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Hunter, John M. (1821–1870)

Martin Donell Kohout Biography

John M. Hunter, pioneer Fredericksburg merchant and first Gillespie county clerk, was born in Tennessee on September 2, 1821. He arrived in Fredericksburg and became a merchant in 1847. He married a German woman named Sophie Ahrens in 1848. That year he signed the petition asking the state legislature to establish Gillespie County and was elected the first county clerk; he kept the county's records in his log store. Hunter apparently had a violent temper that caused confrontations with the soldiers from Fort Martin Scott. Once he threw a soldier named Kingston out of his store and knocked him down with an ax handle; Kingston, in revenge, mistakenly shot and killed a German resident that night. The soldier was arrested and jailed, and an angry mob of Fredericksburgers broke in and lynched him.

Another incident, in 1850, cost the county all its earliest records. On the night of June 30 Hunter refused to sell whiskey to a soldier named Dole. Dole became abusive, and Hunter fatally stabbed him in the chest. The next night a mob of fifty angry soldiers returned, looking for Hunter, but found that the storekeeper had fled town. The soldiers then burned down his store, destroying all the county records up to that time. Several townspeople attempted to salvage the records, but the soldiers prevented them. Apparently neither Hunter nor the soldiers were punished; one report says that Hunter was charged with manslaughter but never indicted, while another account says he was tried and acquitted in San Antonio. Hunter later built a new store on the same block; it opened in time to be used by the district court on October 12, 1850. Hunter sold his business in 1868 and died on September 4, 1870.

Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). Gillespie County Historical Society, Pioneers in God's Hills (2 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1960, 1974).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Hunter, John M.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 26, 2020,

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