Lake Worth Pioneers' Association, Inc.


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West Palm Beach, FL 33406

Phone: 561-642-4200


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Morris Benson Lyman

Though the Lymans were not the first to settle in Lantana, they are given credit as the founders. They established the third mercantile business on the shores of the lake, with their schooner, “Bessie B.,” taking produce to market in Jacksonville and returning with supplies for the settlers.

Morris Benson Lyman (M.B.) was born at Bosanquet, Lambton County, Ontario, Canada, on 22 September 1860, the son of Morris K. and Rachel (Ward) Lyman. In June 1884, he arrived on the shores of Lake Worth, living with the Albert Geer family while building Dellmoore Cottage for Robert B. Moore. In December 1884, M.B. traveled to Marlette, Michigan, where he married Mary Augustus Beltz on Christmas Eve. Upon returning to Florida, they lived in Jacksonville until 1888, when they settled permanently on the west shore of Lake Worth. M.B. and Mary had five sons and two daughters. Most of their descendants lived and died in Palm Beach County. M.B. died in 1924, Mary in 1928, and both are buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Lantana.

Much was written about the Lymans in Early Lantana, Her Neighbors and More. The following account was given to the author, Mary C. Linehan, by M. B. Lyman’s grandson. It is being presented just as he wrote it.

Historic memo, 1860 to Dec. 1883

“The records of Township of Bosanquet, County of Lambton, Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada, show that, on Sept. 22, 1860, a son was born to Morris K. Lyman and Rachel his wife, at the town of Port Franks, the writer was that son, christened Morris Benson.

My father at the time of my birth was teaching school at Port Franks, he moved away as soon as the term was finished and taught for several years in other schools in the same township.

My school days began in the Town of Thedford on the Grand Trunk Railway, same township in which I was born, my father was in the general merchandise business between the years of 1870 and 1876. During the years of 1872 to 1876, I divided my time between store work in the store of my father and school, leaving school the fall of 1876 on account of the failure of the business my father was in, he then after closing up his affairs in February 1877, moved to the then very new north portion of Ontario known as Muskoka district.

In this new and undeveloped country, I took up the trade of carpentry and followed it there along with boat building for six years. I was in boat building for myself at the age of 19 and had a nice summer business. I followed it until the month of July 1883 when I sold out and, along with my mother and brother, left that place for the thumb in Michigan. My father and sister had gone to Michigan some months before. While in Michigan, I was employed at the towns of Marlette and Minden. The weather getting very cold in November, I got to thinking of getting south. I had for two years been reading literature intended to make the people of the north want to come south, As the weather got colder, I got the fever bad, could not stay longer in Michigan, so about the 10th of December, I started a south, fully intending to go to Birmingham, Alabama, but before getting there, I learned that employment was hard to secure, so decided to go on to Jacksonville, and in due time arrived there.

Historic Memo. Dec (about 15th) 1883 to June 1884

My first experiences in Florida were at Jacksonville, arriving there about the 15th of Dec 1883, coming from Michigan via Cincinnati, Louisville and Montgomery.

Taking an inventory of cash, we found that twenty dollars and a few cents was the capital on hand. My first need was a boarding house, that I soon found would cost me double what I had been accustomed to pay, after looking the field over, I located on Pine Street (now Main) and lost no time in getting out to look for employment. That I soon found was a much larger undertaking than to find the boarding place. After tramping the town for several days with nothing in sight, and finding many mechanics working for the wage generally paid the unskilled laborer, I at last secured a small piece of work, through the friendship of brother Oddfellow. While on my way to this work, I met Mr. W. A. McDuff who had before promised me an opening as soon as he had one. He was looking for me to go on his work, but finding I had engaged for the small job referred to, he told me to come on to him when I had finished with my first employer. Some four or five days later, I took up steady work with Mr. McDuff and was employed by him until the middle of June following.

I was joined by my father that winter, and later just before leaving for Lake Worth, we decided to have the balance of the family, my mother, sister and brother, come on to Jacksonville. They arrived a few days after I had sailed for Lake Worth.

Historic Memo 1884

In June of the year 1884, I sailed as passenger on the schooner “Bessie B.,” Capt. E.M. Brelsford, from Jacksonville to Lake Worth.

