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HUNT, JAMES, sail-maker, office holder, businessman, and politician; b. 9 Sept. 1779 in Dartmouth, England, son of Thomas Hunt; m. April 1817 Mary Sloat Garland, probably in Kingsbridge, Devon, and they had at least one son and two daughters; d. 1 April 1847 at Quebec.

James Hunt arrived at Quebec from Dartmouth in June 1803 and immediately set up as a sail-maker in a rented shop near the Landing Place, or Cul-de-Sac, in Lower Town. Since shipbuilding was only just becoming an important activity, he initially encountered little competition. In July 1804 he was appointed a constable for Lower Town, perhaps an indication that he was physically imposing. He was probably the “Mr Hunt” who provided sails for the naval sloop Wolfe, built at Kingston, Upper Canada, during the War of 1812. In 1815 he acquired a shop of his own at the Landing Place, and in 1818 he purchased a second, on Rue Saint-Pierre, and took four apprentices in “the Art and Mystery of a Sail Maker.”

Hunt was a “distant” relative of the second partner in Newman, Hunt and Company of London, the cornerstone of a remarkably old and established complex of firms of Dartmouth origin. It operated in England, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, North and South America, and eastern Africa, and was particularly important in the Newfoundland trade. Judging Hunt to be “a very respectable character,” Newman, Hunt decided about 1820 to employ him on “all occasions” that business took them to Quebec. Having previously viewed the Quebec wine trade as too competitive, the firm now began to ship its well-known port to him annually. The partners initially complained that their middle-aged novice misunderstood or “passed by our instructions as though they had not existed” and that he did not have the “mode of doing business . . . Customary with regular Mercantile Houses,” but Hunt proved adaptable, and Newman, Hunt’s port was soon standard in the messes of the big Quebec garrison. Often on Hunt’s advice, Newman, Hunt gradually added to its shipments Mediterranean products, Madeira and cognac, Caribbean rum, molasses and sugar, Newcastle coal, and Swedish iron, as well as copper and lead. In return Hunt exported lumber products and provisions, especially flour and “Canada Pork,” but at little profit to Newman, Hunt; Lower Canadian shingles were “not liked” by the firm’s Newfoundland branch, the unseasoned staves were considered “very Sappy” compared to the American product for the casks of its Oporto operation in Portugal, and the flour was sometimes “sour” and sold “very badly.”

Hunt seems to have received and sold shipments, at least until 1835, at Rayner’s Wharf near Rue du Cul-de-Sac. In 1826 he purchased dock facilities on the Rivière Saint-Charles off Rue Saint-Paul, but he rented them out. In 1837–38 he acquired Hunt’s Wharf, formerly owned by his brother Thomas (after whom it was probably named), a leading Quebec architect and builder. Considered the third most valuable wharf in town, its “several spacious Warehouses” and counting-houses were leased to substantial merchants and to the St Lawrence Steamboat Company. Hunt’s shops and wharfs formed the nuclei of concentrations of property he acquired gradually. In the 1820s he bought several lots, often adjoining, on Rue du Cul-de-Sac, Rue Saint-Pierre, and Rue Sous-le-Fort, and others on Rue Saint-Paul (owned jointly with William Henderson, a pioneer in insurance at Quebec), on Rue du Sault-au-Matelot, and near the Marché Saint-Paul. Along with Hunt’s Wharf he acquired a block of properties stretching from it to Rue Saint-Pierre, another block in Upper Town facing the glacis of the Citadel, and “Competence Farm” on the Saint-Charles. He also became the owner of scattered lots in the faubourgs Saint-Jean and Saint-Roch and along the St Lawrence on Rue Champlain, as well as of a farm and sawmill in Stoneham Township, north of Quebec. A number of these properties, fitted up as shops, inns, or other commercial establishments, brought good rents. He also had several vaults, in which he and his lessees stored wines. His prominence as a businessman from the 1820s is reflected in his position as a director of the Quebec Fire Office, the Quebec Fire Assurance Company, and the Quebec Bank and as a stockholder in the City Bank (of Montreal), the Bank of British North America, the Welland Canal Company, the Company of Proprietors of the Chambly Canal, the Quebec and Halifax Steam Navigation Company, and other concerns. In 1840 he was appointed a city councillor.

