Thomas Hunt, the DistillerPosted: June 4, 2015
I found interesting the following quote (from the Jstor Daily email I received today) considering the stories of Thomas Hunt Senior and his Tennessee to Texas move of his still and our y-dna finding of relationship to and descent from the McFarlands
“Scotland’s first large-scale vertically-integrated company was not part of the “holy trinity of coal, iron, and textiles,” usually seen as the drivers of Scotland’s entry into the Industrial Revolution, but a distillery.” 12
It is not clear if Thomas Senior actually operated a tub mill to grind his own corn and grain (and maybe that of family and neighbors) or simply owned land where a tub mill had once operated, but family tradition is that he operated a distilling operation so special that he transported it to Texas in his last westward movement. (Tub mill operators often were also distillers using the product as trade goods or for sale. For example, one distiller in Blount County sold his still and twelve tubs with the pay to be in whiskey at 33 & 1/3 cents per gallon.13 However, distilling operations were not as profitable as the years went by and in 1846 it was reported that “whiskey was not as popular that season.”14 In 1860 only five distilleries were in operation in Blount County.)15
Hilda Hunt Tucker, after a 1967 trip to Blount County wrote to W. T. Hunt (William Thomas Hunt I), “ Mr. Endsley said you had written him since your visit about the actual land boundaries of the Hunt property. He showed them to me and showed me the spring on the Rose property where he said Thomas Hunt was supposed to have had his wonderful still. He told me the Hunts and the Newberrys had built a houseboat in the next county and had floated down the Tenn. River with horse and cow and still and all of their children to the Mississippi, on to New Orleans, and over to Rusk County, Texas.”16 Family tradition is that the still passed on to the Thomas Hunt Junior family in Rusk County. Mary Frank Deason Dunn, a descendant of Thomas Hunt Junior, wrote to W. T. Hunt in 1967, “Hilda mentioned the still of Thomas Hunt, Sr. which he is supposed to have brought to Texas with him. I thought this was so interesting since the estate papers in the court house in Henderson for both Thomas Junior and Thomas Senior list a still.
Mother said the still was in front of the house she grew up in (Grannie Rushton – where Joe Cliff lives now) that was Thomas Junior’s home originally. Great Grandpa Joe (Josiah Murphey- ed.) Hunt would weave a hat from straw while he watched the still. That was the way he timed the cooking.”17 Katie Hunt, writing a history of the family, reported, “They moved from Tenn. to Texas in wagons and along with the other things they brought a “still” for making “spirits. Thomas Hunt Junior used this still for making brandy from the apples and peaches they gathered from their orchard. He sold this brandy for 25 cents a gallon…. Mrs. Theo (Propes) Hunt, Gordon Hunt’s wife and my husband’s mother, told us that she could remember playing with the old still with the copper pipes and the kettles. Mr. Lobel Hunt says that a man who lived on the Angelina River came with a wagon drawn by oxen and bought the old still from Thomas Hunt and hauled it away.”18
12Source: http://daily.jstor.org/whiskys-550th/?utm_source=internalhouse&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=jstordaily_06042015&cid=eml_j_jstordaily_dailylist_06042015, viewed 06/04/2015 at 5:45 p.m. cdt
13 Burns, Inez E., History of Blount County, Tennessee from war trail to landing strip, 1795-1955, Whipporwill Publications, Evansville, IN, 1988, p. 243.
14 Burns, , History of Blount County, Tennessee, p. 220.
15 Burns, , History of Blount County, Tennessee, p. 243.
16 Hilda Hunt Tucker to W. T. Hunt, Trip Over To Blount County, September 1, 1967, Correspondence, Papers of Deason Hunt, Holly Lake Ranch, Texas.
17 Mary Frank Dunn to W. T. Hunt, Still of Thomas Hunt Sr., September 10, 1967, Correspondence, Papers of Deason Hunt, Holly Lake Ranch, Texas.
18 Thomas Hunt And His Descendants, Typescript of an article by Katie Hunt, Henderson, Texas, Vertical File, Henderson Public Library, Rusk County, Texas.
The information above including footnotes concerning Thomas Hunt’s distillery is taken from Thomas Sr. and Lucy Hunt and Their Children and Descendants, 1787-2002
® September, 2002, by Deason Hunt, 402 Evening Shadows Trail, Holly Lake Ranch, Texas 75765