In their wildest dreams, colonial farmer John Lyman and his wife, Hope, could not have envisioned the complex and diverse enterprise that would evolve from their purchase in 1741 of a 37-acre parcel of land in what is now Middlefield. Now covering more than 1,100 acres of scenic farmland, Lyman Orchards is one of the most popular family attractions in New England. Through a history spanning ten generations, the Lyman family heritage was founded upon a commitment to preserve their land for future generations, using a combination of determination, innovation, and adaptation – attributes that hold true today.
Even after 275 years, Lyman Orchards continues to evolve while maintaining its steadfast commitment to preserving the land for future generations. Today, members of the 8th and 9th generations of the family are directly involved in the business. Like their ancestors before them, preservation of the land remains central to their heritage, and the family continues to be innovative in its ways of upholding their traditions.
1741 John and Hope Lyman buy two parcels of land totaling 37 acres in the southwest corner of Middletown, which is now the site of the Homestead and Apple Barrel. Within a few weeks, the couple adds another 25 acres of adjacent land. By 1760, they own more than 187 acres.
1830 William Lyman becomes an early advocate of the movement to abolish slavery, and takes part in the Underground Railroad that helped fugitive slaves seeking freedom in the North.
1850 At great personal risk, William Lyman, David Lyman II, several other family members and local citizens boldly and publicly denounce the Fugitive Slave Law in a letter published by the Middletown Sentinel and Witness.
1860 David Lyman II operates the successful Metropolitan Washing Machine Company built in the Baileyville section of Middlefield.
1863 The original Homestead, built in 1785 by David II’s grandfather, is moved by a team of oxen from its original site to its current location across the street from the Apple Barrel. In its place, David begins construction on a new Homestead, which would be home to six generations of the Lyman family.
1866 David Lyman II is instrumental in getting Middlefield incorporated as a town in its own right.
1867 David Lyman II begins the construction of the Air Line Railroad from New Haven to Willimantic. Though he sees tracks laid through Middlefield, David passes away in 1871 before the construction is complete. Upon his death, David’s son Charles Elihu Lyman takes over management of the Farm.
1878 During Middlefield’s industrial boom, entrepreneur, inventor, and avid sportsman William Lyman II establishes the Lyman Gun Sight, which would remain in the family for nearly a century. Among his many inventions, William is most renowned for his innovative improvements to the peep sight.
1890 Charles Lyman oversees a period of immense growth for the Farm. With the advent of the Elberta peach, he undertakes crop specialization and expands the farm from 500 to 1,500 acres. Peaches are shipped by train to nearby cities, lambs are fattened for eastern markets, and 600 to 900 tons of hay are sold annually.
1917 A four-feet deep freeze during the harsh winter kills 500 acres of peach trees, ending that fruit’s prominence at Lyman Orchards (as well as in the state of Connecticut). Over the next decade, the Peach orchards are replanted with McIntosh and other varieties of apples, a hardier fruit.
1918 Charles Lyman (William’s brother) buys Lyman Gun Sight from other relatives; puts his oldest son, Henry Hall Lyman, in charge.
1923 Charles Lyman dies, leaving the Farm and Lyman Gun Sight in trust for the benefit of his widow Harriet (second wife), but willed to his six children (Henry, Alma, Esther, Elihu, John, Sarah).
1931 A cold storage plan is built to hold 40,000 bushels of apples, facilitating expansion into wholesale markets.
1949 Farming operation is incorporated as The Lyman Farm, Inc., The first Lyman Farm Board of Directors is formed, comprised of the heirs of Charles Elihu Lyman (Henry, Alma, Esther, Charles Elihu Jr., John, and Sarah). John Lyman, Sr. is elected president.
1956 The gigantic, innovative, three-story barn, built by David Lyman II in 1866 is completely destroyed by a three-alarm fire. More than 75 of the 130 cows were rescued unharmed from the burning barn.
1960 The family begins to phase out the Guernsey herd due to the drop in demand for high-fat milk, as consumers became more focused on their personal health. The last cattle roamed the farm until 1968.
1963 The Lyman Farm brings online controlled-atmosphere storage rooms allowing apples to stay crisp and fresh throughout the winter and spring.
1969 The family continues to diversify its operations under Jack Lyman’s leadership as a new 18-hole golf course designed by legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones opens on the fertile farmland where sheep once grazed. Lyman Meadow Golf Club earns rave reviews and becomes one of the top places to play golf in Connecticut.
1972 The Apple Barrel farm market opens northwest of the Homestead, replacing the sales room at the Packinghouse. An innovative circular structure, the Apple Barrel includes a deli and a scratch bakery, where our award-winning Hi-Top Apple Pies are still made by hand.
1991 Lyman families from across the country gathered together at the Homestead to celebrate the Farm’s 250th anniversary. The 37-acre family farm first established by John and Hope Lyman in 1741 had, by 1991, become one of the most popular family destinations in Connecticut.
1994 The front nine holes of the Player Course opened for play, and the back nine holes opened the following spring. Hall of Fame golfer and course architect Gary Player visited the site twice during construction and returned for the ribbon cutting.
1996 The growing demand for a hand-made quality commercial pie among school fundraiser groups leads to the establishment of Lyman’s Wholesale Pie operation. Based upon generations-old family recipes, Lyman fruit pies are now sold in family-owned grocery chains in a dozen states throughout the country.
1999 The Homestead, as a residence, comes to an end. Following a special Designer Showcase in 2000, The Lyman Homestead is made available for special event rental and becomes a unique venue for weddings, corporate events and meetings.
2000 Looking to add another activity for customers to experience during the fall harvest, Lyman Orchards opens its first Corn Maze. The 4-acre maze is also a philanthropic endeavor to benefit the American Cancer Society. Since it first opened, the Farm has donated more than $500,000 to the fight against Cancer.
2007 A beautiful 3-acre Sunflower Maze, in the design of a Butterfly, opens to the delight of summertime visitors. The Sunflower Maze continues to support Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
2012 The Lyman family gathers for the Grand Opening of The Golf Center and Apple Nine course, a top-notch learning and practice facility for golfers of all ages and skill levels.
2013 In observance of the Lyman family’s involvement in the abolitionist movement, the Lyman Farm is formally recognized as a site along the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
2016 Lyman Farm celebrates its 275th Anniversary.
Adults need some holiday fun, too! Enjoy a fun evening designing and decorating a Gingerbread House in the historic Lyman Homestead. Appetizers will be served! Cash Bar! Pre-registration required.