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Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Moonshiner in the Family! Wyatt Nolan Hunt

    With Valentine's Day coming up I was thinking about my grandmother's sister, Mabel Jane Hudson. I have recently written about my grandmother, Bessie Hudson Peterson, and her great love and long marriage to my grandfather, Walter Peterson. Her sisters were not as lucky in love. Her oldest sister, Edna, fell in love with a young man who enlisted in World War I and never returned. Her third sister, Alma Agnes Hudson, married rather late in life to Edward Quinn. She was 36 when they married. They had one daughter, Evelyn, and were happy but, unfortunately, he died in 1942 at the age of 47. Alma never remarried. Mabel's story was a little different than her sisters.

     Mabel also married late in life, she married in August 1929, age 37. The man she married, Wyatt Nolan Hunt, had been divorced for two years and had a ten year old son. They were married in Benton, Arkansas, although Wyatt was also from the Fort Worth, Texas area. Mabel and Wyatt were divorced in 1932. My father said it had to do with his drinking and that's all I know about it. I did find her living alone in the 1930 Census, although listed as married. I still haven't found him in that Census. Neither of them ever re-married until his death in 1961. Then she married his friend, a man with the last name of Owen. My father didn't know his first name. He either died rather soon after they married or they were divorced. To me this suggests that she loved Wyatt all her life and married his friend out of their mutual loss. We never talked about either husband. I do recall that she came to Tacoma, Washington,
Mabel in Tacoma about 1961
Moonshine Still 1930
 to stay with her sister for a few months around 1961 or 62. My grandparents just said that she had had a loss or some such vague explanation. Probably was after Wyatt died.

   Today, while I was thinking about this I decided to do some research to see if I could find out more about either husband. Using Genealogy Bank I looked for any newspaper articles about Wyatt Nolan Hunt. I only found one. It was surprising! The Dallas Morning News on Thursday, 15 Feb 1934, reported on some recent court cases. One line of this article reports that Wyatt "Nowlin" Hunt and two other men pleaded guilty to "revenue charges" involving "whiskey stills or distilled spirits." I think that means that he was making and/or selling moonshine! It fits with what my father said was the cause of divorce-his drinking. I tried to find some data on moonshining activity in Tarrant County or Dallas at that time. I found that in his book, Recollections of Farm Life(1965), Robert L. Hunt, Sr., recalled that "There was always some making of moonshine liquor in the area of Northeast Texas...[by 1919]The moonshiners had become common in the area. In fact so much moonshine was hauled out of the area that some places had quite a reputation for liquor making. Farms were left idle in some places and farmers turned to making liquor as a more profitable occupation." So the next time you watch The Dukes of Hazard reruns, think of Wyatt.

Mabel about 17
Wyatt Nolan Hunt tombstone

1 comment:

  1. Wow, how fascinating! It seems like a cliché that folks in the Southern hill country all had stills of moonshine. But maybe that's a cliché because it has a lot of truth in it!

    I'm surprised that she was divorced after only two years of marriage, but perhaps he got mean when we was drunk and hit her, so she felt it best to end the marriage. Those years, 1929 to '32 were hard on everyone, of course, with the stock market crash and so many people out of work. I'm sure that didn't help in their relationship.

    I hadn't realized that it was so long between her marriages. I always knew her name as Mabel Hunt Owen. Seems she had the names longer than the marriages!