John Hyde, 1777-1794.



John was the son of Ezra and Sarah Hyde of Hartford. Perhaps he died of yellow fever, which was epidemic in New Haven in 1794. Sixty-four people had died of it. Perhaps John was attending Yale.

Due to his age at death (17), date of death, and out of town origins, historian Deb Townshend speculated in her 2001 obituary for John Hyde (see above) that he may have been a Yale student who died during the 1794 yellow fever epidemic in New Haven (64 people died in total).  

My own investigation verifies cause of death, at least.  One record I found indeed notes that he died at the home of an Issac Tomlinson “of a putrid fever,” and he is confirmed in multiple records as a victim of the epidemic in August of that year (his last name is spelled “Hide” in some of these accounts; the death date is listed as August 8).  

In histories of the epidemic, it was reported that John was a visitor at the Gorham house before he was infected — a “public house” on Long Wharf that had recently entertained sailors of a sloop once used to transport the ill in the West Indies and docked in New Haven in June 1794.  (Some reports also mention of trunk of clothing belonging to a deceased sailor was brought into the home.) After members of the Gorham family and other visitors sickened and died, it was theorized this was where the epidemic began.  (For the record, Noah Webster was skeptical of this early epidemiological thinking, and tried to make a connection with the increase in caterpillars that spring.)

Yale’s President Ezra Stiles notes John Hyde as a victim in his diary notes on the 1794 epidemic, but does not mention whether he is a student at the College and does not include his first name (he is listed as “Mr. Hyde” and “Hyde”).  He does note that, by the end of August, panic at the university over the deaths had increased to the point that scholars were requesting to leave home.  Stiles’ entry for August 26 reads:

The Committee of Coll met on settl. Acc. of new Coll. Three funerals this forenoon followed only by 2 or 3 men & 2 or 3 women. They died of this contagious yellow fever 3 or 4 psons taken ill to day. Terror. The Author have provided Nurses & hospital houses & forbidden communication…. Scholars alarmed.  At 11 pm they began to apply to Leave to go home. I have dismissed sixty one scholars out of 115 to day. Numbers of Gent mov. their families out of town.

The start of Yale’s fall term was ultimately delayed by three weeks.

John Hyde’s epitaph — chosen by his parents in Hartford for the fine tombstone they supplied for a proper churchyard burial — reads:

to the Memory of 
Mr John Hyde 
son of Mr Ezra & 
Mr Sarah Hyde 
of the city of Hartford 
who Departed this Life 
in the 8th day of August 1794 
Aged 17 Years. 

A Youth beloved a Son most Dear 
His Parents hopes, lies buried here 
Kind Reader Drop a mournful tear 
Upon the Dust then Slumbering here 
And when you Read the fate of me 
Think on the Glass that runs for thee. 

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