Hughes' Views & News

1899 Horse-Detacher Patent of John Tichnor Peirce, of Breland, Louisiana

Posted in Breland, Genealogy, Peirce by tahughesnc on May 3, 2018

 

On May 23, 1899, the U.S. Patent Office issued Patent No. 625,695, for a horse-detacher device invented by my great-great grandfather, John Tichnor Peirce (1846-1912), who at that time lived in the community of Breland, in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. (He would later move from Breland to Warnerton, about 20 miles to the east.)

Also named in the patent was Adolphus E. Peirce, who was John’s son and my great grandfather. The first child of Adolphus and his wife, Etta Pearl Bailey, was Cora Peirce Breland, who was my maternal grandmother.

This patent is of interest to me for a couple of reasons.

First, his last name is spelled as “Peirce” throughout the document, and on the first page of the patent his name is written as “J.T. Peirce.” My mother has in her possession a handwritten letter that he wrote in 1891, and he signed that letter, “JT Peirce.” For me, these two documents present strong evidence that “Peirce” is the spelling that he preferred.

Some of his descendants have since chosen to spell the name as “Pierce,” while others have chosen to retain the “Peirce” spelling. For example, Adolphus spelled his last name as “Peirce,” and so did five of his six children. Adolphus had two sons. His first-born son, Richard Moore Peirce, retained the “Peirce” spelling all his life. Adolphus’ second-born son, Carl E. Pierce, chose to use “Pierce” instead, and Carl’s descendants use the “Pierce” spelling.

In my family, the “Peirce” spelling has been retained in the middle name of my late uncle, Robert Peirce Breland, and in the middle names given to some of my relatives who were born in the generations after Uncle Robert. Interestingly, my DNA matches include one match from this Peirce/Pierce line who was given the “Peirce” spelling at birth, and another who was given the “Pierce” spelling at birth.

Second, I love the fact that the patent document says John Tichnor Peirce “resided at Breland, in the parish of Tangipahoa, State of Louisiana.” As best as I can tell, Breland, Louisiana, no longer exists. But in the 1890s, there was a U.S. Post Office for Breland, Louisiana, and according to the 1891 letter from JT Peirce, “that office is at my house.

His second wife, Salissa Peirce, was appointed as U.S. Postmaster for Breland about a month before that letter was written. Then Adolphus was appointed postmaster for Breland on August 5, 1904. My mother’s aunt, Florence Peirce Peck, wrote that “my mother (Etta Bailey Peirce) and my sister Cora took care of the mail” until the family moved from Breland to Sunny Hill, Louisiana, about 1908.

After the move to Sunny Hill, Cora was a student at Sunny Hill School at the same time as my maternal grandfather, Robert Milton Breland. They became high school sweethearts, and later got married in Baton Rouge, in 1910.

James Thompson Hughes: A life marked by the Civil War

Posted in Genealogy by tahughesnc on January 2, 2013
Thomps - Copy

James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes, 1831-1919

My great-great grandfather James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes was born on May 18, 1831, in Habersham County in northeast Georgia.

His parents, Elisha Hughes and Margaret “Peggy” Willson, had been born and raised in the old Pendleton District in the westernmost part of South Carolina. Elisha and Peggy settled in Habersham County in 1827 and their family lived there until 1839.

By 1839, Elisha had disappeared. No one seems to know for sure what happened to him. Some sources say he may have traveled west and then lost contact with his family in Georgia, while others say he may have died while participating in the forced removal of Native American Indians from Georgia that began in the 1830s. Whatever the explanation for Elisha’s disappearance, in 1839 Peggy moved back into the home of her her father, Charles Willson, in Anderson, S.C. (This Willson line later changed the spelling of their surname to “Wilson.”) She took Thomps, who was then 8 years old, and her other minor children with her. She was pregnant at the time of the move and gave birth to William McMurray Hughes in Anderson soon thereafter.

