Lyman Beecher (October 12, 1775 – January 10, 1863) was a Presbyterian minister, American Temperance Society co-founder and leader, and the father of 13 children, many of whom became noted figures, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Edward Beecher, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Catharine Beecher and Thomas K. Beecher.
Beecher was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to David Beecher, a blacksmith, and Esther Hawley Lyman. His mother died shortly after his birth, and he was committed to the care of his uncle Lot Benton, by whom he was adopted as a son, and with whom his early life was spent between blacksmithing and farming. But it was soon found that he preferred study. He was fitted for college by the Rev. Thomas W. Bray, and at the age of eighteen entered Yale, graduating in 1797. He spent 1798 in Yale Divinity School under the tutelage of his mentor Timothy Dwight. In September 1798, he was licensed to preach by the New Haven West Association, and entered upon his clerical duties by supplying the pulpit in the Presbyterian church at East Hampton, Long Island, and was ordained in 1799. Here he married his first wife, Roxana Foote. His salary was $300 a year, after five years increased to $400, with a dilapidated parsonage. To eke out his scanty income, his wife opened a private school, in which he was an instructor.
Beecher gained popular recognition in 1806, after giving a sermon concerning the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Finding his salary wholly inadequate to support his increasing family, he resigned the charge at East Hampton, and in 1810 moved to Litchfield, Connecticut, where he was minister to the town's Congregational Church, and where he remained 16 years. There he started to preach Calvinism. He purchased the home built by Elijah Wadsworth and reared a large family.
The excessive use of alcohol, known as "intemperance," was a source of concern in New England as in the rest of the United States. Heavy drinking even occurred at some formal meetings of clergy, and Beecher resolved to take a stand against it. About 1814 he delivered and published six sermons on intemperance. They were sent throughout the United States, ran rapidly through many editions in England, and were translated into several languages on the European continent, and had a large sale even after the lapse of 50 years.
During Beecher's residence in Litchfield the Unitarian controversy arose, and he took a prominent part. Litchfield was at this time the seat of a famous law school and several other institutions of learning, and Beecher (now a doctor of divinity) and his wife undertook to supervise the training of several young women, who were received into their family. But here too he found his salary ($800 a year) inadequate.
The rapid and extensive defection of the Congregational churches in Boston and vicinity, under the lead of William Ellery Channing and others in sympathy with him, had excited much anxiety throughout New England; and in 1826 Beecher was called to Boston's Hanover Church, where he began preaching against the Unitarianism which was then sweeping the area.
Beecher was the author of a great number of printed sermons and addresses. His published works are: Remedy for Duelling (New York, 1809), Plea for the West, Six Sermons on Temperance, Sermons on Various Occasions (1842), Views in Theology, Skepticism, Lectures on Various Occasions, Political Atheism. He made a collection of those of his works which he deemed the most valuable (3 vols., Boston, 1852).
In 1799 Beecher married Roxana Foote, the daughter of Eli and Roxana (Ward) Foote. They had nine children: Catharine E., William, Edward, Mary, Tommy, George, Harriet Elizabeth, Henry Ward, and Charles. Roxana died on September 13, 1816. The following year, he married Harriet Porter, and fathered four more children: Frederick C., Isabella Holmes, Thomas Kinnicut, and James Chaplin. After Harriet died on July 7, 1835, he married Lydia Beals born 17 Sept 1789, died 1869 daughter of Samuel Beals, previously married to Joseph Jackson 1779-10 Dec 1833 but had no more children.