Reese Hughes

From the book
Portrait and Biographical Record
of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Chapman Publishing Co., New York, 1897

Reese Hughes. It is said by those qualified to know that Mr. Hughes is the best-posted man in this part of the country on the subject of minerals and mining. His ideas are practical, not theoretical. His broad knowledge has been gained by personal work and extended observation covering a wide field of territory and comprising coal, lead, tin, zinc, silver, gold, graphite, etc. It was in 1833 that he first came to Carbondale, his present home, but the depression in business soon afterwards was the occasion of his father purchasing a farm in Susquehanna County, and there the family lived for a time.

The father of our subject, William Hughes, was born and reared in Swansea, South Wales, and there married Sarah Jenkins. He followed his trade, that of copper worker, in his native place, but after coming to America was engaged principally in mining coal, though for about seven months he was employed in opening copper works in Baltimore. He died at the age of fifty-eight and his wife when fifty-six. Their six children were named as follows: Edward, Joseph and Martha, Mrs. Isaac Morgan, all deceased; William, a soldier in the Civil War, but now deceased; Reese, of this sketch; and Mary Ann, wife of John Johns, of LaCrosse, Wis.

Born near Swansea, South Wales, May 9, 1827, the subject of this article was six years of age when, in 1833, the family took passage on a sailing vessel. After a voyage of seven weeks, the ship anchored in the harbor of New York. Immediately afterward the family came to Carbondale, but in a short time removed to Susquehanna County. Our subject had limited educational advantages, and for a short time attended the old-fashioned subscription schools, where the teacher instructed more by force than by friendship. At the age of nine he began driving a mule at the mines, and for several years followed some work in connection with mining. In 1848 he was a member of a military organization known as the "Washington Grays," and they enlisted for the Mexican War, but before getting to the field, they were ordered home.

In 1852 Mr. Hughes married Margaret Williams of South Wales, and soon afterward they took a pleasure trip to Europe. His grandfather was then living and desired, before his death, to see some member of the family again, a wish that was gratified. On his return to America Mr. Hughes mined in various places. For a time he was foreman of mines at Summit Hill, but resigned this position on account of the formation of a labor organization, which he was not inclined to join. Subsequently he engaged in metallic mining in Lehigh County and was manager of the zinc mines there for twenty-two years. He was well informed in mining matters, particularly in the processing and determining, from indications, the presence of minerals. In fact, in his chosen line, he long ago became recognized as an expert. The business which he followed caused him to be thrown in company with the best scientific men of the day, to whom his services were very valuable. Accompanying them to Mexico and Colorado, he made discoveries of valuable mining sections and many mines were opened as a result of his investigations.

For the purposes of opening up a quartz ledge, Mr. Hughes was sent to California in 1860. From there he went to Mexico in the employ of the United States Express Company. Acting on the advice of scientists and capitalists who wished his counsel, he opened an office in New York City, to more readily transact his large business. However, the office proved of little use to him, as he was obliged to be away on important investigations the most of the time. He found the graphite mines of Ticonderoga, discovered the zinc ore in Blair County, Pa., and zinc, lead and silver in North Carolina. After the latter discovery had been allowed to lie dormant for some years, he was sent to North Carolina to open up mines, but before they were in running order, the Civil War broke out; the Confederacy confiscated the whole concern, and from the mines took lead to make bullets with which to shoot northern soldiers. Besides these, he also found the gold mines in Gold Hill, N.C.

A man of patriotic spirit, at the first call for troops in 1861, Mr. Hughes determined to fight for his country, but the men who recognized his special ability objected strongly, as they had other views in regard to him. The result was that they paid $900 for a substitute to take his place and prevailed upon him to continue work for them. He has always been a firm ally of the Republican party and has steadfastly upheld its principles. Formerly he was actively connected with the Masons and Odd Fellows, but for some years has not been identified with either order. His personal preference, in religious matters, inclines him to the faith of the Baptist church, but he is not a member of that denomination. His father was a Congregationalist for many years, but late in life was a Baptist.

The five children of Mr. and Mrs. Hughes are named as follows: Thomas R., who lives in Portage City, Wis., and is employed as an engineer on the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad; William, who resides in Carbondale; Sarah Ann, wife of James Bell, also of this city; George, a contractor and builder here; and Mrs. Mattie Brown, a widow, who for some years has been an instructor in Raymond Conservatory, New York, and at present is perfecting her education in Boston. The wife and mother, not withstanding the fact that she is now seventy-one, is quite strong physically, and is able to attend personally to her household duties. Mr. Hughes has a fine collection of specimens from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Maryland, the Carolinas, England, and other places where he has opened mines and done expert work. His ability in his chosen occupation is remarkable, and has brought him recognition among the most gifted scientists of the age, who have utilized his discoveries and investigations to assist them in their work.

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