University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Ezekiel Hunn Jr.
Letters to Lydia Hunn


Manuscript Collection Number: 383
Accessioned: Purchase, 1986.
Extent: 19 items.
Content: Letters.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1998 by Arthur Siegel

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Ezekiel Hunn Jr. was born on June 20, 1841 to Ezekiel (1810-1902) and Lydia J. [Sharpless] Hunn. There were two main branches of the family, one that resided in Kent County, Delaware, and the other in Philadelphia, and it is probable that Ezekiel Hunn Jr. was born in Philadelphia. The Hunns were among the first English families to settle in Delaware in the seventeenth century, and they embraced the religion of the Society of Friends. The family purchased land near Lebanon, Delaware, in 1761, and there built "Wildcat," an estate that remained in the family into the twentieth century. Ezekiel Jr.'s father was a prosperous Philadelphia merchant, and both his father and his uncle, John Hunn (1818-1894), were actively involved in the Delaware segment of the Underground Railroad -- Ezekiel's father as an agent in Camden, and his uncle as an agent in Middletown. John Hunn was a prominent figure among Delaware abolitionists, and considered himself to be the "superintendent of the Underground Railway from Wilmington down the peninsula." He had helped hundreds of slaves pass through the state, and was even convicted in a federal court and heavily fined for aiding fugitive slaves (1848).

Ezekiel Hunn Jr. had two siblings, Townsend Sharpless and Mary; and his cousin, John Hunn (b.1847/49), served as governor of Delaware from 1901 to 1905. Virtually nothing is known about Ezekiel's childhood, though he too was brought up and educated as a Quaker. He studied law, eventually becoming a practicing attorney in Philadelphia. On October 25, 1876 he married Anna Eliza Jenkins (1855-1902), daughter of Jabez and Elizabeth Jenkins of Murderkill Hundred in Kent County, and together they had nine children.


Conrad, Henry C. History of the State of Delaware. Wilmington, Del: Henry C. Conrad, 1908.

Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of Delaware. J.M. McCarter and B.F. Jackson, eds. Wilmington, Del: Aldine Publishing and Engraving Co., 1882.

Reed, Marion Bjornson. The Underground Railroad in Delaware. Master's Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.

Note: Historical and biographical information obtained from the collection. For genealogical information, ask the manuscripts librarian for assistance with the collection folder.

Scope and Content Note

The Ezekiel Hunn Letters to Lydia Hunn comprise nineteen letters which date from the period May 3, 1887 to June 25, 1887. Ezekiel Jr. had left his family in Europe to return to work in Philadelphia, and the letters, written to his mother who was still in Europe at the time, relate news of home. Much of the content of these letters pertains to information regarding the activities of friends and relatives, with the surnames Warner, Wharton, Wood, Barker, Harrington, and Jenkins among those recurring. He wrote about agricultural matters and his own legal work, including developments in jurisprudence and the prohibition issue. The letters are also replete with numerous dramatic passages, including his narration of a trip to "Wildcat," rescue efforts in a Johnstown flood, the sinking of the Britannic, and several humorous anecdotes about President Cleveland. Ezekiel Hunn wrote a great deal about Europe, his children, and numerous acquaintances -- including Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ulysses Mercur (1818-1887), whose death Hunn recounts. The letters are filled with great detail, color, and wit, and are very revealing of the life of his family, as well as his own Quaker sensibilities.

As the letters are written on pages numbered from 6 to 29 and 43 to 74, it is likely that he had written at least one previous letter, and perhaps subsequent letters, which are no longer extant. It is not clear when Hunn returned from Europe, but from the tone of the first few letters it must have been only shortly before he began writing. The letters are in ink, on laid paper, are about 6 x 8" in size, and several contain newspaper clippings pasted onto the pages. Two were written from "Wildcat," and the remainder from his home in Philadelphia.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

 These letters were written by Ezekiel Hunn to his mother, Lydia [Sharpless] Hunn, who
     was in Europe at the time.  The letters dating from June 18 and 19 were written from
     "Wildcat," the remainder from Philadelphia.  Page numbers refer to the numbers which
     appear on each leaf in the collection.

F1   1887 May 3          ALS       4pp.           p.6-9

          Jun 4          ALS       4pp.           p.10-13

          Jun 4          ALS       5pp.           p.14-18

          Jun 6          ALS       3pp.           p.19-21

          Jun 7          ALS       3pp.           p.22-24

          Jun 8          ALS       2pp.           p.25-26

          Jun 9          ALS       3pp.           p.27-29

          Jun 14         ALS       2pp.           p.43-44

          Jun 15         ALS       3pp.           p.45-47

          Jun 16         ALS       2pp.           p.48-49

          Jun 17         ALS       2pp.           p.50-51

          Jun 18         ALS       5pp.           p.52-56

          Jun 19         ALS       3pp.           p.57-59

          Jun 20         ALS       3pp.           p.60-62

          Jun 21         ALS       3pp.           p.63-65

          Jun 22         ALS       2pp.           p.66-67

          Jun 23         ALS       2pp.           p.68-69

          Jun 24         ALS       3pp.           p.70-72

          Jun 25         ALS       2pp.           p.73-74
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