In 1910, Robert Milton Breland and Cora Esther Peirce were married in Louisiana. Cora was the daughter of Adolphus Elliott Peirce (1868-1910) and Etta Pearl Bailey (1873-1952). Robert and Cora’s first child, a girl they named Beryl Bernice Breland, was born in 1911. Robert and Cora would have 10 more children together, with each child born roughly two years apart, until their youngest, Hunter Mansfield Breland, was born in 1933.
The 1920 U.S. Census shows that Robert, Cora, and five children (Beryl, Lyman, Robert, Greg and Doug) were living in Memphis, Tenn., where many of Cora’s Peirce relatives lived. By 1930 they were living in New Orleans. My mother, Gloria Dell Breland, was born in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, in 1931. By 1933 the family were living in Mobile, Ala., where Hunter was born. Cora died in Mobile in 1936, at the age of 44, from uterine cancer. She is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis.
In 1940, Robert and five of his children were living in Northport, Ala., which is just across the Black Warrior River from Tuscaloosa, where my father, Arley Hughes Jr., was born and raised. After that, the four children went first to live with Beryl in Louisiana for a year, and then to Eudora, Ark. for a year, then to Fayette, Ala. for a year, and then to a house on Oakwood Court in Tuscaloosa for two years.
In 1946, Robert Peirce Breland (son of Robert Milton) bought a house on 30th Ave. East in Tuscaloosa. My mother and her closest siblings lived in that house for several years.
In 1949, Robert Milton Breland departed from Los Angeles on Dec. 17 on board a ship headed to Hawaii. He arrived in Honolulu five days later. He lived in Hawaii for several years, but by 1959 he was in Mobile, where he died on Nov. 25 at the age of 70.
According to the Alabama Deaths and Burials Index, Robert was married at the time of his death, and his spouse’s name was listed as Willa Breland. I have never heard anyone in my family say anything about Robert having a second wife. However, I have found records indicating that his second wife was Willa Lillian Murray, who was born in Cincinnati in 1893 and arrived in Honolulu in 1932. At this point I don’t have the records to prove it, but my theory is that Willa and Robert met and married after he arrived in Honolulu in 1949.
Robert is buried in the same cemetery as his first wife, Cora, in Memphis. Willa, who lived for another 18 years after Robert’s death, is buried in Ohio, in the same cemetery as her parents.
LIFE MAR. 13, 1831
Buried next to Andrew is Lucinda Hughes, who died 21 years later, in 1852, at the age of 65. Buried next to her is Lucinda E. Hughes, who died at the age of six months in 1859. The inscription on her stone says she was the daughter of A.J. and S.A. Hughes.
Starting with these clues, I set out to find out what I could about this Hughes family — even though I have no evidence to suggest that I’m related to them. Here’s what I have learned so far.
In 1818, an Andrew Hughes married Lucinda Tate in Caswell County. The date on their marriage bond is Jan. 26, 1818. Their wedding probably took place soon thereafter.
On Feb. 21, 1827, an Andrew Hughes was appointed U.S. postmaster for the community of Stony Creek, which at that time was in Orange County. (Stony Creek Presbyterian is now in northern Alamance County, and there is a Stony Creek township nearby in southern Caswell County.)
When Andrew Hughes died in 1831, he did not have a will. However, there is an estate file for him in the North Carolina State Archives that provides detailed evidence about what he owned, who his heirs were, and how his assets were disposed of.
The heirs identified in the estate file were Andrew’s widow, Lucinda; Bluford W. Reid and his wife, Cornelia Anne Hughes (Andrew and Lucinda’s daughter); and Andrew and Lucinda’s then-unmarried children, Elizabeth Anne Hughes, James Henry Hughes, Andrew Jackson Hughes (who is also referred to as simply “Jackson” in the estate file), Martha Anne Hughes and Adeline Hughes.
