While there is some discussion about the exact date that the Governor Hunt House was built, one thing we do know is that it was well over 200 years ago. And we all agree that it's quite an old and historic structure. The state historical marker in front of the house uses 1779 as the construction date which corresponds to Jonathan Hunt's marriage to Lavinia Swan. Barbara Moseley, a Vernon historian, believed that the house was built for the occasion of the Hunt-Swan wedding.
Hunt was 56 when he became lieutenant governor. He died at the ripe old age of 85 at a time when the average life expectancy in the United States was about 36 years. These facts support the current sentiments about our state: Vermonters are a hardy and resilient group!
Jonathan Hunt was not a native Vermonter; he was born in Northfield Massachusetts but inherited extensive acreage in the area that is now Vernon. Vermont quickly became his home state where he held numerous public offices. In 1781 he was Sheriff of Windham County; two years later he became a member of the General Assembly; he joined the Vermont Convention of 1791 that adopted the Constitution; and he became a Presidential Elector in 1800. Jonathan Hunt was definitely an asset to both his community and to Vermont.
The Governor Hunt House was built by Jonathan Hunt (1738 – 1823) who, while never actually becoming governor, did serve as lieutenant governor of Vermont from 1794-1796 under the state's first governor, Thomas Chittenden. Jonathan Hunt married Lavinia Swan when he was 41. This was his second marriage. While little is known about his first marriage — not even the name of his spouse — his daughter from that marriage, Anna Hunt Marsh, made her mark in Windham County. (See “Politics and Society at the Governor Hunt House.”)
These paintings of Jonathan and Levinah Hunt are in the collection of the Vermont Historical Society, Barre, Vermont.
The portraits were painted by Levinah’s nephew, Charles Lyman, as a wedding gift (July 15, 1779). Jonathan Hunt is shown wearing a dark coat, with a white cravat tied in a bow. His light brown hair, sprinkled with white, is combed back from his face, revealing a receding hairline.
Levinah is wearing a dark dress with a fichu (a three-cornered shawl of light material tucked into the V-neckline. Her white day cap stands upright and reveals a bit of auburn hair tucked behind her ear. Her blue eyes look directly at you.
Charles Lyman was a self-taught itinerant artist who made his living traveling around New England. Although his works are not well known, there is another example in Memorial Hall of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield, MA.
Description by Barbara Emery Moseley. Photos by David R. Hanlon, used by permission.