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Madera Biographies: HUGHES


William M. Hughes has been connected with Madera County ever since its formation in 1893, and before that was active in the life of both Madera and Fresno. He has been county treasurer for the last nine years.

William Marshall Hughes was born at Batesville, Arkansas, February 15, 1858, the son of Thomas E. and Mary (Rogers) Hughes. The family had already been in California, but had returned to the Eastern home for a short period. They came westward again with the infant William in 1859, but at Fort Laramie, the mother, ill from exposure from an accident on the river Platte, died of pneumonia. The father settled at Stockton until 1862, then moved to Stanislaus, County, where he was county clerk at the then county seat, Knight’s Ferry.

From 1872 to 1876, the family resided in Merced County where they engaged in sheep raising. Young William, who had gained some education at Stockton, was engaged with his father in the sheep business, and after being in Merced County for a time, went to Nevada to follow the same business. In the fall of 1887, he went to San Francisco, where his father was then living, and was a streetcar conductor on the Market Street railway.

In 1878 his elder brother, J. Ed. Hughes, had gone to Fresno, to engage in sheep raising, and William now followed. The father and two brothers became partners in this venture. Their sheep range included what is now Kearney Park as well as what later became the Fresno Irrigated Colony, just south of the city of Fresno, and the New England colony. The firm name was Thomas F. Hughes and Sons, a third son, Thomas, joining the business. For a time, they carried on a great real estate promotion campaign, which resulted in bringing many hundreds of colonists from San Francisco and other points to Fresno County. Thomas M. Hughes died, thereupon Thomas E. and William bought out his widow’s interests and also the interests of .J. Ed. in the business. The climax of the real estate activity of Thomas E. and William M. Hughes was the construction of the Hughes Hotel in 1887. A side enterprise was the manufacture of brick for the construction of many of the early buildings of Fresno. William M. Hughes, as well as his father and brothers, took a notable part in the social development of the City of Fresno in the Eighties. Thomas F. Hughes was one of the members of the first city council. When the town was incorporated in 1885. William M. Hughes took an active part in the formation of a committee of Vigilantes that restored order and expelled criminals who appeared on the scene in connection with a series of fires in the county seat.

In 1893, William M. Hughes removed to Madera, making his home on a farm three miles south of the present city. Here he had a vineyard and orchard of 120 acres. Mr. Hughes took a leading part in the promotion activities that resulted in the separation of Madera county from Fresno in 1893.

Mr. Hughes spent a number of years in Arizona in stock raising, but always continued to regard Madera as his home. In 1924, he disposed of his vineyard, and there being a vacancy in the office of county treasurer, when George D. Opie resigned, Mr. Hughes was named by the supervisors to fill the position. He has been elected by the people to this same office continuously since, with an opponent only at the first election.

Mr. Hughes was married in 1881 to Matilda B. Bernhard, who passed away in 1893. Of this union there were born two sons: Kenneth, whose sketch is to be found elsewhere in this volume, and William M., Jr., deceased. In 1898, Mr. Hughes married Corinne Ferguson, and they had five children, who are: Marshal L. Hughes, Mrs. Anza Hughes Hamilton, Mrs. Barbara Hughes, Wiebe, Thomas E. Hughes and Corinne Hughes.

Mr. Hughes has been a Mason for the last forty-eight years. He is a member of Fresno Commandery of Knights Templar and of the Shrine at San Francisco.


Kenneth L. Hughes is county surveyor of Madera. A native son of Fresno County, he has spent virtually all his life in the San Joaquin Valley.

Kenneth Leach Hughes was born at Fresno, September 4, 1882, the son of William M. and Matilda B. (Bernhard) Hughes. His father’s sketch is given elsewhere in this work. When the family removed to Madera in 1893, Kenneth attended the local schools and the high school, and then graduated from the Van Der Naillen School of Engineering at Oakland. He also took a special course for a year at Stanford University.

Entering the engineering field, he had a number of connections, including work with the Fresno Consolidated Canal company, the Kings River Reclamation project, the J. G. James ranch, the Tranquillity Irrigation district and the San Joaquin Valley Farm Lands company. He spent five years in Arizona in the sheep and cattle business.

In 1927, Mr. Hughes was appointed surveyor of Madera County, being named by the supervisors on the death of J. 0. Rue. In 1930 he was elected to a four-year term.

Mr. Hughes is married to Edith Ferguson, daughter of A. D. Ferguson of Wilsonia, well known Fresno County pioneer and game enthusiast. The family includes five children: William A., Patsy, Joseph B., Kenneth L. Jr., and John P.

Mr. Hughes is a member of the Masonic fraternity, of the Scottish Rite Consistory at Tucson and of the Shrine at Phoenix, Arizona. He is also a member of the Native Sons parlor at Madera.

From the History of Fresno and Madera Counties, 1933, Joseph Barcroft, editor for Madera County.

Last update: March 28, 2002
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