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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


William Jesse Hunt

Among the men who gave the strength of their best years toward the development of the resources of Sonoma county, few are more kindly remembered than William Jesse Hunt, who for nearly half a century gave the strength and vigor of his manhood toward developing the latent resources of the Pacific slope. His birth occurred in Jefferson county, Mo., November 8, 1836, and his useful career came to an untimely end in Sebastopol, Cal., November 21, 1906.

Mr. was a young man filled with a worthy ambition to make his way in the world at all costs when he set out from Missouri behind an ox-team in 1860, crossing the plains and finally reaching his journey’s end without disaster. As he had been attracted hither primarily on account of the mining possibilities in the state, he first thought on reaching his destination was to secure a claim where he could try his luck in the fascinating hunt for the golden treasure. The mines at Dutch Flat engaged his attention for about three years, at the end of which time he gave up mining altogether, and from that time forward until the close of his life he concentrated his efforts as a tiller of the soil. Sonoma county appealed to him as the most promising location for the prosecution of this calling, and in 1863 he came to the county, settling on the Hughes ranch directly south of Sebastopol, upon which he carried on general ranching for about six years. The result of this experience has been invaluable to him, not only enlarging his knowledge and experience along all line of general agriculture, but adding to his exchequer as well, for at the end of this time, in 1869, he was enabled to purchase a property of his own. This consisted of twenty acres northwest of Sebastopol, for which he paid at the rate of $20 an acre, and this same property, still in possession of the family, is now worth many times the original purchase price. Mr. Hunt was wise in the selection of the crop to which he devoted his land, wise in the selection of the kind and quality, Gravenstein apples and Lawton blackberries forming his specialties. In the cultivation of both these varieties of fruit he was the pioneer in this section of country, and indeed his bed of Lawton blackberries was the first of the kind planted in the county for commercial purposes. The old orchard which he planted so many years ago is still in bearing, and during the season of 1909 the Gravensteins on the place netted $800 an acre. During the latter years of his life Mr. Hunt added to his holdings by the purchase of an orchard of ten acres lying directly south of town. This, too, he set out to Gravenstein apples, having become satisfied beyond any doubt that this specie of apple was the finest and most merchantable fruit to which he could devote the land. It is generally conceded that the finest Gravenstein apples raised throughout this entire section of country are produced on the Hunt ranch, and as the able successor of her husband in the care and maintenance of the property Mrs. Hunt takes a commendable pride in this honor. At a recent apple exhibition in Sebastopol she took the gold medal and silver cup for the best growers exhibit of Gravenstein apples. She is an active member of Gravenstein Apple Show Association of Sebastopol.

Mr. Hunt’s first marriage united him with Miss Lucy Jackson, a native of Missouri, who at her death left the following children: Richard P., Joseph H., William C. and Birdie J., the wife of E. E. Morford. Some time after the death of his first wife Mr. Hunt was united in marriage with Miss Ida S. Coltrin, a native of Bellevue, Neb., and the daughter of Hugh Coltrin, a native of New York state, who with his wife and children crossed the plains to California in 1863. Coming direct to Sonoma county, they settled in Sebastopol, and here the death of Mr. Coltrin occurred in 1895, at the age of eighty-six years. Of the three children born of the second marriage one is living, Grover C. Mr. Hunt was a man whose integrity and honesty were never brought into question, and throughout the long period of his residence in Sonoma county he won and retained the highest esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens. Fraternally he was well known, having been one of the charter members of Lafayette Lodge, F. & A. M., of Sebastopol, and he was also a member of the Easter Star, with which latter organization Mrs. Hunt is also identified. She is a woman of intelligence and great executive ability, as has been amply demonstrated by her capable management of affairs since the death of Mr. Hunt, and in Sebastopol, where she makes her home, she is held in the highest esteem.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011