Early Families in Bridgeport, Texas
Colonel W.H. Hunt

Civic leadership was never more crucial than on the western frontier in the mid-19th century. The trials and tribulations normally incident to pioneer settlement were at this time and place overlaid with the savagery of hostile Indian attack and with the loss and sacrifice resulting from our nation's costliest war. In this setting, no person contributed more than Colonel W. H. Hunt. It was the good fortune of Wise County , Texas , to have him as one of its first settlers.

Born in Ithaca , New York , May 1,1815, he finished college at age 21 and that same year arrived in Texas to join in its War for Independence . He also served the Army of the Texas Republic in the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition, impressing superiors with his engineering and surveying skills. These led to his appointment to the council to locate the site of the Texas Capitol building, and later as official surveyor of Texas public and school lands and proposed roadways. Accepting pay in form of land script for these services, he acquired considerable land holdings and entitlements of his own.

By 1855, just one year after this area was first opened to settlement, he located his land holdings in western Wise County, along the Trinity River's West Fork, though the county would not be officially formed nor named until 1856. At confluence of a creek (later named "Hunt's Creek") with the West Fork, was a small hill (later known as "Cactus Hill"), upon which Colonel Hunt constructed his residence and ranch headquarters. He and his wife, Catherine Cordell Hunt, were both of exceptionally friendly and hospitable nature, warmly welcoming all comers, and consequently enjoying great personal popularity. His family eventually included five children, who also became well known in the vicinity.

His vast land holdings in this area were well suited for livestock and grazing operations. A neighbor, Dan Waggoner, along with Hunt and other neighbors laid the foundation for the cattle business that would later thrive in North Texas . In the beginning, the difficulties of marketing cattle led Hunt to specialize in raising sheep, from which he marketed large quantities of wool. He aided in organization of the county government, and in laying out the county seat, initially called "Taylorsville" but later changed to "Decatur**. Town lots were put on sale in 1858, and Hunt acquired a large lot on the west side of the public square.

During the late 1850's, stagecoaches of Butterfield's Overland Mail Company stopped at Deeatur's station. This company operated the first overland mail and commercial link between the eastern U.S. and the new* state of California. Hunt was a leader of local citizen groups that actively encouraged the routing of the stage line through Wise County. This was accomplished by construction of roads and bridges across land and creeks north of Decatur. Eventually the line crossed the entire county, east to west, with three stage stops: Denton Creek, Decatur, and Old Bridgeport, the latter having grown up at the crossing site on the Trinity West Fork.

After this auspicious beginning, there followed a time of trouble. In 1859, came the chilling impact of increased Comanche raids into the area. At a meeting called at Cactus Hill, volunteer groups from Wise and Parker Counties called on General John R. Baylor to assume command and rid the state of the recently created Indian Reservations in Young and Archer Counties, believing these to be the source of the raids. However, the Indian trouble continued for another fifteen years.

Then, in 1861, came the untimely death of Mrs. Hunt, soon followed by the secession of Texas and then the War Between the States. All this caused Col. Hunt to remove his family and household to safer location in Decatur. War also halted operation of the stage line, which had been so heavily relied on to aid the growth and prosperity of the county. Then in the midst of all the wartime troubles, on January 13,1864, came the accidental death of Col. Hunt as a result of a runaway team of horses and consequent wreck of his horse-drawn vehicle.

Both Col. and Mrs. Hunt and other family members were originally buried in the family cemetery at Cactus Hill. However, in 1930, with the decision to construct a dam on the West Fork and create Lake Bridgeport , removal of these graves became necessary, because the entire site of Cactus Hill was to be submerged. These graves were moved to Bridgeport 's Municipal or "Eastside" Cemetery.

Today, Hunt's Creek can still be seen, flowing into the south end of Lake Bridgeport, and most, if not all, of the new city of Runaway Bay occupies lands once included in the ranch holdings of Col. W. H. Hunt.

This information was complied by W. B. Woodruff. A list of references can be viewed by clicking on "REFERENCES"
Return to Early Families Home Page