Thomas Hunt Ancestry by Tradition

The issue of the parents and lineage of Thomas Hunt, Sr. is clouded in the mists of time and made difficult by the lack of records, loss of those records, or simply the passage of years. What little we know, we know from oral tradition handed down from parent to child which is subject to the possible distortions of each re-telling. The story told here is oral history and has not been verified by credible documents or evidence.

Two descendants report having heard the story directly from their grandfathers, sons of Thomas Sr.  W. T. “Willie” Hunt related the story to his daughter and attributed it to his grandfather, William Marshall Hunt. “… he remembers his grandfather, who lived with them and died at age 97, tell him this story many times when he was a child.”[1]  Lobel Watson Hunt reported hearing his grandfather, Thomas Hunt, Jr. tell the story. Edna Hunt wrote in 1965 that on a visit to see Uncle Lobe and Uncle Col (Colquit J. Hunt) that Uncle Lobe remembers his grandfather “telling of it many times.”  In his correspondence[2] Willie Hunt said there was an agreement in these parts of the story from Horace Hunt of the Absolom Hunt family, William Marshall as told to Willie, Lobel Hunt, Tommy Hunt of the Steve Hunt (son of William Marshall Hunt) family, Homer Hunt of the James Hunt family, and “Mr. Ensley” (a relative in Blount County by marriage) “who went with me on the Blount County trip”: “the elder Hunt and wife arrived at Charleston, South Carolina port of entry and first settled near Charlotte, N. C. before moving to Blount Co., TN.”

The versions below are from letters, interviews, and published materials and indicate the common themes but with variations as noted.

Version 1 –  “Daddy believes that Thomas Hunt was adopted by a Hunt family in North Carolina and that his last name was either McFarland or MacFarlain. He supposedly came from Scotland to Wales and entered into America by Charleston, S. C.  This Dad has never been able to verify but he says he remembers his grandfather, who lived with them and died at the age 97, tell him this story many times when he was a child. “[3]

Version 2 – “Tradition said he was one of seven boys – that the rest of the family had gone to Texas and that they had a Scotch background and had come from North Carolina….  Mr. W. T. Hunt also told me of a family tradition I had not heard. That the original Hunt had been an orphan named McDonald who had taken the Hunt name in gratitude for their care. He had come with them from Scotland to France, married in Hamburg, Germany, and come into the United States at Charleston, S.C.”[4]

Version 3 – “A ten- year-old boy surnamed McFarland was adopted by an old couple named Hunt in Wales. They reared him until he was 21 years old, then took him to town, bought him a suit of clothes, gave him some money, and told them he was free to leave them if he wanted to, but was welcome to stay if he would. He stayed a while and then crossed over into France and then to Germany where he married a full-blooded German Dutch named Finley.  They boarded a sailboat at Hamburg, Germany for America. They were six months en route because a storm blew them off course and they were lost. Finally landed at Charleston, South Carolina – went to North Carolina and afterwards to Blount County, Tennessee. There were 17 children, fourteen boys and three girls. Five boys and three girls came to Texas. …Nine boys stayed in Tennessee. Two later went to Illinois, and two went back to North Carolina.”[5]

Version 4 – “Last Sunday we went to see Uncle Lobe and Uncle Col Hunt, and there is a lot of information in those two folks.

They seem to still be clear thinking and can talk for hours on interesting events of the Hunt family. One thing we must tell you about that you haven’t mention and Eldon said he hadn’t heard was of the first Hunt’s coming to America. Uncle Lobe says it was Thomas Hunt Sr. who was born in 1787. He says he remembers his grandfather telling it a many of times. It seems as if a tragedy of some kind came to the family by the name of McFarland. A little 10-year-old boy was all that was left. A Mr. and Mrs. Hunt took this little boy as they had no children, but wanted a child. They adopted the boy, so that is how the Hunt name started. They were a happy family of three. When this boy was 21 years of age at the breakfast table that morning, the Hunts told the boy that now he was a man of his own. They loved him and they would be glad to have him forever, but he could choose his own vocation as they had fulfilled their mission by raising him to be a man of his own.  For a birthday gift, they took him to town and fitted him in the best suit of clothes they could afford and gave him $100 in cash. He stayed there a while, but decided later to seek adventure. All this took place in Wales. He sailed to Hamburg, Germany after deciding to travel. While there, he married a German girl. They worked hard for enough money to come to America. Having accomplished this, they sailed to America on a sailboat as in those days ships traveled by sails and canvas. They were on the water six months or more. Much longer voyage than they expected as they got lost and in storms, etc. They arrived at Charlotte, North Carolina. Then as time went on they went to Blount County, Tenn.”

