Hunt Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hunt Surname Meaning

The Hunt surname is derived from the Old English hunta meaning “to hunt.” Like its Border surname equivalent Hunter, Hunt was originally used to describe a huntsman. The term was not just for the hunting of stags and wild boar that was the pastime of kings but also for humbler pursuits such as bird catching.

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Hunt Surname Ancestry

England.  The Hunt surname distribution shows a fairly wide spread, from Lancashire and the Midlands to the south and southwest. Early Hunts were:

  • Roger Hunt from Chalverston in Bedfordshire, who was the speaker of the House of Commons in 1420.
  • the Hunts of Tanworth in Warwickshire, who were first recorded as members of the Guild of Knowle in 1500. They were associated for a long time with the Beaumont’s estate. A branch of the family held the position of Town Clerk of Stratford for 132 years.
  • the Hunts from Shropshire, who date from about 1530. Thomas Hunt was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1656 and bought the Boreatton Park estate. A later Hunt of this family, Agnes Hunt, was a cripple but became an expert nurse and opened the first open-air orthopoedic hospital.
  • and John Hunt of Compton Pauncefoot in Somerset, who was born there around 1565. These Hunts were local country gentry.

Edward Hunt was a clergyman in Devon who lived in the second half of the 17th century. His descendants were also clergymen, first in Kent, then in Lincolnshire and later in Barbados. Isaac Hunt was brought up in America, but as a Loyalist had to flee the country when the Revolutionary War broke out. He returned to London and his son Leigh Hunt, who grew up there, became a noted English critic and essayist.

Ireland.  Hunt in Ireland can be of English or of Irish origin. If English it is the name brought by settlers to Ireland in the 17th century (as with the Hunts of Danesfort in Cork). If Irish, it can be anglicization of the Gaelic sept O’Fiachna found in county Roscommon. The Doorty township in Roscommon contained a sizeable number of these Hunts, many of whom were tenant farmers there.

John Hunt, born in London, came to Ireland in 1939 and settled in Limerick where he became well-known as an antiquarian and art collector. After his death in 1976, his collection has been housed at the Hunt Museum in Limerick.

America. Ralph Hunt was an early colonist of Long Island who arrived there in 1652 when it was still Dutch territory.

“Ralph Hunt seems to have been a leader in all of the public affairs of Newtown, Long Island and was foremost among his neighbors in defying the authority of the Dutch governor Stuyvesant on Manhattan island. When the English acquired New Netherlands and drove the Dutch away, Ralph Hunt was one of the first two magistrates appointed under English rule.”

His son Samuel was a wealthy landowner in Hunterdon county New Jersey and a later Hunt – known as Miller James Hunt – was one of the pioneers of the New Jersey Hopewell community. The Hunt line subsequently went south to Rowan county, North Carolina and then to Missouri.

New Jersey. John Hunt was a prominent Quaker minister from the Moorestown township in New Jersey. He kept a diary, most of which has been preserved, from 1770 to 1824. A descendant was Alfred Hunt, the first president of what was to become the Bethlehem Steel Company.

Theodore Hunt, a New Jersey native, had moved to St. Louis in 1814 after a brief spell as a sea captain. His son Charles was a prominent member of the pro-Confederate “Knights of the Golden Circle” in Missouri in the years building up to the Civil War.

New York.  Thomas Hunt from Northamptonshire came to Connecticut in 1639 and later settled in the 1660’s at his Grove farm in Westchester, New York. This farm stayed with various members of the Hunt family until 1775.

A later Thomas Hunt migrated to Virginia sometime around 1750. His descendants moved onto South Carolina, Georgia, and Illinois where H. L. Hunt Sr. prospered as a farmer. His son H. L. Hunt Jr, born there in 1889, was the famous Texas oil tycoon. He had fifteen children by three wives. Two of them – Nelson and Lamar – became famous in their own right.

Canada.  In 1832 John Hunt and his wife Latetia from Ireland were one of the first settlers of Fitzroy township, Ontario. The Hunts stayed in Fitzroy and, one hundred years later, celebrated their centennial there.

Charles Hunt, who had fought in the Crimean War, was a later settler from England. He arrived in 1863, settled in Rydal Bank Ontario, married and raised seven children there. The town of Huntsville in Ontario is probably named after George Hunt who arrived with his family there in 1869.