Peggy died sometime before June 1848, when guardianship of Thomps, his sisters, Hulda, Adline and Clarinda, and William was awarded to Peggy’s brother, William McMurray Willson, in Anderson, S.C.  But by the time of the 1850 U.S. Census, Thomps and his siblings had moved to Pickens County, Ala., where they lived in the home of their older sister, Harriet Hughes Hamby, and her husband, John W. Hamby.

Thomps married Emmoline “Epsey” Clanton in 1855, when he was 24 years old, and they had three children together before Thomps joined the Alabama 41st Infantry in 1862. He was placed in Company B along with many of his neighbors from communities along the border between Fayette and Pickens counties. Company B also included Thomps’ younger brother, William, and his brothers-in-law James Harvey Wilson (husband of Adline Hughes) and John Wilson (husband of Hulda Hughes).

His service in the Civil War turned out to be a traumatic experience for Thomps, as it was for many other soldiers on both sides, and one that had a huge impact on the rest of his life.

According to a book about the 41st Alabama Infantry by William R. Morales, Thomps’ brother, William, was reported missing in action on Jan. 2, 1863, during the Battle of Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tenn. Union troops placed William on a steamer headed to Camp Douglas, a prisoner of war camp on Lake Michigan outside Chicago. William never made it there. He was taken to City Hospital in St. Louis on Jan. 24 for treatment of typhoid pneumonia, and died there the next day. William was just 22 years old. He is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. There is also a memorial for William at Ashcraft Corner Memorial Cemetery in Fayette County, Ala., next to the grave of Thomps.

The Morales book reports that Thomps was absent from his unit and sick on furlough during January-February 1863. In May-June 1863, he was hospitalized at Lauderdale Springs, Miss. Then in November-December 1863 he began a march with the 41st Infantry from Loudon, Tenn. to Knoxville. Union troops found him “incapacitated” near Loudon and then he was hospitalized in Knoxville for 8 days, Dec. 11-19, 1863, with a diagnosis of chronic diarrhea. He never fought again after that.

According to family legend, Thomps’ wife contracted measles while he was fighting in Tennessee. He obtained leave to go home but did not arrive until the day of her funeral, after she had been buried. Thomps began trying to dig up the casket with his hands. After a while other men joined in and helped him complete the task. The casket was opened, and Epsey was found lying on one side. Because of this, Thomps believed that she had been buried alive. (I have no records that confirm this story, but if it happened, January-February 1863, when Thomps was reported to be on furlough, seems to be the most likely timeframe for it.)

Thomps with his second wife, Jane Mitchell Hughes.

Thomps with his second wife, Jane Mitchell Hughes.

Jane Mitchell Hughes

Jane Mitchell Hughes

After the war, Thomps married Jane Mitchell. Their first child, James Harvey Hughes (my great-grandfather) was born in 1867. Their fourth child, Menze Emmanuel Hughes, was born on Nov. 6, 1872. Ten days later, Thomps was committed to Alabama State Hospital for the Insane (better known as Bryce Hospital) in Tuscaloosa, where he remained until his release one year later.  At the time of his commitment Thomps was said to believe that his new baby son was the savior of the world, and for that reason he wanted the baby to be named Emmanuel. He reportedly wanted to cut the child’s head off and draw a circle of blood around the world, to redeem the world, according to a family story shared with me by my cousin, Carol Hughes Olive.

After his release from Bryce Hospital, Thomps resumed a normal life, fathered 5 more children with Jane, and lived for another 46 years.

In 1899, when he was 68 years old, Thomps applied for and was awarded a pension from the state of Alabama for his service as a private in the 41st Alabama Infantry. Several men from his community filed affidavits in support of his application, including a J.H. Wilson (likely James Harvey Wilson, Thomps’ brother-in-law, who also served in the 41st Alabama Infantry) and a W. Holiman (likely Warren Holliman, another member of the 41st Alabama).

