The Lyman Colony


Phineas Lyman, a major general in the French Canadian war, was one of the first of the Anglo Saxon race who attempted a settlement in the present limits of Mississippi. He was a native of Durham, Conn., a graduate of Yale College, a distinguished lawyer, and became commander of the Connecticut forces in 1755.


He visited England as the agent for an association, called the "Military Adventurers," whose design was the colonization of a tract of country upon the Mississippi. After sustaining a series of mortifications and delays from those in power, for more than ten years, the grant upon the Mississippi was made, and he returned home in 1773.


In Dec., 1773, Gen. Lyman sailed from New England, in two vessels, for New Orleans, accompanied by the following emigrants: Daniel and Roswell Malquet and Capt. Ladley, of Hartford; Thomas and James Lyman, of Durham; Hugh White, Capt. Ellsworth, Ira Whitmore, and --- Sage, of Middletown; Thaddeus and Phineas Lyman, James Harman and family,--- Moses, Isaac Sheldon, Roger Harmon, Hanks, Elnathan Smith, and eight slaves, from Suffield; Thomas Comstock, Weed, of New Hartford; Capt. Silas Crane, Robert Patrick, Ashbel Bowen, John Newcomb, and James Dean, of Lebanon; Abram Knapp, and Capt. Matthew Phelps, of Norfolk; Giles and Nathaniel Hull, James Stoddart, and Thaddeus Bradley, of Salisbury; Maj. Easley, of Weathersfield; John Fisk, and Elisha Hale, Wallingford, Timothy and David Hotchkiss, Waterbury; John Hyde, William and Jonathan Lyon, and William Davis, of Stratford or Derby; --- Alcott of Windsor. All these were from Connecticut.

The following were from Massachusetts: Moses Drake, Ruggles Winchel, and Benjamin Barber, of Westfield; Seth Miller, Elisha and Joseph Flowers, William Hurlbut, and Elisha Leonard with a number of slaves, of Springfield.

Gen. Lyman and his company arrived at New Orleans in 1774, and after a laborious passage up the Mississippi, reached the Big Black River, in the "Nachez Country," as it was called. Here he settled his grant, but was too old to cultivate it. In a short time he and his son died. Capt. Phelps returned to Connecticut, (page 594) and, by his representations of the fertility of the new country, induced many of the citizens to return with him.

After some delay, he sailed from Middletown in 1776. Among the emigrants were Madame Lyman, the widow of the late general, with three sons and two daughters, Maj. Timothy, Sereno, and Jonathan Dwight, of Northampton; Benjamin Day and family, Harry Dwight and three slaves, Joseph Leonard and Joshua Flowers, with their families, from Springfield; Rev. Mr. Smith and his family, from Granville, Mass.; Mrs. Elnathan Smith and children, John Felt, with his family, Capt. Phelps and family, from Suffield, and many others.

After a voyage of three months, they reached New Orleans on the 1st of August. Here, having obtained boats, they proceeded up the Mississippi. Capt. Phelps and all his children becoming prostrated by disease, his boat was tied to the willows, while the others continued the voyage.- The boat containing the Lymans and the Rev. Mr. Smith reached Natchez. Mr. Smith and Maj. Dwight died in a short time. Those of the party who were left arrived at the Big Black and the improvements made by Gen. Lyman. Here Madame Lyman soon died, and was buried by the side of her husband. Capt. Phelps remained in his boat, which was anchored fifteen miles above Point Coupee, where his son and daughter died and he was compelled to bury them with his own hands: his wife soon after died, and he was left alone with two little children. These were subsequently drowned as he came in sight of the mouth of the Big Black River.

The remaining members of the Lyman family continued in the country until it was invaded by the Spaniards in 1781-82. With a number of their friends, they planted themselves in the neighborhood of Natchez. Being British subjects, and having everything to fear from the Spaniards, they determined to flee through the wilderness to Savannah, the nearest British post. The mother country and her colonies being at war, rendered a direct course to Savannah too perilous to be hazarded. To avoid danger they were compelled to take a very circuitous route, wandering, according to their reckoning, nearly fourteen hundred miles. Their journeyings occupied one hundred and forty-nine days.


The caravan was numerous, including men, women and children, with some at the breast. They were mounted on horseback, but the ruggedness of the ground obliged such as were able to walk, to make a great part of their way on foot. They were in constant apprehensions from hostile Indians. Often they suffered from extreme thirst and hunger.

The first Indian town they ventured to approach was on the "Hickory ground"-the site of Wetumpka, Ala. Supposing the company were Whigs, and enemies to King George, their "Great Father," the Creeks appear to have determined to put them to death. But, by the cunning and address of Paro, the black servant of McGillivray, the Creek chief, who understood the English language, they escaped. The Indians told Paro that, if they were Englishmen,  “they could make the paper talk,” i.e. they must have kept a journal. Paro took the hint, and as they had kept none, he told them any piece of paper that had writing upon it would serve the purpose. An old letter was produced, from which one of the company pretended to read the adventures of the company since they left Natchez. This was interpreted to the Indians by Paro, sentence by sentence. As the recital went on, their countenances began to relax, and before the reading was finished, their ferocity was succeeded by friendship, and all the wants of the wanderers kindly supplied. (page 595)

By John Warner Barber, All the Western States and Territories, from the Alleghanies to the Pacific, and from the Lakes to the Gulf, Containing Their History from the Earliest Times, published in 1867, Making of America, U of Michigan.

My note:  In “Claiborne County Mississippi: The Promised Land,” by Katy McCaleb Headley, pages 8-15 deal with this grant and its people. She states that “though Thaddeus Lyman himself and most of his colonist became disheartened and moved, some fixed themselves in the neighborhood of Grand Gulf, thus making that settlement one of the oldest in this region.”

Submitted by Sue B. Moore