This bio is exactly as it appears in Wm F Swasey's 1891 book " The Early Days of Men in California"
HENRY BROWN HUNT
The subject of this biographical sketch is a noted exception to the almost universal physical conditions denoting the argonauts of California, still in the very prime of vigorous manhood, with nothing in his manner, conversation, or action that could for a moment indicate that he was in the very front ranks with the argonauts of California, yet such is the fact. His advent in California was on the first day of April, 1849, and was the result of deliberate individual determination and desire, and he is as much entitled to the credit of being a self-designed immigrant and argonaut as if he had been forty years old instead of twelve, which was about his age.
On the roll of membership of the Society of California Pioneers of the class of 1849 there are but twenty-one members whose arrival antedates his, and but twenty-five of contemporary date, and he the youngest of them all; and he may justly claim to be the youngest real pioneer belonging to that organization, or probably in the State.
He was born in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, late in 1836, and was an only child, and a descendant of a most honorable ancestry, on the remote paternal side Scottish, and on the maternal, German; his immediate ancestors were native born. His father died while he was yet almost in his infancy. When about six years of age his widowed mother removed to New York City, where he was put to school until 1849.
When the news of the discovery of gold reached New York, his cousin, J. B. Bidleman, at once determined to seek the new El Dorado, and. by pleading and importunity by Henry, and with the reluctant consent of his mother, his cousin permitted him to accompany him. They came to California via the Isthmus of Panama. They left on the steamer Falcon, February 1, 1849. They were detained in Panama about three weeks. In wandering about that city, Mr. Bidleman found an old Spanish printing press, and he and two printers of their party obtained the press and immediately started a newspaper, naming it the Panama Star, which is still being published. Young Hunt was the only newsboy, and sold the papers on the corners of the streets as rapidly as they could be issued, at ten cents apiece, there being from fifteen hundred to two thousand American passengers detained there at that time.
They finally obtained passage on the steamer Oregon, on her first trip, and arrived in San Francisco on the first day of April, 1849, as before stated. Among their fellow-passengers were the following noted argonauts: W. M. Lent, A. K. P. Harmon, M. R. Roberts, E. B. Vreeland, Frederick Billings, and Rev. Albert Williams.
His cousin immediately established himself in the business of general merchandising, and, being very successful, he shortly after added banking. Henry continued a faithful and very material assistant to his cousin until 1851, when he returned East to complete his education. He attended the Russell's Collegiate and Commercial Institute, in New Haven, Connecticut, for two years, in which time, by his studious habits, he acquired an excellent practical business education in all the English branches. In 1854, still in his teens, he returned again to San Francisco, accompanied by his mother.
California life in those early days was full of vicissitudes, one day in wealth, the next in comparative poverty. On his return Henry found that during his absence his cousin had not been an exception to the general rule. He had met with serious reverses and was out of regular business, and young Hunt found that he must henceforth depend upon himself alone, and become the architect and builder of his future fortunes. This was all that was necessary to call into play his native attributes of determination and perseverance, which have produced the very gratifying results of to-day.
He immediately sought and obtained employment as clerk of the Orleans Hotel, in Sacramento Chy. Carefully economizing his salary, which in these days would be deemed princely, he found himself at the end of the year in possession of no inconsiderable capital, and he determined to seek and enter into some kind of business upon his own account. He accordingly went to Oroville, Butte County, in 1856, and commenced business as a merchant, dealing in every description of goods and merchandise that was demanded in the mining regi ns in those days. He was very successful and became very popular, and won an enviable reputation for integrity and probity of conduct and habits.
When the Fraser River excitement occurred, it affected the people almost as much as the original gold fever of California. Young Hunt, then but barely past his majority, and full of adventurous spirits, which his whole former life had tended to imbue him with, did not escape the infection, and he was among the first and most eager to seek the new gold-fields. But one year in those regions was sufficient to dispel all his illusions and absorb all his capital, and he was obliged to borrow enough to take him back to Oroville, where he was most heartily welcomed by his old friends and patrons. He re-established his old business and rapidly re-won his former financial standing.
In 1864 he had become so popular that he received, unsolicited, the Republican nomination for treasurer of Butte County, which office he filled for two years with credit and honor, and retired from it with the popular verdict of approval of his administration of its affairs
He shortly after removed to Sacramento City, and became attached to the wholesale house of Powers & Co., in which he continued until January 1, 1872, when he became a partner in the firm of E. Cheelsvich & Co. The firm was very successful, and he remained with them three years, when he severed his connection and removed to San Francisco.
*Shortly after his arrival in San Francisco he associated himself with E. Martin & Co. for five years and then formed a partnership with George H. Moore and C. Deweese, Jr., and established the present extensively-known firm of Moore, Hunt & Co. in the wholesale liquor business, the senior partner, Mr. Moore, residing in Louisville, Kentucky, as manager of the house there. The firm has from its beginning met with the most flattering success, and to-day stands on a par with the oldest and most substantial houses in that line of trade in the country.
In 1872, in Sierra County, near Downieville, he espoused Miss Emma Cole, his present esteemed and accomplished wife, formerly of Brooklyn, New York. They have had issue one son, and two daughters, now just verging into lovely young womanhood.
During his residence in Oroville he was captain of the Oroville Guards. He was also appointed by General Bidwell adjutant general, and became acting brigadier general of the Fifth Brigade N. G. C., during General BidwelPs absence in Congress. In a tourna- ment for target practice held in Oroville during his command, his company won the prize of $500, which they generously donated to aid in the erection of the pioneer school house, which is now one of the few landmarks left in that city.
Mr. Hunt has been both a Mason and an Odd Fellow in high standing for the last twenty-four years. He is at present a member of the Templar Lodge, No. 14, I. O. O. F., in San Francisco, and the California Lodge, No. 1, of Masons, also a Knight Templar of No. 16, including the Islam Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He is also a life member of the Society of California Pioneers. He has never been an active partisan in politics, but has always rendered a quiet allegiance to the Republican party upon national and State issues. In the War of the Rebellion he was unswerving in loyalty to the Union, and always zealous, in purse and services, in everything tending to its preservation.
Still in the very prime of physical manhood, with imposing stature denoting longevity, he bids fair to be among the very last of the remarkable characters who were the architects and builders of our glorious commonwealth. Of a genial and sympathetic nature, he has ever been quick in response to the deserving claims of charity.
* (AP's note) I would have to say this date when he was with E. Martin is wrong, as that would put the Moore-Hunt 1/5s not starting until 1880. I believe Wilson's dates of his 5 yr stint with E. Martin & Co from 1867-72 makes more sense. Even though the above article written in 1891 is more contemporary and should be the more accurate version, I think he was on board and had his name on the bottles with Moore before 1880. Could the Moore-Hunt bottles be post 1880?? What say you guys? We would need to check the Sacramento directories for the yrs 1867-72 to be sure.
Another interesting note is that Hunt Street in San Francisco is named after Henry Brown Hunt. So far, we have two whiskey merchants in S.F. (Hunt & Hotaling) w/ streets there named after them.