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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography - James N. Hunt

SOURCE: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign County, Illinois," Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1887


JAMES H. HUNT, of Stanton Township, and who spent his boyhood on a farm in Erie County, N.Y., came to the West to seek his fortunes when a young man of sixteen years, and in the fall of 1857 landed in Champaign County. He arrived here with high hopes and expectations, and probably can truthfully say that he has been in nowise disappointed with the results of his venture. His early years were spent in honorable labor, but he did not consider that any misfortune or disgrace. The prairies of the West, at the time of his coming, were waiting for just such industrious hands and were ready to reward them with homes and a competency whenever there was an effort put forth with this end in view. Young Hunt entered heartily into this arrangement and the result has fully equaled, if not exceeded, his expectations. He commenced without means, having only his strong hands and willing disposition, and now after the lapse of thirty years looks around him upon a comfortable homestead where peace and plenty reign. and with barn and cellar overflowing with good things for man and beast. His property is located on the southwest quarter of section 33, in Stanton Township, where he has walked in and out among the people worthily for over a quarter of a century and enjoys in a marked degree their confidence and esteem.

The family history of Mr. Hunt will be perused with interest by those who have watched his later career, and we present it as follows: The great-grandfather of our subject, Jonathan HUNT, was a native of New Jersey, both in 1766, and died in September, 1819. He married Miss Rebecca EDDY, who was born on Long Island, N.Y., and died during the year 1818. They raised a fine family of children, their son Noah being the grandfather of our subject. He was born Oct. 29, 1790, in Sussex County, N.J., and afterward removed to Erie County, N.Y., where his death took place on the 1st of December, 1869. He married Miss Sallie HUNT, who was born in New Jersey, July 12, 1792, and died at the homestead in Erie County, N.Y., Sept. 13, 1879, ten years after the decease of her husband. The marriage of the grandparents took place in Byron Township, Sussex Co., N.J., May 1, 1812. Their son Jonathan, the father of our subject, was born Feb. 16, 1813, in the township where his parents were married. They left New Jersey when he was six years of age and located in Erie County, N.Y., where he remained with them until twenty-one years of age. Upon starting out on his own account he first purchased a tract of land near the homestead, which he occupied until 1858, and when not actively engaged in farm work, followed surveying, for which he had been well fitted by a good education and more than ordinary natural ability. He was married in the town of Grant, Erie Co., N.Y., Jan. 29, 1837, to Miss Caroline WEST. The mother of our subject was born in Erie County, N.Y., Feb. 27, 1815. The parental household included eight children, of whom one died in infancy. The others are still living. They are named James H., Fillmore, Augustus, Leroy, Carrie A., Mary L., and Alfred.

The subject of this biography was born Aug. 4, 1839, in Eden, Erie Co., N.Y., where he remained with his father's family until eighteen years of age. Early in life he began to lay his plans for the future, and at this time having heard much of the far West, started out, accompanied by a friend, to seek a location. They proceeded on their journey until reaching Toledo, Ohio, where they looked around considerably, but not finding anything to suit their fancy, pushed on to Chicago. The city thirty years ago presented a vastly different appearance from that of to-day, and gave little indication of its future importance. They saw no reason for locating there and concluded to move on. Young Hunt happened to get hold of an Illinois Central time table in which was depicted in glowing terms the prospect held out to the enterprising emigrant to Champaign County, and to that point they at once proceeded. He first procured work on the railroad, having landed in this locality without means and being compelled to accept the first thing offered. Three weeks later the "boss" left for parts unknown, "forgetting" in his haste to pay his men. Young Hunt was without money, having nothing to even pay his board, and his "chum" was in the same condition. They managed however, to secure enough eatables to keep soul and body together, and going into the country, Mr. H. worked a few days which brought in a few dollars. He was afterward employed by Gardener Mott in Urbana Township, to whom, however, he did not become very warmly attached, and left him to engage with a neighbor. His partner in the meantime located in Urbana Township, and he made his home with him until the outbreak of the Civil War.

The Rebellion furnished employment to hundreds of idle men, too many of whom perhaps enlisted with more regard for the $13 per month than for the preservation of the Union. This, however, was not the case with young Hunt, for he had laid his plans and had no doubt that in time he would succeed in building up a home in the West and securing a competency. These plans, however, he was willing to lay aside, and with the true spirit of patriotism and a desire to be of service in the pressing conflict, enlisted in Co. A, 20th Ill. Vol. Inf., taking his place in the ranks April 22, 1861. One of his first encounters with the enemy was at Ft. Donelson, and he afterward participated in the siege and capture of Vicksburg, the battle of Pittsburg Landing, and many other important engagements of the war. For three years following he experienced all the vicissitudes of a soldier's life, the weary marches, the "hard tack" fare, the harrassing skirmishes and more serious encounters with the rebels. After building up a good record as a soldier he received his honorable discharge at the close of his term of enlistment and was mustered out at Chattanooga, July 16, 1864.

After becoming a civilian once more, Mr. Hunt returned to Champaign County and farmed on a tract of rented land for a few years, living economically and laying aside a small sum annually. In January, 1867, he purchased eighty acres of his present farm, which he improved and cultivated with success and some years later doubled the amount of his landed estate. The quarter section which he now possesses constitutes a fine and fertile farm, conveniently laid off into pasture lands and grain fields, supplied with good buildings and machinery, and is in all respects the model homestead of a progressive decade. After the purchase of his first land he began to prepare for the maintenance of a family, putting up a frame house and adding other necessary buildings. On the 24th of December, 1868, he was made the husband of Miss Katie FEELY, who was the daughter of John and Anna FEELY, of New York City, the wedding taking place in St. Joseph Township. To the home thus established, in due time there came a family of six children, who were named, respectively, Guy T., Gertie M., Tessie S., Maude W., Fay and Minnie Opal. Mrs. Hunt is a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and our subject socially belongs to St. Joseph Post No. 129, G.A.R. He cast his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln and since that time has remained a decided Republican.

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