Eliza Hunt’s obituary published 16 October 1889 in the Sussex County Register simply reads as follows:
Hunt – October 3d, in Lafayette, at the residence of her son, William H. Hunt,
Mrs. Eliza Hunt, widow of Enoch Hunt, in the 86th year of her age.
Like most women in family trees, there’s not much to go on. She’s known by the men in her life, not her maiden name. If one looks only at the obituary, one gleans a only few facts about her.
- Eliza was married to Enoch Hunt.
- Enoch Hunt predeceased Eliza.
- She had a son William H. Hunt.
- She was 86 years old.
- She died in Lafayette, New Jersey.
Those are some pretty sparse facts. But they were a start! After years of researching, I have discovered there’s so much more to her than those facts hint.
The obituary of her son William H. Hunt stated that he was “he was born in Andover, the son of Enoch Hunt and Eliza Maynard Hunt.” So, I was fortunate enough to have her maiden name.
Eliza is found in the U.S. Federal census population schedules from 1850 to 1880.
Since she died in 1889, there would be no more record of her in the U.S. Federal censuses even if the 1890 census had survived the fire that destroyed most of the records for that census year. However, researching the military service of her sons produced a wealth of information about her!
I had found brothers William and 1/2 brothers Lyman and Theodore in basic record searches earlier. I also knew that her son William H. Hunt had served during the Civil War and was “last survivor of four brothers who fought for the Union” from an article in the Railroad Employee Magazine published June of 1907. This sparked a hunt (pun intended) for the remaining unknown brother who served.
William’s pension file contained an affidavit from a woman named Keziah Washer who stated that “This certifies that I, Keziah Washer, am a half-sister to William H. Hunt.” Not related to Eliza directly but it did reveal one of Eliza’s step-children in her second marriage to Enoch Hunt.
Sending away for Lyman’s pension file produced an affidavit which showed a flavor for Eliza’s speaking style, provided evidence that she was quite reproductively active (not just giving birth to Lyman and William) and revealed the last brother who served was named Sidney a.k.a Henry Menard.
This affidavit was taken by a Special Examiner, named F. C. Loveland, who was sent out to New Jersey in late 1882 to evaluate Eliza’s son Lyman’s claim that he got epilepsy as a result of his service and deserved an invalid’s pension. At the time of the affidavit, she was 77 years old and her signature was a bit shaky. Mr. Loveland described her as having “both feet almost in the grave, has rheumatism and shaking palsy badly.” She stated that the claimant, Lyman Wood, was born 07 March 1837 and was the child of her first husband.
The special investigation was to determine if Lyman’s epilepsy existed prior to his service. Since certain types of epilepsy run in the family, Mr. Loveland asked Eliza to give him the names her children by her first husband. She listed four sons:
Charles M. Wood born 03 September 1827
David M. Wood born 06 September 1829
Sidney B. Wood born 16 December 1834
Lyman Wood born 07 March 1837
She then stated that the first three “died at 32 years of age, all of them.” Mr. Loveland asked her what the cause of death of each of the others was. She told him that Charles died of bilious cholic and that David died of heart disease. Sidney was in the regular army and was killed.
Jackpot! More of William’s half-siblings popped out of the woodwork and the final brother serving in the Civil War was discovered: Sidney B. Wood. I hadn’t known about Charles and David but now had birth dates and roughly knew when each had died based on Eliza testifying that they all were 32 when they died.
But what else would Eliza reveal since this information was only the first page of the affidavit? Mr. Loveland continued by asking if any of them, aside from Lyman, had fits. She replied, “Charles is the only one aside from Lyman.” While Mr. Loveland neglected to ask her first husband’s name, he did ask Eliza what had caused her first husband’s death. “Cramps,” was the reply. “He was only sick two days and it took several men to hold him on the bed. He was at work in the hay first and drank too much water, got the cramps and died, so I tell you.”
After asking some questions about the nature and duration of Lyman’s fits, Mr. Loveland then asked Eliza, “What children had you by your second husband?” She replied that there was only one living, William Henry Hunt. Mr. Loveland then asked, “The children by your second husband who have died – at what age did they die?” More siblings emerged as Eliza replied, “One a year old and the other two years and over.” She then stated their causes of death. “One died of severe brain trouble and the other suddenly. I don’t know of what.” She added, “They didn’t have fits.”
While Eliza didn’t give the names of the two siblings, or whether they were male or female, I now had more of Eliza’s children. In summary, I now had a growing list of Eliza’s children and step-children:
Charles M. Wood ________ Wood and Eliza Menard
David M. Wood ________ Wood and Eliza Menard
Sidney B. Wood ________ Wood and Eliza Menard
Lyman Wood ________ Wood and Eliza Menard
Keziah (Hunt) Washer Enoch Hunt (Eliza’s 2nd husband) and Martha Decker
Theodore Hunt Enoch Hunt (Eliza’s 2nd husband) and Martha Decker
William H. Hunt Enoch Hunt and Eliza Menard
_______ Hunt Enoch Hunt and Eliza Menard
_______ Hunt Enoch Hunt and Eliza Menard
Even though Mr. Loveland described her as close to death in 1882, Eliza wasn’t quite ready to depart this world. She lived another seven years, shaking palsy and all. In the same affidavit (exhibit J) she revealed she was a God-fearing woman and testified that she “tried to train them [her children] up in the right way. And if they have had bad habits, I don’t know it.” One single affidavit in her son Lyman’s pension file helped to fill in a multitude of family members and revealed she had a rich life.
Way better than a few obituary sentences, no?
 “HUNT,” obituary, Sussex Register, 16 October 1889, unknown page, unknown column; Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
 “Death of William Hunt,” obituary (28 February 1918); Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
 1850 U. S. census, Essex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Newark, p. 148B, dwelling 337, family 542, Enoch Hunt; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 447.
 1860 U. S. census, Westchester County, New Jersey, population schedule, Morrisania, p. 309 (penned), dwelling 2126, family 2403, Enoch Hunt; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 878.
 1870 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Andover, p. 1 (penned), dwelling 4, family 5, Eliza Hunt; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 889.
 1880 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Lafayette Township, ED 180, p. 8 (penned), dwelling 52, family 54 & 55, William H. Hunt; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 September 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 798.
 Membership application, Marianna Hunt Wells, National no. 183172, on Ebenezer Hunt (1758-1814, New Jersey), approved 02 February 1922; National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D.C.
 “An Honored Veteran,” The Railroad Employee, June 1907, 6.
 Civil War and Later Pension Files. Department of Veterans Affairs. William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th NY. Inf., Civil War), pension no. WC 852,451. Affidavit of Zeziah Washer taken at Jersey City, New Jersey, 02 February 1887.
 Civil War and Later Pension Files. Department of Veterans Affairs. Lyman Wood (Pvt., Co. G, 83rd NY militia, Civil War), pension no. W.C. 446,752; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Form 3-012, Affidavit of Mrs. Eliza Hunt, exhibit J, taken at Branchville Junction, Sussex County, New Jersey, 05 September 1882.