[Then Edna switches from Lobel and Col’s account to an incident of her own -ed.]: “In the early 1930’s I met a man by the name of McFarland that asked me if I was from the Hunt line that came to America from Wales settling in North Carolina and later came to East Texas. He told me of this event and that he was some of the same McFarlands. At that time, I mentioned this to some of the younger Hunts, but no one seemed to know anything about it. So Hadn’t though any more about it.”[6]

Version 5  – “Edna Hunt … said she went down last weekend and visited Carl (ed. Probably Col) and Lobe and the Hunt Cemetery. She will write you soon. Carl and Lobe gave them some information that was news to me. The story is Thomas Hunt, Sr. was born in Wales as Thomas McFarlin and came to the U.S.A. at about the age of ten. He was adopted by a Hunt family in North Carolina. This was in or near Charlotte, NC. On his 21st birthday, the Hunts gave him a suit of clothes and $100 and told him he was on his own. He went to Germany, got married, and later came back to North Carolina then to Blount Co. Tenn. and then to Rusk Co. Texas. The story is that he also had some brothers that moved into Pennsylvania and Illinois.”[7]

Version 6  – “Thomas McFarland was born in Wales, 1789. When he was about ten years old his parents died. A couple by the name of Hunt asked Thomas McFarland if he would like to come live with them and be their son. As there was no one else, he went to live with them and loved them very much. He grew up as Thomas Hunt.

On his twenty-first birthday his foster mother told him they had something planned for him to do like (he) thought there was some work they wanted done so he asked what they wanted done. She said, “You know, this is your twenty-first birthday.” He said, “Yes, I know. Then she told him they were going to town, and were going to buy him the finest clothes they could find. And they did, from the finest hat to the best shoes, and gave him one hundred dollars in gold. Then they told him he was of age and could do as he wished, but they still wanted him to stay with them for as long as he would.

He stayed a few more months and then decided that he would go to Germany. His parents asked if he was coming back. He told them that he would be back. He wanted to see what it was like in Germany.

After a few months in Hamburg, he met a girl named Mary Finly, married her and took her to Wales to visit his foster parents. They went back to Hamburg. After a short time they decided they would go to America. They boarded a sail ship and set sail for America. On the way a storm caused them to get off course, and they were lost for awhile. The Captain had to ration the water and the food. After six months they landed at Charleston, South Carolina.

They moved to Blount County, Tenn. where they settled and stayed for many years. His family was grown and married and had children of their own when Thomas Hunt, Sr. and his sons decided they would move to Rusk County, Tex.

On March 30, 1851, Thomas Hunt, Sr. and five sons with their families arrived in Rusk County. Thomas Hunt Jr., William (Bill) Hunt and Sam Hunt remained here in Rusk County or near here. Ab Hunt bought what was known as the Jeff Armstrong place.[8]

Version 7 – “Seems there was a McCauley family and a Hunt family at sea coming to America. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina and were thought to have changed their names from McCauley to McFarland. Anyway, the family became ill and died leaving behind the two boys that the Hunts adopted and finally gave them their name, thus making them Hunts, and reared them as their own. The brothers grew up and one came to Texas and the other one to Illinois.”[9]

Version 8 – “serious research began when Ken related the family lore of William L. Hunt’s identification with the James Hunt family. Supposedly, according to the passed down information, William’s mother died when he had to be less than two years, and the father was either neglectful or unable to care for a young child, and the James Hunt family took him. William was so grateful for the kindness shown him that he took the Hunt name for his own.”[10]

Obviously, some elements of the stories mix the immigrant Hunt and Thomas Hunt, Sr. The 1850 census showed Thomas as born in North Carolina. Thus he could not have been the ancestor born in Wales. However, Thomas lived near Charlotte, North Carolina, moved to Blount County, Tennessee, and then on to Rusk County, Texas.  Essential elements common to all or most versions are an orphaned child named McFarland, Wales, either a visit to France or Germany or both, arrival at Charleston, South Carolina, and living near Charlotte North Carolina before the family went to Tennessee and then Texas.



[1] Branch, Jean Hunt  to Deason Hunt, McFarland Adoption, 12/17/1977,Correspondence, Papers of Deason Hunt, Big Sandy, Texas.

[2] Hunt, W. T. to _________, Correspondence 1960’s, Papers of Deason Hunt, Big Sandy, Texas. (A page without address or date or other pages of the letter but in the handwriting of W. T. Hunt)

[3] Branch, Jean Hunt to Deason Hunt, McFarland Adoption, 12/17/1977.

[4] Tucker, Hilda Hunt, Scotch Orphan, 9/17/1959, Correspondence, Papers of Deason Hunt, Big Sandy, Texas.

[5] Hunt, Lobel, Interview by Lynda Tillison Jones, March 15, 1964.

[6] Hunt, Edna to W. T. Hunt, First Hunts To America, 1/24/1965, Correspondence, Papers of Deason Hunt, Big Sandy, Texas.

[7]  Hunt, Eldon to W. T. Hunt, McFarlin Wales,  Jan.25, 1965, Papers of Deason Hunt, Big Sandy, Texas.

[8] Thomas Hunt And His Descendants,  Typescript of an article by Katie Hunt, Henderson, Texas, Vertical File, Henderson Public Library, Rusk County, Texas.

[9] Hunt, Floyd, Interview by Lynda Tillison Jones, June 1976.

[10] Stevens, Betty, My Introduction, December 9, 2001,  News Posting to Thomas Hunt Sr. Family Association Website at, Hunt, Deason, ed.

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