Biography - OLIVER T. HUNT

First Lieutenant Oliver T. Hunt (known as Captain). a retired farmer of Tuscola, Illinois, and a well known and highly respected citizen of the county, is a native of Randolph county, Indiana, and was born within eight miles to Winchester, the county seat, June 13, 1832. He is a son of Miles Hunt, who married Mary L. Botkin; they were natives respectively of Fleming county, Kentucky, and Knox county, Tennessee. Bazil Hunt (grandfather) was born in England. Four brothers of the Hunt family came from England in about the year 1779 or 1780. One was killed in the Revolutionary war; one settled in Maryland; one in Virginia; and Bazil, the grandfather of the subject, settled in Fleming county, Kentucky, and moved in an early day to Indiana, where he died, leaving a family and widow. Miles Hunt, his youngest son, laid out and platted the village of Huntsville, expecting at some future time it would become the county seat. His family were eleven in number, seven boys and four girls. All the children married when of age and settled as follows: Three of the girls, Malinda Keever, Rachel Stevenson and Caroline Okerson, were all married in Randolph county, Indiana, and moved to Nodaway county. Missouri, with their husbands. Also John C. Hunt, who married Emma Lane in Atchison county, Missouri, and is an attorney of no mean standing in Rockport, the county seat of Atchison county. William Tipton Hunt was married on the same date as was our subject, to Celestine Baum, daughter of Charles Baum, of Vermilion county, Illinois. He died at Oklahoma City while a juryman of the United States court in the Indian Territory, April 15, 1891. His wife returned to Vermilion county, Illinois, and died July 3, 1893.

Miles Hunt, the father, departed this life in Logan county at the home of his youngest son, Alonzo, in Oklahoma Territory, on December 14, 1893. James D. Hunt, his son. now resides in Oklahoma county, that Territory. Miles Hunt's wife died April 10, 1895, in Logan county, Indian Territory, and is at rest by the side of her husband. Bezelleel and Henry C. Hunt both enlisted in the Sixty-ninth Indiana Regiment in 1862. Henry C. was wounded at the battle of Richmond, Kentucky, and Bezelleel, remaining with him, was taken prisoner, but was paroled. Both were afterward married, but first studied medicine and became M. D.'s. Henry lives in Montpelier, Blackford county, Indiana, and has a lucrative practice. Bezelleel died in Douglas county, Illinois, in August, 1869, leaving a widow, whose maiden name was Branham. Sarah J. married Leander McMillen, of Pennsylvania, who was also a physician. He died leaving one son, Bennett H. The widow afterward married a man of Vermilion county, Illinois, Benjamin Dickson by name. There were seven of Miles Hunt's children who taught school, viz.: O. P., William T., Henry C, B. T., J. C., A. L. and Sarah Jane. (See new history of Indiana by the Hon. W. H. English.)

Our subject, O. T. Hunt, received a common-school education, unlike the common schools of the present day, as in his early boyhood schools were secured by subscription. His father would pay the tuition of five scholars and send but one or two in order to secure a teacher. Often men with no children to send to school would pay the tuition of a scholar to induce someone who could read and write to teach. The old elementary spelling book was the text book, with some reading in it, with the stories of "the man's ox that had been gored by his neighbor's" and the "boy in the apple tree." The primary class constituted the ABC divisions (with the alphabet torn from the spelling book and pasted on a paddle to protect and preserve it). When one had mastered the old elementary spelling book, grammar and arithmetic, writing and geography were studies the parents could choose from, any or all of them. The old English reader was indispensable, and all who had thoroughly mastered the spelling book must read in it, which was not suitable to the condition of the children. As well had them enter the Latin class of to-day, as there was not half of the words the children knew the meaning of, while the facilities of to-day are much improved as the child climbs step by step and is expected to master every study. Yet we are pained to see the graduate who, parrot-like, can only repeat what he has thoroughly committed — "Polly wants her breakfast." The greatest trouble, we think, especially in the common schools, is with the teachers. A child recites well when it recites by rote or has committed the language of the author. This is no test, only of memory; it does not show that the student has any thought of his own, or that he understands the recitation he recites. Hence, while life at best is short, the main object should be in teaching anything to stimulate and draw out of the child all the reasoning powers, and you have laid a toutulation that is everlasting when the child has learned that the first and great step in an education is for one to think for himself.

