39. Alfred Munroe (Concord). William Henry Hunt, ca. 1885. From a glass plate negative, presented by Henry Francis Smith.
Progressive Concord farmer William Henry Hunt (1839-1926) faced significant early obstacles. A son of financially overburdened farmer Daniel Hunt, he grew up on and eventually inherited the ancestral Hunt farm on Punkatasset Hill. (Emma Hunt Flint—shown in #32—was one of his many siblings.) Hunt made the most of limited opportunities. Over time, he turned the declining family farm around. Intelligent, practical, and energetic, he was also lucky. In 1859, he married Elizabeth Baker, a somewhat older woman of sufficient means to allow him to invest in farm improvements, to hire help, and to adapt to changing market demands.
While achieving a comfortable standard of living, Hunt simultaneously developed a life of the mind. His father's financial constraints limited his formal education to that available in District School No. 7. Nevertheless, Hunt made self-culture a life-long habit. He explored the natural world around Punkatasset under the influence of Monument Street neighbor Minot Pratt. He read widely on his own. He studied subjects of practical use to his livelihood. As a member of the Concord Farmer's Club, he approached agricultural problems scientifically. And after his marriage, his relatively well-educated wife helped to develop his capabilities. From 1878 to 1880, the couple traveled in Europe, where Hunt delighted in exposure to foreign languages, cultures, and landscapes.
As he prospered, Hunt became an active participant in local government and organizations. He served Concord as assessor, selectman, a member of the School Committee, and in other capacities as well. A Civil War veteran, he commanded the Old Concord Post of the G.A.R. He was a member of the Middlesex Agricultural Society, the Social Circle in Concord, and the Concord Antiquarian Society. In his will, Hunt left a bequest for the construction of a town gymnasium (built on Stow Street). Through it all, he maintained humility, courtesy, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
This portrait of William Henry Hunt—taken by fellow Social Circle member Alfred Munroe—shows the subject in his prime. His innate dignity and reserve—easily mistaken for sternness—are apparent. As in the photograph of George Minot Barrett (#37), the contrast between Hunt's large, rough farmer's hands and his gentlemanly pose is striking.