Karl R. Lyman – Stalwart son of San Juan
GIANTS OF SAN JUAN
Karl Lyman was born on New Year’s Day, 1913, eight years after his father and mother had left Bluff and pitched their tent on White Mesa on the south end of the Blue Mountains.
Little Karl was the seventh child of 15 children born to Albert and Mary Ellen (Lell) Perkins Lyman. He grew up on that mesa top of sage and sand which is today the city of Blanding. Karl’s family were the first settlers of Blanding and today his father, Albert, is known as the Father of Blanding.
Albert built the family’s permanent home where the Blanding Visitor’s Center now stands on the curve of U. S. Highway 191 a block from Main Street in Blanding.
A prolific writer throughout his life, Albert built a small rock “writing studio” southeast of his home, where he was able to write without the noise and interruptions that were ever present in a house filled with 15 children and their many friends.
Called the Swallow’s Nest, Albert’s writing studio is preserved today on the grounds of Blanding’s Visitors Center and is a treasure from the past to all who wish to quietly contemplate the life and legacy of the Lyman Family in San Juan County.
Karl was the grandson of Platte DeAlton Lyman, one of the leaders of the Hole-in- Rock Expedition in 1879-80. He was the great grandson of Amasa Mason Lyman, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church. His Great Grandmother is Eliza Maria Partridge, the daughter of Edward Partridge, who was the first Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church.
Karl learned to work hard as a young boy. One of his chores at home was washing and hanging out the family laundry. Every week he used a big tub and heated water from a wood fired stove. Then he would wash each article of clothing by hand, wring it out and hang it on the clothesline.
With 17 people contributing to the mountain of laundry that accumulated each week, the task was usually an all day affair and would have been overwhelming to most boys his age. Another of his responsibilities was to make and bake nine large loaves of bread every other day.
As a youngster he had many experiences with Native Americans. He told stories of Mancos George, Mancos Jim, Old Charlie Ute, Posey, Long John Navajo, Jo Bishop’s boys and Sanup’s boys. He was ten years old when the last Indian War in America was fought in and around Banding. Posey was wounded and died at that time and it left young Karl with many vivid memories of that famous and historical event.
Karl worked hard on the family ranch known as “Niklovis.” He became something of an expert with a double-bitted ax. He and his brothers made a little spending money by cutting and hauling wood to customers in Blanding. He prided himself in having a “sharp ax” as a boy. That philosophy of being well-prepared, with the right tools, served him well throughout his life where he excelled at virtually everything he started.
Whether it was in the hay field, the bean field, the cornfield, building fence or branding calves at the ranch, it was said of him that he “could outwork three men.” Later in life when he owned several of his own ranches and stores, the same was true. When he went to work for the Surety Life Insurance Company and Hamilton Funds selling insurance and mutual funds, he became the top producer in the company.
He spoke of his schoolteachers with great respect. Hattie Barton taught Karl in 4-6th grades, and he remembered her as “a choice lady who had genuine polish in her way of doing things.” Karl also remembered the two “six-holer” outhouses that accommodated the entire student-body and faculty and the hand-rolled, cedar bark cigarettes (barkies) that boys tried to smoke behind those hallowed structures.
Karl was president of his 15-member senior class at San Juan High School in l931. He loved debate and that activity sparked an interest in becoming a lawyer.
He became the first Eagle Scout in San Juan County and treasured the memories of his beloved scoutmaster, Phil Hurst, and his two best friends, Jay P. Nielson and Douglas James Harvey. Together, they visited many of San Juan’s beautiful places. He enjoyed a scout trip to the Northwestern States with Monticello scouts Bennion Redd, Wyman Redd, Quinn and Clyde Jensen and Melvin Frost.
The day after he graduated from high school, he was called to serve the LDS Church in the Northern States Mission. He had hoped to go to Europe where his grandfathers (Platte and Amasa) had served their missions and later presided over the European Mission.
When he left for his mission he had a worn suit, one pair of dress shoes and a few white shirts. His brother Platte met him in Salt Lake City and gave him another used suit, another pair of used shoes and an old hat. Karl remembered that at that moment he had never been so well dressed or had so many clothes.
Karl served as a missionary in Ohio and Kentucky in the depths of the Great Depression. Many times he was without money and had to survive without “purse or script”, depending on the people he met for food and lodging.
He served in Cincinnati as the District President. He was called by Church leaders to lecture in the Hall of Religion at the Chicago World’s Fair. In that capacity he met many Church Leaders who visited the Fair, as well as people who came from San Juan County; including Charlie and Annalee Redd, Wayne H. and Carolyn Redd, Daryl Redd and James Scorup.
While serving in Cincinnati, Karl met the Kraft family, who lived on a small farm in Claryville, KY. The Kraft girls were beautiful and after his mission, Karl started writing to his favorite, Edith. He corresponded with her for two years. They fell in love via the U. S. Postal Service. Finally, Karl proposed and Edith accepted.
Their first date was in Salt Lake City the day they bought their marriage license. The next day they were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
Karl and his new wife returned to San Juan County, where Karl went to work for the L. H. Redd Company in their Mercantile Store in Monticello. He learned the store business and also got an education in how to cut meat from Ralph Bailey, a local butcher.
