Uphrosyne: A Hunt Family Odyssey

In my mind’s eye, I can see them assembled in clusters along the misty main street of Chapmanslade, Corsley that early April morning long ago in 1830. A few hundred local folks in all, an unusually large gathering for this tiny English village, were awaiting the arrival of the heavy horse-drawn wagons that would haul away 66 of their kin, adventurous and even desperate men, women, and children to the Bristol harbour, a long day’s road trip. A three-masted barque, a coal freighter, was standing by to carry them across the Severn to Newport, Wales, where the hold of the wooden ship would be loaded with Welsh coal, then cast off toward a foreboding ocean and an unknown and fearful future.

Along the packed down chalky-clay street, lined by a smattering of stone, thatch-roofed cottages and shops, we would find perhaps 20 members of the family of Philip and Elizabeth “Betty” Hunt, their grown up and teenage sons and daughters, assembled to bid a sad and seemingly final farewell to eight of their clan, knowing well they would never return to England, and likely never to be embraced again.

With a few carpet bags packed with only the most essential items of clothing, and a wooden crate of tools, pots and pans, and possibly a long gun, were three rough and ready Hunt brothers, the youngest, Jeremiah, 21, still single, James, 24, also unmarried, and Thomas, 34, with his wife Sarah and four daughters. Sarah, great-with-child number five, knew she was due to deliver in two months time, and wondered if she would make it all the way to their new home in a strange, far away land known as Upper Canada.

Family members remaining with Philip and Betty were their two soon-to-be married daughters Hannah, 29 (betrothed to a Mr. Jenkins), Harriet 28, (to a Mr. Haines), and sons William, 26, Philip Jr. 18, and a younger daughter Jane and son John whose ages are uncertain as they are not recorded in the local Church of England baptismal records, the family evidently having left old St. Margaret’s Anglican to join one of the active non-conformist congregations, in all likelihood Methodist but perhaps, Baptist.

Much tongue-wagging and gossip preceded the day’s event, as the small 3,000-acre agricultural Parish of Corsley, population 1,400, in west Wiltshire along the Somerset boundary prepared to ship off what local legends would describe the men in the party as “66 of the least desirable of its inhabitants, half being adults and half children…several poachers among them and other reputed bad characters.” Such was the stinging pejorative written by Maud F. Davies in her controversial book published in 1906 “Life in an English Village,” all about living conditions in Corsley in the 1800s.

Maud went on to explain how the Parish bought passage for these surplus poor farm labourers, attributing to another unnamed source, an even harsher characterization of these folks as “several families of the very class one would wish to remove—men of suspected bad habits, bringing their children up to wickedness.” Our Hunt family later fought back against the slander.

Writing home after their arrival in Canada, Thomas, James and Jeremiah exulted: “We are here in a good country for poor folks… no poor rates or taxes of any consequence… I see in the paper great lamentation of our departing from Chapmanslade; more need to rejoice… we three brothers have bought 200 acres of land.”

Land ownership was the ultimate mark of success, reserved in the old country for only the people of wealth, usually inherited, and the landed aristocratic.

Jeremiah a few years later at age 34, ran into the old “undesirable” stigma in 1843 when he asked the local blacksmith Thomas Purnell for the hand in marriage of his 24 year old daughter Maria and was rejected. They eloped.

A hundred years later in 1930, Jeremiah’s granddaughter Ella Hunt staked out the Hunt reputation for history: “We, his descendants, should give high honour to these men, who by their labours, their sterling characters, honour, and integrity, paved the way for us….from them we inherited good character which makes the name of Hunt as good as a bond. As they have left us an untarnished name, let us endeavour to keep it so.”

Faced with rising unemployment and wretched poverty, the Corsley parish overseers had raised money to rid off some of their poor across the Atlantic to Quebec, then a further 700 miles inland to the British colony of Upper Canada, founded by loyalists who had fled from the lower American colonies after that unfortunate rebellion against our good farmer King George III, known as the American Revolution. It was “Upper Cana-da,” so named as it was located “up” the St. Lawrence River from the former French colony of Lower Canada.

One horrific description of Corsley said “men would go about with a piece of sacking tied around their necks, with holes for their arms and legs, as sole clothing… people would feed on acorns or anything they could obtain.” Lack of adequate food was chronic and debilitating.

