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James Wilson Hunter

Elmwood Cemetery
1st Alley East, Lot 17

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 (now the Hunter House Victorian Museum) 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.*


Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: 238 E. Princess Anne Road , Norfolk, VA 23510

Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries

Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org