[this is a cross-posting --I've also put it on the Franklin County listings]
Here is a portion of the newspaper obituary of Lyman W. Ayer, who served in the Union Army in the Minnesota 2nd Light Artillery Battalion and spent time in Philadelphia during and after the war:
"After the war was over, he was given a commission as captain in the regular army but he chose not to continue his military career and with his wife went to Philadelphia, East Tennessee, where they taught school. Two years later, they moved to Atlanta, Ga., where Mr. Ayer's parents were then residing and doing missionary work among the colored people...."
I know that Lyman's wife returned to Minn. in 1867 and he in 1868.
Before the fall of Georgia, Lyman's Minnesota artillery unit was stationed in the vicinity of Chattanooga. Many members of the unit finished their term of service and some went home, but Lyman and others remained in Tennessee and I believe that they were assigned for the short term to work with draft animals and do assorted scouting/guarding for the Union in the area, including Winchester and Philadelphia. The veteranized remnants of the unit and newer recruits then re-formed and were participants in the battles in northern Georgia.
I know that Lyman's wife, Laura Augusta HIll Ayer, was able to penetrate Confederate lines to join him at some point during his Tennessee period of military service. During this wartime visit she taught in Tennessee, probably in the Philadelphia area. She had a brother in the unit (surname Hill) and Lyman had a cousin (surname Taylor). These men may have been involved with teaching and/or preaching. More Minnesotans in the Second Light Artillery also had close ties with the Ayer-Taylor-Hill group and experience in sawmilling, logging, teaching, and frontier living. These people lived in Morrison Co, Minnesota, primarily in the Bellevue and Belle Prairie communities.
Both Lyman Ayer and his wife Laura had teaching experience and Lyman's family were extremely interested in educating minorities and underprivileged--the Ayer family and the Taylor cousins had taught Ojibwe Indian students as well as white students in Minnesota Territory long before the war. It appears that Lyman took on the task of being a volunteer teacher even in his military unit, working with untaught comrades to conquer basic education. He wrote his parents that the former slaves were eager students and suggested that they consider teaching them--it was easier than the work they'd been doing in frontier Minnesota schools.
Lyman Ayer knew French as well as Ojibwe and had taught French in a Minnesota academy. He was adept at mathematics (in later life, he worked as an estimator for the railroads as a "timber cruiser," to evaluate the economic potential of forests) and taught math at the Minn. academy also. He had experience working with steam sawmills and did some kind of sawmill work somewhere in the South shortly after the war. This man and his wife would have been an asset to any community and would not have gone unnoticed. Although his parents were Congregational-Presbyterian, I believe that Lyman and wife may have been allied with Methodists at this time and would have probably participated in church activities and in Sunday Schools. I do not know if the students they taught in Tennessee were black, white, or both.
It is my hope that someone in Tennessee can recognize this story and help me document it properly. As you read family materials and local histories, if you find mention of Yankees who ran a sawmill or helped educate young (or old) in the vicinity of Winchester roughly 1865 to 1867 or if you find that someone kept up a correspondence with people from Minnesota or Atlanta after the war, I would very much appreciate being contacted.
L.Bryan, 1752 Gulden Place, Maplewood MN 55109