- Company Captain in the Mormon Battalion
- Explorer of Salt Lake - California Route
Jefferson Hunt was born 20 January 1803 in Bracken County, Kentucky, United States to John Hunt (1757-1821) and Martha Jenkins (1760-1850) and died 11 May 1879 Downey, Bannock County, Idaho, United States of unspecified causes. He married Celia Mounts (1805-1897) December 1823 . He married Matilda Jane Nease (1828-1865) 7 February 1846 .
U.S. western pioneer, soldier, and politician. He was a captain in the Mormon Battalion (and temporary unit commander), brigadier general in the California State Militia, a California State Assemblyman, founder of the town Huntsville Utah, and a representative to the Utah Territorial Legislature.
Hunt was born to John Hunt and Martha Jenkins on January 20, 1803 in Bracken County, Kentucky. Some sources site his full name as Charles Jefferson Hunt, while others site it as Jefferson David Hunt. He married Celia Mounts in December 1823. In 1834 they both converted to Mormonism and were baptized on March 7, 1835.
The family, which then included six children, started their migrated with the Mormons to Far West, Missouri in 1837. It took the Hunts four weeks to make this journey. Jefferson Hunt was later called as an Assistant Marshall along with George M. Hinkle. He served as a Major in the Volunteers (which later became the Nauvoo Legion), and participated in the Battle of Crooked River.
The family moved again with the Mormons to Illinois where they settled twenty miles outside of Nauvoo, Illinois. Soon after he was ordained to the office of High Priest and later became an early participant in plural marriage when he married Matilda Nease.
Participant in the march of The Mormon Battalion. This unit of the US Army served in the Mexican-American War and was the only religiously based infantry unit ever created by Presidential order. It consisted of nearly 500 men recruited exclusively from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons). They undertook the longest infantry march in U.S. military history (as of 1847) and in the process marked out and creating the first continuous wagon road to California which linked the future states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the United States. Most members served an initial 12 month term (Jul 1846- Jul 1847) with some members re-enlisting for an additional 12 months afterwards.
In 1846, while encamped at Council Bluffs, Iowa, he joined the Mormon Battalion, which was formed at the request of the U.S. government for participation in the Mexican-American War. He was commissioned as a Captain, and was placed in command of Company A. Two of his sons also enlisted, [[Gilbert Hunt (1825-1858)] and Marshall Hunt (1829-1915), and served under his command. He temporarily commanded the entire battalion when its commander died, until a replacement arrived.
During the Mormon Battalion's journey Hunt's company made the first known gesture of peace between Mexico and the U.S in what was called "The Exchange at the Presidio." The exchange took place very close to what is today Tucson, AZ. This event is commemorated with a statue in downtown Tucson. The statue was dedicated in 1996 by Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
His entire family (two wives + children) journeyed with the battalion as they completed what is to this day the longest march in U.S. Military history, ending in San Diego, California. Two sons served as officers in the battalion.
- Celia Mounts, Wife of Jefferson Hunt. With children: Harriet, Hyrum, Jane,Joseph, John, Mary, Parley.
- Matilda Nease, Wife of Jefferson Hunt.Ellen, Peter, sister and brother of Matilda Nease.
San Bernardino Colony
After being discharged from the Mormon Battalion, Hunt and his family settled in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1847. Soon thereafter, Hunt proposed traveling back to California to bring food and supplies for other recent Utah arrivals. Mormon authorities approved this proposal, and Hunt undertook this journey with Porter Rockwell, several former Mormon Battalion members, and two of his own sons. Later he guided several parties of gold prospectors from Utah to California.
One of the groups he led to California became impatient at his slow progress, and many of the party members elected to abandon Hunt's group, and follow their own route to California. They became the infamous Death Valley '49ers. Those staying with Hunt made the journey without serious incident.
He briefly represented Iron County in the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1851. He was not a resident of Iron County, but he happened to pass through the county as elections were held, and he was chosen by the locals.
In 1851 he was called by his church to help create a Mormon colony in San Bernardino, California. This colony was the first American settlement in California after Statehood. In that settlement he organized the building of a log fort which is the largest log fort ever built in California history.
From 1853-1857 he served as a member of the California State Assembly. Elected to represent Los Angeles County, he introduced legislation in his first year in office to create San Bernardino County, which passed. Upon the creation of San Bernardino County he became the county's first Assemblyman. He is honored as the "Father of San Bernardino County," which is the largest county in the contiguous United States.
In 1856 he was appointed as a Brigadier General in the California State Militia.
In 1860 he founded the town of Huntsville, Utah. He served as a representative to the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1863, representing Weber County. He died in 1879 in Oxford, Idaho.
Hunt has a number of noteworthy descendants:
- John Hunt Udall, great-grandson, Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona
- Jesse Addison Udall, great-grandson, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court
- Don Taylor Udall, great-grandson, Arizona State Legislator
- Nick Udall, 2nd great-grandson, Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona
- Gordon Harold Smith, 3rd great-grandson, U.S. Senator from Oregon
- Milan Dale Smith, Jr., 3rd great-grandson, Federal Judge, U.S. 9th Circuit