Lyman Allyn (AM0121)

Capt. Lyman Allyn was born May 13, 1797 in Gales Ferry (Montville according to New London Crew List) to Alexander Allyn and Sarah Latham Allyn. He grew up in a house at the head of the lower wharf on the Thames River in Gales Ferry. He is described in New London Crew List as having light complexion and dark hair. He had three siblings: Sarah Allyn Brown and two brothers, both engaged in whaling and shipping: Christopher (AM0119) (the subject of a brief bio for the author’s New London Whaling Masters series) and Latham who died at sea at age 27 aboard the sloop CHERUB. The Lyman family genealogy shows that he did not marry.He died on November 24, 1869, possibly in Jersey City, NJ, and is buried with other Allyn relatives in the Gales Ferry Cemetery on Hurlbutt Road. Gravestone found at Find a Grave.

​Lyman was master for several voyages of four vessels with New London as home port:

COMMODORE PERRY (AS1137): (ship, 270 tons, built E. Greenwich 1815), Departed in 1827, returned 1829. Agent “L Allyn”. AV13293.

​FLORA (AS1369): (ship, 338 tons, built Mystic CT 1811). Departed in 1829, returned 1830. Connecticut Ship Database shows FLORA as having been built in GrotonCT; Peterson’s Mystic Built does not list FLORA as having been built in Mystic.AV04958

​GENERAL PUTNAM (AS1440): (ship, built Beaufort, NC 1810). Departed 1830, possibly for sealing. AV05504

​JOHN AND EDWARD (AS0325): (ship, 318 tons, built Glastonbury CT, 1807). Departed June 1830 for South Seas, returned 8/20/31 (3/23/31 according to Starbuck. Agent “Allyn”. AV07643.

JOHN AND EDWARD: Departed for South Atlantic, 10/15/1831. AV07635.

​Lyman’s brother Christopher (AM0119) was master of three subsequent voyages of FLORA (1831-2, 1832-3, and 1843-5).

This Lyman, “Capt.” Lyman can easily be confused, and often is (see the following paragraph), with another Lyman Allyn whose daughter, Harriet Upson Allyn, provided the funds to establish the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London in his honor. “Museum” Lyman, also with New London connections, was born three weeks earlier than “Capt.” Lyman (4/25/1797), married Emma Turner, produced several children, died in New London April 8,1874, five years after “Capt.” Lyman, and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New London.

​The website of the Lyman Allyn Art Museum describes “Museum” Lyman as a man “who commanded a whaling boat by the age of twenty-one and who later became a director of a banking company, an insurance company, and a railroad company …. [and] founded a school for boys in New London in 1817.” Several other sources identify activities of “Lyman Allyn” within time frames when he could be either “Capt.”Lyman or “Museum” Lyman. These activities include acting as agent to whaling voyages out of New London, owning a wharf used by other agents for outfitting vessels, investing in whaling voyages, owning a hardware store selling parts for vessels, serving on the initial boards of The Bank of Commerce (1852), New London Marine Insurance Company (1847), New London Willimantic and Palmer Railroad Company (1849) and helping begin a school for boys in 1817. This unidentified Lyman was an investor in two vessels of which “Capt.” Lyman was master (JOHN AND EDWARD and FLORA) but on voyages of which “Capt.” Lyman was not the master. Starbuck lists “L. Allyn” as agent for COMMODORE PERRY’s voyage and “Allyn” as agent for JOHN AND EDWARD’s first voyage above.  See his private signal to the left.  Allyn the agent would not also have been master. The Museum website does not mention “Museum” Lyman as serving as a whaling master; had he been a master on several voyages, it is likely that the website would have mention it. In all likelihood, “Museum” Lyman was the person referred in these roles above, not “Capt.” Lyman. However, one can presume that they knew each other from their common active participation in the New London whaling industry.

Sources: See Sidebar. See also:  Avery’s History of the Town of Ledyard, gravestones in Gales Ferry Cemetery, Decker’s Whaling Industry of New London, Decker’s The Whaling City, Godfrey’s Whaling Industry of New London, Caulkins’ History of New London.


George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum), December 2019