Australia.  Henry Hunt was an early arrival, having been transported from England to Tasmania in 1829. After obtaining his conditional release he lived on in Tasmania to the ripe old age of eighty nine, dying there in 1901.

George and Elizabeth Hunt from Northamptonshire arrived in South Australia with their family in 1853. They settled in the Magill area of Adelaide. Also coming to South Australia were two
brothers, William and Henry from the East End of London, who arrived in 1861. Thomas was a sheep-grazier in Kalangadoo.

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Hunt Surname Miscellany

Roger Hunt of Chalverston.  Roger Hunt’s origins are uncertain.  It is known that he was a distinguished lawyer during the reigns of Henry IV, V and VI and that he ultimately became one of the Barons of the Exchequer.  He was returned to Parliament in 1420 for the county of Huntingdon and was chosen at that time as Speaker of the House of Commons, a position he assumed again in 1433.

The interior of the Roxton parish church in Bedfordshire contains an altar-tomb of Roger Hunt, bearing the date of 1439.

He and his family were to be found at their estate of Chalverston in Bedfordshire.  Their line extended to William Hunt and his son Roger who inherited the estate in late Elizabethan times.  But afterwards this Hunt family seemed to have died out.

Hunt Town Clerks of Stratford.  Beginning in the 1760’s, William Hunt from Tanworth held the prestigious position of Town Clerk in Stratford-on-Avon, the home of Shakespeare.  The Town Clerk was a highly esteemed position in Stratford. In 1778 Jago the poet described The Town Clerk as “our beloved William Hunt.”  He died in 1783 and was buried in Stratford churchyard.  There is a marble tablet to his memory in the church, bearing the Hunt arms.

William Hunt held the position at the time of the famous Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769 when the famous actor David Garrick was the guest of honor.  Hunt made the following address:

“Sir, you, who have done the memory of Shakespeare so much honor, are esteemed the fittest person to be appointed the first steward of his jubilee; which we beg your acceptance of: permit me, Sir, in obedience to the commands of this corporation, to deliver to you this medal and this wand, the sacred pledges of our veneration for our immortal townsman, whereby you are invested with your office.”

To this polite mark of attention, Mr. Garrick made a suitable reply and fastened the present about his neck, wearing it in compliment throughout the jubilee.  The completion of this ceremony was immediately announced by ringing of bells and firing of the cannon.

When William died in 1783 he was succeeded as Town Clerk by his son Thomas.  In fact the Hunt family held the position for a hundred and thirty two years and reigned without a break, six members and four generations of the family.

Isaac Hunt the Loyalist.  Isaac was staunch Loyalist and had made a name for himself by defending other loyalists in court and as an author of many pamphlets championing the cause of the British Crown.  The inflammatory nature of these activities, carried out in the face of the revolutionary winds that were blowing at the time, ultimately triggered predictable consequences.

Early one morning in 1775, he was taken from his house and, along with a Dr. Kearsley, an equally dedicated Tory, was driven about the streets of Philadelphia in an open cart, the intention being eventually to tar and feather both men. At the last minute the two Loyalists were spared the ordeal of being tarred and feathered when a friend of theirs managed to overturn the tub of hot tar that had been prepared for the purpose.

After being paraded up and down the streets, both men were imprisoned.  Isaac bribed a prison guard and escaped, ending up, via Barbados, in England.  It was almost two years before his wife and children were able to join him.

Miller James Hunt of Northern Hopewell.  One of the pioneers of northern Hopewell, New Jersey at the time of the Revolutionary period was James Hunt.  His name was written “James Hunt Senior” in some of the old records. But he was widely known as “Miller James,” to distinguish him from his neighbor “Deacon James” who resided less than a mile from him.

Hunt was born in 1724, arrived in Hopewell in 1748, and lived to be 78 years of age, dying at his farm in 1802.  He and his wife Rachel were buried in the Hunt burial plot at the farm of J. Guild Hunt near Marshall’s Corner.

He was said to be a popular local business man, kind hearted and benevolent in disposition, and during the time of the Revolution operated the grist mills on Stony Brook.

At that time the British were making house to house canvasses in the Hunt neighborhood.