Many economic factors converged, all of them bad. An active cloth-making industry had failed, surplus labourers came from ranks of discharged soldiers after the end of the Napoleonic wars, mechanization of farming with new equipment for tilling soil and harvesting eliminated jobs in farming. Re-formers saw the food shortage a result of short-sighted greed and brutal exploitation of the farm and factory workers by the aristocratic land owning class. This led to riots and the destruction of newly-invented farm machinery all across the south of England, including Wiltshire. We are told, though, that none of these riots occurred in Corsley and no local parish men were involved in the crackdown by authorities that resulted in some hangings and hundreds of men being transported to the penal colony of Van Die-men’s Land, Australia.

What is known of our Hunt family in these times?

In this era of English history, after 1783, the common lands accessed by the poor for personal gardening or to raise a few hogs, or a cow, had been “inclosed,” that is incorporated into large farming estates, fenced off by hedges and stone walls. Working poor in some cases could become tenant farmers by an annual lease for a few acres from the manor property, or they could be simply farm labourers, or perhaps tenants who also served the main owner as hired help.

It is probable that Philip Hunt was a tenant farmer, and that he and his sons also worked for wages when work was available. The daughters, who married at quite a mature age, could have worked in weaving or silk cloth manufacturing, very active industries in Corsley.

Much of Corsley acreage was owned by the Marquess of Bath, Thomas Thynne, the owner of Longleat, a huge palatial house on thousands of acres bordering on the south of Corsley. Longleat today maintains an ex-tensive archive, open only to professional researchers, which may have documentation of a Hunt family lease of a few acres with a cottage.

A typical cottage had three rooms, a dirt floor, thatched roof. It would have been quite crowded, particularly if the married son Thomas and wife Sarah shared the home with his parents and siblings.

Thomas Thynne’s wife, Isabella Byng, the Marchioness of Bath, is recorded in history as a “plump, homely, jovial” lady who made it her special concern to involve herself in the well-being of the estate’s tenant farmers, with schemes to improve their conditions. Much of the money—50 pounds, or a quarter of the total— raised to buy passage on the voyage to Canada was contributed by the Marquess, undoubtedly at the behest of Isabella.

A mother of eleven children, Isabella was a warmer soul and an unlikely aristocratic disciple of William Cobbett, the famous radical reformer, journalist and politician who was fighting for the poor labouring classes and had travelled through Corsley while writing his book “Rural Rides” in the late 1820s.

Isabella published a selection of Cobbett’s writing on self-sufficiency into a book, and distributed a copy to each of the cottagers on the Longleat estate. Cobbett taught how to make bread, brew beer, keep livestock, and how to weave hats out of grass. He said a family could survive, even live well, on an acre if they worked to provide the essential “Three Bs,” Bacon, Bread, and Beer. Beer, of course, because drinking water was contaminated, and tea cost twice as much with no food value!

Cobbett lived for two different sojourns in the new United States of America, but published a journal attacking the new democracy from a pro-British point of view, was sued for libel and run out of the country. Returning to England, he turned his fury against the ruling classes, and of course was in and out of turmoil for most of his life.

Cobbett was a close friend and ally of Henry “Orator” Hunt, a wealthy Wiltshire gentle-man farmer who became a radical advocate on behalf of poor workers, fighting for voting rights for all (male) taxpayers, and an end to child labour.

Orator Hunt’s estate, bequeathed by his father, was Widdington Farm, at Upavon, only some 20 miles east of Corsley. He also held another large estate near Bath in Somerset, and a home in Bristol, to the west of Corsley. Whether he was related to, or acquainted with our Hunts, at this point we can make no connection. Our Hunts would have been very aware of their famous name-sake. Orator’s horses and carriages often passed through their village which stood on the road between his estates.

When you read letters written to their parents by our Hunt boys, from Upper Canada back to England, you can sense an echo of Cobbett’s measures of agricultural happiness. Undoubtedly, Cobbett’s book, Cottage Economy, was packed along with their belongings for the long trip to the new world.

It’s intriguing to consider another connection: William Lyon Mackenzie, the Upper Canada journalist, politician, and rabble-rouser, visited and consulted with Cobbett during a trip to England in 1832. Politics in England and Canada were taken very seriously in those days. Neighbours on opposite sides didn’t speak, and relatives of a divided opinion would avoid one another.

Could it have been that Jeremiah Hunt was a Mackenzie Reformer… that’s a high probability… while father-in-law Thomas Purnell was a Tory?