Now as to the subject, O. T. Hunt's mother was a daughter of Hugh M. Botkin, of Scotch descent, a native of Tennessee, who settled near Winchester, Indiana, in an early day, with his family, where many of his descendants are now living. William Botkin, one of his sons, owns and lives on the farm his father first settled on in Indiana. When O. T. Hunt arrived at manhood he taught his first school in Huntsville, Randolph county, his own brothers and sisters attending the school, and he says they gave him more trouble than all the rest of the scholars, and if it had not been for his father he expects he would have had to give up the school; but between them they settled down to business. He commenced the study of law when only twenty years old, read Blackstone's Commentaries, and in 1835 he bought Kent's Commentaries, Parson on Contracts, Greenleaf on Evidence and Gould's Pleading. In 1856 he went to Vermilion county, Illinois, and taught school, studied at his spare times his text-books, and taught school in that State over two years. He returned to Randolph county in 1858 and on motion of Judge Jeremiah Smith he was admitted to the Randolph county bar to practice law. He then went back to Illinois and married Eliza J. McDowell on September 1, 1859, and returned to Randolph county, Indiana, where he and his wife both taught a winter term of school. In the spring they went to Illinois, where he rented a farm near Indianola, in Vermilion county, and in 1862, when Lincoln revoked the order of Gens. Hunter and Fremont, saying he did not have the constitutional right to free the slaves of the south, Hunt concluded to raise a company. He called two or three meetings and secured quite a number of names near Indianola, in Vermilion county, Illinois, and went to Danville and reported to Governor Yates. At this time George W. Cook, of Catlin, Illinois, learning of the matter, went to see Hunt, as he had quite a number of men enlisted, and they consolidated and were made Company K, of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers. Cook was made captain of the company, O. T. Hunt, first lieutenant, and Franklin Crosby, second lieutenant, and O. T. Harmon, colonel of the regiment. The latter lost his life at the charge of Kenesaw Mountain, after which Hunt commanded the company (hence the appellation "Captain"), and the Captain played major. The regiment was mustered in at Danville. Illinois, on the 3d day of September, 1862, and served during the war. The regiment went with Sherman to the sea (Savannah, Georgia), thence to Richmond, and the muster-out rolls were made out at Washington City, D. C. They were dated June 9, 1865, but were not delivered to the men until the latter part of June, when the regiment was paid ofl at Chicago and disbanded. Hunt bought a Peter Schutler lumber wagon in Chicago and returned to his family in Vermilion county. His wife, a daughter of John B. McDowell, a native of Kentucky, inherited of her grandfather, David Yarnell, one hundred acres of land in Douglas county, Illinois, and Hunt improved the same, and through their economy and industry added thereto three hundred and fifteen acres of land, making a total of four hundred and fifteen acres of land in Douglas County. After Oklahoma Territory was opened up he went to that country and bought two claims of George Grant and his brother, or one half-section, within ten or twelve miles of Oklahoma City. But he claims his environments and the war spoiled a good lawyer. He was commander of the McCowan Post, of Camargo, Grand Army of the Republic. That order growing weak, he surrendered the charter and joined the Frank Reed Post, of Tuscola, and is also or has been a member of the Grange. But he is opposed to secret political organization, as he says the Know-nothing party of 1852-1854 killed the old Whig party, and any party that will not bear the light of day and free discussion is dangerous to a free and independent government. He is a Stephen A. Douglas Democrat, as are the rest of his father's family, while all his near relatives are Republicans, or have been. He takes a lively interest in politics and the success of his party, making the race twice for state's attorney and once for county judge with credit to himself.

Extracted 09 Jun 2019 by Norma Hass from the Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois, published in 1900, pages 194-197.

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