We ran into a severe storm the first day out, which lasted three days (S.E. Gale.) The balance of the 10-day voyage was very pleasant, if a little slow. (To give an idea of the severity of the weather, we will say, that a 50 pound grind stone laying flat on the after deck was missing in the morning after the most severe night of the storm. It had washed over the rail. ref. :EMB)

On arriving at the Inlet of Lake Worth, we found low water on the bar. Our Captain decided to get rid of us, so ran down opposite Palm Beach (not at that time named) and landed us on the beach, just opposite the only trail from Lake Worth to the beach, that of Capt. E.N. Dimick. Following this trail, we came out at the residence of Mr. Dimick, and had our first look at Lake Worth.

We resided with Mr. A. Geer for six months, were occupied in building a residence for Mr. R.B. Moore (Dellmore Cottage.) Before leaving the lake in November, we put up the frame of the first store on Lake Worth, for the firm of Breisford Bros. Leaving before the building was completed, we took passage for Rockledge with Capt. Tony Canova, paid our fare and worked out passage (the rule in those days.) In due time, we arrived at Rockledge, took stage to Lake Poinsett, steamer thence to Sanford, again steamer to Jax, arriving there in little more than 4 days, considered a very quick trip.

Historic Memo. Dec 1884 to 1909

In the early days of December 1884, I packed my grip and went to Marlette, Michigan, was married Christmas Eve to Mary A., daughter of G. Beltz, who lived some 5 miles N.W. of Marlette. Early in January 1885, we arrived in Jacksonville, Fla. and began housekeeping. I was employed at my trade in that city until the summer of 1886, when I again went to Lake Worth, this time in the employ of the Brelsford Bros. as a mechanic. We added to their house and store, and overhauled the schooner “Bessie B.” Leaving there in November via schooner for Jacksonville, on arriving at Jax I filled a contract made with Mr. R.B. Moore by building him a cat boat, and buying from him on the same deal 5 acres of land on Hypoluxo Island, this matter was completed in the early months of 1887. The writer was during the next 18 months occupied at his trade as woodworker in the city of Jax, being some 11 months on the St. Andrews Church of East Jax.

On August 9, 1888, Yellow Fever was declared epidemic and we at once got into boats and went on the St. Johns River to Mayport. At this time, we had two children, George G. and Edgar B. We also took my mother with us (at this time my father was established on a homestead on Lake Worth, he having secured it in 1887. My brother George was with him on the homestead. My sister Lillian was at the time of our leaving a nurse at St. Lukes Hospital; she stayed at the work not wishing to leave while needed.)

Our party camped at Mayport for 21 days and, through the kindness of Dr. Quackenbush the port doctor, we got health papers and made a start for Lake Worth. We arrived at St. Augustine in a few hours. At that place we were inmiediately met by the health officers and told that we could not go in, or land. We anchored just inside the inlet and awaited the action of the Board of Health, who had called a special meeting to handle our case. They on the next day notified us that we could proceed to Mantanzas if we would agree not to land before we arrived there. We at once got under way and made that inlet before dark, it not being favorable weather. We camped for the night. Before morning there was a hurricane blowing and we were held there for three days. As soon as this blow was over, we at once started for New Smyrna. This took us all day and one night, getting in early the following morning. Here we were again met by quarantine and held for a week, after which time we proceeded on our way, having no trouble to pass the station at the Haulover Canal. We without any unusual event arrived at Jupiter and it being late in the day, we camped for the night. We were very kindly treated by the people there. We, on the following morning, got under way for our last section of our trip, outside to Lake Worth Inlet and down the lake. We arrived at the inlet and we were met by Health Officer Highsmith, who carefully examined our papers, also he questioned us, in fact had us thinking we were again to be quarantined. After fully satisfying himself, he told us that Dr. Potter, Health Officer for the Lake Worth district, had told him to let us come on down on arrival, so we were much relieved.

1884- 1909

We arrived at Lantana at three o’clock on September 22nd 1888, and found my father and brother at home. This begins our actual residency on Lake Worth. To arrive here on Lake Worth in 1888 with the state under strict quarantine was no joke. We had no house to live in, the homestead house used by my father being too small to hold us. It was up to the writer to get material to do it. We made a trip up the lake to secure material, through the kindness of Pat Lennon (The Rev. Pat,) we got together enough lumber to make the floor for a small house, and that was all we could secure. We went home with it, and then went at it as all pioneers have had to do, and made our house from the wild:

Pine poles make the frame, and the cabbage Palmetto the covering material, and in a few days, we had a comfortable house.

