Henry William Bettely Hoyt was a native of Henry, Illinois, born on the 25th of June, 1841, unto William H. and Mary (Betteley) Hoyt, his father coming of good old New England families, while his mother, also of excellent antecedents, was directly from Old England. His paternal grandfather, Ephraim Hoyt, was a son of Matthew Hoyt, whose wife was a Lockwood, both of Connecticut birth, as were also Ephraim Hoyt and his wife, Anna Langford. Mary (Betteley) Hoyt was a daughter of William and Mary Betteley, of Newcastle, England. The last-named was a daughter of William and Mary Robinson. Another daughter of this couple, Mrs. William Gates, was the maternal grandmother of Sir Robert Peel. The subject of this sketch came in childhood to Chicago along with his parents, where his education, which was finished in the high school, was obtained. His first business venture was with his father in the lumber trade. He had been for some years a member of Ellsworth's Zouaves, so that it quite naturally followed, upon the call for troops to put down openly expressed rebellion, that he, although still in his teens, enlisted in the One Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois Infantry, that being the Third Board of Trade Regiment, and indeed the last to be raised under the auspices of that body. He was mustered in October 1, 1862, as First Lieutenant of Company A, it being a distinctively Chicago company, his regiment joining the Second Brigade (Division) of Sherman's (the Fifteenth) Corps of the Army of the Tennessee, which co-operated with General Grant at Vicksburg.
For personal bravery he was breveted Captain, January 22, 1863. Successful thereafter in running the Vicksburg blockade, he was taken a prisoner soon after at a minor battle at a river landing in Tennessee, and for several months thereafter was imprisoned in a stockade at Cahaba, Alabama. Many of his comrades starved, but good humor gained him exceptional treatment, and in about eight months, after a limited diet, which was confined to daily rations of a pint of corn-meal per soldier, he had the excellent good fortune to be exchanged.
Subsequently he was commissioned Major, and served on General Grant's staff during the later Mississippi campaign. His services included action at the battles of Pine Bluff, Corinth, Vicksburg, Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, Milliken's Bend, Jackson, Eastport and Fort Pillow, a part of the interim acting as signal officer, at the instance of General Sherman, who entertained for him the highest regard. Moreover, he could point back to a certain period of six months during which he was Acting Commander of the Union Prison at Memphis, Tennessee. While there he treated his prisoners with so much humanity as to meet with formal and reciprocal acknowledgment of the same long after. The first word during his own period of confinement that he was able to get to his Northern friends was through the grateful courtesy of a Confederate officer, whom he had kindly treated at Memphis Prison. General Forest, the rebel commander, had also heard of him, and when he was marched in threw him a new blanket, in special token of appreciation of his soldierly qualities. From his protracted term of service he was mustered out June 20, 1865.
About the year 1866 he formed a new partnership with his father, to engage in the real estate business, which, after a successful career, was dissolved in January, 1882, that the son might form another relation as partner in the firm of Bogue & Hoyt, which, in the same field, continued in very remunerative activity up to the time of Mr. Hoyt's death, which came suddenly tragic, from a fit of congestion of the brain, February 12, 1891, at his residence No. 1931 Calumet Avenue, interment taking place in the family lot at Graceland.
He was an honored member of the Loyal Legion of the United States, which body, in its "resolutions" upon the occasion of Mr. Hoyt's death, expressed its loss in part by the following touchingly exceptional language: "Once again on the march through life, are we halted to close the ranks of this Commandery, from which has fallen a loved and faithful companion, who has answered to final roll-call.
"Another of the many heroes who in the hour of its greatest peril so nobly responded to the Nation's call for help, and with all the zeal and earnestness of his nature did the best he could to protect it from impending danger, has folded his cloak about him and lain down to that sleep from which there is no waking."
From the Real Estate Board resolutions upon the same solemn theme, we extract verbatim the following eulogy: "We have lost a friend. Henry W. Hoyt was the friend of all who knew him. In business, as well as social life, he commanded respect, he won affection. He loved kindness, for his was a kindly nature. He loved honor, for he was one of nature's noblemen. Just was he, yet generous; faithful to trusts committed, energetic in accomplishment--a man with whom performance outran the word. His work with us is finished; gone is the genial presence; vanquished the pleasant smile; stilled the kindly voice."
Mr. Hoyt was a member of the Calumet, Union League and Washington Park Clubs. A stanch Republican, but in no whit a politician. An attendant upon Bishop Cheney's Reformed Episcopal Church. He married, August 7, 1871, Miss Delia Woodruff, of Chicago, who survives him. Two children sprang from their devoted union: Leta Keith Hoyt, who died in early life, and Edith May Hoyt, who, still in her teens, attends the Holman-Dickerman private school in this city. Mrs. Hoyt's father was Ralph Woodruff, who came from a recognized old Syracruse (N. Y.) family, he having removed in early days to Chicago. Her mother was Delia Gurley, a daughter of Jason and Susan (Bryant) Gurley, the latter a relative of the poet, William Cullen Bryant. From this line sprang John Addison Gurley, of Cincinnati, Ohio, a distinguished United States Representative of repeated service, and the first Governor of Arizona.
Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits, 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 17-18