One of the most beloved characters in all of DeSoto County’s long and storied history was an old soldier from the Civil War, still referred to by some as the late War Between the States, named “Old Hughey.”
That moniker was the pen name for Samuel A. Hughey, a Confederate veteran who wrote a column for the DeSoto Times for many years, “Poplar Corner,” the name for the small community near Horn Lake where Old Hughey lived.
The DeSoto County native began writing the column way back in the 1890s, and his column proved to be among the most popular in the history of the newspaper. Old Hughey would write about current events and of events and happenings long ago.
As it turns out, Old Hughey is buried at New Bethlehem Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Nesbit where the Time Traveler presides in the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Additionally, I recently learned from my good friend Stewart “Lynn” Herron that old Hughey was a prisoner of war at Rock Island Prison during the Civil War. I discovered to my amazement, Lynn’s great-grandfather and my great-great grandfather, Robert Marshall Long, (1844-83) were also prisoners of war at that infamous war-time prison. In fact, it is quite probable that they all knew one another.
How’s that for the six-degrees-of-separation rubric?
It seems that Old Hughey was one of the very few old soldiers left who could still let out a true Rebel yell, even into his advanced age. It is said he nearly scared the little children to death with his rendition of the war-time battle cry at the nearby Horn Lake School, and this came firsthand to me from Mrs. Annie Ruth Brown who even into her late 90s could still do a faithful replication of the yell.
As we relate to all our good Yankee visitors at the DeSoto County Museum, the rebel yell was a hybrid mix of an Irish banshee’s wail and a Native American war whoop. Today, some re-enactors of this epic conflict in our nation’s history are able to authentically replicate the sound.
That’s what history is about — passing down oral stories and even written accounts to the next generation.
It seems in addition to military stories, Old Hughey was known to dole out some good practical advice in his columns.
How about this jewel from June 26, 1930. It seems Old Hughey was blaming a recent drought on divine judgment due to the conduct of certain people in the community:
“Old corn is giving way and gardens are drying up fast. There is something wrong. Have you paid your preacher? Have you mistreated your wife? Have you paid your merchant who trusted you for something to feed you and your family? The only way that I know to find about a man is to trust him, and that is the only way. If you can’t pay him, then don’t dodge him. Tell him your troubles and he will think a great deal more of you.”
It seems Old Hughey also took note of the goings and comings of the local people in his columns and this has now proven to be a wonderful genealogical gem.
In Old Hughey’s May 22, 1930 column, he wrote of the passing of J.H. McGowen, whom he called “one of DeSoto County’s oldest and best citizens.”
Writing about Horn Lake news, Old Hughey told of a contest between Boy Scouts in March of 1930. The contest was between the Beaver and Fox patrols in order to see who could give the best oath and scout law recitation the best. Scouts Ernest Swain, Howard Baker and Clayburn Tipton were lauded for their “first aid demonstration.”
Old Hughey also wrote about the fact that a “Willie Rasco has moved on to Redding’s farm on the Hernando Road.”
The columns of Old Hughey are part of the collection of newspapers that are now part of the Pittman Family Newspaper Archive at the DeSoto County Museum.
In addition to being a great genealogical resource, these old bound editions are a virtual treasure trove of stories from DeSoto County’s past.
The DeSoto County Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
For more information please contact museum officials at 662-429-8852 or email inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the inspiration of today’s column, I give full credit to my good friend, Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer who suggested that I write about Old Hughey. Mayor Latimer is a great lover of history as well.
The good mayor has done a little time traveling himself as a Civil War reenactor and history teacher. The more folks who join us on our historical journey, the better.
History only survives if it is told and keeps on being retold.
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.