Jesse Hughes, frontiersman and Indian fighter, was born near the Potomac South Branch in 1750. In 1771, he married Grace Tanner, settled on Hackers Creek in present Lewis County, and began a large family. Most of the time he scouted and hunted for the settlers. About five feet nine inches tall, he was a lean, strong, fast man of delicate frame and iron constitution. Described as irritable, vindictive, and suspicious, Hughes seems to have had a pathological hatred of Indians, especially after Indians killed his father in 1778.
Though not as well known as Simon Kenton or Lewis Wetzel, Hughes was their equal when it came to tracking and killing his foe. To pioneers, he was a protector and friend. In the clash between Indians and the land-acquisitive whites, he was invaluable in helping the settlers to prevail. His vengeful streak found terrible outlets in atrocities against the natives, but he saved many lives at great personal risk and experienced many harrowing escapades. Hughes probably participated in the Battle of Point Pleasant with his younger brothers, Thomas and Elias. His service as a ranger was apparently with volunteer companies but never in command, possibly because of his unstable temperament.
When the Ohio Valley frontier wars ended in the 1790s, Jesse Hughes was left with no occupation, still ready to fight but with no enemies to pursue. He moved to Vincennes, Indiana, then to eastern Kentucky. By 1800, he had returned to Western Virginia, settling on Turkey Run just above Ravenswood. After some years he moved to Sand Creek to farm and hunt but was later legally dispossessed of his land at the age of 79. Homeless, he moved his family back to Turkey Run to live with a daughter where he died a lonely anachronism in the fall of 1829. Legend has it that the Hughes River was named for Jesse Hughes and brother Elias, though there were others of that name in the area at the time.
This Article was written by William H. Dean
Last Revised on December 03, 2012
Withers, Alexander Scott. Chronicles of Border Warfare. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke, 1895, Reprint, McClain, 1994.
McWhorter, Lucullus Virgil. The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1768 to 1795: Embracing the Life of Jesse Hughes. Hamilton, OH: The Republican Pub. Co., 1915, Reprint, Comstock, vols. 12-13, 1974.