Wealthy and healthy at 60, Hunt began to reduce his pace. In 1840 he gave to a long-time employee, William Hunt, half ownership and the management of his sail-making firm which, thenceforth as James Hunt and Company, continued to operate at the original two locations. Four years later he handed over the trading firm to a son-in-law, Weston Hunt, who moved its headquarters to Hunt’s Wharf. After 40 years in the crowded, noisy Landing Place, James Hunt moved to the quiet and comfort of one of his houses opposite the Citadel, filling it with good furniture and many books; four vehicles occupied part of the stables. At his death in 1847 Hunt was still receiving rents from his properties, was owed £5,000 by his sail-making firm, and held debts totalling nearly £26,000 from leaders in many fields of business in the city, including William Price*, a timber merchant, John William Woolsey*, a businessman, and the hardware merchant François-Xavier Méthot*, as well as from John Saxton Campbell*, a former shipbuilder there. The Hunt family continued to prosper after James’s death, and in the 1880s was reputed to be among Quebec’s largest holders of real estate.

A. J. H. Richardson

ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 3 avril 1847; CN1-16, 20 janv. 1815; CN1-49, 9 nov. 1818, 19 avril 1819, 7 mai 1840; CN1-67, 7 mai 1840; CN1-116, 30 mars 1821, 22 avril 1829; CN1-188, 19 févr. 1827; CN1-197, 27 oct. 1819; 1er juill., 20–21 nov. 1820; 1er févr., 20 mars, 1er août, 1er sept., 29 oct., 19 nov. 1821; 9 juill. 1822; 25 juin 1823; 20 janv., 1er juin 1825; 11 janv., 10 févr., 25 mars, 7 nov. 1826; 27 févr., 9 mars, 24 avril, 11 juill., 2 oct., 29 déc. 1827; 7 janv., 7 avril 1828; 2, 4 févr., 26 mai, 17 juin, 7 sept. 1829; 9 mars 1830; 13, 17 mai, 31 août 1831; 3, 24 sept., 31 oct., 13 déc. 1832; 9 mars 1833; 10 mars 1834; 17 janv., 22 mai, 22 août 1835; 25, 30 avril, 19, 21 mai 1838; 28 avril 1841; 24 mars, 30 avril, 5 juin, 12 juill., 13 août 1842; 31 oct. 1844; 28 févr., 12 mars, 22 déc. 1845; 18 févr., 31 juill. 1846; 28–29 janv., 11, 18–19 févr., 4 mars, 19 avril 1847. Hunt, Roope & Co. (London), Newman, Hunt & Co., records (mfm. at PAC). Mount Hermon Cemetery (Sillery, Que.), James Hunt’s tombstone. PAC, MG 24, D48; National Map Coll., H2/340-Québec 1835, 1845; H3/340-Québec 1829, 1830; H3/350-Québec [1836]. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 186. Recensement de Québec, 1818 (Provost). Quebec Gazette, 16 June, 7 July 1803; 16 Aug. 1804; 15 June 1815; 31 Oct. 1816; 8 Jan. 1818; 18 Feb., 6 May, 14 June, 29 Nov. 1819; 24 Feb., 15, 22 June, 21 Aug. 1820; 25 Jan., 5 July, 15 Oct. 1821; 25 July, 24, 31 Oct. 1822; 9 June 1823; 16 Feb. 1824; 17 Feb., 17 March, 19 May, 13 Oct., 14 Nov. 1825; 16 March, 15 June 1826; 15 Feb., 16 Aug. 1827; 17 Jan., 17 April 1828; 17 Jan., 19 Feb., 14 May 1829; 17 June 1830; 20 Feb., 16 April, 14 Sept., 15 Oct. 1832; 13 Feb., 12 Aug., 14 Oct. 1833; 10 Jan., 19 March, 18 April, 13 June, 22 Oct. 1834; 13 March, 15 July, 12 Aug., 14 Sept. 1835; 17 Feb., 19 July 1836; 15 Feb., 17 April 1837; 23 June 1838; 17 April, 15 Sept. 1839. Quebec Mercury, 1 March 1831; 12 Feb., 1 March 1842. Quebec almanac, 1823: 117; 1828: 121–23; 1833: 147–48, 152, 154; 1838: 158, 160, 166; 1841: 41, 176. Quebec directory, 1844–45, 1847–48, 1852, 1857, 1860–61, 1865–68, 1877, 1887–88. Christina Cameron et Jean Trudel, Québec au temps de James Patterson Cockburn (Québec, 1976), 43, 53. Quebec Morning Chronicle, 22 Sept. 1882. F. C. Würtele, “The English cathedral of Quebec,” Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Trans., new ser., 20 (1891): 63–132.

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Cite This Article

A. J. H. Richardson, “HUNT, JAMES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 1, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hunt_james_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hunt_james_7E.html
Author of Article: A. J. H. Richardson
Title of Article: HUNT, JAMES
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: November 1, 2014