The Vagabond – The Aunt Katie Hughes property


By Danny Crownover

One of the more interesting of the pioneers of Gadsden was Kathrine Moragane Hughes, familiarly known as “Aunt Katie” Hughes during the latter part of her life.

Aunt Katie was the sister of John S. Moragne and the husband of Joseph Hughes, who were two of the three founders of Gadsden.

The old Hughes home was located on a farm that was bounded by Fourth Street and the Coosa River at what is now Bay Street and Rum Branch. The farm extended to what is now the Club View area. and on down into Moragne Bottoms on Big Wills Creek, including what is now Moragne Park.

Aunt Katie’s home, however, was built on a tract that cornered at what is now Fourth and Bay streets. It was a large log house that fronted on Fourth Street and stood in the middle of the block in the midst of an oak grove.

The property’s vegetable garden and small orchard were located on the Bay Street side. On the south side of the home were barns, stables and a large peach and apple orchard surrounded by a rail fence. A large pond of water was located across Fourth Street.

Located just behind what is now known as the old Morris Hotel at Third and Bay streets was Aunt Katie Hughes’ Spring at the foot of the little rise where the hotel was located. The water ran through a deep ravine across Second and First streets to the Coosa River. Surrounding the spring were a number of bay trees. Picnics and public meetings were held at that location for many years.

The extreme south end of the Hughes property later became the site of Judge J.M. Moragne’s home and later the home of his daughter, Miss Mollie Moragne. After farm operations ceased, the land later became a baseball field that was the scene of some of the best amateur games ever played in the district. The famous Red Jackets team played there along with the Jacksonville Cyclone. The Juniors also used the field. The ball grounds were also used by circuses. Near what is now Fourth and Cherry streets was open field in which thousands of bull bats were killed yearly by sportsmen.

Aunt Katie Hughes Cemetery was part of the estate, as was the site of the Holy Name of Jesus Hospital, now Riverview Medical Center. Many members of the Moragne and Hughes family are buried there. The property eventually was turned over to the city, which promised proper care of the cemetery in exchange for the gift of Moragne Park.

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