Beecher Lyman

Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), 3rd cousin 7x removed

Rev. Lyman Beecher, photo by Mathew Brady about 1860 (Library of Congress)

Lyman Beecher was a Presbyterian minister, American Temperance Society co-founder and leader and the father of 13 children, many of whom were noted leaders, including Harriet Beecher Stowe[1], Henry Ward Beecher[2], Charles Beecher[3], Edward Beecher[4], Isabella Beecher Hooker[5], Catharine Beecher[6], and Thomas K. Beecher (all our 4th cousins 6x removed).  He is credited as a leader of the “Second Great Awakening[7]” of the United States.  Beecher gained popular recognition in 1806 after giving a sermon concerning the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.  He moved to Litchfield, Connecticut in 1810, as minister to the town’s Congregational Church, where he started to preach Calvinism.  He purchased the home built by Elijah Wadsworth and reared a large family there.  He was later called to Boston’s Hanover Church, where he began preaching against Unitarianism, which was then sweeping the area.  In 1832, Beecher became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati (today, this congregation is Covenant First Presbyterian Church), and the first president of Lane Theological Seminary, where his mission was to train ministers to win the West for Protestantism.  Beecher’s term at the school came at a time when a number of burning issues, particularly slavery, threatened to divide the Presbyterian Church, the state of Ohio, and the nation.

Oberlin College, founded in 1833, was the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female (1837) and black students (1835) in addition to white men. (photo credit: Tor Hylbom, May 2014)

Oberlin College, founded in 1833, was the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female (1837) and black students (1835) in addition to white men. (photo credit: Tor Hylbom, May 2014)

In 1834, students at the school debated the slavery issue for 18 consecutive nights and many of them chose to adopt the cause of abolitionism.  When Beecher opposed their “radical” position and refused to offer classes to African-Americans, a group of about 50 students (who became known as the “Lane Rebels”) left the Seminary for Oberlin College.  The events sparked a growing national discussion of abolition that contributed to the beginning of the Civil War.  Beecher was also notorious for his anti-Catholicism and authored the nativist tract “A Plea for the West.”  His sermon on this subject at Boston in 1834 was followed shortly by the burning of the Catholic Ursuline sisters convent there.  Although earlier in his career he had opposed them, Beecher stoked controversy by advocating “new measures” of evangelism that ran counter to traditional Calvinist understanding.  These new measures were an outworking of the practice of evangelist Charles Finney, and for the time brought turmoil to churches all across America. Fellow pastor, Joshua Lacy Wilson, pastor of First Presbyterian (now, also a part of the Covenant First Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati) charged Beecher with heresy.  Even though Beecher was exonerated by the Presbyterian church, he eventually resigned his post in Cincinnati and went back East to live with his son Henry in Brooklyn, New York in 1850.  After spending the last years of his life with his children, he died in Brooklyn and was buried at Grove Street Cemetery, in New Haven, Connecticut.  The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio was the home of her father Lyman Beecher on the former campus of the Lane Theological Seminary.  Harriet lived here until her marriage.  It is open to the public and operates as an historical and cultural site, focusing on Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Lane Theological Seminary and the Underground Railroad.  The site also documents African-American history.  The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is located at 2950 Gilbert Avenue, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Link to Lyman Beecher’s autobiography: Beecher, Lyman (Charles Beecher, ed.).  Autobiography, Correspondence, etc. of Lyman Beecher, D.D. (New York: Harper & Brothers) 1865; in two volumes.  Volume I; Volume II.

On my mother’s side through Joseph Hawley (1603 – 1690): Lyman Beecher (1775 – 1863), 3rd cousin 7x removed – Esther Lyman (1749 – 1775) – Hope Hawley (1719 – 1753) – Jehiel Hawley (1685 – 1727) – Samuel Hawley (1647 – 1734) – Joseph Hawley (1675 – 1752) – Elizabeth Hawley (1700 – 1779) – Elizabeth Newell (1721 – 1791) – Elizabeth Clark (1758 – 1840) – Betsy Andrews (1786 – 1856) – David Handley (1809 – 1895) – Elizabeth Handley (1837 – 1917) – Florence Henderson (1869 – 1956) – Florence Eugenie Watkins (1903 – 1985) – Penelope Jane Walholm (1939 – ) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom


He is also my 6th cousin 6x removed on my mother’s side through John Birdseye (1571-1649) and his unknown spouse.


[1] Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was as American abolitionist and author of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), discussed under her own heading in this Appendix.

[2] Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was a prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist and speaker in the mid to late 19th century. An 1875 adultery trial in which he was accused of having an affair with a married woman was one of the most notorious American trials of the 19th century.

[3] Charles Beecher (1815-1900) was an American minister, composer of religious hymns and prolific author.

[4] Edward Beecher (1803-1895) was a noted theologian.

[5] Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822-1907) was a leader, lecturer and activist in the American Suffragist movement.

[6] Catharine Esther Beecher (1800-1878) was an American educator known for her forthright opinions on female education as well as her vehement support of the many benefits of the incorporation of kindergarten into children’s education.

[7] The “Second Great Awakening” was a Christian revival movement during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1800, had begun to gain momentum by 1820, and was in decline by 1870. The movement expressed Arminian theology, by which every person could be saved through revivals. It enrolled millions of new members and led to the formation of new denominations. Many converts believed that the Awakening heralded a new millennial age. The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements designed to remedy the evils of society before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.


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