Hillsborough County, Florida

1849 - 1909

Joshua H. Hunter, was born in February of 1849, in Suwannee County, Florida. His parents, John A. and Mary Hunter, were originally from South Carolina, but the 1860 census showed them and their ten children living in Suwannee County, Florida. Only three of these children are known to have come as far south as Polk and Hillsborough Counties. These are Elizabeth Hunter, Joshua H. Hunter, and James T. Hunter. Elizabeth married John L. McClelland and lived in Polk County. Joshua lived in Polk County for some time and settled in Hillsborough County in 1871. James also settled in Hillsborough County in 1891.

Joshua H. Hunter married Sarah Ann Ellen McClelland in Polk County in August of 1871. Sarah Ann Ellen's parents were John L. McClelland and Winnie Vickers Tanner. Four months later, in December of that year, they established their residence in Hillsborough County on a 39.57 acre tract of land which Joshua planned to homestead. This land was in a small community called Welcome, but Joshua gave his post office address as Keysville, Florida. On his homestead application to establish his residence on the land, Joshua said that the improvements he had made at that time were the clearing and fencing of some of the land and a log house he had built. He valued these improvements at $25.00. This land was partly covered with timber and part was hammock land and it was very good for farming.

Joshua worked hard clearing this new land, fencing and cultivating it, farming, and raising his family, for twelve years before filing his homestead application on September 7, 1883, at the land office in Gainesville, Florida. When he filed this application, two of his neighbors, Ephraim A. Hill and James P. Allen, were his witnesses and verified Joshua's statements about the improvements made on the land since 1871, and their value. Joshua stated that, to that time, he had cleared and fenced fifteen acres and had cultivated five acres. He also stated that besides this dwelling he had built several 'out houses' as he called them, and he valued these improvements at $600.00.

There is an interesting story concerning these smalll houses, which he called his 'out houses'. There were four or possibly five of them. Joshua needed help in clearing and developing this new land, so he hired workers to help him in this task. He built these houses for the workers to live in while they were working for him. In later years when his farm was as large as he wanted and when his children were old enough to help him, he did not need hired workers, so these houses were used for other purposes. In 1891, when his daughter, Martha Jane, married, she and her husband James E. Keen, lived in one of these houses for some time. Her first child was born there, so he told me. In 1910, my own family lived in one of these houses. At that time there were five children in our family, so this house, which had four small rooms and a front porch, was probably the largest of the 'out houses'.

In September of 1890, seven years after Joshua filed his homestead application, his claim was finalized. This seven year period was called 'lapsed final proof', which meant that a two year grace period was added to the regular five year period required to finalize a homestead claim. The claimant could take advantage of this grace period if he had a good reason for the delay. However, the law required that the final proof be presented, witnessed, examined, and approved before the seventh year expired or the claim would be forfeited. So, early in the year of 1890, January 25, Joshua notified the land office of his intention to present his final proof and establish his claim. A complete description of the land and his intention to establish his claim was advertised for six weeks as required. Then on March 26, 1890, as his final proof, he gave information about settling the land, living there continuously, and improving the land by $700.00. His two witnesses, Ephraim A. Hill and James P. Allen verified all the statements made. So by September 23, 1890, Joshua H. Hunter's homestead claim was examined and approved by the land office in Gainesville, Florida, which meant that his claim was established and he would receive a deed to the 39.57 acre tract of land he had lived on for nineteen years.

Joshua Hunter's final proof reveals some very interesting facts. He stated that he had eleven acres under cultivation and that he used an average of eight acres per year for his crops. His main crops were corn, potatoes, peas, and sugar cane. He also mentioned his orange trees. His farming tools were simple plows, hoes, rakes, and shovels. He had a yoke of oxen and a horse and wagon, which was used for farming and transportation. He also had some hogs and chickens. Ten of his children were living with him at that time. With a family that large, his dwelling, which he valued at $75.00, was quite different from the first log house he had built in 1871 and valued at $25.00. The original fifteen by thirty-eight foot log house was two fifteen foot square rooms with an eight foot hall between them. This original log house was still the main body of his residence in 1890, but he had added a porch across the front and a porch across the back of the house. At one end of the back porch, about ten feet away, he had built a large room which contained the dining room, kitchen, and his prayer room. There was a covered walkway from the porch alongside the dining room all the way to the kitchen. As I saw the house many times in the early 1900's, I remember he had closed in both ends of the front porch for extra bedrooms. The house remained like this as long as it stood.

