Early Mississippi Territory
Title: Lyman Colony
Submitter:  Ginny English
Notice:  For use with permission by MSGenWeb Archives.   SOURCE PUBLIC DOMAIN MATERIAL: Encyclopedia of Mississippi History;  Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions and Persona; Planned and Edited by Dunbar Rowland, LL.D. Director Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Member American Historical Associations, Vol. II. L-Z 1907
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LYMAN COLONY.  The Company of Military Adventurers, composed of persons
principally from Connecticut, under a mistaken expectation of obtaining a
large grant from the British crown, sent agents in 1773 to West Florida, for
the purpose of exploring the country.  The governor of that province
promised to grant lands to such as should be settlers, on as advantageous
terms as he was authorized to do so, and to reserve till next spring, for
that purpose, nineteen townships, which had been selected and surveyed by
the agents.  A number of emigrants from Connecticut, accordingly removed to
the Mississippi in 1774; the wear prevented the progress of the settlements;
and one hundred and forty of the settlers left the country in 1781, when the
Spanish conquest took place, and traversing the Choctaw and Cherokee
country, reached the inhabited parts of Georgia.  "The claim which is now
set up in the name of the company for the nineteen township has no
foundation.  Such of the settlers as had obtained grants, or have continued
on the lands, will be embraced by the provisions made for other claimants of
a similar description."  (Report of Madison, Gallatin and Lincoln, 1803.)

The moving spirit in this scheme of colonization was GEN. PHINEAS LYMAN, of
Suffield, Conn.  Gen. Lyman was born in Durham, Conn., in 1715, graduated at
Yale University, subsequently practiced law in his native State, and was
major general in command of al the Connecticut troops during the French and
Indian War.  In 1762, he was sent with 2,300 men to assist in the capture of
Havana, and was subsequently placed in command of the entire provincial
force during that unlucky expedition; and at its close, was deputed by the
surviving officers to go to England and receive the part of the prize money
that remained due.  He had been concerned in the formation of the "Company
of Military Adventurers" chiefly composed of those who had served in the
late wars, to obtain from the British government a tract of land on the
Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers.  Unfortunately, soon after his arrival in
England, a change of ministry took place and so many obstacles intervened
that he remained in England until 1772, unwilling to return and admit
failure.  He was at last induced to return by his son, the wreck of his
former self, but not until an order had been passed by the king in council,
authorizing the govern of West Florida to grant lands in that province to
the provincial officers and soldiers, in the same manner and proportion as
given to his majesty's regular troops, viz:  To a field officer, 5,000
acres; to a captain, 2000 acres; to a subaltern or staff officer, 2,000
acres; to a non commissioned officer, 200 acres; and to a private man, 50
acres.  Unfortunately, General Lyman brought no written document to
substantiate the grant, but at a meeting of the Company held in Hartford,
Conn., in 1772, his word was so far credited that the meeting resolved to
explore the lands, and appointed a committee consisting of RUFUS PUTNAM,
PUTNAM, a son of the Colonel, and a hired man, for that purpose.  On their
way to the Mississippi, they interviewed Gov. Chester and his council, but
were informed that no order for granting lands to the Provincials had yet
arrived.  However, in the hope that it might yet arrive, and it being
proposed to grant lands to the company on terms already within the
governor's power, they decided to proceed and make surveys.  RUFUS PUTNAM,
in later years the pioneer of Ohio, was commissioned by Gov. Chester, as a
deputy surveyor of the province of West Florida.  In the course of their
explorations they ascended the Yazoo river some nine miles, but were later
informed by CAPT. GEORGE, a Chickasaw chief, that at a congress of his
people, it had been decided that no whites should settle on the Yazoo, but
that they might do so on the Big Black, but not higher up on the
Mississippi.  They made a survey of lands on the Big Black, and ascended it
some 25 miles by boat, to a rocky rapid, which was deemed an excellent mill
seat.  They found here plenty of fine rich land on the left bank of the
river, hilly, but watered with several springs.

THOS. HUTCHINS, in his Narrative of Louisiana and West Florida, published in
1784, speaking of the Lyman Colony, says:  "At six miles further the high
lands are near the river on both sides, and continue for two or three miles,
but broken and full of springs.  This land on the left was chosen by GEN.
PUTNAM, CAPTAIN ENOS, MR. LYMAN and other New England adventurers, as a
proper place for at own; and by order of the governor and council of West
Florida in 1773, it was reserved for the capitol.  The country around is
very fit for settlements."

In his description of the regions explored on the left bank of the
Mississippi from the Yazoo to Manchac, Mr. Putnam states that he saw but a
few small streams of water, and none suitable for mills; that the only
mill-seat he saw or heard of was on the Big Black.  As a result of this
exploration, says Mr. Putnam, "So favorable was the report of the committee,
as to the quality of the land, climate, etc., and moderate terms on which
the governor and council had engaged to grant them, that at a meeting of the
military land company in the fall of 1773, at Hartford, they resolved to
prosecute the settlement; and during that autumn, winter, and spring
following, several hundred families embarked from Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and other places, for the purpose of settling on the lands we
had explored.  But they were sadly disappointed.  On the 6th of October of
that year, Gov. Chester received an order from the king in council,
prohibiting him from granting any more lands, either on family rights, or on
purchase, until the king's pleasure be further signified to him.  Thus the
land office was shut before the emigrants arrived, an indeed I believe
before any of them sailed, and never opened afterwards."  While the
Provincials were much disappointed, they were permitted to occupy any vacant
lands they could find.  Says Hildreth, "the emigrants of 1774 arrived
generally so late in the season, that many of them sickened and died in this
new climate, and the war which soon followed, put a stop to any further
attempts to prosecute the settlement."

