ALPHEUS HYATT, junior, was born in Washington, D. C, on April 5, 1838.
Late in the seventeenth century, the ancestors of Alpheus Hyatt moved northward from Virginia into the young colony of Maryland, where they soon became large landed proprietors and raisers of tobacco; the colonial manor of Tewkesbury on the Potomac River being owned by Charles Hyatt, Esqr., the great-grandfather of Alpheus Hyatt, senior. Hyattsville was also the seat of certain of Alpheus Hyatt's ancestors.
Alpheus Hyatt's father was a leading merchant of Baltimore, and in common with many men of affairs in southern cities, he made his home in the country; each day driving in to his counting-house in the city. The old Hyatt home was "Wansbeck," a colonial mansion shaded by great oak trees and placed upon the summit of a hill far from the city's dust and turmoil. It still stands to-day, but is now in the heart of the city at the comer of Franklin and Schroeder Streets, where it serves as the Child's Nursery and Hospital of Baltimore.
Here among the woods and fields of "Wansbeck" young Hyatt began his studies in natural history, becoming an ardent collector of insects and aquatic life; a pursuit which brought him into intimate comradeship with young Alfred Marshall Mayer, a boy of nearly his own age. The friendship between the little naturalists lasted through life, although Hyatt, true to his early inclination, remained constantly a student of animal life, while Mayer eventually became a physicist. Hyatt's interest in paleontology was first awakened by the sight of a collection of minerals and fossils possessed by one of his early teachers, Captain Allen, a retired army officer.
Although none of Hyatt's ancestors had been distinguished for remarkable mental characteristics, and none had sought intellectual or even professional careers, his mother was a woman of strong and decided character and an amateur artist of considerable ability, some of her copies of old masters and tapestries being noteworthy. The abundant means possessed by his father afforded him every educational advantage of the day, and his early education was commenced under private tutors, but soon he was sent to the Military Academy of Oxford, Maryland, to be prepared for Yale University', which he entered as a freshman in 1856.