Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hunt, John Charles (1856–1930)

by Nan Phillips

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

This is a shared entry with Alfred Edgar Hunt

John Charles Hunt (1856-1930), grazier, orchardist and politician, and Alfred Edgar Hunt (1861-1930), pastoralist and politician, were born on 27 July 1856 and on 2 May 1861 at Dural, New South Wales, sons of native-born parents George Thomas Hunt, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Williams. John was educated at Parramatta North Public School, and both brothers attended Newington College.

John returned to his father's property at Dural in 1873 and became a successful orchardist, growing citrus and summer stone-fruits. He married Annie Maria Golledge on 29 May 1879 at Parramatta. Although he lived at Parramatta after his father died in 1899, he was strongly attracted to the fertile area known as 'the hills' district in Hornsby Shire. He advocated extending the railway to Dural and in 1900, in evidence to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, dealt graphically with the difficulties of transporting produce to the railway at Hornsby in horse-drawn vehicles. He was a member of the Carlingford-Dural Railway League.

In 1906 Hunt became a councillor of Hornsby Shire and its first president in 1907, the year in which he was also president of the Central Cumberland Agricultural and Horticultural Association (Castle Hill) and vice-president of the Fruitgrowers' Union of New South Wales. He easily won the State seat of Sherbrooke in 1907 as a Liberal, holding it until the redistribution of 1913, and then represented Camden until he retired in 1920. He retained his close interest in rural affairs as a shareholder in, and later a director of, the family pastoral firm of Hunt Brothers, owners of Burdenda and other pastoral stations on the Bogan River and orchards at Dural.

Positive and forthright, Hunt adhered to his Methodist principles, ready to assist the needy, and worthy causes. The delights of his later years were his motor car and listening to his crystal set.

John Hunt died at his home at Parramatta on 23 March 1930 and was buried in the Methodist section of Dural cemetery. Predeceased by a son killed on active service and by a daughter, he was survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters; and left an estate sworn for probate at £10,139. His wife was a noted needlewoman who won many prizes for her embroidery and gave long years to community work, including the Australian Red Cross Society.

Alfred went to the Bogan district in 1878 and selected land near Dandaloo. He worked hard to improve his holding and his financial position and on 24 December 1881 married Sarah Ruth, sister of C. B. Fletcher, at the Pitt Street Wesleyan Church, Sydney. He became a successful sheep-farmer and later owned Wyoming, near Nevertire, other pastoral properties and Orange Grove near Parramatta; he was never a partner in Hunt Brothers. His modest prosperity and the ability of his two elder sons to manage the properties enabled him actively to promote rural interests. A member from 1904 of the Farmers and Settlers' Association, he was president in 1914-16, treasurer in 1916-30 and a director of its newspaper, the Land. He was also president of the Graziers' Association of New South Wales in 1921-22, president of the Australian Farmers' Federal Organisation and a council-member of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales.

During World War I, Alfred Hunt was a member of the State Wool Committee, supporting moves for practical marketing and equitable returns from primary products subject to wartime controls, and took a leading part in recruiting drives. In 1929 he was president of the New South Wales division of the New Settlers' League of Australia.

As chairman of the Progressive Party's central council, Hunt was influential in the formation of the party, advocating retention of its separate identity and establishment of its headquarters in Bligh Street, Sydney. He was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1916. Throughout his political career he strongly promoted rural interests. In 1918 he became one of the first directors of the McGarvie-Smith Institute, a state-owned venture for the manufacture and sale of anthrax vaccine. He deplored the costly depredations caused by blowflies and rabbits, and supported moves to establish a branch of the Pasteur Institute to investigate possible biological eradication of these pests. After a 1925 visit to England he stressed the need to improve dressing of meat for overseas markets.

A quiet but consistent supporter of the needy, Alfred was also a member of the New South Wales Conference of the Methodist Church of Australasia, and an originator of the Far West Children's Health Scheme. He had been 'ailing for some years' with nephritis and arteriosclerosis when he died at his home at Mosman on 16 August 1930 of coronary thrombosis: he was buried in the Methodist section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. Predeceased by two sons killed in action, he was survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £32,028.

John and Alfred Hunt were typical of the hard core of influential Nonconformist pastoralists and businessmen; they faithfully served both urban and rural communities, and sought legislative improvements for primary producers.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1900, p 1350
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1930, p 6
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 12 Sept 1907, 18 Aug 1930
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11-15 July, 17 Nov 1916, 18 July 1918, 18, 19, 30 July, 7 Dec 1921, 21, 25 Jan, 11, 12 July 1922, 20 Mar, 18 July 1923, 16 Apr 1924, 27 Mar, 1 Apr, 31 Oct 1925, 6 Oct, 9 Nov 1927, 24 Mar, 18, 19 Aug 1930
  • Queenslander, 27 Mar, 18 Aug 1930
  • Bulletin, 20 Aug 1930
  • Land (Sydney), 22 Aug 1930
  • private information.

Citation details

Nan Phillips, 'Hunt, John Charles (1856–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hunt-john-charles-6768/text11703, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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