LYMAN WHEELER of Toledo, OH (1805-1866)
“….. As soon as I arrived I bought land, enough for three stores and two dwelling houses. It was a lucky circumstance I started for Toledo when I did. Property is 50% higher now than when I bought. I am not much in the habit of bragging. But I presume I could sell out today for $2000 more than what I gave. I am very much pleased with the place, much more so than when I was here before. Speculators swarm in from all quarters…..” extracted from a letter Lyman Wheeler wrote on Feb 18, 1836, to his fiancé Maria Aiken who was then residing in Chicago, IL.
Lyman Wheeler arrived in Toledo in 1836. Born in 1805 in Winhall, VT, he was the youngest of 10 children of Beriah Wheeler and Sarah Williams Wheeler. After a brief teaching career in Leicester, Mass, he went west to Hannibal, NY, where his older brother Henry had moved during the 1820s. Lyman was an entrepreneur. The opening of the Erie Canal enabled him to move further west to Buffalo, NY, where he set up a business selling books. We do not know the circumstances that made him move further west to Toledo. His arrival in Toledo was well timed. He soon married Maria Aiken, and settled down in Toledo.
Lyman was very successful in the grocery business in Toledo. He was a prominent citizen of Toledo and was active in the civic life and politics of the city during his lifetime. He was a member of the Toledo city council in 1839, 1840, 1845-48, 1850-51, 1853, and 1855. He represented the city in meetings of shareholders of the Plank Road Company, a capital stock corporation, established by the city of Toledo in 1848. He had four children. Helen Wheeler was born in 1838 and she married Louis Wachenheimer. His son, Robert Jeffrey Wheeler, born in 1846, was the proprietor of the old Wheeler Opera House in Toledo. His grandson, Lyman Wheeler Wachenheimer, was a judge and Lucas county prosecuting attorney. His daughter Sarah married William Standart, who was the President of Standart Simmons Hardware company in Toledo.
From the earliest settlement at Toledo, the matter of proper supply of acceptable drinking water, was a serious concern. The general presence of clay soil enabled the accumulation of surface drainage, which was made unfit by the annual decay of heavy vegetable growth, and slowly became more unfit by the increasing population. This problem became very serious in seasons of hot weather and drought, as in 1838, when fevers raged in Toledo with fatal severity, largely due to the almost total lack of good water. Finally, attention was called to the plan of Artesian Wells, which about that time was attracting considerable interest in this country, as it long had done in the Old World. With nothing better than theory to act upon, steps were taken by different individuals to test the theory that underlying Toledo was an abundant supply of pure, healthy water, which was accessible by boring through the rock by which it was covered. Among those entertaining such faith was Lyman Wheeler, who was first in successfully boring for water at his store at the corner of Monroe and St. Clair Streets. The size of the auger used was 8 3/4 inches, and that of the iron pipe inserted eight inches. In June, 1850, at the depth of 55 feet, water was reached, which rose to within six feet of the surface. The cost of the well, complete, was about $55, or $1.00 per foot. The water was found to be pure and clear, but was not as soft as had been hoped for, which was a source of disappointment. Still, its other qualities placed it so far ahead of both the ordinary well water and that of the River, that the discovery of an Artesian supply was hailed with general satisfaction by the citizens, and was followed by the successful boring of several wells by others.
Lyman Wheeler’s business interests expanded into real estate and liquor, in addition to the grocery business he started soon after his arrival in Toledo. He died on Sept 27, 1866 at the age of 61. Here is his obituary in the Blade:
Death of An Old Citizen: We learned that one of the old citizens of Toledo, Lyman Wheeler, esq. died yesterday of consumption. Mr. Wheeler came to this city in 1836 and engaged in the retail grocery business, which he pursued for a few years and then retired. In the spring of 1843 he became associated with M. Boos in the grocery business on the dock and the partnership continued for 22 years until May last. After many years of successful business as grocers, they engaged in the wholesale liquor trade and while in this business Mr. Wheeler’s health failed and he was compelled to retire. As a business man, he was one of the most successful we have known in Maumee valley and it is understood that he has left a very handsome competence for his family.
Oral history from family members
Clark Waggoner, History of the City of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio (1888)