Jonathan Hunt (1738–1808) was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the son of Capt. Samuel Strong Hunt of Northampton and Ann Ellsworth of Windsor, Ct., and the great-great-grandson of Jonathan Hunt and his wife Mary Webster, daughter of Governor John Webster of the Connecticut Colony. Hunt was one of the earliest settlers of Vermont, where he began clearing land at Guilford, Vermont in 1758. There are indications that the Hunt family had ties to Vermont even earlier, when Jonathan Hunt's grandfather Jonathan witnessed a 1687 Massachusetts deed conferring land in what was later Vermont by several Native Americans.
The grandson Jonathan Hunt and his associates were later granted extensive tracts of land by New Hampshire Gov. Benning Wentworth, as well as by patent from New York State and by purchase. Jonathan Hunt's father, Capt. Samuel, had himself been the proprietor named in the charter of many New Hampshire towns. His son Jonathan was the last Lieutenant Governor of the independent republic of Vermont (1794–1796) and presidential elector for Vermont, 1800.
Hunt is considered one of the founders of Vermont as well as one of its earliest pioneers and largest landowners. He lived in Vernon, Vermont, the name suggested by his wife Lavinia (Swan) Hunt, a Massachusetts native and former pupil of President John Adams. (Lavinia Swan Hunt's brother Benjamin served as Vermont's State Treasurer for many years; her brother Timothy Swan was an eccentric composer and poet who lived at Suffield, Connecticut.) His family would go on to be one of the most prominent in the entire state.
When Hunt was instructed by the Vermont General Assembly to change the name of the town he represented from Hinsdale to Huntstown in his honor, he demurred. He asked his wife, who suggested Vernon instead, making it the only Vermont town said to be named by a woman. The Governor Hunt house, built by Hunt in 1789, and once featured in Herbert W. Congdon's "Old Vermont Houses," is now on the grounds of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. Hunt's son, also named Jonathan, served as a U.S. Congressman from Vermont.(See Jonathan Hunt (Vermont Representative).
Jonathan Hunt's brother General Arad Hunt, who also lived in Vernon, was general of the Vermont militia, a member of the Westminster Convention of 1777, and a prominent early backer of Middlebury College, to which he donated over 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land in Albany, Vermont. Along with his brother, he was one of the largest speculators in Vermont lands, owning tens of thousands of acres across the state. Jonathan Hunt's daughter Ellen was married to Lewis R. Morris, U.S. Congressman from Vermont and nephew of statesman Gouverneur Morris.
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“In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.”
—Karl Marx (18181883)