Ella Hunt notes the Purnells traced their ancestry to Tudor royalty. Thomas, who ran a sawmill and blacksmith shop on the Hamilton-Guelph highway, may have taken a dim view of Jeremiah, the son of landless peas-ants, particularly if he sided with the red-wigged Scottish madman, who led a futile and near-comical armed rebellion against the ruling “Family Compact” in Toronto.

Escaping the Tory troops after the battle, Mackenzie passed through Nelson and was hidden in a haystack on the farm of David Ghent, a few miles from the original Hunt farm which by 1837 had been taken over by Thomas Hunt when Jeremiah moved on.

After the elopement, Ella writes, all the differences were settled with Maria’s parents. “They were on good terms with their folks, and established one of the finest Christian homes in the community.”

Back to the beginning of our story, on that early April morning on the main street of Chapmanslade, Maud Davies writes:

“The captain of the ship came up to arrange as to taking them on board his vessel at Bristol for Newport, whence the ship of Quebec would sail. Finally it was arranged that the whole party were to leave Corsley on a certain day in wagons, accompanied by the assistant overseer, and the ratepayers, who, avoiding the towns on their route, were to deliver the party safely to the vessel in the river below Bristol….thus the congestion of unoccupied population caused by decaying industries was relieved.”

William Cobbett, however, rails against the political powers in Britain at the time, justifiably demanding why the farm labourers are paid starvation wages, while the work of their hands produces so much food that the large land owners and grain brokers are making fortunes. I’m reminded of my own father Harvey Hunt, while a prosperous Brant County farmer, would look at a $2 box of puffed wheat, and complain the farmer got only a few cents for the grain used to make it.

It appears the Corsley emigrants were hauled away in wagons, all the way to Bristol which would be a long day’s ride. The ship would be tethered to a pier in the famous Bristol “floating harbour” in the mouth of the Avon River, a 700-foot stretch of water enclosed by locks to keep up the water level when the 30-foot high tide would go in and out from the Severn estuary. On the arrival of high tide, the ship’s crew would unfurl sails, and travel across the waterway to the harbour at Newport, Wales, where it would have been loaded with coal from Welsh mines and carried in the hold to Quebec.

(Interesting to note, the birth date of Jeremiah Hunt in 1809 is not found in Corsley church rolls, although the siblings born be-fore, and after him are recorded. Other sources say Jeremiah was born in a place called “Clifton,” perhaps in a village by that name up north in Nottinghamshire which seems unlikely given the distance.. There is also a suburb of Bristol named Clifton. In 1809 a thousand labourers were hired to build the floating harbour and canals connected to it. When construction was complete, the city threw a grand picnic for the workers. Two oxen were roasted, and a thousand gallons of ale were tapped. Before the day ended, a tremendous brawl erupted between the Irish and English labourers and many were hauled off to the clink. Could it be that Philip Hunt worked on this project and thus was living with his family in Clifton/Bristol at the time of Jeremiah’s birth? We need to look there for a record.)

Treasured Letters

We are fortunate to have an unusual amount of documentation of our family’s odyssey from the old country to Canada. Aside from the pertinent material in history books, we have two precious letters in which family members tell their story, one being the Nov.1, 1830 letter from Thomas, James, and Jeremiah written back to their parents. The second is the family history written by Jeremiah’s granddaughter Ella Hunt, a retired school teacher, in 1930.

Our boys’ letter to England was preserved in two different publications, each dedicated to informing poor people what they may expect if they emigrate to Canada. In one, entitled Hints to Emigrants by Martin Doyle, the letter appears in the appendix of this 1832 book found in collections such as the University of Toronto rare books library. The second book, called “Extracts of Letters from Poor Emigrants,” was published by George Poulett Scrope, owner of a large estate in Wiltshire at Castle-Combe, just north of Corsley. Scrope was an advocate for the poor, a Member of Parliament, and the younger brother of Charles Poulett Thom-son, or Lord Sydenham, the last British governor of Upper Canada before the implementation of massive government reforms in Upper Canada, and the 1842 union with Lower Canada, 25 years before the Dominion of Canada was founded.

George Scrope, who dropped his family name Thomson and took on his landed heiress wife’s name Scrope upon their marriage, became a Member of Parliament and wrote extensively on British social conditions. He commented on the Hunt boys’ remark upon leaving Corsley that “More need to rejoice.” Said Scrope: “This is the emigrants’ pithy reproof of the maudlin sentimentalities of those persons who so pathetically deprecate the ‘tearing away’ of our peasantry from their homes—the snapping asunder the ties of country, kindred, etc. and who are indignant at what they call the ‘atrocious cruelty’ of the advocates of emigration.

