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Lyman Family papers

Call Number: MS 337

Scope and Contents

The Lyman Family Papers consist of correspondence, diaries, writings, account books, law practice records, memorabilia, and miscellaneous papers of Joseph B. Lyman plus correspondence and miscellaneous papers of other members of the Timothy and Experience (Bardwell) Lyman family.

The correspondence, consisting mainly of exchanges between members of the family, contains much religious and philosophical material and many comments about schooling and careers in various parts of the United States. The vast majority of letters are by Joseph B. Lyman, spanning from the mid-1840s until his death in 1872 and covering these aspects, among others, of his career and personal life: his schooling at Williston Seminary and Yale College; his friendship with Emily Dickinson, her brother Austin, and her sister Lavinia;¹ his teaching in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Indiana; his law training and practice in New Orleans; his service in the Civil War (including an account of the Battle of Shiloh); and his postwar career in agricultural journalism. Most of the remaining letters were written between the mid-1830s and the mid-1850s by other members of the family-principally Joseph's brothers, Washington, Timothy, and Edward; his sister, Louisa (Lyman) Reed, and her children; and Laura Baker, who became his wife. Washington Lyman's letters are from Kentucky, Tennessee, and other places in the South; Edward's, from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin; Timothy's, from Andover Theological Seminary, Princeton, and Fort Madison, Iowa; the Reeds', from Massachusetts and Iowa. Laura Baker's letters-to her parents in Ipswich, Mass., and Later to Joseph B. Lyman-describe her experiences as a teacher in Natchez and Nashville in the 1850s. The non-family correspondence consists mainly of letters to Joseph B. Lyman from friends and school and business associates.

¹Excerpts were edited by Richard S. Sewall and published in the Massachusetts Review in 1965.

The Lyman Family papers were placed on deposit by Joseph Lyman, Jr., in 1961, and donated to the Library in 1967. Three unidentified daguerrotypes have been transferred to the Historical Picture Collection.


  • 1803-1886


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Joseph B. Lyman III, 1967.


5 Linear Feet (12 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The principal figure in these papers is Joseph Bardwell Lyman, a lawyer and journalist. The papers include his correspondence, diaries, business papers, account books, court books, and articles written between 1858-1865. His student career is documented with papers written while at Yale College (1845-1850) and at the University of Louisiana Law School. As a distant relative of the Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts, he corresponded with Emily Dickinson, her brother, Austin, and her sister, Lavinia. One letter from Austin Dickinson is in the papers. Emily Dickinson and Lavinia are represented by "snatches" from their letters copied out by Lyman. Also in the papers is a two-year series of engagement letters written to Laura E. Baker between 1856 and 1858 when they were married. Other letters describe army life during the Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh, 1862, and Lyman's interest in journalism and agriculture. Laura Baker Lyman is represented in the papers by a journal and miscellaneous papers.

Biographical / Historical

*JOSEPH BARDWELL LYMAN (Northampton, Mass.), son of Timothy Lyman and Experience (Bardwell), was born in Chester, Hampden Co., Mass., Oct. 6, 1829. For three years after graduation he was engaged in teaching, first in Cromwell, Conn., and afterward in Mississippi. In June, 1853, he went to Nashville, Tenn., where he remained till Jan. 1855, studying law. He then went to Louisiana, studied civil law in the New Orleans Law School, graduated with the valedictory in 1856, was admitted to the bar in April of that year, and continued to reside in New Orleans practicing law till the breaking out of the war. He was in the Confederate army eighteen months; being chiefly engaged in commissary and hospital service. In Sept. 1863, he came north and joined his family in Boston, they having gone thither by sea a year previous. For a year he resided at Easthampton, Mass., trying to earn an honest living by the work of his hands, painting houses, and working in the corn and tobacco fields, his southern sympathies rendering it impossible, however, for him to secure regular employment. In Feb. 1864, he removed to New York City and engaged in journalism with immediate and gratifying success. From 1867 to 1869 he was agricultural editor of the "N. Y. World," and for several months managing editor of "Hearth and Home," and about Jan. 1869, was called to edit the agricultural department of the "N. Y. Tribune," where he continued till his death from small pox, Jan. 28, 1872. During these years he wrote "Women of the War," "Resources of the Pacific States," and, assisted by his wife," The Philosophy of Housekeeping."

