John S. Hunt is a representative of one of the old pioneer families of the state, where he has spent his entire life, so that he has witnessed much of the growth and development of this section of the country. His memory goes back to the time when all of the evidences of frontier life were here found; when the prairies were wild and uncultivated; when the forests were uncut; the streams unbridged; when deer and other wild animals roamed over the countryside; and when the Indians still disputed the right of the white man to intrude upon what he regarded as his domain. The memory of John S. Hunt forms a connecting link between the primitive past and the progressive present.
He was born in Vermilion county, Illinois, in 1829, his parents being Cornelius and Ann (Sidell) Hunt, who were natives of New Jersey. The father removed with his parents to Pennsylvania, and subsequently the family home was established in Muskingum county, Ohio, among the first settlers there. The father built a log cabin with a clapboard roof and puncheon floor and door, and in the true style of the frontier the family began their life in the Buckeye state. There they cleared a farm and with the development of that place Cornelius Hunt was actively connected, so that pioneer experiences were not unfamiliar to him when he came to Illinois in 1828. He made a location in Vermilion county, where he lived for eighteen months, and then removed to Putnam county, purchasing a claim on which there was a log cabin. It remained his home for six years, after which he sold that property and removed to Marshall county, Illinois. He there purchased two hundred and twenty acres, entering eighty acres of timberland and paying for it the usual government prices. With characteristic energy he began the development of the farm, turning the first furrows in the fields and carrying on the labor of general agriculture for fourteen years. He then rented his Marshall county land and purchased a farm in La Salle county, near Lostant. To this place he removed and made it his home until his death, which occurred May 12, 1874. His wife survived for about sixteen years, passing away in 1890.
In their family were ten children, seven of whom survive, as follows: Ruth H., now the widow of Andrew Mailer and a resident of Melvin, Illinois; John S., of this review; Jane, the widow of James Dixon, also of Melvin; E. S., of Melvin; Elizabeth, the widow of George Dixon, who resides in Melvin; William J., who makes his home in the same town; and Philip, who is located in Paxton, Illinois.
John S. Hunt remained with his father until he had attained his majority and his labors were those which usually fall to the lot of the agriculturist as he took part in the work of field and meadow. He afterward took a trip to California overland with an ox-team in the year 1850, making the long journey across the stretches of hot sand and through the mountain passes until he reached the district where he hoped to find gold in abundance. He remained for fifteen months, and, while he did not meet with the success he anticipated, he had many experiences of interest and value. The return trip was made by way of the water route and upon again reaching Illinois he located in La Salle county, where he purchased eighty acres of land. He then began farming and his father gave him an additional tract of eighty acres, while subsequently he bought twenty acres of timber and forty acres of prairie land, thus coming into possession of a good farm of two hundred and twenty acres. With characteristic energy he began the development and improvement of the place and as time passed the tangible result of his labor was manifest in rich crops and well developed fields, the work being systematized Id every particular. It meant much hard labor, but he performed the work in such a manner that the best results possible were accomplished and the years brought him the reward of his diligence.
In 1852 Mr. Hunt was united in marriage to Miss Jane Burley, who was born in Ohio, a daughter of Daniel and Margaret (Anderson) Burley, who were natives of Pennsylvania but are now deceased. In their family were nine children, but Mrs. Hunt is the only one now living. By her marriage she has become the mother of twelve children: Elizabeth A., now the wife of Joseph McMann, a resident of Chatsworth; Ruth H., the wife of William Thompson, who is living in Melvin; Nina B., the wife of Paul Hubler, who is living near Buckley; Julia, the wife of Clarence Sauter, of Gilman, Illinois; J. W., at home; Delia, the wife of Frank McClure, a resident of Ford county; John M., also living in Ford county; and five who have passed away.
While operating the farm, Mr. Hunt made a specialty of raising and feeding stock, keeping good grades of cattle and finding a ready market for them. He now owns four hundred and eighty acres of land on sections 25 and 36, in Peach Orchard township, which cost him eight and nine dollars per acre, but which is today worth between one hundred and two hundred dollars per acre. His success is well merited, because it has come through diligence and perseverance. He has now reached the age of almost four score years and looking back over his life, there is no occasion for regret. Mistakes, of course, have been made — for who does not make them — but in his entire life his intentions have been honest and his work has been honorable. In his political views he has always been a stalwart republican, unfaltering in his support of the principles of the party which has ever been the political organization of reform and improvement. He has served as supervisor and collector and for ten years was school director, the cause of education finding in him a warm friend. He has also done good work for the public highways as road commissioner and his influence has ever been on the side of improvement and progress. He built three houses in his township and in the work of improvement and development he has borne his part. In 1881 he removed to Melvin, where he has since lived retired, owning in the village a fine residence and sixteen lots, while from his farming property he derives a gratifying income. Mr. and Mrs. Hunt are members of the Methodist Episcopal church and people of the highest respectability, enjoying the full measure of confidence and trust from their fellowmen.

Extracted 16 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 473-475.

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