The town of Hughes Springs at the western edge of Cass County has a colorful nature, its citizens imaginative and extroverted.
One reason could be because of the town's name. It comes from Reece Hughes (1811-1893) who came here looking for treasure, got extravagantly rich and created the town.
He gave the property near the Chalybeate Springs for the town in 1878 and had it surveyed. He retained 78 of its lots for his family and gave another 68 lots to the Red River Railroad Company if it would build a depot and water tower.
Reece Hughes is a legendary figure to the history-minded and an inspiration to many others.
Although he died 127 years ago, modern-day Hughes Springesians have not forgotten. The day the town incorporated itself in 1911 was to the year and month precisely the date of Reece Hughes' birthday 100 years ago in 1811.
Hughes Springs will probably have a magnificent bicentennial in 2078. Reece Hughes will be there. His grave and that of five others of the family are in an historically designated spot and within a fence at the east edge of the town's limit.
One Hughes highlight is that Reece built a magnificent mansion here called Brick House. Some have written it rivaled "Tara" in "Gone With the Wind." In 1929, Reece's son, Howell, wrote of the mansion:
"The Brick House was one of finest and largest private residence ever built in Texas. Four stores high including the basement, parapet and towers above the roof, it appeared like an old English castle."
Of course, many parties were held here. In 1851, Reece employed three of the finest dancing masters and engaged them for a dancing school. Everyone danced in a room 20 feet wide by 40 feet long on a dressed floor waxed to glossy smoothness.
Brick House would not last, however. April 1861 brought the beginning of its end when shots were fired by the Confederates at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The Civil War was starting.
Reese Hughes was said to have been stricken at the news. Howell, whose short history of the town and family can be found in two volumes of Hughes Springs history in local libraries, said the dancing school was immediately closed and within 30 days some of its men were in the army.
Reese Hughes did not fully support the southern position in the Civil War. But while he opposed the policy of secession, he supported and aided the forces of the southland.
Hughes also had built on his property an iron blast furnace, one of two in the region. The furnace as a model is now on display on the property of the former Lone Star Steel.
At one time, Reece is said to have had more than 2,500 acres and 200 slaves. The Confederate and Union forces both attempted and succeeded in confiscating much of his property.
Still, Howell Rose Hughes, the last living son of Reece and Elizabeth, who died in Hughes Springs in 1935, wrote, "I do not believe any man in Texas ever prospered like he did, who depended solely on farming to gain wealth."
At Reece Hughes' grave in Hughes Springs are also those of his wives Ann Rose (1820-1868), Elizabeth Rose (1826-1853) and sons Reece Jr. (1848-1879), William Ennis (1874-1875) and Robert (1853-1853).
A final, less-appealing story of Reece Hughes and Hughes Springs tells of how his namesake son, Reece Hughes Jr., died. It was a wholly unsettling way, according to a family historian.
In 1879, when Reece Jr. was 30, he had a habit of going into town at a certain store and while there on this day decided to take a nap. He took off his gun and put it on a shelf. While Reece Jr. was asleep, it is told someone unloaded the pistol.
At this time, the Hughes family was involved in a feud with another family, one member of which had been found robbing the mansion. And then the mansion burned mysteriously.
Reece Jr. was awakened to be called out on the street for a gunfight by the same man who was the robber. Reece Jr., who stood no chance, lost his life.
And so, like most towns, Hughes Springs has its serious side, too.