“Mighty cruelty, to be sure, the assisting of families whose labour will not keep them from pauperism and misery in this coun-try….to remove to another part of the British dominions where they may enjoy all the comforts and many luxuries of life….great cause of grief and lamentation, this! Yes, more need to rejoice.”

The British cabinet dispatched Charles Thomson to Canada in 1840 on a mission to impose reforms and end the conflict be-tween the radical reformers on one side and the Tories on the other. The reformers wanted unbridled democracy, the elected assembly to control the purse strings, and have ultimate control over the cabinet. They were often accused of plotting to make Canada an American state. The Tories wanted a “little England” with themselves in the role of aristocrats, in power and privilege, with a state Anglican church. Thomson was determined to thwart both ends of the political extreme and elect a new assembly of sensible conservatives. He made it tough for the radical reformers to cast their votes. He went to extremes to discourage opposition voting, even denying land deed documents to owners he thought were on the radical fringe.

We can wonder if this could account for the fact that Jeremiah obtained his Flamborough farm around 1837, but his first deed was issued in 1848. Voting in this era was limited to property owners—and there was no secret ballot. Votes were cast verbally, at only one polling station per riding, despite the long trip it would impose (purposely) on some voters. Election day whiskey, bribery, voter intimidation, and thuggery didn’t only originate in Chicago after all.

The Euphrosyne Sets Sail

There is no existing passenger list we know of, but we can deduce that our family was aboard the barque Euphrosyne, a 400-ton or medium sized 120-foot wooden ship with three masts, when it sailed from Newport, Wales, on April 9, 1830 with 110 emigrants and a crew of probably 20 men under Captain Joseph Samson, bound for Quebec.

Sarah Hunt figured she was seven months along in her pregnancy. Would this child be Thomas’ long awaited son? Or would they have the joy of a fifth daughter? Would the baby wait until they were all safely ashore across the Atlantic in their new Canadian home?

For a dreaded ocean voyage, it seems to have been uneventful, as travel in the early spring would avoid the devastating autumn hurricanes that curl up from the tropics up into the north Atlantic. Their November 1, 1830 letter home, implored their parents to pack up and come join them….”make up your minds beforehand not to be faint-hearted; you may expect rocking, but I don’t fear the raging seas for perhaps more may come as safely as we, for the God that rules the land rules the Sea.

“It might be that one might have a long passage, but they see something wonderful every day: Such fish! The sights will be worth their passage.”

By late May after six weeks on the ocean, they would see the dark outline of Newfoundland passing by on their starboard. They would enter the vast St. Lawrence gulf and river. Sarah waited and pondered every day, knowing from much experience her time was near. Already she’d be well acquainted with some experts in midwifery aboard ship.

As the river narrowed, they would begin to clearly see both banks, heavy woods and craggy water falls on the north side, and sporadic clusters of farm buildings and old French settlements on the south, each with a glistening church steeple. The month changed to June 1 as the ship dropped anchor, waiting to dock below the fortress at Quebec City, and Sarah felt the birth pangs. She quickly and efficiently delivered to Thomas his daughter No. 5.

“Sarah Hunt and her five children is all well,” the letter back to the folks in England reported. “She was confined (gave birth) on the river St. Lawrence. She had a very good time. She is all very stout (healthy) never wishing to return to England, but rather all her friends was here, for here is plenty of work and plenty to eat and drink. Thank God we are here.”

A cheery Captain Samson, who was anxious to please his passengers in hope of future business, exercised his traditional privilege of naming the baby girl born at sea, by giving her the name of the ship. She would be christened Sarah Euphrosyne Hunt. Euphrosyne was a goddess in Greek mythology. The name meant “Joyfulness.”

The Hunts were to alter the spelling ever so slightly. On her gravestone at Mountsburg Episcopal Methodist Cemetery, the name is Sarah Uphrosyne. The inscription says she died February 24, 1848, age 18 years, 8 months, and 24 days. It confirms the date of her birth.

(Nearby in this same old rural graveyard, is the tombstone of our great-great-great grandparents, the blacksmith Thomas Purnell (d. 1876) and his wife Mary Hall Purnell, (d. 1879), inscribed “They died trusting in Jesus.”)

By June 6, 1830, the Euphrosyne docked below the massive citadel and the fateful Plains of Abraham at Quebec City. By June 9, the family, now four adults and five little girls, are aboard the Chambly, a huge river steamboat carrying them upriver to Montreal, a record says steerage fare paid 2 pounds, five shillings. “J. Hunt and 3 passengers above 12, and 4 children under 12.” The new baby rode for free.

