(Author’s Note: This post is a continuation of short pieces submitted to local papers as letters to the editor which is the extent of my present opportunity. Though very limited, I am persuaded that this is something I should do. Also, I hope that these letters will be an encouragement to others to seek and seize the same opportunity in their local papers.)
St. Patrick’s Day is a suitable time to remember the Hunter family of Sterling Valley, NY. They are best known for their business enterprises in Fulton. These include the Hunter Fan Company which now operates in Memphis, TN. You can purchase a Hunter fan at Lowe’s. The family is probably best known for Hunter Arms and their L.C. Smith shotguns. Fulton hosts an annual gathering of enthusiasts of this shotgun. Hunter Arms produced a deluxe model that was purchased by Annie Oakley and John Phillips Sousa. The patriarch, John Hunter, was prominent in construction, especially in the railroad industry. He built the railroad bridge that still stands over the Oswego River and now serves as a walkway. He also enabled his sons to prosper in various businesses.
The Hunters had their roots in Scotland and owned considerable land in Antrim, Northern Ireland. James Hunter came from Ireland to Maryland and then to Sterling Valley, NY in 1837. He subsequently married Isabella Crockett whose family was from Lifford, County Donegal about 65 miles west of the Hunters in Antrim. A Crockett family also moved to Sterling Valley. James Hunter farmed in Sterling and his oldest son John acquired construction skills with the railroad in Virginia. While there, he married Mary Elizabeth Conrad in 1855 and returned to Sterling in 1858. They built a beautiful homestead in Sterling Valley and raised a family of six boys and one girl.
The driving passion of the Hunters and the Crocketts was their deep commitment to Jesus Christ and the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Their church building was in Sterling Center but no longer stands. Their youngest child, Anna, married an RP Pastor. This passion flowed out of their roots in the Scottish Covenanters who suffered greatly in their testimony that church and state are distinct and separate institutions and that both are under the mediatorial rule of the Lord Jesus Christ. The monarchs of Britain did not like to hear that they were not the head of the church and that they themselves as kings and queens were under the rule of Christ and bound to obey Him in their personal lives and civil rule. The Scottish Covenanters were persecuted to the point where no Pastors were left alive and, when one arose seeking ordination, he had to travel to the Netherlands to obtain it. American Covenanters steadfastly protested against the presence of slavery and the absence of allegiance to Christ in our national Constitution. These two defects are referenced by modern author Joseph S. Moore in the title of his book, Founding Sins.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Sterling Center closed in 1901. In 1980, a Reformed Presbyterian Church was planted in Oswego, NY and, in 1995, another was planted in Fulton where the Hunters had two of their most notable businesses. The church in Oswego is thriving with a new Pastor and the congregation in Fulton is enjoying a vigorous renewal including new Ruling Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses. The Fulton church is also looking forward to a new Teaching Elder (Pastor) soon.
Anyone interested in learning about the faith of the Hunter family is invited to visit the churches in Oswego (154 City Line Road) or Fulton (207 S. 1stSt.) on Sunday mornings at 10AM. Historical details in this letter were gleaned from The John Hunter Family of Sterling Valley, New York by Richard Webb.