In 1769 JOHN HUNT married the daughter of WILLIAM HOLBROCK. The following year the Holbrook Family moved to Hawkins Co., NC, and John moved with them. Within a few years the LARKIN and ACKLIN families had joined with them in the new settlement. After the new settlers had become established in their new homesites many of the young men took up arms to fight in the Revolutionary War. 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, NC. 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.
JOHN HUNT had established himself as a leader in the county and in 1786 was appointed the first Sheriff of Hawkins County. JOHN HUNT was appointed Captain of the Militia by WILLIAM BLOUNT. As everyone John heard about the rich lands laying across the Clinch River. This was Indian land and supposedly protected from settlement by the treaties with *the federal government. JOHN HUNT along with the LARKINS and ACKLINS moved across the river in the mid - 1790's into an area known as the Powell river Valley. Years later his community would be known as Tazewell, Tennessee, and JOHN HUNT would be recognized as the founder. JOHN HUNT had carved a respectable homestead out of the wilderness when he learned to his dismay, in 1797, that President JOHN ADAMS had sent 800 federal troops to evict the settlers. In an attempt to stall his eviction, and probably using his title of Captain in the Tennessee State Militia to help his cause, he wrote the newly elected Governor, JOHN SEVIER , asking for help. On the 25th of November, 1797, Gov. Sevier wrote to Hunt.
Yours of yesterday I am honored with and am sincerely sorry for your embarassed sitituation, and would I, to GOD, I had it in my power to render you relief. You may assure yourself that everything will be done for you that is possible for me, but it is in the President's own power to do whatever he may think best on this very important and alarming occasion. I hope in three or four weeks to hear from Congress and whether or not anything is likely to be done in your favor. In the meantime, I earnestly beg the people, for their own interest, to conduct themselves in a peaceable, orderly and prudent manner.
Shortly afterwards the squatter's claims were recognized. JOHN HUNT became the first Sheriff of the newly formed Claiborne Co., in 1801.
Early in 1804 JOHN HUNT and ANDREW BEAN left East Tennessee. They traveled in a south westward direction, guided only by the sun and the stars. Almost a month later they arrived at the stream of water now known as BEANS's CREEK, at a spot near where Salem, Tennessee now stands. Traveling further south the explorers came across the completed cabin of JOSEPH CRINER, near the Mountain Fork of Flint River. Mr Criner told him of a Big Spring. JOHN HUNT and ANDREW BEAN were not the first white men to reach the big spring. (This refers to big springs near Huntsville, Alabama) When Hunt arrived he found the beginnings of a cabin that SAMUEL DAVIS had started. Hunt finished the cabin and was living in it when Davis returned with his family. The cabin was located where the parking lot of the present day Huntsville, Ala Utility office is. Hunt made the trip back to Tennessee and returned with his wife and three sons, WILLIAM, GEORGE and SAMUEL.
Early in September, 1804, John Hunt and Andrew Bean left their cabin in East Tennessee and struck out into the wilds on foot (not on horseback, as many historians have claimed). They traveled in a
southwestward direction, guided only by the sun and the stars. Almost a month later they arrived at the stream of water now known as Beanís Creek, at a spot near where Salem, Tennessee, now stands.
At that place they made camp for several days in order to make observations and investigate the surrounding country.
Traveling further south the explorers came upon the newly completed cabin of Joseph Criner near the Mountain Fork of Flint River. Criner and his brother, Isaac, were the first white settlers in this area. According to later accounts given by Criner, Hunt and Bean spent the night and inquired about land further south. It was at this time that Hunt first heard of the big spring.
John Hunt and Andrew Bean were not the first white persons to reach the spring. Earlier, in 1802, John Ditto had built a crude shack there and camped for a short while before moving southward to the Tennessee River, where he opened a trading post. When Hunt arrived, he found the beginnings of a cabin that Samuel Davis had started. Unfortunately, Davis, in his haste to return to Georgia for his family, left the cabin unfinished and when he returned found Hunt had completed the cabin and was living in it.
The cabin was a rough one-room affair. People searching for it today will find only a parking lot across from the present-day Huntsville Utilities.
The area where John Hunt settled would be beyond comprehension to a resident of Huntsville today. The area above the bluff, where the courthouse now stands, though reasonably flat, was a maze of thick vines and bushes. Below the spring, between where Meadow Gold Dairy and Huntsville Hospital are now located, was a swampy wilderness teeming with deer, bears, geese and rabbits.
After hastily completing Davis' cabin (frontier law did not recognize a squatterís claims unless a home was built on it), Hunt and Bean turned their sights north. Bean had decided to settle near Salem, Tennessee, and Hunt returned to Tazewell for his family. The early spring of 1805 found Hunt occupied in selling off the remainder of his land around Tazewell and making preparations to move his family to the Big Spring. His daughter, Elizabeth and her husband, were selected to remain in Tazewell until the stagecoach Inn could be sold. Other families, upon hearing of Johnís upcoming departure, also made plans to move. Accompanying Hunt when he returned to the spring was his wife and three of his sons; William, George and Samuel, as well as members of the Larkin and Black families.
