It Happened in Oxford

During the American Revolution

John Davis & John Salem Hyde

by Dorothy A. DeBisschop


During the American Revolution, the British forces occupied New York. They sent a group of troops all through the southwestern part of Connecticut and forcibly carried off all the young men they could capture. They thought some of the captives could be persuaded to join in the fight against the patriots. Those who would not join them would at least not have a chance to join with the patriots against the English forces.

One such kidnapping took place in Oxford on Chestnut Tree Hill Road. John Davis, who later became known as Colonel John Davis, was a young man when captured. He was held prisoner in New York for some time. However, he would not take up arms for the English. He eventually escaped and returned to Oxford. Despite this experience, John Davis did not join the patriot army either.

Just as John Davis refused to serve in the English army, one Oxford man refused to serve in the patriot army. His name was John Salem Hyde. Towards the end of the American Revolution, a draft system was established by the patriots. This was to get more men to serve in the American army. John Salem Hyde lived on Bowers Hills Road with his parents. When American army officers came to his house to draft Hyde into the army, he saw them coming. He climbed into the huge chimney of his fatherís house and hid.

None of Johnís family saw him going into the hiding place. When the officers could not find John in the house, they went to the barn, where there were piles of hay stored for the winter. The officers assumed that young Hyde was in one of these stacks. They called for him to come out. There was no response. The officers decided to at least get his body, and they began running long bayonets through the hay mounds.

All this time Johnís mother watched the officers, thinking John was in one of the hay mounds. The officers finally gave up and rode away, and John came out of hiding in the fire place chimney.

His hiding saved him from the unwanted service in the patriot army. But it caused his motherís mind permanent injury. She never recovered her reason. From that day on, she would only say, "Have you seen anything of John Salem Hyde today?".

(Special credit to the late Bernice Hull who provided the John Hyde tradition.)