Westward they plunged into the wilderness, by bateaux—driven by poles thrust onto the water bottom by mighty and crude French boatmen, singing vociferously as they worked— through rough river waters, then on foot over mud and rocky trails, to pass by falls and rapids, finally arriving at the calm waters of Prescott where another steamer would convey them to Kingston, then on to Niagara or the small village of Hamilton at the western end of Lake Ontario.

Promptly, our intrepid trio found work. “We first hear of them,” Ella was to write, “working along the Grand River carrying stones in a scow. Here they were attacked by fever and ague. Leaving there, they worked their way to Nelson, in Halton County, coming by way of Hamilton, where as we know they cut timber where the business section of the city now stands.”

By November 14, 1830, our folks had reached an agreement to purchase 200 acres of heavily wooded land, Concession 2, Lot 1, Nelson Township, nine miles north of Lake Ontario. Their letter said, “We three brothers have bought 200 acres of land… we have paid 25 pounds (down payment) and have 100 pounds to pay in five years. That is 20 pounds a year between three.”

Alas, it was not to be “we three,” as tragedy struck the family. Twelve days after the November 14 letter was dated and sent to England, the purchase of the farm is registered on November 26 only in the names of only two brothers, Thomas and Jeremiah.

James in the interim has been killed in a tree felling accident.

“One day while cutting trees, a tree fell into a crotched tree, and a swinging limb caught James and killed him instantly,” wrote Ella. “Grandfather (Jeremiah) was with him at the time.”

The trees our pioneer fathers grappled with were towering monsters. There were the hardwoods, oak and maple, and the stately white pine trees (pinus strobis) that would grow to a 4-foot diameter at the base and stand 120 feet high, producing sought-after lumber, masts for sailing ships, timber for English buildings. Unlike the hardwoods whose stumps would rot out in a year or two, the stumps of the pines had natural resins to preserve them for 100 years. Usually their great root systems had to be cut out and lifted intact, and were often placed along the edges of the farm as stump fences. Remnants of these stumps can still be found around rural Ontario.

Jeremiah and Thomas carried on, cleared the land, and developed a prosperous farm, built a house along the river running through the property. Two years later on November 2, 1832, Sarah dutifully presented Thomas with his first son, James Nelson Hunt, a brother to Eliza, 12, Hester, 10, Mary, 8, Elizabeth, 5, and Sarah Uphrosyne, 2. Sarah was to birth four more children, another daughter Susannah, 1835, and three more sons, Thomas Jr., 1838, John, 1840. and William Edward, 1843.

It appears Jeremiah sold his interest to Thomas (research needed here) around 1835, and Thomas sold out a few years later, some of the land to the Harbottle family who still reside in the area. The farm became the site of the Village of Kilbride which has obliterated any sign you might look for of the original habitation.

Jeremiah may have owned, or was employed by, a saw-mill and grist-mill on the river a mile or so downstream, a place they called Poverty Hollow. We know nothing specific of his whereabouts until 1843 (I used to worry he’d been caught up in the Mackenzie rebellion, but see no record of that) when he has moved west five miles, and has purchased a 50-acre parcel which was one quarter of Lot 4, Concession 10, East Flamborough Township. During these years, the old folks, Philip and Betty have come to Canada with their remaining four sons, William, Philip Jr., John, and daughter Jane, all of which is chronicled by Ella Hunt.

It is also the year Jeremiah eloped with his beloved Maria (pr. Mar-eye-ah) Purnell, travelling 10 miles south to a preacher in the big town of Dundas with John and Jane as witnesses. No Purnells present. Wouldn’t it have been exciting to hear Jeremiah ex-plain to Tom Purnell, after the fact.

Ella records the story of Jeremiah building his log home, which he situated at the highest point of land on the property, a good half mile from the road.

“His father (Philip) was helping him build. He was an old man and rather feeble. They had the log walls up, and the roof on, but no doors and windows in place. They slept in it one night and woke to hear the wolves around, and were afraid they would come inside. Wolves always hunt in packs and there was a large pack. Jeremiah knew he could climb to safety but his father couldn’t. However, they remained quiet and the wolves finally left.”

