Nation, I need your help to solve a mystery that’s more than 174 years old.
By now, readers of this blog (yes, both of you!) know that I am very keen on researching my Hughes family history. (I also plan to write about my mother’s line, the Brelands, but that will come later.)
One of the great unsolved mysteries in my Hughes line is this: What in the world happened to my 3rd great grandather, Elisha Hughes?
The facts of his life, as I currently know them, are fairly sparse. He was born about 1800 (exact date unknown) in the old Pendleton District of South Carolina. His parents were Andrew Hughes (1755-1843) and Obedience Sumner (1765-1829).
Sometimes I have seen his name written as Elisha “Lish” Hughes, and sometimes his middle name is given as “Mattison” or “Madison.” But I have not seen any evidence myself that proves beyond doubt he had any names other than Elisha Hughes.
By 1820, Elisha had married Margaret “Peggy” Willson and his household of two was listed in the 1820 U.S. Census for Pendleton, S.C. But by 1830, Elisha and Peggy were living in Habersham County, Ga. They had eight children together, including my great-great grandfather, James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes (1831-1919).
But by 1839, Elisha had disappeared, and no one seems to know for sure what happened to him. Some have speculated that he may have abandoned his family and traveled west. Others have speculated that he may have died while participating in “Indian removal” from Georgia. The one thing that no one has offered, in what I have read about him so far, is an explanation for his disappearance that’s backed up by evidence.
We know what happened to Peggy — she died sometime before June 1848. We know what happened to the children who were left orphaned when Peggy died — custody of the orphans was awarded to Peggy’s brother in Anderson, S.C. in June 1848, and by 1850 they were living in Pickens County, Ala. We know where both Thomps Hughes and his younger brother, William McMurray Hughes, are buried.
But we still don’t know what happened to Elisha. However, I’m willing to bet that someone out there has evidence in hand that may help me answer that question.
With that in mind, it’s time to put crowdsourcing to work for me. Do you know what happened to “my” Elisha Hughes? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems odd, but I know far less about my great-grandfather, James Harvey “Jim” Hughes (1867-1957), than I know about his father, James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes (1831-1919) or his great-grandfather, Andrew Hughes (1755-1843).
That may be because Jim, as far as I know, never served in the military whereas Thomps served in the Civil War and Andrew served in the Revolutionary War. I learned much of what I know about Thomps and Andrew from records related to their military service.
Here’s what I do know about Jim Hughes. He was born on August 10, 1867, in Pickens County, Ala. He was the first child born to Thomps and his second wife, Jane Mitchell Hughes. Jim married Louisa Thornton in 1889 and they had 12 children. Their first child, born in 1891, was my grandfather, Arley Hughes Sr.
Jim lived the first 50 plus years of his life in the vicinity of Ashcraft Corner, which is in Fayette County but very close to where the boundaries of present-day Fayette, Pickens and Lamar counties meet. But by 1930, when he was 63 years old, he had relocated to Lowndes County, Mississippi, near the town of Columbus. According to family legend, Jim said that he moved to Mississippi “so my daughters wouldn’t have to marry their cousins.” (Two of his aunts, Hulda Hughes Wilson and Adline Hughes Wilson, had both married first cousins of theirs.)
He died on March 20, 1957, at the age of 89. He is buried at Mount Zion Baptist Church Cemetery in Columbus.
The only other information I have about him comes from a one-page bio that was written by my cousin Carol (Hughes) Olive and given to me in the late 1980s. Here is an excerpt from that:
“He was a small man weighing only about 115-120 pounds. To overcome his lack of physical strength he learned to improvise to make his farm work easier. He had a very active imagination and used it to design and build such things as a dry kiln to cure sweet potatoes. He did this before the Department of Agriculture or anyone else that we know of in the state of Alabama did. He was known as a superior farmer that produced not only cotton and corn but also sweet potatoes, vegetables, peaches, apples, strawberries, dew berries, scuppernongs, grapes and any new product that he thought would be profitable.”