James Wilson Hunter was born in Princess Anne County, Virginia in 1850. He was a direct descendent of Dr. William Hunter of England who was in Virginia as early as 1678. His father died when James was 3 years old, his brother and only sibling, William McGuigan Hunter, died when James was 8 and his mother died when he was 17. (It is interesting to note that his father, Josiah Wilson Hunter was orphaned at the age of 7 years and his grandfather, Jonathon Hunter at the age of 9 years.)
Mr. Hunter moved from rural Princess Anne County, Virginia to the City of Norfolk, Virginia by 1870, as he is enumerated in the Federal Census there. He started his career as a clerk in a dry goods firm. By 1874 he was a Partner in the firm of
Corprew, Armstrong and Hunter and in 1883 the James Wilson Hunter & Company, Mercantile Business was established in downtown Norfolk.
While building his career, he was also building a family having married Lizzie Ayer Barnes (1859 – 1940) in 1877. She was the daughter of Edward Armitrader Barnes and Harriett Ayer. They immediately began a family as James Wilson Hunter, Jr. was born in 1878, Harriett Cornelia in 1880 and Eloise Dexter in 1885.
In 1893 he hired Vermont-born architect, W. P. Wentworth, to build his dream home, a symbol of his success. The house was completed in 1894. Mr. Wentworth created the
Richardsonian-inspired Romanesque Revival townhouse that you see today. Mr. Hunter continued quite successfully in the mercantile business and in 1902 he founded, organized and was President of the Virginia Bank and Trust Company. He was involved in the organization of the Jamestown Exposition of 1907. In 1923, he retired from the mercantile business. From 1923 until his death in 1931, he traveled extensively with his family in Europe, the United States and Mexico. He was active in the Huguenot Society in America and the Virginia Historical Society.
His funeral took place in the home he loved so much and he was buried in nearby, historic Elmwood Cemetery. Mr. Hunter left a sizable estate including railroad and utilities stocks, bonds, and real estate. This estate and the income that it generated descended to his wife, Lizzie Ayer Barnes Hunter, his son, Dr. James Wilson Hunter, Jr., and to his two daughters, Harriet Cornelia and Eloise Dexter Hunter.
James Wilson Hunter, Jr. was educated at the Alexandria Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia before being accepted at the University of Virginia to study medicine. In 1901 he returned to Norfolk to practice both cardiology and radiology, having the distinction of being Norfolk’s first radiologists in 1910. He served as radiologist to St. Vincent’s Hospital.
During the first World War, he served as a member of the Medical Advisory Board with the rank of Captain Medical Corps USA. During his thirty-eight year career he was involved with a number of medical societies including the Norfolk County Medical Society (President), Medical Society of Virginia, American College of Physicians, American College of Radiology, American Heart Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additionally, he was well published in a number of medical journals. In addition to his medical affiliations, Dr. Hunter belonged to the Huguenot Society of America, Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, and the Society of the Cincinnati.
Dr. Hunter retired in 1939. With his own health failing he passed away while at the Army and Navy General Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas on May 11, 1940.
Harriett and Eloise were both educated at the Phillips and West School on East Freemason Street in Norfolk. They both devoted much of their adult life to the activities of a variety of patriotic and genealogical societies including: Daughters of the American Revolution; United Daughters of the Confederacy; Ancient and Honorable Society, Barons of
Runneymede; Daughters of American Colonies; Daughters of Colonial Wars; First Families of Virginia; Knights of the Bath; and the Plantagenet Society.
Harriett passed away on June 22, 1958 and Eloise survived her until her death on December 3, 1965. They, too, are buried on the Hunter family lot in