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The Mystery of John Hunt

By Tom Carney, Editor "Old Huntsville"

For well over a hundred years, John Hunt, the founder of Huntsville, has been shrouded in mystery.  Where did he come from?  Where and when did he die?  Was he the illiterate backwoodsman that history has made him out to be?
    John Hunt was born in 1750 in Fincastle County, Virginia, to parents of Irish and Dutch descent.  His family first immigrated to America in 1635 and after living in New Jersey and Maryland moved to Virginia around 1730.  The family appears to have been fairly prosperous.  In 1752, records show that a man by the name of Thomas Foster was appointed con­stable in the home of John Hunt, Sr.
    Among the families living in Fincastle County were the Acklins, Holbrooks, and the Larkins.  Many of these families would later play prominent roles in the early development of Huntsville.
    In 1769, John Hunt married the daughter of William Holbrook, a close friend of his father.  The following year the Holbrook family moved to Hawkins County, North Carolina, and John moved with them.  Within a few years the Larkins, and Acklin families had joined with them in the new settle­ment.
    With the advent of the Revolutionary War, many of the settlers took up arms to fight for their new country.  Many historians would later contend that John Hunt served as a captain during the war.  This mistaken claim would later lead to confusion in trying to establish Hunt's early years.  In fact, Hunt's only military service consisted of several months enlistment as a private under Captain Charles Polk of the Company of Light Horses, in Salisbury District, North Carolina.
    Although John did not see much service, records seem to indicate that his father was a member of the Colonial army while his uncle served as a Colonel in the British army.
    Short service periods of a few months were common in North Carolina as the settlers had crops and Indians to deal with and could not be gone for long periods of time.
    At the end of his short military career, Hunt returned to his home in Hawkins County.  Young John and his wife probably lost several children at childbirth, as it was not until eight years after their marriage that they had their first recorded child.
    In 1779, John Hunt was appointed a lieutenant in the state militia, serving as a paymaster.

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