He worked for the Redd family for four years and then went out on his own and bought a small store from Wilford Frost. As part of the deal, he took over Frost’s “receivables.” After years of trying to collect on the debts, late one night he invited his son Clayson to come down to the store. When Clayson arrived, his father showed him two large piles of paper which represented the bad debts. Clayson watched his dad toss both piles into the hot, glowing wood stove. “All the bad feelings I had a few minutes ago will soon be gone,” he said, “and all will be forgiven and forgotten.” That experience made a deep impression on Clayson.
In November, 1949, while on a business trip in Salt Lake City, Karl’s wife called him with the news that his store was on fire. It was a total loss. He came home, got his affairs in order and then purchased a hardware store, a gas station and a café on the corner south of the old Monticello School house, where “Woody’s Convenience Store” stands today.
He started an insurance business and purchased the Bailey and Woods Grocery Store from Ralph Bailey and Gordon Woods, which was located directly across the street (west) from the San Juan County Court House. Later, he also purchased three ranches where he raised wheat, beans, hay and cattle.
Karl and John Lewis were best friends and business partners for many years. They were involved in many business deals together.
In l936, Karl became the San Juan County Attorney. He served for 14 years until l950 having to stand for re-election every two years. During that time, he became well acquainted with District Judge Fred Keller. Judge Keller had a cattle operation near Carlisle, north of Monticello, where Karl also ran cattle. They ran their cattle together in Dry Valley and helped each other. While serving as District Attorney, Karl also served on the Monticello City Council.
If that were not enough to keep this man busy, he built a slaughterhouse in Monticello and supplied all three grocery stores with beef, pork and mutton. In addition he always kept a large garden next to his home and loved growing things. He loved the soil and often said the best part of farming was plowing because the smell of freshly turned soil brought him great satisfaction.
At the age of 30, Karl was called to be a counselor to San Juan LDS Stake President Leland Redd. He served in that capacity for 17 years and had an enormous influence for good with the young people in the stake because of his youth and his powerful speaking ability and because he taught the 16-17 year olds in Sunday School for the entire 17 years he served in the Stake Presidency.
In 1959, Karl served one term in the Utah Legislature’s House of Representatives.
In 1960, while still in the stake presidency and the Utah House of Representatives, he was called to be president of the new Florida Mission, which had split from the Southern States Mission. The new mission contained part of Georgia and Alabama and all the Caribbean Islands, in addition to the state of Florida. This was a tremendous honor ase Karl was the first man from the area to be called as a Mission President.
President Lyman was set apart by President David O. McKay and served three years with his mission headquarters in Orlando, FL. Upon returning from his service, he and Edith settled in Provo since they had sold their San Juan assets prior to leaving for Florida.
He served as Bishop of the Provo 15th Ward for six years, In l974 he was elected to the Utah County Commission, where he served for six years, most of that time as Chairman. During this time he was instrumental in starting a Parks Department and creating the Utah County Fair. He was also a partner in The Equitable Realty Company and a member of the Kiwanis Club.
Later in life, Karl and Edith served for 10 years as missionaries on Temple Square. He was a Branch President at the Missionary Training Center and an ordinance worker in the Provo Temple. He was a faithful home teacher and had a standing appointment for the first Tuesday of every month, rarely, if ever failing to complete that calling.
A great storyteller and a powerful, articulate speaker, Karl loved to find a comfortable spot and then be surrounded by grandchildren, students, friends or missionaries and exclaim, “That reminds me of a story!” He would tell story after story for hours on end if time allowed, completely mesmerizing his listeners.
Second only to his love for being on a horse in San Juan County, Karl loved to travel. And he saw a lot of the world. Starting with San Juan, then the State of Utah, the United States, Russia, Mexico, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Holland and China. He was fascinated by other countries and cultures. But he always said there was no place like home. And he came home to San Juan often in his sunset years to ride his favorite horse and help his friends round up cattle, or travel by Jeep to his favorite places in the county like the Hole-in-the-Rock, Canyonlands, and other majestic places.
In l983, at the age of 70, this human dynamo, who was involved in more challenges during his life than a dozen ordinary men, had three heart attacks in quick succession, which required a quadruple heart bypass operation. He recovered and had 13 more good years, hardly slowing down. In l996 he had a massive heart attack and doctors told the family he would not live another week. But thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, especially the applications of the Linus Pauling formulations, he recovered and had two more wonderfully productive and happy years.
When he died October 1, l998 at the age of 85, the chapel could not hold all that came to pay their last respects even though he had outlived most of his peers. He was interred next to his two sons in the family plot in the Monticello Cemetery. The mighty Horsehead on Blue Mountain now keeps watch over his grave. Respectful visitors pass that hallowed spot and are warmed by his spirit and memory.
Anyone who reads about the life of Karl Lyman, must be profoundly impressed with all he accomplished in a single lifetime. However, the things that most impress this writer, who had the privilege of knowing Mr. Lyman as a teacher and as a life-long mentor, were the less visible little things he did completely out of the limelight.
He wrote to at least 30 missionaries a month for most of his life. He wrote to old friends and sometimes perfect strangers who did remarkable things. Rising at 5 a.m. every morning, he would write notes and letters to a broad array of family, friends and associates with congratulations on births, graduations, marriages, becoming Eagle Scouts, or letters of sympathy and encouragement as the situation required.
Epilogue: I was the recipient of several special notes and letters throughout my life. I have saved them, and the older I get the more I treasure them. I know many other people who also received his letters of love, support and congratulations. Besides his enormous example and his abilities as a teacher and speaker, it was those special personal communications that puts him near the top of my list of the most respected and influential men in my life.