However, in May 1914, when Thomps was 83 years old, the State of Alabama Pension Bureau sent him a letter stating, “The records show that J.T. Hughes voluntarily took the oath of allegiance, Dec. 16th, 1863, at Knoxville, Tenn, which list shows that this prisoner was sent to Ky there to be released.” In other words, they were accusing him of desertion. He was stricken from the state’s pension rolls as a result.

Thomps responded with a hand-written letter to the Pension Bureau dated May 20, 1914, in which he said his health had been “totally ruined” by typhoid fever in 1862. His brigade left him in a private house near Charleston, Tenn., Thomps wrote, and he was later captured outside Knoxville. He admitted to taking an oath, but said he was “too feeble to understand its wording.” He said he was never sent to Kentucky, as the charges against him alleged, but instead was released in Knoxville.

That letter failed to reverse the bureau’s decision. However, he filed an appeal in July 1915 that led to his reinstatement on the pension rolls, with back pay of $65.60 for the months he had missed. (I am told that the appeal document may have been written by my grandfather, Arley Hughes Sr., a grandson of Thomps who began law school about a year later.)

The appeal document says, in pertinent part:

“Just prior to my capture I had had typhoid fever, near Chattanooga, Tenn. I was sick at the time of my capture, and was in bad physical health for several years after the close of the war, and before I finally recovered I was sent to the Hospital at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for the Insane, where I remained for about a year.”

“If I took an oath of allegiance, I did not know that I was taking it, as I was very sick physically and to some extent deranged mentally and was not responsible or accountable for what I did. I was not able to fight and did not fight any after I had the spell of typhoid fever above referred to. I was at all times loyal to the Confederacy.”

This photo shows Thomps in his later years.

A document in his pension file stamped with the date of Aug. 22, 1915, confirms the restoration of Thomps’ pension.

He lived for nearly another 4 years, passing away on June 29, 1919.  For his last two years he was without the company of his second wife, Jane, who died on Dec. 26, 1917.

Thomps and Jane are buried next to each other at Ashcraft Corner Memorial Cemetery in Fayette County, Ala.

Discovering my rural Alabama heritage

Posted in Genealogy by tahughesnc on November 27, 2012

During Thanksgiving week, I traveled from my home in Durham, N.C., to Birmingham, Ala., to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, my girlfriend, Kelley Grogan, and the family of my brother, Brian.

Left to right: Dylan Hughes, Gloria Hughes, Arley Hughes Jr., Tom Hughes, Mary Bess Paluzzi (Associate Dean for Special Collections at the UA Libraries), and Brian Hughes.

Our agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 20 included a trip to the Hoole Library at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where we donated a collection of 64 letters that my grandfather, Arley Hughes Sr. (1891-1969), wrote to his parents, brothers and sisters in Kennedy, Ala., while he served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. The library plans to make the letters available on their website later.

After we concluded our business at the Hoole Library, we visited Arley Sr.’s grave, which is in Evergreen Cemetery, across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium. He graduated from the UA School of Law in 1917, and then got married, before he was drafted into Army service. After returning home from WWI in 1919, he lived the rest of his life in Tuscaloosa.

My grandfather’s headstone.

My father lived the first several years of his life in this house at 828 11th Ave.

While in Tusaloosa, we also visited two home sites where my father, Arley “Bill” Hughes Jr., had lived while he was growing up, and a third home site where my mother, Gloria Breland Hughes, had lived. Only one of these homes was still standing. The other two survived a massive tornado that struck Tuscaloosa in April 2011 but have been demolished since then.

On Wednesday, Nov. 21, we went on a self-guided tour of several cemeteries where ancestors of ours are buried. First we visited four cemeteries in the rural area where my grandfather grew up, in the countryside outside Kennedy, a small town of a few hundred residents. Then we visited two cemeteries in Reform, Ala., a larger rural town where my grandfather’s wife, Virginia Ellen “Virgie” Doughty (1896-1978), grew up.

Shown here are me (at left), my father, and my brother, Brian, standing behind the headstone of my 2nd great grandfather, Thomps Hughes.

