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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Asahel P. Lyman

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 454 - 455

Asahel P. Lyman is one of the pioneer settlers of Sheboygan County, and has been one of the most prominent business men in its history. For forty-seven years he has been a resident of the Chair City, and during most of that time has been actively engaged in various enterprises.

The genealogy of the Lyman family traces its origin back to the Saxon kings and to Emperor Charlemagne. Richard Lyman, the progenitor of the family in America, was baptized at High Ongar, Essex County, England, in October, 1580, and on the 4th of November, 1631, landed in Boston. From this sturdy Englishman, Harriet and Almira Clapp McKnight are removed seven generations. Richard Lyman died in August, 1640. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Sarah Osborne, died in January, 1642, at Hartford, Conn. It is recorded in the early history of the Lyman family that they were engaged in mercantile life and were men of pronounced integrity and acumen.

Mr. Lyman, the subject of this biography, traces his lineage direct to England, though his immediate ancestors came of good New England stock. He was born in the town of Brookfield, Madison County, N. Y., January 23, 1814. His father, who also bore the name of Asahel, was a native of Massachusetts, and at Blandford, the same State, married Dolly Blair, who was also born in Massachusetts. Some time after marriage, the young couple moved to Madison County, N. Y., where the father engaged in merchandising and farming. About 1816, he emigrated to Cortland County, of that State, and was engaged in mercantile pursuits until he sold the business to his sons. Both he and wife spent their last days in Cortland County, his death occurring in 1846. Their family consisted of five children, of whom two, Franklin and Henry, are deceased. The living are as follows: Dolly Ann, widow of C. North, who resides in Minneapolis, Minn., aged eighty-three years; Asahel P.; and George N., who also resides in Minneapolis.

Young Asahel had very poor opportunities for schooling; always healthy and ever ready to attend to anything in the line of business, he was kept from his studies much of the time. When only fourteen years of age, he began to assist in his father's store, and eight years later, in company with his brother George, bought his father's business. In 1845, George came to Sheboygan Falls and opened a store. The following year, the subject of this article, leaving his business in the East in the hands of another, joined his brother in Sheboygan County. They did an extensive business, establishing branch stores at Fond du Lac, Calumet, Berlin and Sheboygan. In the last place business was begun in 1846. They first rented a small storeroom, but in 1847 erected a storehouse at No. 721 Pennsylvania Avenue. A. P. Lyman received the goods at Sheboygan, and from there distributed them to the branch houses. Those were busy days for him, as he often worked till late at night and sometimes all night. At first they received cash for their goods, as nearly all the settlers brought some money with them, but when, that was gone barter became the method of business transactions. In exchange for goods, Mr. Lyman received nearly everything that had a market value; hoops, staves, wood, lumber, black salts, etc. There was no harbor at Sheboygan, and only small boats could come into the river. On one occasion Mr. Lyman purchased a boatload of grain, which he wished to unload at his warehouse, on the alley south of Pennsylvania Avenue, while the wind was favorable. All night long he pulled at the tackle-block, lifting the grain from the wagons in bags to the warehouse. The job completed, he was on the second floor, when all at once something seemed to be giving way. Before he had time to escape, man, corn and all were precipitated to the first floor, which in turn gave way, the entire mass going into the cellar. Mr. Lyman found himself held down by a large joist and covered with several feet of shelled corn. By hallooing, his location was made known, and the work of rescue was begun. He was soon relieved, but narrowly escaped suffocation.

Mr. Lyman built a number of vessels to sail the Lakes, and notwithstanding that they were a source of large revenue, they buried an immense fortune for him in the Lakes. He first constructed the "Morning Star," which on its first trip went to the bottom, heavily laden with wheat. He also built the "Sea North" and the schooner "Monitor." Having decided to discontinue merchandising, he put his means largely into vessel business, and built the "Express," "Black Hawk," "Magnolia," "Len Higby," rebuilt the "Dickerson," and also built the brig "Homer" and the "Cortland," which had a capacity for carrying fifty thousand bushels of corn each. The first season, the "Cortland" collided with one of Ward's steamers from Detroit, the former being loaded with iron ore, and the latter, "with some two hundred passengers. The steamer sank immediately and nearly all on board were lost. The "Cortland" floated until morning, when she too sank. Her captain and most of his crew were rescued. Mr. Lyman continued in the vessel business until it became unprofitable, by reason of competition with railroad service.

Our subject has lent a helping hand to various public enterprises. He gave liberally toward building the Fond du Lac plank road, and when its construction was suspended, for want of means, he furnished money and provisions for the laborers. He has also assisted in building the railroads that run into Sheboygan, and has given to churches and other charities. During a long business career he has met with successes and reverses. He is now living in retirement, enjoying a well-earned rest. Though seventy-nine years of age, he is quite active in body and mind. His state of preservation is doubtless due to abstinence from the use of tobacco and intoxicants.

In the days of Whigs and Democrats, Mr. Lyman identified himself with the former, and since the dissolution of the Whig party has affiliated with the Republicans, though he seldom casts a straight party vote.

In Otsego County, N. Y., he was married, October 25, 1837, to Miss Cynthia Higby, who was born in that county November 13, 1817. They had one child, Sylvester B., who was born in Cortland County, N. Y., and educated in Sheboygan. He married Alice Higby, of Milwaukee, and died May 3, 1878, leaving a wife and one child, Grace T. On the 21st of January, 1889, Mr. Lyman was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife. She was a consistent Christian woman, holding membership with the Congregational Church at Sheboygan, Wis.

Mr. Lyman is one of the landmarks of this county, and throughout this part of the State few names are more familiar to the people in general than his.


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