Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Hunt for Alva A. Hunt, Civil War Veteran

Today's blog post was written by a guest blogger, Penny Webster.  I first met Penny through the Londonderry Historical Society.  She is also a member of the New Hampshire Mayflower Society, and she serves on the board as Elder.  I read about this story on Penny's Facebook page, and she agreed to write it up for my blog.  Thanks, Penny!


Alva A. Hunt is my 2nd great grandfather.  He was born on May 20, 1843 in Nassau, NY and sometime during the mid 19th Century crossed over the Massachusetts border with his parents and siblings and settled in Pittsfield, MA.  There he worked as a teamster.  On March 19, 1864 he enlisted for a 3 year shift as a member of the 57th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers fighting against the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Alva’s military career would be cut short for he would be seriously wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in Spotsylvania, VA.  A bullet that disabled his right arm led to his discharge.

Before being discharged, Alva married Julia Baker on October, 10, 1864.   They remained married for a little over 20 years and during that time Julia would give birth to 9 children.  Sadly, she would die from pneumonia in 1886 at the age of 36, a little over a month after the birth of her daughter, Grace.  Upon his discharge from the Army Alva continued working as a teamster but by the next census, he is listed merely as a farmer and this continued until his death in Pittsfield in 1901.  

Last fall I decided to take a trip to Pittsfield.  It was a new revelation to learn that my mother’s family came from Pittsfield.  I wanted to see Alva’s grave.  So my mother and I headed to Pittsfield and easily found the large cemetery on Wahconah Street.  I inquired at the cemetery office.  They told me what section of the cemetery to look for his grave but they had no indication if there was a gravestone or not.  We searched and searched but found no Hunt marker.  I returned to the office and asked for more assistance. This time I was given the surnames of his graveyard “neighbors.”  We found the neighbors, but no stone.  Was my great-great grandfather so poor that he couldn’t afford a grave marker?  Was it too hard to be a one-armed teamster or farmer?  Saddened we left Pittsfield. 

I remembered, a few months later that the Veteran’s Administration would pay for a marker for a Veteran’s unmarked grave. So I applied in February, filled out the FORM 1330 and coordinated with the Cemetery to validate my request and receive the marker.  Excitement was building.  The marker would be delivered to the cemetery in a couple of months and I would feel like I did something significant for Alva and my family. 

Recently, my mother and I made a second trip to Pittsfield to view the marker. It looked great but it seemed to be in an unfamiliar area.  To our surprise as we surveyed the ground we found a sizable monument nearby with A.A. Hunt’s name on the bottom! Also inscribed was Julia’s name with her birth and death dates. What a shock! It seems that last time we were sent to the wrong area. Alva wasn't in an unmarked grave after all! I feel better knowing that Alva wasn't poor.  He had bought this sizable monument for his wife when she died in 1886.  I wonder why his children neglected to inscribe his dates on it after his death,.   At least the VA marker solves this problem.     It does make me happy to know that Alva has received recognition for his Civil War service since his death.  We found an American flag planted next to our unpredicted find.


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Copyright (c) 2014, Penny Webster and Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sara!

  2. Nice work, Penny! I found my 3rd great grandfather, Civil War veteran, buried in an unmarked grave. I was able to get a stone from the Veteran's Administration - one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Keep on blogging :-)