The Vagabond – First known person born in Gadsden


By Danny Crownover
The first person to be born in the City of Gadsden was Joseph R. Hughes on March 14, 1842. He was the son of Gabriel and Asenath D. (Young) Hughes. The elder Hughes was one of the founders of the city.

Gabriel and Asenath parents were natives of Haywood, North Carolina and of English descent. The original Hughes family first settled in Pennsylvania before leaving for the Carolinas. The elder Hughes eventually moved to the outskirts of Attalla. The house in which Joseph was born once stood on Tuscaloosa Avenue near Third Street.

Joseph Hughes was attending school in 1862 when he entered the Confederate Army as a member of Company G, 48th Alabama Regiment, which participated in The Seven Days Battle, Second Bull Run (where he was slightly wounded) and Antietam.

Joseph was invalided home in October of 1862 and in November joined Tracy’s Brigade as chief clerk of the commissary department under Major William P. Hollingsworth, who was also one of the early builders of Gadsden.

Joseph Hughes participated in the siege at Vicksburg and surrendered there with General John C. Pemberton on July 4, 1863. Soon afterward after having been paroled, Hughes rejoined his until at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. His unit then participated in the Atlanta campaign.
Hughes participated in the battle of Jonesboro and was with General John Bell Hood during the latter’s raid into Tennessee. Hughes fought in all the battles from Nashville to North Carolina, where his surrendered with the army of General Joe Johnston.

After the Civil War, Hughes returned to Gadsden to work as a clerk at a dry goods establishment. He then moved to Centre, where he served as deputy circuit clerk of Cherokee County.

Hughes eventually returned to Gadsden, where he married Mary E. Davis on December 14, 1867. The couple had three sons – Forney, Robert and Preston. Preston became a leading physician of Gadsden and his descendants were prominent in local business and social circles.

Joseph Hughes built the Exchange Hotel located at Locust and Fourth streets in 1870. He then erected the city’s first steam flour mill and worked in the milling business until 1874, when he was elected clerk of the circuit court. Hughes was reelected to the position in 1880. and in 1886 he engaged in the real estate business.

Hughes owned much property, both in the city and Etowah County, and was interested in mineral lands. Hughes served several terms as a city alderman. He was a member of the First Methodist Church.

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