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Lyman Family Papers

Identifier: MS-31

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection is comprised of correspondence between member of the Lyman family and their friends between the years of 1846 to 1883. The papers appear to have come to Pacific University via the estate of the elder Reverend Horace Lyman; nearly all the material is addressed either to him or his immediate family members. Many of the personal letters demonstrate the efforts by various family members in Vermont, Massachusetts and Michigan to stay in touch with their far-off relatives in the Oregon territory. Some of them also illuminate what living conditions were like in Oregon during the mid-nineteenth century. One notable letter from an unidentified woman in Salem comments on race relations between black and white community members during the Civil War. Other letters testify to the difficulties in securing work and funding for educational and missionary activities on the frontier. Some aspects of student and faculty life at Pacific University in the 1860s-1880s are likewise apparent in the letters. In addition to the letters, the collection also includes several printed ephemeral items and photographs of family members.


  • 1846-1883


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Pacific University owns the copyright to some, but not all, of the materials housed in its archives. Copyright for materials authored or otherwise produced as official business of Pacific University is retained by Pacific University and requires its permission for publication. Copyright status for other collection materials varies. 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.

Biographical Note

The Lymans were a family of early Oregon settlers who were active in missionary, educational and literary activities. The elder Reverend Horace Lyman was born in 1815 in East Hampton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Williams College and obtained a graduate degree from Andover Theological Seminary in 1846. He left for the West Coast under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society. Together with his wife, Mary Denison of Vermont, he made the long journey to San Francisco by ship. After spending about one year teaching in San Jose, California, fellow Congregationalist missionary George Atkinson invited him to Oregon. The Lymans arrived in Portland in 1849, founding the city's First Congregational Church there. Horace Lyman served as the church's first pastor, and also founded another church and school near Dallas, Oregon. In 1857, the Lymans moved to the town of Forest Grove on the invitation of Sidney H. Marsh, who was the president of Pacific University. Reverend Lyman taught ancient history, mathematics, English literature and rhetoric there for about twenty years. Mary Denison Lyman died in 1874, and Reverend Lyman followed her in 1887.

Horace and Mary Denison had several children. William Denison Lyman, was born in 1852. He graduated from Pacific University in 1873 and taught there from 1877-1887. He later became a professor at Whitman College and published several books. The bulk of William Denison Lyman's papers are preserved at Whitman College.

Another son, Horace Sumner Lyman was born on December 18, 1855. A childhood malady required him to use crutches throughout his life. After graduating from Pacific University in 1878 with a classical education, Horace S. Lyman went to study at Oberlin College, and then returned to Portland, Oregon. He worked as a pastor, an author, and an educator. Among his writings were the four-volume "History of Oregon" and portions of "The History of Oregon and its Indian Wars." He was a newspaper editor in Portland from 1885-1889. After 1889, he lived on a farm in Clatsop County and served as its superintendent of schools. He died after a short illness on December 22, 1904. Additional papers of Horace Sumner Lyman can be found in the Denver Public Library Archives.

The Lymans had two other recorded children: Sarah, born about 1851; and Mary Frances, born about 1858. Sarah appears not to have married and her occupation is unknown. Mary Frances graduated from Pacific University in 1878 and married, becoming Mary Frances McCoy.


1 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The Lymans were a family of early Oregon settlers who were active in missionary, educational and literary activities. The bulk of the collection is comprised of correspondence between member of the Lyman family and their friends between the years of 1846 to 1883.


No accruals are expected.


Guide to the Lyman Family Papers
Jessie Sweeney
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Sponsored by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Repository Details

Part of the Pacific University Archives Repository

2043 College Way
Forest Grove OR 97116 United States