Ancestor became known as the ‘Father of Florala’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 13, 2015

In their Covington County History, 1821-1976, Gus and Ruby Bryan wrote that James Edwin Hughes was known as the “Father” of Florala. It is easy to see how he came to be referred to by that title. He was one of the first settlers in the Florala area and became a leader in its development and growth.

He migrated to this part of Covington County as a result of his trading a pair of oxen for a 160 acre tract of land. During their service in the Confederate Army, he met a fellow Confederate soldier who had traded with the government for the land by paying only $15. The other fellow wanted to escape the tax debt he owed on the land, so James E. agreed to assume it. To James Edwin Hughes’ credit, this piece of land became the very center of what would become the Town of Florala.

James E. Hughes enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861 and served as a private in Company B, 18th Alabama Infantry regiment. He served until the end of the war and struck the very good deal with the fellow soldier in trading for the acreage.

James Edwin Hughes Jr. was born in 1839 in Dale County, Ala. All this writer could find on his background is that his parents were probably James Edwin Hughes Sr. and Sinclaire (Whitehead). James Sr. was born in 1778 in Mississippi and died in 1850 in Dale County, Ala. One record lists Sinclaire’s birthdate as 1778 also and in Mississippi as well.

James E. Hughes left his home in Dale County, Ala. and traveled by ox cart with his widowed mother to arrive in their new home in Florala in December 1865. Of course, this was only months after the end of the War for Southern Independence. Since James was born in 1839, he would have been about 26 years of age when he arrived in the location that would become his permanent home. When they arrived James found a small log building just north of where the Florala Hardware Store would be constructed in the future. They made it their home until he could build a suitable house on the same site.

Being the industrious person he was, he immediately stocked a small supply of basic needs for other settlers. It is said that he kept his wares under his bed in a large gourd. Then it was not long until he increased his inventory of supplies to a major degree and was able to operate a small store.

James began to purchase many acres of land surrounding the area until he owned much of the surrounding territory. At a later date he was able to actually give pieces of land to others for industrial growth and development of the town. In Wyley D. Ward’s book, Original Land Sales and Grants in Covington County, Alabama, he reports government land purchases of 160.40 acres, which he homesteaded in 1871. In 1877, he bought two tracts of 200.58 acres and 100.48 acres. All of this land and additional tracts he acquired were in the Florala Township

On January 11, 1875, a post office named Lake City, Ala., was established in James E. Hughes’s home since he was appointed as the first Post Master. Later the name of the community and post office was changed to Lakeview in 1877, and it was finally named Florala in 1891. James continued to live and prosper in Florala until his death in 1936 at the age of 97.

Since James Edwin was married in 1865, he most likely met his bride soon after settling in Covington County or they may have already wed in Dale County. He was married to Julianne Parker (1841-1900), daughter of Daniel and Sarah Parker, of Dale County, Ala. shows that he was also married at one time to M. Laura Sapp (1841-1900). He had the following children by one or both of these wives: Daniel, b. 1867, d. 1953, m. 1892 Satirah Lenora Simmons; Sarah Elizabeth, b. 1868, d. 1961, m. 1774 Daniel C. Hart Jr. (1856-1911 to 1920); Mary Frances, b. 1870, d. 1934, m. 1884 Thomas Jefferson George (1862-1929); James Thomas “Tom,” b. 1872, d. 1923, m. 1896 Annie P. Chance (1876-1942); Henry Alfred, b. 1873, d. 1924, m. Emma Shaw Carlisle (1879-1963); Julia Sinclair, b. 1875, d. 1967, m. 1896 Joseph Frederick Price (1871-1925); William Franklin “Tank,” b. 1877, d. 1958, m. 1909 Blannie Wooton; and Anna, b. 1879, d. 1939, m. Tom Spradley (1875-1934). One record also lists a child named Pherbia Louise.

James Edwin Hughes had a sister named Eliza “Lizer,” who was born in Mississippi in 1828. She was married in 1855 in Santa Rosa County, Fla., to John Calvin Nobles (1832-1913), son of Henry and Nancy Nobles of South Carolina where John Calvin was born in Orangeburg. Within a few years John Calvin served in the Confederate Army during the War for Southern Independence. He died in 1913, and Lizer died in 1917 in Walton County, Fla. Lizer and John Calvin Nobles reared the following children: Amon M., b. 1857, d. 1939, m Lucy L. Eason; Mary “Polly” A., b. 1857, m. Jim Stafford; Nancy C., b. 1863, d. 1932, m. Robert “Doc” Adkinson; William M., b. 1866, d. 1951, m. Leonia Adkinson; Elizabeth “Lizzy,” b. 1867, d. 1936, m. Albert A. “Bud” Brown; John Sr., b. 1873, d. 1953, m. Kate Edwards; and Jeruselem.

James T. “Tom” Hughes was quite prominent as his father was in the growth and development of Florala and was considered as “one of Florala’s most public spirited citizens.” He was a principal stockholder in the Florala Saw Mill, which was established in 1903 at Paxton, Fla., located near Florala. He became the vice-president, secretary as well as general manager. This mill was sold to Harbeson Lumber Company, and James T. Hughes continued in business as the Florala Lumber Company. Following his tenure, his daughter, Miss Birdie Hughes, continued to operate the business for many years.

When the First National Bank was organized in September 1907, James T. Hughes became the first president. In 1907 H.A. Hughes was serving as vice-president of the bank. It closed circa 1930 during the Depression. There were several other Hughes businesses that operated from time to time. These included the following: Hughes Grocery Company, Hughes Barber Shop, Hughes and Davis Livestock and Vehicles, and probably others that were not identified by this writer. Miss Juliette Hughes along with Mrs. Frank Petrey and Mrs. T.C. Smith, members of The History Club, organized a city library in 1934.

This Hughes family definitely made a significant contribution to the founding and development of Florala. Of course the stately Hughes Mansion, which still stands on a hillside overlooking Lake Jackson is a showplace of Florala. This writer would greatly appreciate more information on this family including more of the descendants of James Edwin Hughes.

Sources for today’s writing include those named earlier with the majority from Covington County History—1821-1976, compiled by Gus and Ruby Bryan of Opp.

Anyone who finds any error is the above history is requested to contact this writer at the following addresses: Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: