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Famous People

Elihu Yale

Elihu Yale was born 5th April 1649 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the second son of David Yale, a prosperous Boston Merchant, and his wife Ursula. The Yale family has a long ancestry in the area stretching back to the 15th century when they settled in Plas yn Ial, Llanarmon yn Ial and adopted the Yale surname. Their connection with Wrexham began in the late 16th century when Elihu's great grandfather Dr David Yale bought the Plas Grono estate, which is now part of the Erddig estate.

Photo Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

David Yale's son Thomas married Anne Lloyd, daughter of George Lloyd, Bishop of Chester. They had four children but Thomas died young in 1619. Anne then married Theophilus Eaton, a strict Puritan. To escape persecution Anne and Theophilus Eaton and their stepchildren and others sailed to Boston, Massachusetts. They bought land from the Indians and called the settlement New Haven. Theophilus became the first Governor of the Colony and instituted a puritan regime. His stepson, David Yale found the regime too harsh and moved to Boston in 1641. He became a merchant and his children including Elihu were born there.

David again found the discrimination against Non-Puritans too harsh and returned to Plas Grono, Wrexham, the family following the next year. The family did not remain in Wrexham but moved to London and David pursued a career as a merchant.

Elihu received a classical education but chose to join his father's firm. Then he entered the service of the East India Company as a clerk. In the company service he travelled to India in 1671 where he remained for 27 years. He made a significant contribution to the development of the company. In 1684 he was appointed Acting Governor of Fort St George and confirmed in the post 3 years later. Fort St George was important trading post and centre of diplomacy and was a difficult job. He was replaced as Governor in 1692 by opposing factions.

In 1680 he married a widow Catherine Hynmer with 4 children. His wife brought him a fortune. They had 4 children, 3 daughters and a son who died shortly after birth. His wife returned to this country in 1689 and that was effectively the end of the marriage. Elihu returned to this country in 1699. The last 22 years of his life were spent between Plas Grono and his home in London. He died in London but was buried in St Giles Churchyard.

The inscription on his tomb which he wrote himself reads:-

Born in America, in Europe bred
In Africa travell'd and in Asia wed
Where long he liv'd and thriv'd; In London dead
Much good, some ill, he did; so hope all's even
And that his soul thro' mercy's gone to Heaven
You that survive and read this tale, take card
For this most certain exit to prepare
where blest in peace, the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in silent dust.

He was a benefactor to Yale University, Connecticut and so the University was named after him. A replica of Wrexham church tower was built on Yale Campus.