The old man took his last breath 105 years and an ocean removed from the place where he’d drawn his first.
For Richard Hughes, it had been an eventful life. Descended from a family that had arrived in Ireland from Wales with Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1600s, Hughes was born in Ireland about 1726. According to a family history, he operated a public inn in County Tipperary and was a devout Methodist and friend of religious reformer and evangelist John Wesley, who is said to have preached in front of the inn.
Persecuted because of his beliefs, Hughes immigrated to the American colonies, joined the Continental Army during the American Revolution, was with George Washington at Valley Forge and Brandywine and had one of his big toes shot off.
After the war, the family history related, he married an English woman, Elizabeth Scarlet, settled on a farm in Rockingham County, Virginia, and raised four sons, three of whom – William, John, and Richard Jr. – would head west to Ohio. The fourth son, David, stayed on the home farm and died there. William was accidentally drowned in the Muskingum River near Marietta while John served in the War of 1812 and settled in Cincinnati.
Richard Hughes Jr., who was born in Virginia in 1783, married the former Nancy Davis there, came to Ohio around 1828 and, after spending several years in Hamilton and Montgomery counties, settled in Allen County in October 1833, where, according to an 1885 county history, “he farmed and carried on his trade, that of currier and tanner.” Richard and Nancy Hughes were the parents of a dozen children, seven boys and five girls.
The year before moving his family to Allen County, Hughes with the help of a few neighbors built a log cabin on the home site, which was near today’s North West Street.
“When he removed his family and goods in October (1833), he hired a man who owned a four-horse team to convey them. He was himself the owner of one horse and a small wagon, in which the children were placed, and accompanying them were three cows of which Mr. Hughes was owner. When he had paid off the teamster, he had only a half a dollar remaining,” the Allen County Democrat wrote in an April 1876 story on Allen County’s first families.
“The boys who were large enough to do so, set to work with axes to cut down the underbrush and small timber, preparatory to getting in a spring crop, and Mr. Hughes himself, with a ‘knapsack’ on his back, started for Rockingham County, Virginia, where he had some claims upon his old neighbors. … He was successful in collecting about one hundred dollars, and with this sum hastened homeward on foot to relieve his anxious household,” the Democrat wrote.
By August 1834, however, the family had run out of money and corn ripe enough to mill. According to the Democrat, Hughes punctured a piece of tin, nailed it to a post as an improvised grater, “and young R.T. (Richard Talbot Hughes) was placed at work to reduce the partly ripened corn to a state of which the bread for the family was made, and upon which they subsisted until the corn had hardened sufficient to shell. … From that time forward,” the newspaper added, “the family never wanted for food.”
Beginning in 1834, Hughes purchased three horses and a “second-hand, but substantial wagon” and began transporting “immigrants and merchandise from Dayton northward, following this business about five years — the boys, under the superintendence of their mother, remaining at home, clearing land, and planting, cultivating and harvesting the crops.”
Hughes died at the age of 85 in December 1868, five years after his wife. The couple was preceded in death by three daughters and a son. Elizabeth Ann, who married James Druet in 1833, died in 1855 at the age of 39 after giving birth to 13 children, only four of whom survived to adulthood. Sarah “Sally” Gano married Daniel Boyer in 1836, had eight children with him and died at the age of 33 in 1851. Mary Burnett married G.H. Jones and gave birth to one child, who died in infancy. She was only 27 when she died in 1859 in Napa, California. William Morgan Hughes was 34 when died in 1861 in Delphos of consumption (tuberculosis).
Surviving at the death of Richard Hughes were two daughters. Eliza Jane was married to James Ward, and the couple had 12 children, six of whom reached adulthood. Eliza died in 1907 in her mid-80s. Ann Mixer married Daniel Bowers, who moved the family to Missouri. She gave birth to three children and was about 80 years old when she died in 1910.
The eldest son, Hugh W. Hughes, was the president of a Cincinnati bank. Born in 1812, he died in 1894. Edward G. Hughes, born two years after Hugh, was a veteran of the Civil War who fathered 11 children and lived at times in Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. He died in 1886. Harvey Jackson Hughes and Joshua Wells Hughes both settled in Missouri, where Harvey died at about 82 years of age in 1896. Joshua was in his early 90s when he died in 1913, the last surviving child of Richard Hughes.
Three sons — Richard Talbot Hughes, Charles M. Hughes, and John Lorentz Hughes — remained in Allen County, where they played a prominent part in local politics and business.
Richard Talbot Hughes, who was born in 1828 before the family left Virginia for Ohio, was married to the former Charlotte M. Clippinger, with whom he had seven children.
“Mr. Hughes was a farmer up to 1870, when he became a member of the East & Hughes millers, of Lima,” according to the 1885 county history. “The following year he sold out his interest, being elected county treasurer on the Republican ticket; was subsequently re-elected, serving two terms. After leaving this office he entered the grocery trade, which he followed nearly up to the time of his death, which occurred in March 1879.”
Charles M. Hughes was born on the family farm north of Lima in 1833 and was married to Nannie Worley, of Piqua, in 1861.
“He lived on the farm till he went to Miami University in Oxford,” the Lima Daily Times wrote in his obituary on Jan. 11, 1892. “After having completed his education he studied law with Lamison & Robb, and was admitted to the Bar, and went into partnership with the gentlemen with whom he had studied.”
After serving in the Civil War, he returned to Allen County and the practice of law. He was elected probate judge of Allen County in 1863 and again in 1866. In 1873 and again in 1875, he was elected prosecuting attorney of Allen County. In 1878, he was elected judge of the court of common pleas and re-elected in 1883.
John Lorentz Hughes was born in 1824, married Hannah Emeline “Emma” Spence in 1855, and died at 80 years of age in 1904. The couple were the parents of two children, Richard Martin Hughes, who founded a Lima jewelry store, and Mary Ellen “Ella,” who married Harry K. Fredericks. She died in 1898.
John Lorentz Hughes served in the Union Army during the Civil War and worked as a realtor and furniture dealer in later years. He also had been superintendent of the Dayton Asylum for several years.
“By his death,” the Lima Times-Democrat wrote Dec. 17, 1904, “Lima loses one of its most prominent pioneers and he will ever be remembered as one who helped to make the city one of the best in the state.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.