Biography of Prof. Horace Lyman

PROF. HORACE LYMAN, – Few among those who came as missionaries to our state have held a more honored position, or have accomplished more genuine good, than professor Lyman.

He was a new Englander of an old family, whose first American members crossed the ocean from England to Connecticut as early as 1639.His parents were plain farmer folks living at East Hampton, Massachusetts and in that town he was born in 1815. Of his five brothers, two went to college and prepared for the ministry. As a boy and young man, he was ever thoughtful and extra-ordinarily energetic, with a taste for mercantile life; but upon attaining his majority he turned his attention to collegiate study, and upon graduation took up a course in theology. After finishing, he began preaching in Connecticut; but being sought by Rev. G.H. Atkinson, then under appointment as home missionary to Oregon, he consented to become his associate, and in 1849 made the voyage around Cape Horn. He had further prepared himself for this work by a course of medical study at Castleton, Vermont. He was married at that place to Miss Mary Denison, whose father, William Denison, was a man of large influence.

The time of leaving New York was November, 1848; and it was not until the following April that they made port at San Francisco. The old bark Whitton, Captain Ghelston, was the trim vessel in which they came. Notwithstanding the immense excitement in California over the discovery of gold, and the report that Oregon would be depopulated by the rush of its inhabitants to the mines, Mr. Lyman come on to the Columbia the next autumn in the bark Toulon under Captain Hoyt, and after a tedious trip of six weeks reached Portland. This place was then still in its early infancy; and the first winter, very wet and dreary in the woods, was spent in a rude shanty built for a stable. Nevertheless, educational and religious work as at once undertaken, and the Congregational church formed, – the first in the place. The next year saw enlargement; and the fourth year was celebrated by the completion of a church building. Much of the manual labor bestowed upon this structure was performed by Mr. Lyman himself, such as the burning down and up of the immense fir trees on the lot, and the superintendence of construction. In 1854, however, it was determined to seek a new place for pioneer work; and a site in Polk county saw selected near the town of Dallas; and three years were spent there upon a farm. Educational and religious work was not neglected; and a church was organized and a school taught which has since developed into La Creole Academy.

The location, however, from the heavy sea-breezes that came through the hill gaps, was proving unfavorable to the health of his family; and upon invitation of Doctor Marsh he accepted, three years later, a position as Professor of mathematics in Pacific University at Forest Grove. This was an institution established by Reverend Harvey Clark with the essential aid of Doctor Atkinson, and the active co-operation of Reverend E. Walker, A.T. Smith, T.G. Naylor and others. S.H. marsh, who was now made president of the institution, soon left it in the hands of Professor Lyman and went East, and for two years was very successful in soliciting funds, which made the university financially independent, and enabled it to support one of the ablest faculties in the West. During this time Professor Lyman carried on the school with great acceptance, making of it one of the most popular educational institutions in the state. For twenty years thereafter he held a professorship there, filling towards the close of his work the chair of rhetoric and history. His instructions were ever clear and faithful; and he had the rare faculty of kindling the enthusiasm of his students, and stimulating their minds to their best exertions.

During the greater part of his labor in the college, he also carried on religious work, preaching much for the church of Forest Grove and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. For a year he was deputy collector at Astoria, where he also was earnest in church enterprises.

Professor Lyman was essentially a man of culture, of fine feeling, of unselfish aims and great energy. His fidelity to his chosen work was remarkable; and he deliberately let the best of opportunities for acquiring a fortune slip by because he would not withdraw from his proper field the time necessary to attend to them. The memory of his just and generous deeds, however, counts far more than many fortunes. He passed to the other world in February, 1887. His wife preceded him by some twelve years. Their four children, Miss Sarah I., E.D., H.S. and Mrs. Mary F. McCoy, are now in the active affairs of the Northwest.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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