Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heman Hyde and Polly Wyman Tilton

  • Heman Hyde 1788-1869
  • Polly Wyman Tilton 1786-1862
  • Related through: Dan's grandmother Elvira Wilde Langford

Heman Hyde was born on June 30, 1788, while his parents, James and Betty (Pennock) Hyde, were living in Manchester, southern Vermont, but while he was still a baby they moved to Strafford, in the northern part of the state. Heman was raised there, being the oldest of a large family of brothers and sisters. Indications are that Heman received a fair amount of schooling as he grew up.

On the December 5, 1810, Heman married Polly Wyman Tilton, a girl he had known ever since he could remember. Polly was the daughter of Phillip Tilton and Tabitha Prescott, an Indian woman. She was born January 20, 1786, in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Polly was proud of her part Indian heritage. While Polly was still a small child her mother moved to Strafford, Vermont, and there married a widower, John Bullock. To this union were born seven children, half brothers and sisters of Polly.

The first child of this marriage, Heman Tilton Hyde, was born in Strafford in June 1812. Sometime during the next two and a half years the young father departed to serve in the war of 1812, and also moved his family to York, Livingston Co., New York. Records show Heman was in the New York State Militia as a Lieutenant in the Genesee Co. 164th Regiment of Infantry and a Captain in the Genesee Co. 77th Regiment of Infantry. In York, four more children were born including our ancestor Rosel (named by his uncle, Roswell Hyde, who purposely abbreviated the name.)

In the year 1825, Heman and Polly, with their children, left York and settled in Freedom, Cattaraugus Co., New York. Since that was wilderness, Heman cleared the timber from the land and developed a large farm. He also carried on a heavy business in wool carding and cloth dressing. He was well situated and much respected by all.

Adjoining the family farm was the farm of Warren A. Cowdery, an early convert to "Mormonism," and it was from him, during the early 1830's that the Hyde family first heard of the restored Gospel and learned of the Book of Mormon. Warren obtained from his brother Oliver, some of the proof sheets to the Book of Mormon, some of which the Hyde family "had the privilege of perusing, and we did not peruse any faster than we believed." Heman's son William records in his journal that "early in the year 1834 Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt came to my father's house. They preached in the neighborhood two or three times, and conversed much in private. Before they left, my oldest brother was baptized."

Of this incident Elder Parley P. Pratt, who was the Prophet's traveling companion on this mission, says, “We visited Freedom, Cattaraugus County, New York; tarried over Sunday and preached several discourses, to which the people listened with great interest; we were kindly and hospitably entertained among them. We baptized a young man named Heman T. Hyde (son of Heman and Polly); his parents were Presbyterians, and his mother, on account of the strength of her traditions, thought that we were wrong, and told me afterwards that she would much rather have followed him to an earthly grave than to have seen him baptized. Soon afterwards, however, herself, her husband, and the rest of the family, with some thirty or forty others, were all baptized and organized into a branch of the Church -- called the Freedom Branch -- from which nucleus the light spread and souls were gathered into the fold in all regions round. Thus mightily grew the word of God, or the seed sown by that extraordinary personage, the Prophet and Seer of the nineteenth century”.

The following is the story of Polly's conversion, as related by George Tilton Hyde, who said that his father, Rosel told it to him more than once. Rosel said that the Prophet Joseph Smith was visiting at their home in Freedom, New York, and told them the thrilling story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. “Mother said to him, ‘Mr. Smith, if what you say is not true, hell is too good a place for you.’ The Prophet replied, ‘I know it, Mrs. Hyde, I know it; but the testimony I have borne to you is true; I know it is true and you may know it.’ The words of the Prophet cut her to the heart, and before retiring that night she sought the Lord in humble prayer — her petition was answered -- the next morning she applied for baptism."

The journal of Orson Pratt states that he and Brother John Murdock were at Mr. Hyde's home on March 30, 1834. On April 7, Heman Hyde and William Hyde, among others, were baptized and confirmed. On April 11, Polly Hyde was baptized and confirmed. Other members of the family soon followed their example, except for Rosel ("because of a sort of shyness on my part, being at that time but a young man and never having joined myself to any religious body.")

