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Jefferson Hunt

Question: Did the whole Jefferson Hunt family go with the Mormon Battalion in 1846?

Answer: Jefferson Hunt was born 20 January 1803, at Bracken County, Kentucky. His parents were John Hunt and Martha Jenkins. His parents named him after Thomas Jefferson.

On 1 December 1823, Jefferson married Celia Mounts in Macoupin, Illinois. Celia was the daughter of Mathias Mounts and Mary Montgomery. She was born 19 September 1805 in Lincoln, Clay, Kentucky. Celia met Jefferson Hunt at a revival in the home of her sister, Nancy, and her husband, Alan Emmerson, a minister. Jefferson and Celia were married by Emmerson.

Celia was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints in March 1834. Jefferson took a little longer to become converted, and was baptized a year later in March 1835.

In 1836 Jefferson and Celia, expecting their seventh baby, moved from the Mounts farm and moved to be with the saints in Zion in Far West, Missouri. With their belongings and five yoke of oxen they traveled four weeks traveling three hundred miles, and ferried the great Mississippi River until they reached Richmond, Missouri. A ferry took them across the muddy Missouri river. They turned northward and traveled another forty miles to the site of their new home in the midst of the saints in Missouri. Their new baby, Joseph, named for the prophet Joseph smith, was born May 9, 1837 in Far West, Missouri. They met the Prophet Joseph Smith at a conference in Far West, Missouri and were so impressed with him.

After the Saints were driven out of Missouri, they traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois. Jefferson and his wife received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple. It was then that they were taught the principles of plural marriage, and Jefferson took his second wife, Matilda Nease (age 18). At the same time, he adopted Matilda’s young orphaned brother and sister, Peter and Ellen Nease. Their parents had both died in 1845. Persecution continued in Nauvoo, and Jefferson and Celia were forced once again to leave their home.

Jefferson and his family left Nauvoo in a large wagon loaded with food salvaged from their farm: potatoes, corn, dried squash and bacon as well as bedding and clothing. In February 1846, they crossed the Mississippi River. They continued on to Sugar Creek and shared their provisions with those who were already out of food. They then traveled on to Garden Grove, Mt. Pisgah and then to Council Bluffs.

The Hunt family was with the Saints at Council Bluffs, Iowa when the United States called for volunteers to fight in the Mexican War as the Mormon Battalion. When Captain Allen came to request a battalion of 500 men to march to California, Brigham Young proposed for Jefferson Hunt to be Captain of Company A. As Jefferson was an officer, his family (his two wives and eight children, plus the two adopted children) was allowed to travel with the Battalion. Two of Jefferson’s sons, Gilbert (22) and Marshall (18), were privates in the Battalion.

Tucson, Arizona – Jefferson Hunt Mormon Battalion Statue

At Santa Fe, New Mexico the families of Battalion members and sick soldiers were sent to Pueblo, Colorado to winter 1846/47. Celia and seven of their eight children, and Jefferson’s second wife, Matilda Jane, as well as her brother and sister, Peter (12) and Ellen (10) Nease, were in the Sick Detachment sent to Pueblo. Jeffeson and Celia’s young son, Parley, age one and a half, died at Pueblo. Jefferson’s son, Marshall, traveled with his father on to California. In the spring the Sick Detachment went north to Ft. Laramie, Wyoming and thence to the Salt Lake Valley, arriving in July, just five days after Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company.

Jefferson Hunt rejoined his family in the Salt Lake Valley after the close of his military service, but then he was called by President Young in November of 1847 to return to California to purchase seed, livestock and supplies for the people of the Church. There were eighteen in the company, including his sons, Gilbert and John, and Peter Nease. On this trip they suffered greatly for food. They returned to Salt Lake in May 1848, bringing horses, mules, cattle, seed and provisions. During the following few years, Jefferson acted as pilot and guide to companies of gold seekers going to California.

In 1851, Jefferson Hunt was called by the leaders of the Church to go with Apostle Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich to establish a Mormon colony in San Bernardino, California.

In the years that followed, he served his church as a member of the High Council of San Bernardino. He served the State of California as a member of the legislature for six years, and he was appointed with a delegation of California lawmakers to go on a special mission to Washington D.C.

With the coming of Johnston’s Army to Utah in 1857, Jefferson Hunt responded to the call of Brigham Young, and with the other loyal members of the church they left their homes in San Bernardino and moved back to Utah.

Jefferson’s service to the State of California was recognized in tribute paid to him by the California historian Ingersol: “Captain Hunt was a man of strong character, deeply religious by nature, he believed with his heart in the divine revelations of the Mormon Doctrines…While he served as legislator, he introduced the bill to divide Los Angeles County from San Bernardino County, and has been known since as the Father of San Bernardino County.’

Jefferson pioneered Provo and Parowan, and was Iron County’s first representative to the Utah Legislature. He moved his family to Ogden Valley in 1860 where he was made the first Bishop of Huntsville, a community that was named for him. He remained there several years, magnifying his calling as a Bishop and helping to establish a strong colony in that place. A few years later he was honorably released from his Bishop’s position, and he and his family moved to Oxford, Idaho, where he died 11 May 1879, age 76) in Oxford, Franklin, Idaho. He was buried in the Red Rock Pass Cemetery in Bannock County, Idaho.

Hunt Monument

Jefferson was the father of twenty-one children (eleven sons and ten daughters) seventeen of whom grew to man and womanhood. Each of his wives finished their large families with twins. The birth of Matilda’s twins cost her life, and one of the twins died as well. Jefferson’s wife, Celia, outlived him by sixteen years, during which time she lived with her children in Arizona and California.

Source: Pauline Udall Smith’s book, “Captain Jefferson Hunt of the Mormon Battalion,’; “History of Captain Jefferson Hunt,’; Various sources in;

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