Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail email@example.com;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708