In 2022, dendrochronology research (analysis of tree ring patterns in cores drilled out of timbers) determined that the Governor Hunt House was built in 1764 — a full 15 years earlier than the date local tradition had ascribed to it, on the assumption that it had been built for the occasion of the marriage of Jonathan Hunt and Lavinia Swan. (The state historical marker in front of the house still says 1779, but the state historical preservation office agrees that 1764 is correct.)
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 Lavinah Swan when he was 41. (See Politics and Society at the Governor Hunt House)
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.
These paintings of Jonathan and Levinah Hunt are in the collection of the Vermont Historical Society, Barre, Vermont.
The portraits were painted, probably in about 1801, by Levinah’s nephew, Charles Lyman (1778-1814), an itinerant painter from Northfield, MA. Replicas of the paintings have been placed in the dining room of the house.
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.