Monday, September 12, 2016

Thomas Hughes, Pioneer to Northumberland Co. Pennsylvania

Thomas Hughes may have been born  in Windsor Twp., Berks Co., Pennsylvania about 1740.  His exact birth date has not been found. What is known is that he died September 16, 1807 in Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania.  As a member of the group of pioneers who settled in the  Catawissa area, it is known that Thomas was a Welsh Quaker. Therefore it is unlikely that he would have fought in the Revolutionary War and no evidence has been found to show that he did serve in the war.

Thomas  immigrated to  the area of Danville, Pennsylvania near Catawissa and was one of the  original settlers thereabouts.  A number of men named Hughes came from  the Maiden Creek area of Berks Co. to Northumberland County in this time period. He and several of his brothers,  who may have been George, John  and James, were involved in the early settlement of land along the Susquehanna River  near Northumberland.
 WPA Mural by John W. Beauchamp in the Muncy, Pennsylvania Post Office.
The year 1778 was known  as "The Big Runaway" when the Native Americans in the Pine Creek Area caused the pioneers to  flee their homesteads.   This painting is a mural of Rachel Silverthorn's ride to warn settlers along Muncy Creek of impending attacks.  These were turbulent times to be living on the edge of the Pennsylvania frontier.  

I have not been able to determine the parents of Thomas Hughes.
 Thomas Hughes, the father of Jeptha Hughes, pioneer ancestor in Tioga Co. PA,  died on  Sept. 16, 1807    Census records help to determine his whereabouts as an adult and of his birth year being prior to 1755.  (census 1800).  
Census Records 1790 - Thomas Hughes - Northumberland Co.; 1 male over 16 ; 3 males under 16;  4  females.
Census Records 1800- Thomas Hughes - Northumberland Co.;  4 males under 10, 1 male between the ages of 10 and 16, 1 male between the ages of 16 and 26, 1 male over 45. (therefore, Thomas born before prior to 1755)

Early land records show him living in the area of   Maiden Creek, near Reading, PA. Deed dated Aug. 17, 1773  (Vol. A 416 Bloomsburg, PA)  for a 300 acres tract on the west side  of the Northeast Branch of the Susquehanna  in what is now  Northumberland, Co.  "Thomas  Hughes, Maiden Creek twp. in Berks Co.,  carpenter."   From this source it can be determined that he  was a carpenter and that he was living in Maiden Creek Twp., Berks Co. PA.  Also a reference  to the same land is given in Vol. K 399, 1 Mar 1775, Northumberland CO PA, Sunbury  PA. "Thomas Hughes of Augusta Twp., Northumberland Co. Carpenter (original Purchase 1769) 1 and 1/2 miles from the mouth of Catawesy Creek on the Nescopeck Path." 

A petition was filed by Evan Hughes to settle the estate of his father for the sale of a tract  of land containing about two hundred and thirty two acres in 1809.  It stated that Thomas Hughes was the father of nine children: "Thomas Hughes died leaving a widow named Mary who is  yet alive and nine children to wit:Rebecca, intermarried with Jesse Doughtery; Sarah,  intermarried with Benjamin Prall; Evan Hughes, your petitioner; Mary  Hughes; Rachel Hughes; Isaac Hughes; Jeptha Hughes; Jesse Hughes; and Jonathan Hughes according to the order of their   birth and seniority..."

It would appear that Thomas' death was unexpected 
since he did not leave a will. This petition is the only record official of his children that has been located. In 1958, Phoebe Hughes Button, Hughes  family historian,  named  the children of Thomas and Mary Stevens Hughes as:  Sally Hughes (Sarah), Eben Hughes (Evan), Becky Hughes (Rebecca), Rachel Hughes,  Polly Hughes (Mary), Isaac Hughes and Jeptha Hughes. Sons Jesse and Jonathan are not  accounted for in Phoebe's records. Names in parentheses are as given in the Northumberland Co.  Orphans Court reference which named the children in the order of their births which is:  Rebecca, Sarah, Evan, Mary, Rachel, Isaac, Jeptha (born in 1791), Jesse, and Jonathan.  Rebecca and Sarah were married by 1809.  The petition says the  last four of  the children  were still minors.
"A Settler's Cabin"
Thomas Hughes married Mary Stevens around 1773.  Mary was born about 1755 and died after 1812.
 The parents of this frontier women are unknown. She lived on the edge of civilization in  the wilderness of Pennsylvania at a time when your very livelihood hung on a shoestring. Her husband, Thomas came to the area where the East and West  Branches of the Susquehanna River  come together to form the Susquehanna River.  He came to homestead as early as 1773 and it is likely that she  came with him from the Maiden Creek area. No official birth or death dates are known for her, but  it  is known that Mary Stevens Hughes out lived her husband.

Her death  date has to be some time after 1812, since the court  records indicate that she was alive when the  petition was filed to settle the estate. In addition there is a record,  Vol. Q 798, 21 April 1812, 7 Aug. 1812, abstract:  Release Hughs, Mary to James Laughead, lot of land to son Isaac Hughes, Mary Hughes relect  and widow of Thomas by Orphans court of Northunberland Co. PA.

Thomas and Mary Hughes were my great,great,great, great grandparents. I grew up learning the stories of their son Jeptha, who pioneered to Tioga Co.  And of their grandson Frederick and his wife Harriet Van Wey Hughes, who lumbered and farmed with the aide of his large family.  And of Simeon and his wife Fannie B. Westlake Hughes, my great grandparents, who dairy farmed in Tioga. All renowned and honored ancestors in the Hughes family tree.

  • Mural "Rachel Silverthorne's Ride" (1938) by John W. Beauchamp in the Muncy Post Office, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Online,_Pennsylvania.JPG. visited Sept. 10, 2016.
  • Meginness, John Franklin (1892). History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania , Chapter 8, (1st ed.). Chicago, IL: Brown, Runk & Co. 
  • Thomas Hughes. Will Book 2, p. 55, Northumberland Co. PA, Sunbury PA.
  • Petition to settle the estate of Thomas Hughes. 1809 Orphans Court of Northumberland Co. PA, Sunbury PA , p. 38 and others.  Researched and recorded by Cynthia Hughes Smith, July, 1993. 
  • "A Settler's Cabin", illustration, p.67. Visited 9.12.16
                                          Copyright This page  © 2016, Cynthia H. Smith

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