In the mid 1870’s August Belton (A.B.) Groce opened a general store in the center of what would become the Town of Lyman. The store became the economic center of the community; so much so that the area eventually became known as Groce’s Stop. Until the mid twenties Groce’s Stop was a small but thriving farming community. However, in 1923 the economic status would change drastically.
Pacific Mills was seeking out a location for their largest textile mill to date. After much consideration they settled on Lyman. The mill purchased over 700 acres from the Groce family and built the Lyman Printing and Finishing Mill in 1924. In 1927 the mill expanded not only the plant but the community as well. Pacific Mills built a village of 375 homes to house the workers of the plant. Around this time the name of the community was changed as well. It would be called Lyman, in memory of the past Pacific Mills president Mr. Arthur T. Lyman.
Pacific Mills provided much more than just employment and housing for the workers of the plant. They helped to establish the community as a whole by building a community center, a 12 room schoolhouse, churches and a National Guard armory. The mill also offered recreational activities for the town including baseball and softball leagues, a community pool and golf and fishing clubs. They also funded senior citizen programs through the Lyman Community Council. The Mill was certainly the center of the community, but Pacific Mills’ role in Lyman would soon change.
In 1954 Pacific Mills sold the Lyman plant to Burlington Industries. During this time the residents voted to incorporate the town. The small farming community that was once known as Groce’s Stop would now officially become the Town of Lyman. More changes lay ahead because in 1955 all the homes owned by the mill would be sold to individuals as the Mill reduced their financial role to the community. And in 1955 the mill again changed ownership to M. Lowenstein and Sons. It was during this time in Lyman history when the town’s government was established with Mr. John N. Becknell being elected the Town’s first Mayor.
During the 1960’s M. Lowenstein and Sons built a state of the art Wastewater facility that would become a vital part of the growth in surrounding areas for years to come. The facility would serve the mill and the surrounding village however it would eventually provide service to all surrounding areas as well. The town purchased the treatment plant from the mill in 1966, with the conditions that the mill continue to operate it for the next 30 years, which they did until 1996 when the town officially took over the operations.
During the next 30 years the town grew into the closely knit community that still exists today. Mayor Becknell held office until 1979, when William H. Groce was elected. It would be during the next three decades when Lyman would see the most significant growth, both socially and economically.
Throughout the previous decades the Mill was the economic center of the town; providing Lyman with everything it needed to grow into the next generation. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Lyman began to grow out of the small farming and factory town into the more industrialized community we know today. The foresight of M. Lowenstein to build the Wastewater treatment facility allowed Lyman and surrounding towns to be able to accommodate the many industrial parks that began developing. This expansion from a single textile mill to numerous industries provided a rich environment for growth in every way.
According to the 1990 Census the Town now had roughly 2700 residents, over 800 homes and new businesses creating jobs, the town was flourishing. Even though the textile industry had begun declining, the creation of new jobs from the local industrial parks and businesses in the surrounding area kept the town going. During this time Mayor Bill Groce stepped down and a new Mayor was elected in 1992. Upon the election of Mayor Verna Taylor, the town broke new ground with its first female Mayor. Mayor Taylor would remain in office for only one term. However in that term she would work closely with the mills new owners, Springs Industries, to provide for the transition forecast 30 years ago. In 1996, the wastewater facility would officially become the Town of Lyman’s responsibility.
Once again in 1996 the town elected a new Mayor. Robert N. Fogel was sworn in as the Mayor for the town in July of 1996 and would serve three consecutive terms. In the course of his tenure the Town hall was relocated from 59 Groce Road (the old Post Office) to its current location at 81 Groce Road. Also during this time Lyman expanded its borders through multiple annexations, to bring the town to 4.07 square miles within the town limits. Even though the town was prospering a change was coming that would alter the town forever.
In 2005, the mill the town was built around closed their doors for the final time. Springs Industries, due to the diminishing textile industry, closed the Lyman facility. Although at one time the mill was the heart of the area, times were changing and the textile industry was declining rapidly. The community was resilient and the consistent stream of incoming businesses to Lyman and the surrounding areas provided much needed jobs.
From a sleepy little farming community, to a thriving mill metropolis, to a prospering municipality, the Town of Lyman has had a history deeply rooted in faith, family and community. The Town of Lyman may have had very humble beginnings as a small farm town, but it has blossomed into a town whose slogan says it all “small town charm, big city services…”