Civil War Blog

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John M. Hughes – Hosiery Mill Owner Crushed to Death in Williamstown

Posted By on May 9, 2016


The Harrisburg Telegraph reported the tragic death of John M. Hughes, prominent hosiery mill owner of Williamstown on 29 July 1898:


The Frightful Death of a Williamstown Mill Owner

It was a frightful accident which befell John M. Hughes, of the firm of Hughes and Hoffman, proprietor of the Williamstown Hosiery and Underwear Factory, and one of the most prominent residents of the upper end of the county, about 7:20 this morning.  He had gone to the Williamstown Station to see his daughter off to the seashore and was in the act of alighting from the train after bidding her an affectionate goodbye. when he slipped from the platform of the car and fell beneath the wheels of the moving train, which passed over his chest and one arm, killing him almost instantly before the horrified witnesses of the affair could raise a hand to save him.  The train was stopped , and when the daughter on board in anticipation of a pleasant vacation at the seashore had the sad news broken to her she gave vent to expressions of grief that were pitiful to hear.  Mr. Hughes was about 50 years of age and leaves a wife and two children, a son and a daughter.  He had been a miner in his earlier years and was a resident of that locality for twenty years or more.  Mr. Hughes was a gallant cavalryman in the Civil War.  Coroner Krause was notified.

The next day, the Coroner released his report on Hughes’ death:


Railroad Company Not Responsible

Coroner Krause returned this morning from Williamstown, where he spent last evening investigating the cause of death the death of John M. Hughes, who was killed yesterday morning at the Williams’ Valley Railroad Depot.  No blame is attached to the railroad company.

In August, the will of John M. Hughes was probated:


The will of John M. Hughes, of Williamstown, has been admitted to probate.  His widow is named as executrix and the estate of $8000 or $10,000 goes to Mrs. Hughes and the two children.

The Civil War service mention in the death notice of John M. Hughes, was as a Private in Company K of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

HughesJohnM-PAV etCardFile-001

According to information on the file card at the Pennsylvania Archives (shown above), John M. Hughes enrolled on 28 April 1862 and Fort Monroe, Virginia, and was mustered into service there on the same day.  Fort Monroe was one of the few areas in the Eastern part of Virginia that remained in Union control throughout the entire war.

His honorable discharge was received on 1 May 1865.


John M. Hughes applied for a pension on 11 February 1884, which he was awarded, and collected until his death.  (Above card from Fold3).


On 14 September 1898, the widow, Mercy [Blacker] Hughes applied for benefits based on her husband’s service, which she received and collected until her death in 1917.


On 5 March 1917, the Harrisburg Evening News posted Mercy’s obituary:


Mrs. Mercy Hughes, widow of John M. Hughes, of Williamstown, died Saturday at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Cora E. Stoey, 524 North Tenth Street.  She was 77 years old.  The body will be taken to Lykens Wednesday evening at 7:30 o’clock for burial.

The death certificate of Mercy [Blacker] Hughes was found on Ancestry.com:


The death certificate notes that Mercy was born in England 0n 5 February 1840 to John Blacker and Mary [Millet] Blacker.  She died in Harrisburg at the home of her daughter and she is buried in the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Williamstown, not in Lykens as the obituary states.

Additional information is sought about John M. Hughes.  After the Civil War, where did he live and work?  His son, William Hughes was born in Illinois in 1873, but his daughter Cora Hughes was born in Pennsylvania in 1877.  How and why did he go from a miner to the proprietor of a hosiery factory?  Are there pictures of him and his family?  Are there pictures of the hosiery factory in Williamstown?  And, is there a picture of the railroad depot where he met his tragic death?

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