September 21, 1908


"Judge" James Hunter, a settler in Westport since 1826 and one of the most familiar figures of the old town, died at the Harris house in Westport, where he had lived for twenty-five years, at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon, at the age of 88 years old.

Born eighty-three years ago in Russellville, Ky., James Hunter, at the age of 1 year, came with his father, the Rev. James M. Hunter of the then Cumberland Presbyterian church, to where Westport now is, in 1826. There was but one house in the place, a cabin owned by Frederick Chouteau, which was hotel, general store, and, in fact, the whole settlement under one roof. Rev. Hunter started another store, where he had saddlery, general merchandise and notions, now the corner of Southwest boulevard and Penn street. At this time Kansas City was not in existence. Young Hunter later started in the saddlery business. He also became the owner of a tract of about eighty acres between Twenty-eighth, Thirty-third, Main and Holmes streets. this he afterwards disposed of very cheaply. At the age of 30 years he married Miss Eleanor Stevens of Cass county, Mo., but she lived only a year. They had no children.

About 1854 the great movement across the plains was at its highest point, and James Hunter and his younger brother, Thomas, went into the freighting business. Their long caravans of prairie schooners, drawn by oxen, toiled slowly across the dry plains from Westport to Santa Fe, hauling every sort of necessity for the settlers in the gold fields. The profit was brought back in the form of gold dust, and debts were paid with the dust in Westport, as well as in San Francisco. Both of the brothers made their headquarters in Santa Fe, but they were constantly on the move, and Westport saw them several times a year.

When the civil war broke out they had not time to mix in the quarrels of the North and South -- they were interested in the development of the Western country. They continued to run their business right through the war. Their name became known everywhere along the great trail, and they waxed wealthy.

The inception of the railway proved the ruin of their freight business. In 1871 James Hunter gave up the trade and moved from Santa Fe back to Westport, where he had lived ever since. He became a notary public and in 1886 was elected police judge of the town. Twenty-five years ago he registered at the Harris house, then the leading hotel in Westport, and retained a room there until his death.

Two brothers and a sister survive, Dr. D. W. Hunter of Dallas, Tex.; Thomas H. Hunter of 4013 Central street and Mrs. E. H. Huffaker of El Paso, Tex.

The funeral services will be at 10 o'clock Tuesday morning from the residence of Thomas H. Hunter. Burial will be in Union cemetery.