Our first stop was at Ashcraft Corner Memorial Cemetery, next to Ashcraft Corner Baptist Church. For me the highlight of this cemetery was seeing the grave of our first direct line Hughes ancestor to settle in Alabama, James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes (1831-1919). Thomps was the grandson of our earliest known Hughes ancestor, Andrew Hughes (1755-1843), who was born near Lancaster, Penn. but lived most of his adult life in the old Pendleton District in South Carolina.

Next we visited the Wesley Chapel Cemetery, which is on a dirt road (Wesley Chapel Road) and deep in the woods, about 2.5 miles from Ashcraft Corner Memorial. Here we found several graves of ancestors of ours named Wilson, a family that our Hughes line has been associated with since the 1700s. One example of this association: Thomps Hughes’ mother was Margaret “Peggy” Wilson (1801-1848), who married Thomps’ father, Elisha Hughes, in South Carolina in 1819.

Hulda Hughes Wilson (1833-1865) was a sister of Thomps Hughes. She married John Wilson (1828-1862), who was her first cousin.

We found additional examples of the Hughes-Wilson association at the next cemetery we visited, the Old Wesley Chapel Cemetery (aka, Wilson Cemetery) on Junkins Road, outside Kennedy. There we found the graves of two of Thomps’ sisters, Hulda Hughes Wilson, and Adline Hughes Wilson. Hulda, Adline, Thomps and their younger brother, William M. Hughes, were orphaned after their mother died in 1848 (their father, Elisha Hughes, had disappeared several years before). Custody of the orphans was awarded to their uncle, William M. Wilson, in Anderson, S.C. in June 1848. But by 1850 Thomps, Adline and William were living in Pickens County, Ala., in the home of their older sister, Harriet Hughes (1825-1906), and her first husband, John W. Hamby (1822-1862).

Here are a few more examples of the Hughes-Wilson connection.  James A. Wilson (1805-1876) is also buried in the cemetery on Junkins Road. James A. Wilson’s son, John Wilson (1828-1862), was the first cousin and husband of Hulda Hughes Wilson. James A. Wilson also had a daughter named Elizabeth “Eliza” Wilson (1829-1904), who was the grandmother of a fellow named Arley Hughes Sr., who was, you may recall, my grandfather. Another son of James A. Wilson, named James Harvey Wilson (1837-1900), was the first cousin and husband of Adline Hughes Wilson.

Our next stop was the Kennedy Express, a gas station and convenience store with a little restaurant inside. While we had lunch there, the clerk told us about a another Wilson Cemetery nearby, which we set off to see after lunch. This cemetery, like the one at New Wesley Chapel, was on a dirt road deep in the woods.

The headstone of James Harvey Doughty, one of my great grandfathers.

Then we drove to Reform (pronounced “REE-form”). First we visited Arbor Springs Cemetery, and then we visited Graham Memorial Cemetery,  which is close to Pickens County High School. Many of my grandmother’s Doughty relatives are buried at Graham Memorial. Arley Hughes Jr. was a school teacher in Pickens County before he went to law school in Tuscaloosa. In fact, he met his wife, Virgie Doughty (my grandmother) when she sent him a letter inviting him to apply for a teaching job. She wrote the letter on behalf of her father, James Harvey Doughty, who was highly active in the civic life of Pickens County.

What did I learn from this trip? It gave me a better understanding than I have ever had before about what life must have been like for my earliest Hughes ancestors in Alabama. They lived on a small farm in an area that even now seems to me very remote, rural and sparsely populated, although it’s only about an hour’s drive from Tuscaloosa. According to my father, the same trip took my grandfather two days by horse and wagon in the early 1900s.

The city I grew up in, Mobile, is in the same state, but the world of my childhood there in the 1960s and 70s was in many ways an entirely different planet from the world my grandfather grew up in. This trip taught me, in a very visceral way, that I am not that far removed from my rural Alabama heritage.