In February of the year 1836 the family (including young Heman Tilton Hyde with his bride, Eunice Sawyer, whom he had married in October 1835) moved from Freedom, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio, at that time one of the gathering places of the Church, and the site of the first temple being built by the saints. Construction was nearly complete on the temple by the time the Hyde family made residence in Kirtland, and it was dedicated a month later. The family attended the dedication of the temple, except for the Rosel, who still had not been baptized. William Hyde, in his journal, says of the dedication meeting: "This was, by far, the best meeting I had ever attended. The gifts of the gospel were enjoyed in a marvelous manner and Angels administered unto many."

The people outside the temple heard a strange noise like the rushing of a strong wind and they beheld a bright light resting above the sacred building." In later years when George Hyde asked his father Rosel why he delayed asking for baptism, Rosel said that his father told him not to be in a hurry, but to wait until he was sure it was the right thing to do. Rosel told George further, that the evening of the dedication of the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, from his father's home on the farm near Kirtland, that he saw a bright light like a pillar of fire resting above the temple. After what he saw and also heard at that time he needed nothing more to convince him and soon after, he was baptized.

The Saints were commanded to gather in Missouri, but they were meeting with opposition from the other settlers. Heman and Polly and family left Kirtland in September of 1838, intending to go to Far West and settle. When they had traveled as far as Huntsville, Missouri, about one hundred miles into the state and almost to their destination, they remained a few days in the woods where they were discovered by a mob, and for no other reason than that they were "Mormons,” were compelled by the armed mob to leave the state. They retreated to Quincy, Illinois.

Three more of their children married while Heman and Polly lived in the vicinity of Quincy -- Rosel in December 1839 to Mary Ann Cowles; Mary Ann in March 1841 to Isaac Bullard; and William in February 1842 to Elizabeth Howe Bullard, sister of Isaac. Charles undoubtedly desired also to marry, but was crippled and probably felt that he would never enjoy the companionship of a wife. But his parents were happy to have him, with his kind disposition, remain at home with them.

Heman Tilton Hyde died in May of 1842, not quite thirty years of age, leaving a widow and two small children, with another child born seven months after his decease. His death can be partly attributed to the persecutions and hardships which he had endured along with the rest of the Saints. His parents and family were greatly saddened by his death.

Heman and Polly, during the summer of 1842, moved into Nauvoo, Illinois. Here they, along with their son William, built a comfortable brick home for themselves. In October of 1842 Mary Ann's husband died, a mournful occasion for this bride of eighteen months. She later married David Grant in September 1843.

The family was part of the dramatic events at Nauvoo. They enjoyed its growth and prosperity under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, whom they knew well. (Their son Rosel commented many times about their friendship with the Prophet, and he made special mention of the Prophet's unusual eyes -- that to look into them was to know that he was not an ordinary man.) They grieved at the tragic martyrdom of their beloved Prophet. They were there when the mantle of Joseph fell upon Brigham Young. They worked diligently to help complete the temple at Nauvoo so that they and the other Saints could receive their temple ordinances. It was a time of rejoicing when these temple blessings were finally realized.

But the "anti-Mormon" presence was becoming more pronounced and more vicious. As Rosel told it, he and his family and friends "passed through those bitter scenes of persecution so well understood by those acquainted with the history of the Church. We suffered the most heart-rendering persecution that a cruel mob, actuated by the spirit of devils, could inflict upon us in the shape of burning houses, burning standing grain, etc." On May 18, 1846, Heman and Polly, with their children and their families, and what earthly possessions they could haul in their wagons crossed the Mississippi River, and started their long journey in search of peace in an unknown and desolate wilderness. The Hyde families reached Council Bluffs on July 12. The two months had been hard and long, but others shared their plight and all buoyed each other’s spirits.