Our folks used to marvel why Jeremiah built so far back from the road, but when you go to the site, you can see why. The house was on the highest point of land, and overlooked a patchwork of irregularly shaped fields, each lined by low rows of stones gathered up over the years by the family, reminiscent of the walls and hedges of an English estate. It was the estate of Jeremiah Hunt, Englishman! The reddish brown soil was rich in nutrients and produced bumper crops but was laced with stones large and small, left behind by a receding glacier twenty thou-sand years ago. The stones became more of a problem as mechanized farm equipment was introduced. My grandfather Edwin Hunt, often referred to the community north of Carlisle as “Stony Battery.“ He said the Hunt family “picked up rocks for 75 years then gave up on the land.”

Jeremiah and Maria were to have six sons, and one daughter who lived only six years. Their names and life years: Philip, 1844-1930, John Hall, 1847-1937, Jeremiah Jr., 1849-1928, George, 1851-1934, Ebenezer, 1853-1938, James Abram, 1856-1917, Maria Elizabeth, 1859-1866.

Politically, the Hunts were supporters of Re-form, and its successor, the Liberal party. I remember asking my father in 1949 who was the man on an election poster on a pole at the end of our driveway. “That’s George Drew,” he said, of the federal Tory leader. “I wouldn’t vote for him if they put a gun in my back.” Less than a decade later, our branch of the family saw Liberals no longer as reform but as an arrogant establishment party, tending toward statism and socialism.

As a 17-year old, I attended a John Diefenbaker rally in Brantford, Ontario, in 1957, shortly after he became leader of the Conservative party. I saw the grand old man in all his fury and came home to persuade my dad to change. We switched parties to sup-port John Diefenbaker, and never looked back. Today in 2011 my brother-in-law Phil McColeman is the Tory MP for Brant riding.

More need to rejoice!

Beloved Maria

On a fateful early March afternoon in 1878, with the last remnants of winter melting away, Jeremiah hitched up a gentle, old mare to the cutter for Maria to travel and visit her mother Mary Hall Purnell, by now a widow for three years since the death of Thomas in 1876, but living in her family home four or five miles away to the west on the Con. 12 sideroad. Mary, 82, had fallen and was re-covering from a broken hip.

A thinning layer of packed down ice clung to the surface of the dirt and gravel road, just enough to let the iron runners of the sleigh skim along smoothly, with only occasional sparks flying when they crossed a bare spot. Soon as the spring arrived, the road would be more or less mud until April showers passed and a drying out time would come. The gentle old horse knew the way to mother’s, needed little or no direction from Maria riding along in the cutter, enjoying the view and the faint purple of buds forming on roadside trees. Maple trees had been running sap for a few weeks now, and sugaring was nearly finished for the year. Maria as the eldest daughter was bringing supper to her mom, and checking to see her fireplace was stoked and keeping her warm.

It was later in the afternoon, at dusk, when Maria climbed back into the cutter and gently turned her horse to head for home. It is believed a runner of the sleigh hit a rock or a bald spot on the road that caused the cutter to lurch and pitch Maria into the ditch. She did not survive the fall.

Possibly the horse carried on alone and pulled into home with an empty sleigh. How Jeremiah’s heart would have sunk, as he turned the horse around to retrace her steps and look for his beloved wife of 36 years.

Maria was buried in the cemetery at the Car-lisle Methodist Church, beside her daughter Elizabeth who had passed away 13 years earlier. Five years later, Jeremiah would die at age 74. A rose coloured marble obelisk marks their graves, with their names, dates, and the inscription, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” While viewing the gravestones in 1996 with my uncle George, the retired Baptist pastor, he recalled the biblical reference was from Rev. 14:13, and recited the rest of the verse…”Yea, sayeth the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours for their deeds do follow them.”

Ebenezer and his wife Margaret, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Hackney, took over the little log house, and the north half of the 200 acre Lot 4. Here, they raised three children, Mary, Edwin, and Melville. Jeremiah moved in with his son John and wife Mary who had built a new home on the south half of the farm, fronting on the 10th concession. A few yards along the road, the family had built a small, wooden Methodist chapel. It functioned as a branch of the Carlisle church, which ordered it closed in 1888. A church history says “most of the Tenth Line Appointment members were willing to come to Carlisle, although according to Albert Bogle, his grandson, John Hunt who lived right nearby, believed that Carlisle was much too far to go on a Sunday, and gave up church altogether.” The church history also records it was John’s brother Jeremiah Hunt, Jr. who was first to toll the new bell installed in the steeple. The tolling was for the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. I met Reid Dunham a few years back at the Carlisle church. He explained that in ringing the bell, a rope is pulled to rock the bell back and forth on its axis. In tolling, the bell does not move, while a rope is pulled to cause a hammer to strike the still bell, and render a mournful note.

