Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Lyman Beecher, an abolitionist Congregationalist preacher from Boston and Roxana Foote Beecher. He was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famous author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the brother of renowned Congregationalist minister, Henry Ward Beecher. He also had another prominent and activist sister, Catharine Beecher.
He attended Boston Latin School and Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1834, and then attended Lane Theological Seminary in Ohio. He taught music classes in Cincinnati, Ohio, and received his preaching license from the Presbytery of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Beecher married Sarah Leland Coffin (1815-1897) in 1840 and they had six children. He served as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, from 1844 until 1851. He was also a prominent member of the Peucinian Society.
In 1851, he moved east and ministered to the First Free Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Jersey. The church, known as a stronghold of abolitionism, was expelled from the Presbyterian Synod in 1853, and re-organized as a Congregationalist church. Beecher left in 1857 for a pastorate in Georgetown, Massachusetts. In 1863 he was relieved of his preaching duties in the Congregational Church for preaching against orthodox doctrine. Following the Civil War, he moved to Florida to help his sister Harriet and her husband minister to newly freed slaves. He eventually was state Superintendent of Public Instruction in Florida from 1871–1873. He finished his ministry as acting pastor in Wysox, Pennsylvania, from 1885–1893. Beecher died in Georgetown, Massachusetts.
Beecher’s major publications include:
- The Incarnation, or, Pictures of the Virgin and her Son (1849)
- The Duty of Disobedience to Wicked Laws (1851)
- David and his Throne (1855)
- Pen Pictures of the Bible (1855)
- The Life of David King of Israel (1861)
- Autobiography, Correspondence, etc. of Lyman Beecher (1863)
- Redeemer and Redeemed (1864)
- Spiritual Manifestations (1879)
- The Eden Tableau, or, Object Bible-Teaching (1880)
- Patmos; or, the Unveiling (1896)
He also published two music texts and was one of the music editors for his brother Henry’s 1855 Plymouth Collection. He published several antislavery tracts, including A Sermon on the Nebraska Bill (1854) and The God of the Bible Against Slavery (1855). His travel journal was re-published in 1986 by the Stowe-Day Foundation under the title Harriet Beecher Stowe in Europe.
- The Duty of Disobedience to Wicked Laws. A Sermon on the Fugitive Slave Law
- Biography at the Cyber Hymnal
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Beecher, Lyman". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.