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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes

The last column looked at the life and work of the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes (1809-1882), an early Union County settler who was associated with the noted Methodist minister, the Rev. William Jasper Cotter, who became the official Methodist Conference appointee to the Blairsville Mountain Mission Charge in 1846.

Rev. Thomas M. Hughes and his wife, Nancy Bird (1818-1881) daughter of the Rev Francis Bird and Frances Abernathy Bird, had thirteen children. The eighth of these children was Thomas Coke Hughes who himself became a Methodist Minister and worked as a circuit-riding preacher in Union, Towns and Fannin counties.

Thomas Coke Hughes was born June 22, 1844. He was eighteen years of age when he joined the Confederate Army on September 27, 1862, enlisting in Company G of the 65th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry. One of his good friends, Eugene Butt, joined at the same time. His particular unit was known as the Infantry Battalion of Smith’s Legion and also as the “Georgia Partisan Rangers.” The roll for August 31, 1864 shows that Hughes was present. He and his friend Eugene Butt came through the fighting without injury. Hughes was an officer, a 2nd Lieutenant of his Battalion. Records show that he surrendered with his command at the close of the war. In 1911 he received a pension for his service in the Confederate Army.

Rev. Hughes was a self-educated man. After the Civil War, he read avidly, choosing as his theological and Biblical guides Clarke’s Commentaries of the Holy Bible and the Theological Encyclopedia. It is said that he studied the grammatical structures and spellings in the Blue Back Speller so that he could become literate in good English usage for his writings and speaking.
Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes married twice. On September 23, 1868 he married Rhoda (also called Rady) P. Butt. Rev. Milfred G. Hamby, performed the ceremony. He was a brother in-law to Rev. Hughes, married to his sister Eleanor (Nellie) Hughes Hamby. To Thomas Coke and Rhoda Butt Hughes were born six children.

Rhoda died and the minister married, second, Sallie Daniel on April 13, 1884. Again, the Rev. Milford G. Hamby, brother-in-law, performed the ceremony. Four children were born to Thomas C. and Sallie Daniel Hughes. This writer did not find the names of all the ten children born to Rev. Hughes. However, two sons of Sallie were William Coke Hughes (b. 1890) and Claude Cofer Hughes (b. 1893). Both of these sons attended the Blairsville Collegiate Institute and served in the U. S. Army during World War I. Both sons also worked for the Georgia State Highway Department. William Coke (Bill) worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority during the time when TVA dams for generating electric power were being built. Claude owned and operated the first Farmers’ Cooperative Exchange in Union County.

Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes owned a good horse that would take him to the Methodist Churches in his circuit throughout Towns, Union and Fannin Counties. He was known as a preacher of power, plain spoken and dynamic. He was often in demand as a revival preacher and for the Methodist Camp Meetings held throughout the mountains in the summertime.

He was especially beloved by the black Methodist Church members in Union County. When he preached at the black church, it was reported that the members became so filled with the Spirit that someone always accompanied Rev. Hughes to help him safely through the crowd when the congregation was caught up in spiritual enthusiasm. Rev. Hughes was often referred to as “The Bishop of the Mountains.”

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 22, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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