Hunt Brothers

Philip Hunt, his wife, 6 sons and 3 daughters were farmers on a large estate in Corsley Parish in Wiltshire, England. While they farmed that land, they did not own it. Their pay for their hard work was very poor.

The economic prospects for the late 18th Century were very bleak due to industrialization, war and famine. It was very difficult to obtain a decent livelihood, resulting in widespread poverty. By the late 1820s, Corsley Parish’s cloth trade had declined dramatically and weavers were no longer needed. Large families and not enough employment contributed to a move to emigration to hopefully, a better life with opportunity.

To alleviate this situation, Corsley Parish took it upon itself, at its own cost, to ship 66 of its own residents to Canada. These residents were considered to be the least desirable. In fact, that was not the case. These emigrants were most likely the poorest of the parish with the fewest prospects to improve their lot. Half were adults while the other half were children or minors. To pay for this, the Parish sold a number of houses. Money was raised and clothing was gathered for the emigrants. The entire group of 66 was taken on mass in wagons to meet the ship in Bristol.

Philip’s son Thomas, his wife Sarah of 11 years, their children and his brothers, James and Jeremiah were believed to be part of this group of 66. During their seven-week sea voyage, while they were in the River Lawrence, on June 1, 1830, Thomas’ wife Sarah gave birth to a daughter. The Captain was given the honour of naming her – Sarah Uphrosyne Hunt. Her middle name was the name of the ship. She lived 18 years, 8 months and 24 days. She died on February 24, 1849 and is buried in the Mountsberg Cemetery.

On arriving in Canada, the Hunts travelled up the St. Lawrence and made their way to the Dunnville area where they worked along the Grand River. From there, they made their way to Halton, via Hamilton. In Hamilton, they cut lumber in the business section. Through their hard work on arriving in Canada, the three Hunt men were able to save enough money to purchase their own land later that same year. They bought 100 acres in Kilbride for 12 shillings, 6 pence per acre in 1834 from the Canada Company. The location of the second 100 acres has not yet been confirmed in land registry records. Almost immediately, 50 acres were sold off to George Harbottle.

The dense, virgin forest was very difficult to clear. Pines, especially white pines, had grown to be well over 100 feet tall with up to a 6 foot diameter at the stump. Trees of this size had extensive roots that were extremely difficult to deal with in order to clear for workable farm land. Working hard to clear the land, one day, while felling a tree, James was killed instantly by one of the branches that fell on him. The remaining Hunt brothers, Thomas and Jeremiah, soon sold their Kilbride land and moved to East Flamborough on the 10th Concession East. Thomas eventually moved to the Durham area. Brothers Philip, William, and John as well as their father, mother, and sister, Jane had by that time come to join them in Canada.

There is no doubt that the Hunt brothers and their families found opportunity in Canada and were in fact good, hardworking, and successful people. There is an account of Jeremiah Jr. being the first person to ring the new bell of Carlisle Church in 1901 on the news of the death of Queen Victoria. There are other accounts that some of Jeremiah’s sons ran a saw mill in Dakota. However, this has not been substantiated.

On their arrival in Canada, the Hunts were expected to report back to the parish in England on living conditions in Canada. This was to inform and encourage others to consider emigration to Canada. In one such letter signed by Thomas, James and Jeremiah, written November 14, 1830, they describe what they had experienced up to that point:

We are in a good country for poor folks: we have plenty of good fire and grog. Wheat 4s per bushel, good boiling peas 3s, 6d. Rye 3s. Buckwheat 2s, 6d. Indian corn 2s, 6d. Oats 2s. Potatoes 1s, 3d. Rum 10d per quart. Good whiskey 7 ½ d. Brandy 9d per quart. Port wine 1s, 3d. Tea 3s, 6d per pound. We make our own sugar, our own soap, candles, and bake good light bread. Beef and mutton 2d per pound &c. Fat geese 1s, 6d. Best fowls 1s, 3d per couple. Wages £3 per month and our keep. We dine with our masters. Women 2s 6d a day and good keep. The price of land is about L1 per acre near the roads, some way back it is cheaper. No poor-rates or taxes of any consequence. I see in the paper great lamentations for our departure from Chapmanslade. More need to rejoice! We three brothers have bought 200 acres of land at 12s 6d per acre. We have paid £25, and have £100 to pay in five years that is £20 a year, between three that is £6, 1Ss, 4d each. It is in Nelson, District of Gore,about five miles from Street with a pretty good road to our lot. Only nine miles to Lake Ontario, a good sale for all grain. A grist mill and a saw mill within 25 chains, which is a great advantage. A good river runs right through our lot of land and good springs rise on it.

We shall never want for water, nor timber. We have several adjoining houses, chiefly English people. We can raise up a good house in a little while at little expense. We have thousands of tons of timber and good stone for building. It is called the healthiest place in Upper Canada. We have no sickness since we have been here. Stouter than we was in England. Sarah wishes to see all her friends here. We expect to clear 20 acres by next harvest. We cut the trees about 3 feet above ground and put fire to it, and burn it root and branch. We are about 700 miles from Quebec. That is but little here. Sarah Hunt and her five children is all well: she was confined on the river St. Lawrence. She had a very good time. She and all is very stout, never wishing to return to England, but rather all friends was here, for here is plenty of work and plenty to eat and drink. Thank God we are here. We all wish that our fathers, and mothers, and brothers, and sisters was here, for here is plenty of room for all there is in England. They that think to work may do well. But if our fathers and mothers was here, they should never be obliged to do a hard day’s work, for we would keep them without work if they were not able. But if any of you should come, they must make up their minds not to be faint-hearted. You may expect rocking, but I don’t fear the raging seas. For more may come as safe as we, for the God that rules the land rules the sea. There is some come this year turned back before they knew whether ‘tis good or bad. But I thank my God that we are here.”

Thomas Hunt, James Hunt, Jeremiah Hunt

Letter reprinted in The Quarterly Review, VOL. XLVI, published in November 1831 and January 1832, by John Murray, Albermarle St., London, and brought to the attention of the Kilbride History Group by Arlene Munro, a descendant of Jeremiah Hunt.

Contributing Author: Helen Callaway