Saturday, October 31, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 44: "Scary Stuff" - Cora Mae Hunt and Lutecia Gillespie Hunt

I have been excited to write this post ever since I first saw the topic for week 44! Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love all things spooky and mysterious. The two stories I will write about here have fascinated me ever since I was a child, but they always left me with more questions rather than that satisfying, just-heard-a-great-story feeling. 

My great-great-grandfather, Andrew J. Hunt, was by all accounts a good man, but he was also by all accounts a strange man surrounded by strange people. Grandpa Hunt had a first cousin named Cora Hunt that he was fairly close to. They grew up near each other on Witcher Creek in Belle, and as their fathers were brothers and they were close in age, it was only natural that they would be good friends as well as first cousins. 

Cora was also undoubtedly considered strange by many of her contemporaries. She never married, yet she had several children - something almost unheard of at the time. She also had what many of the older folks called "strange ways," although I could never get them to elaborate on what these "strange ways" entailed. Many whispered that Cora was a witch, but I suspect that no one was ever seriously afraid of her. I also suspect that these whispers had something to do with where her home was, as Witcher Creek had a long-standing tradition of being home to witches. My great-grandfather Zack said that when he was a boy they always knew a day or so in advance when Cora was coming to visit, because the horses would be restless in their stable and the other animals would act very strangely. His father, Grandpa Hunt, would chuckle and say "Cora must be coming to visit tomorrow;" and sure enough, she would show up the next day. My great-grandfather's sister, Margaret, told me recently that all of the children were faintly in awe of her, and always gave her a wide berth whenever she was around. 

Despite the strange behavior of the animals, I suspect that Cora was no witch at all, but merely a woman who was a little eccentric and didn't play by society's rules. Many a woman before her had been called a witch for less. I've often thought that she actually had a lot in common with some of the accused women of Salem. At any rate, the rumors did not keep her from having a Christian burial; her funeral was held at the Witcher Creek Baptist Church, and she was subsequently laid to rest in the Witcher Creek community cemetery.

As strange as Cora was, she was not the only witch association tied to my Grandpa Hunt. Grandpa's first wife, Lutecia, was 30 years his senior and was also said to have these mysterious "strange ways." More than 20 years after Lutecia's death, Grandpa Hunt came to his daughter-in-law, my great-grandma Madge, with a box of old books. He said that the books had belonged to Lutecia, and that they were "full of evil and witchcraft." He told Mamaw to burn them, and she did so without question. 

I remember hearing that tale of the mysterious books "full of evil and witchcraft" as a young child, and asking anyone I thought would know anything about it for more details. Mamaw told me much later that she had never looked to see what was in them, what their titles were, or even whether they were printed books or hand-written ones. She had simply done as Grandpa Hunt had asked, and burned them. If it had been me, I don't think I could have kept my curiosity in check. I am adamantly against burning any kind of book on sheer principle; but even if I would have ultimately done as he asked, I don't think I could have helped but take a peak at them first. 

I would give much to know more about these books and their origins. Were they printed or hand-written? What were the titles and subject matter? Where did Lutecia get them? Why did Grandpa keep them for so long before deciding to get rid of them? Did Lutecia actually believe or practice anything contained with them, or did she merely keep them because she found them strange or interesting? 

Everyone who might have ever had the answers to these questions is now long gone, and all that remains is a family mystery often told around Halloween. Two strange stories, featuring two strange women with "strange ways," and the strange man who connected them.

~ ~ ~

My connection to Cora Mae Hunt is as follows:

Cora Mae Hunt 1889-1946
1st cousin 4x removed

Sylvanus Hunt 1846-
Father of Cora Mae Hunt

Samuel Hunt 1808-1866
Father of Sylvanus Hunt

Andrew Jackson Hunt 1848-1920
Son of Samuel Hunt

Andrew Jackson Hunt 1882-1968
Son of Andrew Jackson Hunt

Earnest Zacharias Hunt 1921-2008
Son of Andrew Jackson Hunt

Phyllis Carolyn Hunt
Daughter of Earnest Zacharias Hunt

Lora Quinn
Daughter of Phyllis Carolyn

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Lora Quinn


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