The childhood background of Lyman Brewer in Ludlow, Massachusetts is almost a blank slate. Born in 1786, he was the tenth child of Lt. Isaac Brewer who may have served in the American Revolution. One of Lyman's brothers eventually became a large landowner in the Springfield area. Otherwise, we only know that Lyman moved to Norwich, Connecticut at some point before his 1812 marriage to Harriet Tyler, daughter of the Rev. John Tyler of Norwich.
As a young man Lyman established himself in the mercantile trade which thrived at the time with shipments received from the Caribbean. One account lists the delivery of cargo by schooner to Lyman Brewer in 1812 just before the war with Great Britain. By 1825 it appears that Lyman had changed careers as he co-founded the Norwich Savings Society and became the first cashier of Thames Bank. He held this post until he died in 1857, "leaving a name that was a synonym for integrity and benevolence", as told in a biographical review published in 1898. Harriet Brewer survived her husband until November 3, 1880, reaching the age of 92. The Norwich house they occupied for 60 years continued to serve succeeding generations of the Brewers even after Harriet's death.
A complete listing of the couple's eleven children has not yet come to light, but a large extended family of Brewers evolved in Norwich during the early part of the century. They may have had a reputation as distinguished citizens, but there may have also been some less favorable traits among them. A biography of one descendant, the poet Harold Witter Bynner, recounts the following about the family of his mother Annie Brewer, Lyman's granddaughter:
The Brewers were old, Protestant, highly respectable Connecticut clergymen, schoolteachers, and, more recently, thriving bankers and businessmen. They appeared to be like the straight, tall elm trees of New England—native and solid—and counted in their past a Chauncy who was the second president of Harvard College, a Bishop John Tyler of Norwich, and even the august Bushnells of Hartford, one of the most prominent Connecticut families. They were proud of their independence of spirit and showed a stern frankness in analyzing their own faults and those of others. These people were—and remained, in the poet’s mother—headstrong, proper, and demanding; people who, in their public roles, seemed to have a drive toward respectability, power, and independence, but these qualities never quite came together in their private, intimate selves. One relative is referred to as having misbehaved, appropriately out West, and Annie’s father is supposed to have made home life quite miserable with his private drinking. There is also a family tradition of debilitating stomach illnesses and neuralgic headaches—both of which were inherited by Harold and his mother. If the Bynners went in for excessive self-expression, the Brewers sought to hold it back. (Kraft, 1977)
William (1813 – 1886)
Louisa J. (1829 - 1926)
Charles (1824 - 1891)
Alfred Lee (1831 - 1899)
Frederick (1834 - 1925)
Mary (1822 - 1845)
Questions for further research:
1. Why did Lyman leave Ludlow, Massachusetts for Norwich, Connecticut?
2. Did the Brewers provide education for their daughters as well as sons?
3. Were Lyman and Harriet Brewer active in the well-known Connecticut movement to abolish slavery?
4. Did any of the Brewer sons serve the Union in battle during the Civil War?
The sources for this biographical sketch:
History of New London County, Connecticut, by D. Hamilton Hurd, 1882
History of Norwich, Connecticut, by Frances M. Caulkins, 1876
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