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Home > People > Ezekiel Hughes > Biographical Sketch of Ezekiel Hughes

Biographical Sketch

'Biographical Sketches: Ezekiel Hughes, Esq.', The Cambrian, Vol. II, No. 3 (May/June 1882), pp. 108-112.

Ezekiel Hughes was the descendant of an ancient, religious, and honourable family in the parish of Llanbrynmair, Montgomeryshire, North Wales, G.B. The first of his ancestors was Evan ap Owen Fach, who died in 1680. His son, Hugh Evan ap Owen, died in 1720, and was succeeded by his eldest son Edward, who, according to the Welsh custom prevailing at that time, took for his surname the given name of his father. Edward Hughes was succeeded by his eldest son Richard, born in 1700, and he by his son William, born in 1725, and he by his eldest son Richard, who married Mary Jones of Pen-y-bont, in the same parish. They had three children - William, Ezekiel, and Martha.

The family for over two hundred years had lived on a large farm called "Cwm Carnedd Uchaf," leased from Sir Watkin Williams Wynne, the great land proprietor in North Wales. The family owned three farms in the parish, but the leasehold was so valuable, that for all these years, and to this day, they have lived on a rented farm, having, from the profits, accumulated a sufficient sum to purchase three free-holds. In accordance with the law of primogeniture, William, the eldest son, at the death of his father, in 1807, inherited all the real estate, and continued to live on the leasehold. Ezekiel, his second son, was born August 22, 1767. His father gave him a good education, sending him to school for several years to Shrewsbury, a large town in England, that he might acquire the English language. At the age of eighteen he as apprenticed to a clockmaker and jeweller in Machynlleth, a flourishing market town near his home. After having acquired a knowledge of his trade, his correct habits and sound principles fitted him for the work of life; but his venerable father, encouraged him to visit the United States, with a view of purchasing a large tract of land, and making that new country his future home. As an obedient son, he followed, the counsel of his father, and in April, 1795, with his cousin Edward Bebb (father of Hon. William Bebb, ex-Governor of Ohio), sailed in the ship Maria, of Salem, Mass., from the port of Bristol, bound for Philadelphia. After a tedious and tempestuous voyage of thirteen weeks, the desired haven was safely reached. Among the Welsh passengers on the ship, were the founders of the Welsh settlements in Cambria County, Pa., and Paddy's Run, Ohio. Among them was Rev. Rees Lloyd, a Congregational minister, the first Welsh preacher that carried the Gospel into the regions beyond the Allegheny Mountains. Mr Hughes remained in Philadelphia nearly a year. Congress was in session in the city, and thus he enjoyed the advantage of seeing and hearing the statesmen who laid the foundation of our national greatness and prosperity. He especially enjoyed an introduction to Gen. Washington, the first President of the Republic. His diary, during his sojourn in Philadelphia, shows that he visited many localities near the city where Welsh settlements were founded, "November 22, 1795 - Went to Penypact meeting. Mr Rees preached in the morning in English, and in the afternoon in Welsh; the congregation was large and interested. Dined with Dr Samuel Jones, and returned on foot to Philadelphia late in the night." In the early summer of 1796, with Edward Bebb, he started for the North-western Territory. His baggage was sent by wagon to Red Stone, or Old Fort (Brownsville, Pa.,). They travelled on foot and spent a few weeks at the new Welsh settlement of Bulah (now Edensburg), Pa. Thence they made their way over a mountainous country, sparsely settled, to Old Fort, on the Monongahela River, the gate between the old settlements and the "terra incognito" of the North-western Territory. There he took passage on a "broadhorn" bound for Pittsburg, which place he describes as "a small town on the forks of the two rivers that unite and form the Ohio." Leaving Pittsburg on a flat-boat, they reached Marietta in three days. Here he remained several days, examining the lands of the Ohio purchase. He says: "The Register of the land office is Gen. Putnam, a worthy character. He gave us a cordial welcome, and plats of the land." Not finding the Eldorado, they again embarked on a flat-boat bound for Limestone (Maysville, Ky.). Of this voyage he writes: "Many rivers, some quite large, empty into the Ohio. We made better distance in the night than in the day, the heavier the load the faster we float. We encountered no danger from hostile Indians or tempests." From Limestone he reached Fort Washington (Cincinnati), "Judge Symmes, the chief proprietor of the land between the two Miamis, and extending north twenty-four miles from the Ohio River, gave us plats of unsold land." In due time he squatted on 80 acres, in Town. 2, Range 2, Section 23, at $2.25 per acre. He writes: "My object in buying this land was to try farming, and to explore the land west of the Miami. I have lived here since the autumn of 1796, cleared a little land, raised corn and potatoes. We have three neighbors within as many miles. Boats go by up the Miami with provisions for the army at Greenville. We had to open a road through the forest to Cincinnati, which is our post-office". In 1800 the land west of the Miami River was surveyed in sections, and in 1801 was offered for sale. Mr Hughes had selected sections 15 and 16, in what is now Whitewater Township. At the sale in Cincinnati, he bought these two valuable sections, and was the first purchases of Government land west of the Miami River. Having selected this land, he, in 1803, returned to Wales, married Miss Margaret Bebb, and in 1804 returned to Ohio, and occupied the log house prepared for their reception on the banks of the great Miami. In a year his excellent and godly wife died, and her grave was the first opened in the Berea cemetery, near his home. In 1808 he married Miss Mary Ewing, a native of Pennsylvania. Her parents were from the north of Ireland, and staunch Presbyterians, who brought up their children in the love and fear of God. In 1805, Mr Hughes was appointed by the Governor of Ohio, with two other commissioners, to lay out a county road from the mouth of the Miami to Hamilton, O. In 1806 he was appointed by Gov. Tiffin a Justice of the Peace, the first in the Township, an office he long and faithfully performed. His docket shows that he generally succeeded in preventing law suits, amicably settling disputes among neighbors. He knew how to secure conciliation and prevent litigation.

