32-foot wing span, powered by his patented steam engine. Lyman continued to experiment with aviation throughout his life, and later boasted that he was the first to fly.
It was around Iowa Hill, west of Grass Valley, that he worked on most of his aviation inventions. Lyman opened the first commercial airfield in Grass Valley in 1907. It was here that he built hangars and planes for his airship company. After WWI, Lyman invited famous aviators to perform in staged flying exhibitions at his airfield, demonstrating thrilling and exciting maneuvers for amazed crowds of onlookers.
Unfortunately, in 1935 a disastrous fire occurred when a vagabond cooking a meal accidentally set fire to the hangars. Lyman’s early model planes were lost along with all of his records and other aviation proofs and claims. The loss of Lyman’s hangars and planes, and the secrecy in which he performed many of his experiments left speculation about some of the claims he made.
Lyman wore shoulder length hair until his death in 1951. Many years before, he vowed in an election bet to never cut his hair until William Jennings Bryan became President.
Buried in Pine Grove Cemetery – Nevada City, California