In 1891, the little log home caught fire in the middle of the night. I remember my Grand-pa Edwin Hunt telling the story. Sister Mary, age 12, had taken out hot ashes before going to bed. During the night a wind came up and blew the smouldering coals onto the wooden walls. Grandpa Ed who was 10, remembers riding a horse down the hill to summon help from Uncle John. The family escaped harm, but lost most all of their be-longings.

Bittersweet Farm

The original stone foundation walls of their home, approximately 24’ x 16’ can still be seen on the property which today is owned by the Harcourt family who have a great love for the land, and a keen appreciation of its history.

Ebenezer would build a new 2-storey brick home close to the 11th Concession at the north end of the farm, an indication of their comfortable prosperity at the time. The bricklayers formed a letter H in each of the gables.

The Harcourts were unable to save the 1891 house when they purchased the farm in 2001. The walls had no insulation, plumbing and electrical systems were shot, and structural issues made the building beyond repair. However, they have retained the foundation walls of the barn, having a date of 1901 carved into the concrete.

Tim Harcourt, the youngest son, in 2006, kindly allowed my daughter Jennifer and me to tour and photograph the ruins of the original log home. Except for clearing away an overgrowth of brush and poison ivy, the foundation walls and the cellar excavation are pretty much intact as they would have been following the fire 120 years ago. The Harcourts have left these cellar walls, and most of the fence rows of stones gathered off the land—there must be a least a mile of these stone rows between fields—as an “ebenezer,” a monument to our pioneering Hunt family.

Having named the property “Bittersweet Farm,” the Harcourt family has built a splendid new home fronting but well back from the 11th Concession and replaced some of the old rows of stones along the road, with a four-board high stained wood fence. Romping in the pasture the day of our visit was the grandson of Secretariat!

Ebenezer, a gentle, kindly great-grandfather

Ebenezer Hunt who would live to age 85, is remembered as a gentle, kindly man. He walked with a limp from a farming accident. Our great grandmother Margaret predeceased him in 1917 by 21 years. Into his old age, his left hand bore the scar of a beating by his school teacher who was determined to switch him from left handed to right. Left-handedness, the Latin word for left being “sinister,” could be regarded in the extreme as demonic possession. The teacher, perhaps well-meaning, tried to beat it out of the boy and one day went too far, breaking his hand with a pointer stick. It was never to heal properly. Pictures of Ebenezer as an old man show his malformed left hand. He passed the left-handed trait down to many of us.

Daughter Mary was never to marry, but lived with and cared for her father into his old age. I remember visits to my great Aunt Mary at her little house in Freelton. She was a non-stop talker, all about the Carlisle area family. I wish I could remember what she said. It would have been a gold mine of Hunt family information. I remember her speaking of the Bogle family. The name “Bogle” had a distinct sound when she spoke. Aunt Mary was also renowned for her housekeeping. An avid reader, she kept every available table, chair, and floor surface in her home cluttered with stacks of letters, newspapers and magazines.

Edwin, my grandpa, would have been a 6-foot tall man, except a boyhood illness or nutrition deficiency caused a severe curvature of the spine that left him a 5’-6” hunch-back. Nevertheless, he became physically very strong, from hard work, and quite a prosperous farmer. He also managed to marry into the “aristocracy” of Carlisle, the Eaton family. The Eatons traced their line-age to the Mayflower passenger of 1620, Francis Eaton. Our earliest Canadian ancestors were John Eaton and wife Catherine Vandusen, United Empire Loyalists who came to Upper Canada following the American Revolution. John and “Kate” were the first pioneers in the Carlisle area in 1826, having moved up to a heavily wooded wilderness from their home fronting on Burling-ton Beach, a house that was used by the British commanders during the June 6, 1813 Battle of Stoney Creek, a tide-turning victory for the Canadians and a disaster for the American troops. Kate was a first cousin of the war heroine Laura Ingersoll Secord.

(The only family name I recognize in the list of 800 or so Mackenzie rebels is “Abraham Vandusen, medical quack.” Abraham—Catherine had a brother by that name— was questioned by the authorities in 1838, and released.)

Kissing Cousins

Melville, youngest son of Ebenezer, whom I remember as a tall, handsome, and serene great uncle, married the girl next door, his first cousin Annie Hunt, the daughter of John Hunt who lived down the sloping grade of the same farm, Lot 4, Con. 10.