His classmates will surely be glad to see in full, and, will read with a sad interest Lyman's cheerful letter, written from the "Tribune" office, July 16, 1870, to those of us who met four days later for our twentieth anniversary:

" My dear Classmates:- I will be with you in hope and in spirit on the 20th, and I had planned for months to stand with you all and touch your hands after two decades. But a party of journalists have requested me to go with them across the continent, and while you are sitting there on the grass I will be whirling up the valley of the North Platte, or loitering on the margin of Salt Lake. The record thus written for you is far dimmer than the vital report of man to man, as eyes give their swift verdicts, and we note in gait and port, in wrinkle or in beard the stamp of twenty years.

"Three summers after we were graduated I read Black-stone, and Kent, and Greenleaf, and five years after those diplomas I received a certificate from the Supreme Court of Louisiana of my fitness to plead before it. From '56 to '61 I was in practice in the courts of that State and liked it. I proposed a summer home in the picturesque mountains near Chattanooga, and tasks and enterprises there-

"Where the rose, in crimson glory

Blossoms all the winter time."


"The best laid plans of mice and men

Gang aft aglee."

"The war broke over me as a sea; it quenched hopes, thwarted plans, destroyed securities, and made engagements nugatory. My land became a useless spread of earth; my fees went where the woodbine twineth. In Feb. 1865, I set foot in Broadway. That day on the bulletin board of this paper stood the words, "Conference at Fortress Monroe, without results." In a day or two there appeared a leader in the "Times" on the situation. It was from my pen. Thus introduced, I entered on newspaper, work, and have been in it ever since. I like it so well that the salary of Chief Justice Chase would not draw me back to the hazards and harrassments of the courts. In 1858 I married. No step of life has been so important, and none with me has been so fortunate. It opened a gateway into a merry land where the bells are ringing and the birds are singing all the day long. Of little Lymans there are five; three are boys. My home is on a farm near Trenton, my work here, where the feet of those I write for echo round me evermore.

"My twenty years of knock and scuffle have pounded three or four ideas into me. Perhaps you have been hammered into the same convictions; it so, you will agree with me; 1st. That in American society, all a brave spirit asks of fortune, is to let ability have opportunity. 2d. That in winning success no counsel is to be held with flesh and blood: He wins who can do two days' work in one, and who is trying to see how much, not how little work he can do. 3d. Yet I have learned to contemn the gilded, phantoms for which I see men racing. I am never sick, I am wholly content with the opportunity before me, and my home after labors is as blessed as I hope Heaven may be after death."

Many notices of his death appeared in the public prints, of which we quote the following: "We mourn in him a most amiable, able and faithful associate, and all the friends of enlightened and progressive agriculture will find his loss an irreparable one. He was a devoted Christian, always foremost in all good works in his neighborhood, and his unobtrusive charity was limited only by his means. It will be well for us all, if when the summons of death comes, it finds us with a record made up of so little harm and so much good done, as was that of this modest and faithful workingman."

He was married at Nashville, Tenn., July 14, 1858, to Miss Laura E. Baker, daughter of Rev. Charles Baker, of Somerville, Mass., and left six children surviving him: (I) Alexander S., born April 8, 1860; (2) Charles W., born Nov. 5, 1861; (3) Laura E., born Dec. 24, 1866; (4) Carrie F, born Aug. 28, 1868; (5) Joseph B. Jr., born Jan. 4, 1870; (6) Clarence A., born April 12, 1871. Mrs. Lyman is living with her children at Richmond Hill, L. I.

Biographical Record of the Class of 1850 of Yale College, pp. 47-50.

For a register outlining the genealogical relations of the Lyman family, please consult theFamily Register.

Guide to the Lyman Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Manuscripts and Archives Staff
April 1984
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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