It was early summer in 1805 when Hunt returned with his family. He spent most of that summer clearing and fencing a small field, which lay in what is now the best part of the city of Huntsville, running from Gates Street as far south as Franklin. The land was exceedingly fertile and produced bountifully in return for little labor. William would recall years later how he had killed a bear between the present location of the Regions Bank and the courthouse while clearing the field.
The brave old pioneer, scout and hunter was now happily fixed; his farm gave him employment during the spring and summer. Hunting, fishing, dressing meats and skins occupied his time in the fall and winter, Other pioneers were coming in and settling in other parts of the county. Neighbors were few and highly valued in those primitive days. When the proper time arrived in the fall, all the hunters for miles around went out together to lay in their stores of meat for the year. Whenever a settler died, his family continued to share in the proceeds of the hunt when a division was made, a proportionate share of bear and deer meat was always taken to the families of widows. These rough men knew charity as well as courage. Legend has it that John Hunt was always foremost in providing for the poor and helpless. One Christopher Black, an Irishman, who assisted Hunt in removing his family from East Tennessee, was famous for delivering game to the fatherless and the widows.
Huntís Station, as the spring was now called, was fast becoming the center of the community. More and more settlers were pouring into the valley. Much evidence suggests that Hunt, who had already enlarged his cabin, ran a public house at this time where a traveler might get a meal, purchase a few basic supplies or even spend the night. This probably explains the persistent rumor today that Hunt operated a shop that sold castor oil. In 1807, his daughter Elizabeth, moved to Huntsville from Tazewell along with her children, husband and five slaves after successfully disposing of the inn in Tazewell.
Congress had already called for a land sale, with squatters being given preemptive rights to one section of land each. With the Hunts occupying the best land in the county, it seemed as if their fortunes were made. Unfortunately, when the sales were held it was discovered that John Hunt had not registered his claims. The wealthy planter, LeRoy Pope, outbid the other purchasers and ended up with legal title to all of John Huntís dreams. Hunt was forced to move from his beloved Big Spring.
Family histories claim that Hunt did not travel to Nashville for the land sales. According to Hunt's descendants, Pope had promised to purchase the land in Hunt's behalf but instead took title to it in his own name. This act supposedly caused a bitter feud among different factions in Huntsville that lasted for years.
Oddly, while researching this story we talked to Hunt descendants from all across the country and while many of them did not know one another, they had all heard variations of the same story.
With all the prime land in Huntsville already taken, Hunt purchased a quarter section of land far outside of town by paying eighty dollars as down payment. This parcel was located approximately here the old airport on South Parkway is now. His daughter and son-in-law purchased the adjoining land.
Pope had forced the name of Twickenham upon the new community, but many people resented the fact that he had bought Huntís land. One of the first actions the new city government took was to change the name to Huntsville, in honor of the intrepid pioneer.
The next few years of Huntís life are well-documented. He joined the Masonic Lodge, served on juries and was appointed coroner. In 1809 he sold his land to Abasalom Looney.
Hunt was an old man now, and according to family histories, moved in with his daughter and son-in-law. Like old men everywhere, Hunt probably spent his last days recounting tales of when he was young and adventurous, hopefully surrounded by his grandchildren.
On February 27, 1822, John Hunt died at the age of 72. He was buried in the Acklin graveyard, now known as the Sively graveyard, a short distance from where he spent his final days.
There was never any mystery about what happened to John Hunt until the latter part of the 1800s when Judge Taylor wrote in his history of Huntsville that Hunt left the city shortly after the land sales.This part was true; he moved outside of what was then considered town. Unfortunately, later historians copied Taylor's work and elaborated on it without doing any original research. Now, instead of merely moving from town, the new version stated that Hunt left the state. Other historians took this version and elaborated on it even more until finally, a mystery was born.
Sadly, while people were perpetuating the myth of Hunt's disappearance, they ignored the papers of his son who was a state legislator in Missouri. Also ignored was a firsthand account of the Indian wars, on file at the State Library in Nashville, that described how a scout spent the night at John Hunt's cabin before crossing the river the next morning to join Andrew Jackson's troops. Another account by an early riverboat captain clearly showed that Hunt was still a well-known resident of Madison County in 1820.
Probably the most glaring evidence of Hunt remaining in Huntsville comes from an 1878 Huntsville newspaper story which detailed his life and actually gave the date and details of his death. Many people have dismissed the article for various reasons-- mostly because it did not agree with their version, but none of them ever bothered to look at the masthead of the paper.
The editor was Ben Hunt, John Hunt's grandson. Even the most naive person would have to assume that he probably knew what happened to his own family.
Ironically, the grave of John Hunt, the man who founded Huntsville and who settled on some of its most beautiful land, was buried next to the entrance of the present-day city dump. According to a long time city employee much of the land around the small cemetery was graded and used in theconstruction of the new city stadium.
"Ol' John Hunt," said the employee, "is now probably playing third base at Joe Davis Stadium."
John Hunt and Johanna Holbrock
Rootsweb Database by Don Chestnut
One may also want to look at this email when researching John Hunt, founder of Tazewell, TN and Huntsville, AL.
Return to main Claiborne County Home Page