“Mr. Hunt’s family heard that they were expected to pass along the Hopewell road on a certain evening and did not light up the house, hoping that, as it was located quite a distance from the public road, it might be passed by undiscovered.

The British were shrewd enough, however, to always employ a Tory guide who was familiar with every highway and byway of the territory they intended to traverse.  All families who were suspected of being in sympathy with Washington’s band of patriots were visited, no matter how secluded their places of residence.

Before the evening was far advanced, Mr. Hunt’s family heard the soldiers outside and they were ordered to open the door or it would be broken down.  Knowing full well that this threat would be put in execution, Mr. Hunt opened the door and admitted his unbidden and very unwelcome visitors. Mr. Hunt was then informed that he was their prisoner and that he must accompany them to Pennington where Cornwallis would administer the oath of allegiance to the English King.

When the party started off for Pennington with their father, the daughters followed, crying and screaming at the top of their voices.  The officer in charge cursed and threatened but all to no purpose. The grief and excitement had made them hysterical. His threats only aggravated their overwrought nerves until they were on the verge of collapsing.

Finding that his threats were of no avail and thinking doubtless that their screams ringing out on the night air would be heard for a long distance and arouse the whole neighborhood, the officer released Mr. Hunt, telling him that he was ‘too old to be good for anything and he could go home and take care of his babies.”

Hunts in Roscommon.  Hunts occupied 84 acres of the Mahon estate in the town of Doorty (or Dooherty) in county Roscommon. This acreage had been leased to “James Hunt and Company” since 1808.  The Hunts were tenant farmers, in what was known as a “rundale” collective, to the Mahons who were the estate landlords.

On November 2 1847, Major Denis Mahon was assassinated.  Evidence suggested that the Molly Maguires were responsible for the attack.  Patrick Hunt happened to be walking home that day and witnessed the crime.  Unfortunately, the honesty and legal cooperation of this young boy put all the Hunts in danger of retaliation by the Molly Maguires. Thus it wasn’t just a potato famine which gave them reason to make a hasty departure from Ireland around 1848.

John and Latetia Hunt of Fitzroy Township, Ontario.  John and Latetia Hunt from county Leitrim in Ireland were among the first settlers of Fitzroy township, Ontario. They were both advanced in years when they started out on the great adventure of emigrating to a new country that was then almost a wilderness.  But the prospect of owning their own land proved a draw and they left their home in Mohill parish with their eleven children, ranging in age from twenty-eight to two years, in early 1832.

Arriving at Montreal after a six weeks’ voyage on a sailing ship with seas so rough that some of their baggage was lost overboard, the Hunt entourage traveled via the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers to Fitzroy harbor where they faced a trek of seven miles through the forest to the site of their new home.

On the way from Fitzroy harbor to the clearing which was to become their home, young John, aged eighteen, lingered behind finding it difficult to keep up with the others.  His illness proved to be “ship’s fever” and, despite the anxious care of his mother, he slipped away two weeks later on July 4, 1832.  It was necessary to find a last resting place, one that was “high and dry.”  His mother found a triangular knoll with a ravine on two sides close to the family home.  He was buried beneath an elm tree.  In that way the family cemetery was dedicated.

The early years were hard.  But as time went by the Hunt family increased and flourished.  By 1932, one hundred years later, the family tree prepared by the family historian, Major Harold Hunt, extended over sixteen feet of blueprint.  A celebration of that centennial was held on August 29, 1932, with 144 Hunt descendants being present. Visitors from Ireland brought greetings from the Hunts that had remained in Mohill.

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Hunt Names
  • Leigh Hunt was an early 19th century English critic and essayist, a contemporary of Keats and Shelley.
  • William Holman Hunt was an English Victorian painter, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
  • H.L. Hunt was an American oil tycoon and the forebear of a formidable Hunt family of the 20th century – including, most prominently, Nelson Bunker Hunt, the oil developer and speculator, and Lamar Hunt, the co-founder of the American Football League.
  • Howard Hunt was the crime writer and CIA intelligence officer who became embroiled in the Watergate scandal.
  • James Hunt was the British racing car driver who won the Formula One world championship in 1976.
Hunt Numbers Today
  • 66,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 40,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

 

 

 

 

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