In process of years, Mr. Hughes leased a large portion of his valuable and fertile land. His tenants esteemed him a just and generous landlord, always interested in their welfare, ready with wise counsel and genuine sympathy, to offer encouragement and help, so that always the happiest relations existed between them. He so arranged his leases that his seven children, at his death, inherited, each, a good farm. Educated in a truly Christian home, in faith and practice, he was a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, and an original member of the Congregational church at Paddy's Run, thirteen miles from his home. In 1819, with others in their neighborhood, he secured "an act of the Ohio Legislature to incorporate the "Berea Union Society." In 1822 a frame chapel was built on an acre of land which he donated for that purpose, and as a cemetery. In 1828 a Presbyterian church was organized, and, with his family, he came a member ad retained his connection until his death, September 2, 1849, - leaving for his family the inheritance of a good name, and the fruitage of a long, useful life.

In 1820 he suffered a severe fall as he was descending the steps of the Presbyterian church in Cincinnati. His hip was dislocated, and resulted in a lameness which continued through life. This confined him, so that he seldom went from home. Here, his books and his papers, the society of his family and neighbors, and attendance at public worship, were sources of constant pleasure as advancing years came upon him. He was a man endowed with a sound mind in a healthy body, and always, in all things, careful to obey the laws his Creator had impressed on his being. Hence he was healthy and vigorous, cherishing and enjoying a contented mind, at peace with God and men. He was moderate in the pursuit of wealth and honour, never a slave to mammon, nor a devotee of the shrine of worldly ambition. He was in every sense a good citizen. He fulfilled with scrupulous honesty and ability all the public trusts committed to his hands and heart. His life shows an adventurous and enterprising spirit. His foot-prints, as a pioneer, are clearly marked as an explorer of the North-western Territory. A squatter, energetic and self-reliant, for five years, with his cherished companion, Edward Bebb, he lived in the unbroken wilds of the Miami Valley, subsisting on the production of their truck patch and their skill in hunting and fishing, enduring hardship and privations that the generation to come might enjoy the benefits thereof. Such men are benefactors of the race, and should be held in everlasting remembrance. Mr. Hughes was a genuine Welshman in heart and life, cherishing the language in which he was born; and Welsh books afforded him great pleasure and profit. Early Welsh emigrants were always welcome guests at his home, and he was ready to do them good, giving them employment, and in many instances loaning them money to buy land or stock rented farms. He never failed to appreciate true worth, nor to help the honest, industrious poor, without regard to creed, colour or nationality. On this place he was ahead of his times, and his influence in the church and Commonwealth was always on the side of truth and right, and remains to this day. As an evidence of the influence of his family life, habits and character, is the fact that, to this time, the real estate which he left his children remains in their possession; and his posterity honour his memory and follow his worthy example.