His property, as recorded in the estate file, included two tracts of land in Orange County and one in Caswell County, and several slaves. The handwriting in the estate file is at times difficult to decipher, but it appears that the slaves were sold and the proceeds were divided among the heirs.
As for the land, an 1893 map of Alamance County (shown above) shows two tracts of land close to Stony Creek Presbyterian that were owned by an A.J. Hughs and a J. Hughs. It seems likely that A.J. Hughs was Andrew Jackson Hughes, son of the Andrew Hughes and father of the Lucinda E. Hughes that are buried at Stony Creek Presbyterian. By the same logic, J. Hughs might have been James Henry Hughes.
I believe I have managed to document the life of Andrew Jackson Hughes until his death in 1905. In the 1850 U.S. Census, he is listed living with his mother, Lucinda, his brother, James, and his sister, Adaline, in Alamance County. In 1860, he headed a household that included a 26-year-old woman named S.A. Hughes, a 5-year-old girl named Alice Hughes, and a 39-year-old man named J.H. Hughes (who was described as “insane” on the census form).
In 1900, the U.S. Census shows a 74-year-old Andrew Hughs living in Burlington, N.C., with his wife, Sarah A. Hughs, and a 16-year-old black female boarder named Effie Bradshaw. The 1900 Census also shows that Andrew and Sarah were married in 1853.
According to a listing on the Find A Grave website, Andrew J. Hughes, husband of Sarah A. Hughes, died on May 7, 1905, and is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Burlington.
I have also found evidence suggesting that Cornelia Anne Hughes and her husband, Bluford W. Reid, are buried in Guilford County, N.C.
I don’t know yet what happened to the other children of the man whose lichen-covered headstone set me off on this genealogical record-diving expedition.
One of the things I have learned during my genealogical research over the last 12 months is that I am distantly related to several Hughes families alive today who claim as their earliest known ancestor a man named David Hughes.
This particular David Hughes was born in Kentucky in 1812. His first wife was named Matilda Fruit, and he died in Missouri in 1875.
What I don’t know is exactly how these Hughes families and mine are connected. In other words, I don’t know who our common ancestor was, the proverbial missing link.
However, recently I learned that Matilda Fruit was the granddaughter of a man named James Samuel Fruit, who was born in Orange County, N.C. in 1762 but lived most of his adult life in Christian County, Kentucky. This attracted my interest because my earliest known Hughes ancestor — Andrew Hughes (1755-1843) — lived in Orange County in the 1770s.
In addition, I also learned — thanks to an excellent map posted on a blog by Mark Chilton (the current mayor of Carrboro, N.C.) — that two men named James Fruit and Rowland Hughes owned land close to each other in Orange County during the 1770s. I have since obtained a copy of the land records for this Rowland Hughes from the State Archives of North Carolina, and from that document I know that he filed a claim for and obtained title to this land in 1778. (In 1778 the land was on Haw Creek in Orange County. Now it is in Alamance County, near the city of Mebane, just south of I-40.)
For me, this raises the obvious question of whether or not this Rowland Hughes and my Andrew Hughes were related. It also raises the question of whether or not the James Fruit who owned land near Rowland Hughes is the same James Samuel Fruit that was the grandfather of Matilda Fruit, or if not, was he perhaps a close relative? At this point I simply don’t have enough evidence in hand to say.
In Kentucky, there was a man named Rowland Hughes, who was born in 1756 and died in 1809, who is buried at Hughes Cemetery near the town of Auburn in Logan County. Logan County is just to the east of Christian County. Is this man the same Rowland Hughes as the one who owned land in Orange County, North Carolina? If not, could he be a close relative of the one in Orange County? Is there any connection between the Rowland Hughes in Logan County, Kentucky, and the David Hughes who married Matilda Fruit?
Again, my answers to all of these questions is that at this point I simply don’t have enough evidence in hand to say. But I hope to one day find out.
If you, dear reader, have any evidence that will help me answer these questions, then I’d love to hear from you!