In the instructions to Mr. Putnam as deputy surveyor, the surveyor general
of West Florida, ELIAS DUNFORD, required notices of important places on the
river for landings, wharves, towns, etc.  The townships were in no case to
exceed in width one third their lengths, in order not to occupy too much
space on the river bank.  The whole grant from Gov. Chester embraced
nineteen of these townships, intended to contain about 20,000 acres each,
making the whole grant amount to 380,000 acres.  The cost to the company was
simply the fees of the officers of the government amounting to five pounds
sterling, or $18.20 for every thousand acres.

One member of the company, CAPT. MICHAEL MARTYN, settled 45 miles up the
river Amite, in August 1774.  He wrote that his family had been sick, but he
was pleased with the country.

General Lyman, accompanied by his eldest son and a number of the other
members of the company, and their families moved on to the Big Black River
in the surveyed territory in 1774.  It was his intention to get his
plantation in shape for the reception of his family, who were to follow him
later.  However when Mrs. Lyman and five more of his children arrived in
1776, she found both husband and son dead.  She did not long survive him and
died in 1777.

CAPTAIN MATTHEW PHELPS in his "Memoirs" states that the following were
fellow voyagers on his two trips to the Mississippi country:  In 1773 -. . .

 "Thaddeus and Phineas Lyman with eight slaves, these were from Suffield, as
were likewise Moses and Isaac SHELDON, ROGER HARMON, and one HANCKS; SETH
WINCHEL, and BENJAMIN BARBER of Westfield;  MR. WOLCOTT, from Winsor; DANIEL
Hartford;  CAPT. SILAS CRANE, ROBERT PATRICK, ASHBEL BOWEN, JOHN NEWCOME, and JAMES DEAN of Lebanon; ABRAHAM KNAP of Norfolk; GILES, NATHANIEL HULL, JAMES STODDERT, and THADDEUS BRADLEY of Salisbury; EPHRAIM CASE and HEZEKIAH REN from Sheffield; JOHN FISK and ELISHA HALE of Wallingford; TIMOTHY HOTCHKISS and DAVID HOTCHKISS of Waterbury; JOHN HYDE, WILLIAM SILKRAG, JONATHAN LYON, and WILLIAM DAVIS of Strafford or Derby.  We sailed in the Gulf of Mexico, in company with a vessel from Connecticut, commanded by
CAPTAIN WEST GOODRICH of Durham, on board of which were CAPT LADLEY of
Hartford, since dead; GENERAL LYMAN of Suffield, dead; HUGH WHITE from
Middletown;  THOMAS and JAMES LYMAN; CAPT. ELSWORTH, IRA WHITMORE, and _____ SAGE, from Middletown and MAJOR EARLY of Weathersfield.  In a vessel that
followed us the October following my sailing on my first voyage, there went
to the same place JAMES HARMON and family, and ELNATHAN SMITH, of Suffield,
WILLIAM HURLBURT and ELIJAH LEONARD, of Springfield, with a number of
slaves.  On my second voyage,  sailed in a vessel commanded by CAPT.
EGGLESTON, with whom went passengers MAJOR TIMOTHY DWIGHT with a wife and
one child; SERENO and JONATHAN DWIGHT of Northampton; BENJAMIN DAY, and
with their families, from Springfield; REV. MR. SMITH and family, from
Granville, Mass.; the WIFE OF ELNATHAN SMITH and family, who on her arrival
found her husband was dead;  MADAM LYMAN with three sons and two daughters,
children of GENERAL LYMAN, whom with one son she found dead on her arrival,
the knowledge of whose death she survived but a few days; and JOHN FELT and
family, from Suffield.  There are several others who accompanied me in my
two voyages, whose memories I shall ever respect, although their names have
escaped m y recollection."

In the "History of the Mississippi Valley" by Spears and Clark (1903) it is
stated . . .

"In 1773 General Lyman of Connecticut, and some military friends, laid out
several additions to the old French settlement at Natchez, and to that point
no less than 400 families emigrated during the year named, passing down the
Ohio in flat boats, while an unrecorded host travelled by way of Boatyard,
Sullivan County, Tenn."

Among the old land grants of this period, which can still be found among the
files of the land office for the Natchez District, is one of 20,000 acres,
on Bayou Pierre to Thaddeus Lyman, dated October 27, 1772.

The colonists erected a mill at the falls on the Big Black and planned to
ship lumber to New Orleans.  This prospect was blasted, however, by the
Spanish prohibition of that trade soon after.

In the year 1802, the survivors of the colony, about one hundred in number,
reorganized themselves, and petitioned congress for a confirmation of their
old grants, but it does not appear that anything was done for them.  Thus
ended this famous land venture, which caused a good deal of excitement in
New England at the time.