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John F. Hughes was one of the prominent pioneers of McPherson County, went to that section of Kansas soon after the close of the Civil war, in which he bore an honored part, became one of the leading ranchers of the county and of Western Kansas, and was also a factor in public affairs, having served at one time as state senator.
His entire life was one of noteworthy experience and endeavor, and his career belongs among the prominent Kansas of the last half century. John F. Hughes was born in Venango County, Pennsylvania, December 28, 1842, and died at McPherson, Kansas, July 2, 1912. His parents were Ellis and Aurella (Davis) Hughes. He was of Welsh stock. His father was a miller by trade and a veteran of the War of 1812.
The late Mr. Hughes grew up in Western Pennsylvania, was educated in the local schools, and as a boy worked around his father’s mill. He was still a youth when he volunteered his services to defend the Union. He enlisted as a private in Company A of the One Hundred and Twenty-first Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and was in active service until the close of the war. He was in some of the most bitterly fought campaigns in the Virginias, and was at Chancellorsville and the Wilderness, and at Gettysburg was seriously wounded and after that battle spent some time in the hospital at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He then rejoined his regiment and was present at Appomattox when the armies of General Lee surrendered.
Soon after the war, in 1866, Mr. Hughes came out to Kansas and located a tract of Government land near Marquette. That land is still part of his estate. A few years later, in 1872, he was an active participant in the organization of McPherson County. For six years he served as register of deeds, was the recipient of many honors from his fellow citizens, and in 1905 he entered the State Senate, in which he served four years. While in the senate he was chairman of the ways and means committee and an active member of other committees. As a republican he had attended as a delegate various state conventions.
His business career was chiefly as a farmer and stock man. Beginning with a modest capital, he increased his holdings as a stockman and land owner until he was one of the chief cattle men of Western Kansas. His enterprise brought about the organization of two flourishing towns in Western Kansas, Horace and Hugoton.
Senator Hughes was in Kansas in time to witness much of its pioneer life. The story is told how during the ’60s while out hunting with a companion he became unwittingly the cause of an Indian scare. A couple of men had seen from a distance the hunters, and as Mr. Hughes then wore a blanket Indian fashion he was taken for a hostile Indian.
Some years ago Senator Hughes, while in the State Senate, was interviewed by a reporter for the Topeka State Journal and told some of his early experiences which were reported in the Journal as follows: “When I settled in McPherson county and homesteaded the farm I still own western Kansas was overrun with buffalo. When the buffalo crowded in on us it was a sign that Indians were in the locality and were pressing the buffalo on. I often think it out of place to tell of those mighty herds, as the generation of the day cannot comprehend them and are apt to doubt the statements. But I will venture to tell of one large herd of buffalo which came close to my farm. So far as we could tell the herd was thirty miles in length, for it extended from Thompson Creek in Ellsworth county to Gypsum Creek in McPherson county. One of the settlers rode four miles back into the herd and all he could see was buffalo. I hunted buffalo some, but only for the sport and for meat. I never hunted them for their hides. I have taken a stand and killed as high as twenty without stopping. Those who hunted for the hides would shoot until their rifles got hot.
“We had a few Indian scares in McPherson county in the early days. The Indians captured Mrs. Bassett, who lived on Sharps Creek, not far from my place, and carried her off. I prepared at one time for Indians and got out the rifles and ammunition, but the Indians did not cross the Little Arkansas and I was safe. Great numbers of Indians used to pass through the country close to my place. The Kaws went through one time on their way west to battle with the Cheyennes and on their return stopped in McPherson county to bury three warriors who died on the march. The next year the Cheyennes went east through McPherson county to fight the Kaws near Council Grove. Four hundred warriors passed along the divide between the Smoky Hill and the Little Arkansas not far from my claim.”
Mr. Hughes was long an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He finally retired from his farm and ranch in 1904 and after that spent his days in McPherson. He was twice married. In 1876 he married Mary McClintock, who died September 29, 1879. She left one son, Walter L. On December 12, 1882, Mr. Hughes married Miss Minnie B. Bomberger. She was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, March 15, 1863, daughter of Reuben and Margaret (Mateer) Bomberger, both natives of Pennsylvania. Her father was born December 13, 1839, and died at McPherson, Kansas, July 6, 1902. His ancestry went back to the year 1772, when the Bombergers immigrated out of Germany to Pennsylvania. In 1858 Reuben Bomberger married Margaret Mateer, who was born in Pennsylvania December 18, 1839, of English ancestry. She is still living in McPherson. There were five children in the Bomberger family: Carrie, who died in 1895, having married Frank Etter in 1880; Mary, now the wife of Charles L. Stumbaugh, a contractor at Wichita; Mrs. Hughes; Christian C., deceased; and Abbie, unmarried and living with her mother, and since 1900 had been postoffice clerk at McPherson under civil service rules, and is local examiner for the civil service.
Mr. and Mrs. Hughes became the parents of seven children, three sons and four daughters, namely: Mary Margaret, born May 18, 1884, was married April 13, 1910, to Marshall Rooney, and they have a son, Donald Hughes, born April 17, 1912. Mabelle, born March 18, 1889, was married September 12, 1915, to Charles Noble; John R., born January 19, 1892, married September 27, 1913, Esther Yowel, and had one child, Mariam Catheline, born November 3, 1916; Helene, born January 19, 1895; LeRoy, born January 19, 1899; Julian C., born July 13, 1901; and Margaret Rose, born February 28, 1905.