In 1892, for the first time, Joshua sold some of his land. For $1.00 he sold ten acres to James E. Keen who had married Martha Jane, his first daughter, in 1891. Some time later he sold some of his land to a family named Sloan to farm. After Joshua's death in March 1909, part of the land was sold to a family named Johnson for farming purposes. Joshua's wife, Sara Ann Ellen, daughter, Sara Jane, and Sara Jane's daughter, Bessie, continued living on the old homeplace until Sara Jane met and married Rosier Lee Durden on February 19, 1917.

It was during these years (1909 - 1917) that I became well acquainted with my grandmother (Sara Ann Hunter) and the hard work and problems that she faced. She was a strong woman who made wise decisions. I remember her having a host of friends due to her friendly attitude. A group of neighbors would gather at "grandma's" usually at night, and while they sat on the porch and talked, all the kids played hide-and-seek in the large back yard around a bonfire.

I enjoyed going to help grandma drive up the cows which she was allowed to pen up at night in exchange for letting them graze on her land. She did the milking herself and always had plenty of milk, buttermilk, cream, and butter. I also helped her with other chores. Her daughter, Sara Jane, was grandma's only help with the housework.

Everyone enjoyed the stories grandma told about the exciting experiences she and her family had gone through, but I especially like the stories of the wild cats and panthers. Wild cats and panthers were seen often since there was a heavily wooded creek at the north edge of grandma's property and only a little over a mile to the south prong of the Alafia River at the south property edge. She told me of the night that a panther came to the house while grandpa was on a business trip. With the children locked in the two large rooms and the doors closed and fastened with their large wooden latches, grandma waited while the screaming panther jumped on to the back porch, walked through the hall that separated the two rooms, crossed the front porch, jumped off and circled the house to the back porch and again went down the hall. He did this several times, screaming all the while. He finally left, but the doors stayed locked until grandpa came home.

Shortly after Sara Jane and Rosier Lee Durden married, the family moved temporarily to Mulberry and then permanently to Avon Park in Highlands County, Florida. In the meanwhile, the vacant home place, along with the remainder of the land Joshua had owned, was sold to Alvin Hunter, who was a son of James T. Hunter, Joshua's brother. Soon after this, the old homeplace was torn down.

On September 23, 1939, my grandmother, Sarah Ann Ellen Hunter, died in Avon Park, Florida. The last of her children to expire was her husband's namesake and youngest son, Joshua H., who died November 1, 1963, at 70 years and 6 months. Henry Farris, who lived the longest died on March 30, 1962, at age 86. Fourteen children were born to Joshua H. Hunter and Sarah Ann Ellen Hunter.

Joshua was a religious man, of the Baptist faith, and was respected and well thought of by all who knew him. Education, in the times that Joshua Hunter lived, was not a privilege of all. Yet, a cousin, Rhoda Young, told me that Joshua had a beautiful handwriting. He had entered the full names and date of birth of all his children in his family Bible. After Joshua's death, his son, Henry Farris, kept the Bible until his own death.

I was born December 9, 1906, and did not have much time to get acquainted with my grandfather since he died a little more than two years after I was born. If he had lived longer, he might have had some special influence on my life.

Children of Joshua H. Hunter and Sarah Ann Ellen McClelland:

1. Martha Jane Hunter, born June 25, 1872; died September 30, 1944; married James Edward Keen December 1, 1889.

2. Malinda Hunter, born about 1873; married Joseph W. Sikes June 12, 1892.

3. John Adam Hunter, born about 1875; died August 10, 1948; married Vianna McClelland February 25, 1895; Ida Middlebrook May 20, 1905; Mary Jordan November 25, 1906.

4. Henry Farris Hunter, born February 26, 1876; died March 30, 1962; married Julia McClelland May 15, 1902; Mattie L. Locklear November 10, 1924.

5. Soloma Hunter, born about 1877; died after 1885.

6. Solomon Warren Hunter, born February 13, 1878; died January 25, 1939; married Annie C. Wright.

7. Mary Hunter, born about 1879; died after 1885.

8. Mollie Hunter, born about 1880; married R. L. Lightsey September 30, 1906; Henry Dallas, 2nd.

9. Maggie Lou Hunter, born January 22, 1881; died May 6, 1955; married Perry William Keen February 8, 1896.

10. William Arley Hunter, born about 1883; married M. Lennie Gibson.

11. Sarah Jane Elizabeth Hunter, born 1885; died December 23, 1952.

12 Liller Jane Hunter, born about 1886; died about 8 years.

13. Susie Rebecca Hunter, born June 5, 1888; died April 23, 1936; married Robert S. Bowman March 12, 1905; Thad Oliver February 27, 1926.

14. Joshua H. Hunter, born May 8, 1893; died November 1, 1963; married Viola Martha Murphy November 17, 1917.

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