Edwin Hunt was to say years later in his wry, humorous way, that he moved his family away from Carlisle, to Mt. Vernon, Ontario, 35 miles west, so his children would not marry their cousins.

Unfortunately, I have very little knowledge of my vast number of cousins descended from the other sons and daughters of Jeremiah and Maria. I do know Ruth Ludlow Skirrow, from the line of Jeremiah, Jr. I see Ruth a 3rd cousin, from time to time at Central Baptist in Brantford. On June 22, 2014, I ran into Glenn Hunt, son of Lorne and grandson of Melville Hunt, at the 150th anniversary service of the Bethel Stone Church near Paris, Ontario. Recently in 2020, I’ve enjoyed meeting online Arlene Bogle Munro, of Carlisle, Ontario. Arlene and I are third cousins. She descends from Ebenezer’s brother George. Arlene, a gifted writer, has written an interesting book on the Hunts.

William Jenkins, son of Hannah Hunt Jenkins who remained in Corsley, came to Canada, and married Sarah Purnell, a younger sister of Maria. William and Sarah moved to Nebraska to join Philip Hunt, eldest son of Jeremiah. When his Uncle Phil, a bachelor, died in the 1930s, Grandpa Ed Hunt and Grandma Alice drove their car to Nebraska to bury him, and settle his affairs. Because of the times, Philip wasn’t a rich man. But the farm he owned and worked for many years today is part of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska.

Back to Thomas and Sarah Hunt

After selling their farm at Kilbride, they must have moved to the area north of Car-lisle, as indicated by the fact they buried Sa-rah Uphrosyne in 1849 at the little Mountsburg cemetery surrounding the white clapboard Mountsburg Episcopal Methodist Church. The building was moved in the early 1960s to the Pioneer Village at Rock-wood, 10 or 15 miles west.

In 1850, Thomas, Sarah, and family moved north a hundred miles to the village of Durham, and settled on the road west of there in a community known as Allan Park, just before you reach Hanover. It appears some of their sons and daughters had al-ready gone to settle there in the mid-1840s.

Thomas and his family farmed on the Durham-Hanover road until Thomas died in 1864 at age 68. Shortly afterwards, his widow Sarah (nee Fricker) and all her sons and daughters except one, packed up and moved to Alpena, Michigan.

Thomas was buried in a small pioneer ceme-tery along the road on the north side, just before you reach Hanover. A simple stone is inscribed with his name and dates of his life.

It is probable that the brothers Thomas and Jeremiah parted ways and never saw each other again.

Nor did any of their family members ever meet, as far as we know, for more than 150 years, until I happened on the internet to run across Yvonne Carr Shultis, of Marysville, Ohio, descendant of the eldest daughter, Eliza Hunt Carr. And through Yvonne, I subsequently got to meet Ron Hunt of Mid-land, Ontario, descendant of the youngest son, William Edward Hunt. I have now enjoyed face-to-face meetings with both Yvonne and Ron, whose relationship to me is “fourth cousin, once removed.” The “once removed” means they are of a different generation. Our mutual ancestor is Philip Hunt. I am fifth generation from Philip; Yvonne and Ron are sixth generation.

A Family Bible

Yvonne has in her possession a Bible from 1875 that originally belonged to our forefather Thomas Hunt, the father of Philip Hunt, in Corsley, that has been passed down through the generations. Thomas and son Philip would have been present in Corsley when the Wesley brothers, John and Charles came through to preach and sing in 1872. Corsley was one of many meeting places across England that saw the beginning of the Methodist movement. The Wesleys taught biblical truth, that men and women could receive salvation as a free gift of God, by grace though faith, by repenting and simply believing in the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Wesleys held forth regularly in a field in Frome, just five miles west of where our Hunts lived—and their profound spiritual influence still resounds down through our generations to-day. John Wesley preached. Charles sang, and endowed us with many wonderful hymns, including Hark, The Herald Angels Sing…And Can It Be…Christ the Lord is Risen Today…I Stand Amazed….Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, which fits the times and bears quoting:

Come thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee

People could be free from the spiritual and economic bondage of the institutional state church and statist rulers. Seekers of truth and liberty, the Hunts became believers, non-conformists, and dissenters. Would that such a description still apply to us, today.

Contributing Author: Paul Hunt

July 3, 2010: On the occasion of our Hunt family reunion, held at Little Falls, NY