Sunday, June 21, 2015

James Hunter Obituary (d. 1902) - 52 Ancestors #25

For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from blogger Amy Crow Johnson of No Story Too Small, the theme is The Old Homestead. I'm taking liberties with this theme, and writing about an ancestor who built homes for a living, including the one mentioned in the following obituary.

My second great-grandfather, James Hunter, lived in Allegheny City (now North Side of Pittsburgh) his entire life. I never knew that much about his life other than what census records and city directories provided me (his occupation was in construction), that he had ten children, and that he died before reaching 60 years old. (See his FindAGrave Memorial.)

My new favorite resource is, which I decided to subscribe to because it includes many Pittsburgh newspapers. One of the first names I searched for was James Hunter in 1902 (his death year), and I found a wonderful obituary that really "puts the meat on the bones" in terms of giving us much more of a sense of the man.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, Saturday, October 18, 1902, page 4

The transcription is as follows (with my notes [in blue and in square brackets].)


For Years He Was President of Northside Common Council – Had a War Record.


   James Hunter, one of the most popularly known citizens of Allegheny, died at his residence, 3623 Perrysville avenue, yesterday shortly after noon of neuralgia of the heart. His death was unexpectedly sudden, as, while he had been a sufferer from rheumatism of the shoulder for a week or more, it was not regarded that his ailment was serious, much less that it would terminate fatally. Deceased was 59 years old, and was born in Allegheny, his parents being among the early residents of the city. [All I know is that they were Samuel Hunter and Catherine Carr.] He was educated in the public school of the town.
   James Hunter was a man of more than common force of character. He was of the positive temperament, frank and outspoken in his demeanor toward men, and possessed of a large amount of mental and physical energy. He was a man who had the quality of attracting ardent friends and arousing equally as ardent antagonists. Withal, he was generous even to his foes, most of whom were developed in connection with political life. Those who knew him best speak of him with more than usual regard for his strong adhesion to those whom he regarded as among his friends and of his forbearance and generosity toward those who were his known antagonists. [I love this description of his personality.]
   In his young manhood, deceased identified himself with the volunteer fire department, and, as has been the case with all those who have had such experience, early developed an ardent interest in politics. At the outbreak of the Civil war he enlisted as a volunteer, and after serving the period of his first enlistment, re-enlisted, and served until the conclusion of the conflict with credit for courage and fidelity in the performance of soldierly duty, being promoted to the rank or [sic] first lieutenant in Company I, One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania volunteer infantry. [I never knew he served. I think I found him listed in an index as James K.P. Hunter. Click here for that list.]
   After the close of the war he returned to Allegheny and engaged in business as a contractor, which business he pursued for a number of years. In 1872 he was elected a member of the common council and succeeded his close friend, Henry M. Long, who resigned to take a seat in the Legislature, as president of the council, to which position he was elected successively for six terms. His service in the councils extended over a period of 14 years, during which he was identified with some of the most important legislation enacted for the promotion of the civic advancement of Allegheny.
   Several times he was prominently mentioned as the choice of his party friends for the office of mayor, but was never a candidate. [The family story was that he had served as mayor; this clarifies his political activity.] He was a man of public spirit, and was among those who had the courage to invest his money in the street railroads that have contributed so importantly to the advancement of the growth of the city, and at a time when the promise of reward was not such as to induce less courageous men to hazzard [sic] their savings.
   In recent years Mr. Hunter had been engaged in the manufacture of cement, but released himself from all active business about a year and a half ago, since which time he has been living in dignified leisure, giving attention only to some of his investment enterprises, and the supervision of the embellishment of the lawn surrounding his splendid home. [Click here to see photographs of family members outside the house. I also have several snapshots of my grandmother's family on that lawn in the later 1910s.]
   Several years ago he purchased a large plot of rough and stump-encumbered ground on the top of the hill back of the city, thus manifesting his foresight and conviction in the future growth of his native city, and this property is now the site of his superb home on Perrysville avenue, and has gained tremendously in value. During the summer he had spent much of his time supervising the grading and planting of his lawn and his indisposition during the last few days is attributed to his exposing himself in looking over the work on an inclement day.
   Mr. Hunter was an active member of the First United Presbyterian Church, Allegheny, in which he was honored by frequent election to important committees having entrusted to them the care of business matters on behalf of the congregation, and in the performance of which his ripe judgment and earnest work commanded for him unusual regard from his fellow communicants. [Now I can explore the microfilmed church records since I know which church he belonged to.]
   He was a member of the Alexander Hays post, N., 3, G. A. R., which, outside of his church relations, was the only body to which he belonged. [There also are microfilmed records of this post, at the University of Pittsburgh Library.]
   He is survived by nine children [one son predeceased him], his wife dying about eight months ago, since which time, it is stated, he has never been the same man he was before. [This shows the love he had for his wife, Mary Freeland.] His children are Henry M. Long Hunter, Percy E., James F., Samuel K., Jack R., Chester H., Helen Rainey, Mary Lois and Curtis Carr Hunter, and four sisters, Mrs. W. P. White, Mrs. A. S. Glenn, Mrs. J. W. Thompson and Mrs. F. J. Cluley, and a brother, John K. Hunter. [I know who all these people are except for Mrs. F. J. Cluley.]

The Hunter family home on Perrysville Avenue. (Click here to see a larger copy.)


  1. Great find!
    But what was his wife's name?

    1. His wife was Mary Freeland. It's always frustrating when an obituary neglects to include full names of relatives!

      Thanks for reading and for the comment - I'm going to edit my text above to include her name.