Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An early Union County Minister: Rev. Thomas M. Hughes

For several weeks now we’ve explored aspects of the Eli Townsend family and its branches. That subject still has many avenues to explore, but for now I change directions and focus on the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes family. His legacy in Union and other north Georgia counties was as an early minister of the Methodist Church.

In 1846 the Rev. William Jasper Cotter, a noted Methodist minister in his own right, was sent by the Conference to his new charge at Blairsville, Ga. In writing his autobiography published in 1917 when he was an old man, Rev. Cotter made several references to Rev. Thomas M. Hughes. He wrote of arriving at the Blairsville Mission.

“The next evening (after five days on the road from Murray County) we reached Blairsville and were kindly received at the home of Rev. Thomas M. Hughes, a local preacher.” The Rev. Hughes helped the Cotters to find a cabin to live in and helped them get settled. The Hughes family and the Cotters became steadfast friends. While Rev. Cotter was on preaching missions to Tennessee, North Carolina and throughout North Georgia, he wrote in his autobiography: “Our good friends, the Hugheses…never allowed Rachel to spend a night alone while I was gone.”

The Rev. Thomas M. Hughes was born in Buncombe County, N.C., on January 31, 1809. He was a son of Goodman Hughes and Eleanor Payne Hughes. In Habersham County, Ga., on January 1, 1828, he married Nancy Bird. She was a daughter of the Rev. Francis Bird and Frankie (Frances) Abernathy Bird. Nancy was born in Rutherford County, N.C. Both the Hughes and the Bird families had come to north Georgia to live when Cherokee lands were opened up for settlement.

Rev. and Mrs. Thomas M. Hughes had a family of thirteen children. Martha (1828-1881) married Joab Addington and William R. Logan; William Chapel (1830-1906); Francis Goodman (1833-1908) married Amanda F. Goodrum and became a Methodist minister; Louisa (1834-?); Eleanor C. called “Nellie” (1834-1902) married the Rev. M. G. Hamby; Frances Jane (1840-1904) married W. R. Duncan; Rosetta (1841-1912) married James Calvin Erwin; Thomas Coke (1844-1932) married Rhoda Butt and Sallie Daniel and became a Methodist minister; Sarah Elizabeth (1847-1885) married the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs; John Wesley; Andrew Paxton; Calley; and Samuel.

Rev. and Mrs. Thomas M. Hughes, through his ministry and through their family, contributed much toward the upbuilding of the Methodist Church in the 19th century. Rev. Cotter in an article in “The Wesleyan Advocate” following Rev. Thomas M. Hughes and Nancy Bird Hughes’ deaths wrote: “Brother Hughes was a worthy local preacher, gifted in song, popular in his county, filling offices of trust…Sister Hughes was Miss Nancy Bird before her marriage, and like her husband, a sweet singer, amenable, and one of the best of women. Her father, Rev. Francis Bird, joined the S. C. Conference in 1805 with Lovick Pierce and Reddick Pierce. Rev. Bird baptized me in 1842. He was the son of Rev. Thomas Bird who lived to be quite old. This places brothers Francis Goodman Hughes (son of Thomas and Nancy) and W. T. Hamby (grandson of William and Nancy) in a long sacerdotal line.”

In an obituary in “The Wesleyan Advocate” written by Weir Boyd following Rev. Thomas M. Hughes’ death, these outstanding achievements were noted about his life: He was licensed to preach in 1839, ordained a deacon in 1847, and ordained as an elder in 1867 by Bishop Pierce. He was a local preacher, in labors abundant, regular and prompt in appointments, impressive in his preaching. He was stable of character, uniform in deportment, the patriarch of a large family several of whom are ministers of the gospel. He served as Clerk of the Superior Court of Union County for sixteen consecutive years. In addition to his duties as a local pastor and as Clerk of Court, he also was a merchant. He died August 22, 1882 in the 74th year of his life.

A lofty obituary to Nancy Bird Hughes was written for The Wesleyan Christian Advocate by J. B. Allen. In it he praised Mrs. Hughes as one who sought first and foremost “the will of God,” was faithful in “the great congregation, in the Sunday School, in her family circle.” Three of her sons became ministers of the gospel. She died March 9, 1881 and her slipping the earthly vale was described as follows: “Her face beamed with divine light, and her whole appearance presented anything but that of fear and sorrow... We have seen many die but none so triumphantly.”

Rev. and Mrs. Hughes were interred in the Old Blairsville Cemetery.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 15, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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