From The Passenger Pigeon in Pennsylvania
By John C. French
Biographical Data of Otis J.P. Lyman, A Pioneer of Potter County,
With Story of Taking Pigeons For New York Market
(By John C. French)
Otis Jacob Palmer Lyman, was born in the township of Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania, November 6, 1836, and has resided in that vicinity all his life. He was married, in 1860, to Rosella Sherwood, daughter of Stephen Sherwood of the same place, and raised a large family. He was the eleventh of twelve children born to John Lyman and his wife, Lucretia Palmer. His younger brother, Almeron N. Lyman, served in the Civil War, and died in Virginia, April 16, 1864. In the Lyman family, in the United States, Otis J.P., is the eighth generation, beginning with Richard Lyman, who resided at Charlestown, Mass., 1631-1635, and later at Hartford, Connecticut. Tracing backward, he was preceded by John, 7; Major Isaac, 6; who came to Potter County in 1804; Benjamin, 5; Isaac, 4; Richard, 3; Richard, 2; Richard, 1; according to the chart prepared by Miss Julia E. Lyman of Hartford, Conn., finished in 1870, after years of patient investigation of family records and traditions.
In the spring of 1861, the Passenger Pigeons nested on the highland of Potter County and William Sherwood and Otis Lyman procured a net 12x26 feet to trap the old birds in their daily flights to their feeding grounds to westward. When returning the birds could not be decoyed to alight; but in the early morning they were hungry and the “flyers” and “stool-pigeons” enticed the flocks to come down and investigate, when they were readily caught by springing the net over them as they were settling upon the ground. One hundred birds at each springing of the net was a fair average catch the first morning, at Burtville, Pa., but upon succeeding days the pigeons were shy and only a few could be caught at the same place.
Before daylight Sherwood and Lyman were ready for work of their first day. They caught a few more than 1,500 pigeons the first day, before 11 o’clock; which they packed with ice in a large wagon bed, and Otis started at once for Olean, New York, the nearest railroad point at that time, where he arrived early the next morning, after an all-night ride of about 32 miles. The birds were repacked in barrels, with ice, and shipped by express to a commission house in New York City, for sale. Mr. Lyman rested a day and returned to Roulette with a wagon load of flour, stopping a night at Rant Larrabee’s famous roadside inn of those days, now, Larrabee’s Station on the Pennsylvania railroad.
Few more pigeons had been caught by Mr. Sherwood and they abandoned the netting business. For the catch of their first day they received a little over $100, over and above charges for expressage and commission for selling the birds. That was about 7 cents for each bird. They went to the nesting colonies on Trout Brook, Nelson Creek and Dingman’s Run, when the squabs were ready to be caught for the markets, and secured another wagon load of birds for their New York customers. They found about 125 fat young birds in every 100 nests that they took the squabs from that year. Some years the rate would be as high as 150 squabs from 100 nests; and some years less than 105 young birds from 100 nests. None of these colonies were in squares or rectangles. They were irregular, following the bends of the creeks, and upon the hilltops beyond, in hemlock and hardwood trees.