1839: Seth Hunt to David Selden

This letter was written by Seth Hunt (1780-1846), the son of Seth Hunt and Abigail Bellows. He was a native of Northampton, Mass., but died in Walpole, unmarried. This particular letter is clearly related to the land claims activity that took him to England in 1809 as mentioned in the biography below in The Bellows Genealogy by Thomas Bellows Peck.

Nothing is known positively of his early life, but as his mother was married a second time, when he was less than two years old, to Capt. Josiah Richardson, of Keene, N. H., it is most probable that his boyhood was spent in that town. He received a good English education, was a fluent writer, and a fine penman. A file of letters addressed to friends in Walpole, between 1801 and 1809, show’s that he was an ardent politician at an early age, that he was an extensive traveler, and a sanguine speculator. In early life he, like most of his friends, was a Federalist, but about 1804 he became a supporter of Jefferson and the Republican party. In that year he was appointed by President Jefferson, governor of a district in Louisiana, and resided more or less for a number of years there and in Mississippi. This appointment brought down upon him the sarcasm of Thomas G. Fessenden, in his “Democracy Unveiled,” published in 1805. He devoted four lines at the close of the fourth canto as well as a sarcastic note to Mr. Hunt, as follows:  “But please his Highness-ship, I wont Be Deputy to Mr. Hunt; — No, — were it ofFer’d, ‘twould be vain, he wont catch me in Louisiana.”

In June, 1806, he wrote from New York: “Before I left Washington, I was offered an honorable and lucrative situation in the Territory of Michigan, but I declined accepting it, as I am determined to hold no post except that of private citizen under the Government. I am satisfied with public office and resign all my pretensions to the honors and emoluments of place and the patronage of the Government to those who seek it.” June 13, 1806, he sailed from New York for England in the Robert Burns for an absence of several months. In 1809, business connected with land claims again called him to England and France. In a letter from London, June 27, 1809, he announces his arrival in England on the 28th of May, after a passage of thirty days, via Halifax, refers to his intention of visiting France and states that he shall return home in December or January. In all he crossed the ocean no less than fourteen times, an unusual thing in his day.

Afterwards he was engaged in various business enterprises in this country. At one time he was interested in the manufacture of salt in Syracuse, N. Y. On this point an extract from the diary of Col. William L. Stone, published in volume xx of the “Magazine of American History,” under the title of “A Trip from New York to Niagara in 1829,” is of interest: “Tuesday, Sept. 22, arrived at Syracuse at half past ten o’clock and had the unexpected pleasure of being greeted at the landing by my old and intelligent friend, Seth Hunt, Esq., a gentleman of extensive travel and vast general information. In the afternoon walked with Mr. Hunt through the village and visited some of the salt fields in the neighborhood.”

In 1837, he was engaged in coal mining in Kentucky, He seems to have been often on the point of securing a fortune but it as often eluded his grasp; and about ten years before his death, after a busy and eventful life, he retired to Walpole with limited means and made his home with his mother. He outlived her only about two years, and for the last year and a half of his life lived at the Village tavern, where he died. His death was very sudden; on the forenoon of the day in which he died he had been playing backgammon with his uncle, Thomas Bellows, who lived near by in the Gen. Bellows house.

Col. Hunt was tall and portly, careful in his dress, and polished in his manners. His conversation was fluent and extremely entertaining. The accompanying portrait is a reproduction of a pastel, taken in Paris, when he was a young man. Dr. Bellows speaks of him as “a man of singularly fine manners, who with some slight changes of fortune or character, would have achieved a very distinguished place in society.”

The foregoing biography mentions Mr. Hunt’s coal mining business in Kentucky. A county history records that, “during the summer of 1835, General Seth Hunt, of Walpole, New Hampshire, a wealthy Eastern gentleman, who was passing up the Ohio River, observed while landing at Hawesville a heap of bituminous coal which, he learned upon enquiry, had been mined in Hancock County, near that village. With characteristic Yankee energy, he delayed his journey long enough to lease from Mrs. Rebecca (Sterett) Lander a tract of land on the ancestral estate inherited from her father, the late Captain John Sterett, then proceeded home, where he immediately interested other New England men of means in the natural but undeveloped resources of the region. [Source: Perry County, page 85.]

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Abraham Richards, Esq., New York [City] New York

Hawesville, Kentucky
August 13, 1839

My friend David Selden,

I have your favor from London of the 5 July per Great Western & am gratified to learn that you have at last got on terms with the Tomkins, My answer to your enquiry whether the two sons of James Niven died without issue, leaving Mrs. Tompkins sole heir, I have to say that such I have no doubt to be the fact. The youngest died when a young lad and, as I learned, a midshipman in the Navy. The other son died somewhere in Ireland without leaving any issue, but these facts, I believe, I learnt from Mr. Tompkins, as coming from Mrs. Smith — Mrs. Tompkins mother — & the wife of Admiral Richard Tyrrell Smith. But I write from memory only, not having the papers relative to the Vermont & New Hampshire lands to refer to. They are at my mothers at Walpole.

I hope my friend, you will not leave England without making some definite arrangement with Mr. & Mrs. Tompkins. If you do, the business will no doubt keep forever & the lands & all hope of benefit will be forever lost to them & their children after them. It is wonderful how this business has been procrastinated and what changes have taken place since 1810 to render the recovery of the lands more difficult than at that time.

I address this hasty letter to Mr. Richards according to your direction & he will I have no doubt forward it to you & return a copy which you will find in case you should come home in the George Washington.

Very truly yours, — Seth Hunt


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