Only four days after arriving at Council Bluffs, William Hyde was mustered into the Mormon Battalion, leaving his wife and two children in the care of his parents in "this unsettled camp in the midst of an uncultivated, wild Indian country." Heman settled at what was called Council Point and he was appointed to the High Council to help govern the camps of the Saints at this temporary place of gathering. Heman and Rosel built crude homes for themselves, for Eunice (widow of Heman Tilton Hyde) and her three children, and for William's family. They also cultivated land during the summer.

Fall came and Eunice's baby died. Rather than suffer further, she returned to her family home in Freedom, New York, taking her two remaining children with her. In February 1847, Mary Ann Hyde Grant died after a lingering sickness caused by exposure, as had many of the Saints in their inadequate circumstances. She left a husband and two children without their dear wife and mother. Heman and Polly then cared for their motherless grandchildren. The next summer Heman and Rosel toiled to raise all the crops they could, for the benefit of themselves and for all those that might have need of food as the winter season advanced.

In December 1847, William returned from his march with the Mormon Battalion, amid much rejoicing by all. He had been absent seventeen months. Spring arrived at last and preparations were made for Heman and household to travel on. William and Rosel assisted their father and mother, so that they, with their son Charles and also Mary Ann's children, were able to leave Council Bluffs with the Saints that spring for the Rocky Mountains. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1848, and settled there. It had been an arduous and seemingly endless trek across the plains, during which journey Heman acted in the capacity of a Captain of Fifty. William worked the farm at Council Point that Heman and Rosel had opened, and Rosel hired to drive a team for the government. William, Rosel, and their families made the journey to "Zion" in 1849. Heman was able to secure land and build an adequate home. He felt grateful to the Lord for the blessings his household now enjoyed, after the diverse hardships they had undergone.

In 1851, Heman and Polly, after due consideration and prayer, decided to invite a friend to join them in the bonds of plural marriage. Consequently, a widow woman by the name of Prudence Bump, became Heman's second wife. He later married two more wives, Elizabeth Lane and Catherine May Griffiths, both immigrants from Wales.

In February 1852, their son Charles married Sarah Taylor, and remained in Salt Lake City. Charles was the last child to leave the family home. Rosel was called to settle Kaysville. William lived in Lehi, then Cache Valley, where Hyde Park was named after him. These sons were all a wonderful credit to their parents through their example and teachings. All three of them became Patriarchs of the Church and as they lived their religion to the fullest, they were known for their spirituality and faith.

Heman and Polly were ever considerate of others' needs, serving their Church, family and fellow-men in every way that they could. Heman was a member of the High Council for several years after his arrival in Salt Lake Valley. He and Polly, in addition to Heman's plural wives, made a home for their granddaughter, Mary Ann Grant, until her untimely death at the age of seventeen, after she caught cold while attending a party.

Polly Wyman Tilton Hyde died September 13, 1862. She was a woman of strong will, but gentle and kind, proud of her part-Indian ancestry, admired and loved by her family. Heman died on June 11, 1869. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah, his home of twenty-one years. His strong, fervent testimony which carried him through his years of trials is a permanent legacy for those of us who are his descendants.

This history was written by Myrtle S. Hyde in 1964. The original can be found here.


  1. I am so happy to find your blog. I recently started my own blog about my Hyde ancestors at Heman Hyde is my 4th great grandfather.

  2. Thanks for posting! Rosel Hyde is my 3rd great grandfather. I knew some of the stories, but I was happy to have some details. I, too, am a little shy and careful when it comes to big decisions. It seems to be something of a family trait. =)

  3. I am a descendant as well of Heman and Rosel. Thanks for this extra info

  4. William Hyde is my great-grandfather. Thank you for sharing this history. I feel blessed by the example and sacrifices of my ancestors.

  5. Heman and Polly's home in Nauvoo is still standing.,-91.372139,3a,75y,48.99h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sdBou31g4s0TF5Tq-UFWlMw!2e0

  6. Heman and Polly's home in Nauvoo is for sale right now.