Atlas Map of DuPage County. First up is the hardware emporium of James. J. Hunt which was located on the northwest corner of Washington and Van Buren, where the restaurant Catch 35 is now.
Hunt was born in Pennsylvania and learned there to be a blacksmith. He came to Naperville with his young family in 1844 and started by working in another man’s plow shop. Within a couple of years, however, Hunt opened his own blacksmith shop and also ran a livery business.
Hunt spent part of the Civil War serving as a captain and then a major in Illinois and in Pennsylvania, but at the same time, he also launched a small scale hardware business, presumably operated by his wife and pre-teen sons who remained in Naperville. After the war, all his efforts went into that business, making Hunt & Son Hardware a downtown staple until his retirement in 1893.
A story was recorded about how Hunt was able to cool down a clash between some Naperville residents and their more recently-arrived German neighbors during his tenure as a police magistrate. Apparently, while the town was celebrating Independence Day, a dispute arose which “had been bottled up and escaped from such confinements down the throats and thence into the brains of a few otherwise ‘real good fellows.’”
Hunt held positions as a village trustee and village president during the 1860s and 1870s. Then in late 1889, Naperville’s citizens began the process of incorporating from a Village to a City. The vote passed in March of 1890 and Hunt was elected the first mayor of the City of Naperville in April.
None of the girls married and Eva, the youngest, eventually moved to Oregon to live near her brother James Everett Hunt. Obviously public service was a family trait because James E. was a senator there. He died in 1933 at age 80 after being hit by a taxi.
James Hunt, the father, died in 1905 at age 83 and was buried in the Naperville Cemetery with full Masonic honors. The Clarion newspaper headline that day was “Passing of a Naperville Pioneer.”