The writer found no trouble in securing employment. The first work was with the Brelsford Bros., repair work, on this work we first came in contact with George Lainhart, we being on the same work.

In December of same year, we went up to Lake Worth P.O. and took charge of the rebuilding of the Steamer Lake Worth (the writer built her in 1886.) This job took us until March 1889. Early in this month we learned that the firm of Brelsford Bros. wished to sell their schooner, “Bessie B.” We took the matter up with Mr. E.M Brelsford and the result was a sale to us, we agreeing to carry all of their freight, this agreement giving us enough freight to ensure us a fair amount of business. We at once took the run between Lake Worth inlet and the St. Johns Bar, to Jacksonville via St. Johns River. Our schooner business was a success from the first. The only light load was the first, we not being experienced, did not know the capacity of the vessel and come down lighter than we need. All that season, (up to the hurricane months) we ran regular trips, that is as often as we could make it, making trips in from 15 to 20 days. The schooner was taken off the run about July 15th, and hauled out for repairs, and again put on in Nov. We went to Jax, came back with a load, and on investigating the inlet, we found little water on the bar, and no channel to speak of inside, we however put in and succeeded in getting inside. Two days later, there was no inlet at Lake Worth, the sand had formed a bar across the inlet. We were in a pocket inside. We unloaded the schooner with row boats and, after about one week of hard work, we succeeded in getting the schooner inside the deep waters of the lake.

The closing of the inlet was a calamity, and was so felt by all the people located here. There was a meeting of the interested people called, and a fund raised for the reopening of the inlet. This, when taken up, was placed in the writer’s charge, the work beginning late in November. It was rather discouraging work, too, as the weather had a good deal to do with the speed made in the work. It was January before the inlet was opened again, when we again took up the transportation business. During the summer of 1889, we began business on a small scale at Lantana, opened a general store. This was the third merchandise business on Lake Worth (this business still is running at the same stand but has been incorporated under the name of The M.B. Lyman Co. The other houses have long since closed out, so we are today the pioneer people in the merchandise business in Palm Beach County, and we think in Dade also.

In 1890, The Indian River Steamboat Co. put on steamers to Jupiter, and laid rails from there to Juno on Lake Worth. While this gave much needed service to the growing settlements on Lake Worth, it did not seem to harm our schooner business. We continued on with a very successful trade up to Feb 1892, when we lost our schooner at Lake Worth bar.

My brother, George R. Lyman was associated with me in all the operations of schooner business, also store during this time mentioned above, he being on the boat at the time she was wrecked, and had a narrow escape from drowning. This schooner made 33 trips to Jax during our ownership. My brother taking about one- half of the trips as Captain, and I the other half.

We, in our capacity as merchants, also were pioneers in the tomato industry of Dade County. We grub staked the first successful cropper on muck lands, this was done by Mr. Charles Carroll on land of Capt. E.N. Dimick in the fall of 1893 and winter of 1894, Mr. Carroll planting on his ideas, and we staking him, believing he was right in them. Result was a big success, and the next year there were some 15 croppers on the stretch of muck land at Hypoluxo, all made a success and, as it was the year of the big freeze, the people flocked into Dade County the following year to try the new truck section of lower east coast, the result of which was 1,200,000 crates in 10 years from the first crop. (note: Palm Beach County was at this time the north end of Dade.)

In August 1895, I joined Mr. Frank Stranahan in a small merchandise venture at Ft. Lauderdale. We continued the business for years as a simple partnership. In 1902, we incorporated this business and we took our interests in stock in the new business, which had grown to large proportions, the writer having the office of treasurer. In 1907, we opened up a branch store at Boynton, with my son, Arthur R. Lyman as manager. This business has continued with splendid success.

In April 1909, we purchased the Palm Beach Dry Goods Co. from the Dade County State Bank, investment about $6,000.00. We have made arrangements to incorporate this in February of this year as the Palm Beach D.G. Co, capital $10,000.00 paid up, with Mr. H.G. Geer and Mrs. L. Wilson joining me in the incorporation, myself as President.

September 22, 1909, this is twenty one years at Lantana, we having arrived here on that date in 1888.

Respt ‘y
M.B. Lyman


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