Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Emmy and Granny

At the very back of Laurel Dale Cemetery, at the back edge of Rugby, lies the grave of Margaret Hughes, mother of author and Rugby founder Thomas Hughes. The story goes that when Thomas's wife declined to join him in Rugby, his mother volunteered to be the family presence. In 1881, at age 84, she pulled up stakes in Britain and made her way to Tennessee, accompanied by her teenaged grand-daughter Emily.
Here she presided as the unofficial first lady of the colony until her death in 1887 at the age of 90. Emily, whose mother had died earlier, stayed until her grandmother's death, at which time she joined her Father, Hastings Hughes, in New England. She eventually made her way to Kenya where she lived out her life and is buried.

I've always been impressed with Mrs. Hughes's courage. While not exceeding wealthy in England, she did live a comfortable life. This she gave up at an advanced age to live under frontier conditions on the Cumberland Plateau. Her final disappointment, if it can be called such, was that the Episcopal Church she championed was not quite completed in time for her funeral.
In 2010 Historic Rugby, Inc., presented an original play, Emmy and Granny, based on Margaret and Emily Hughes's lives in Rugby. Here the costumed actors who portrayed the ladies Hughes are shown seated in the parlor of Uffington House, the home they shared in Rugby for six years, and which is named for their home village in England.


  1. From Britain to Tennessee, what a culture shock! Especially at 84. Interesting post. Thank you.

  2. What a fascinating lady, she was indeed made of 'pioneer material'..
    I have visited Rugby, sat in the library and chapel, closed my eyes and tried to imagine what life was like leaving their beloved homeland, and put down roots on the Cumberland Plateau.
    Great post !

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. You live in a very beautiful part of our great country. I have a sis in WV. Love the hills!!

  4. What a brave thing to do at that age. I love the peace and mistiness of your graveyard shot. I don't expect I'll have a grave but, if I did, I'd like it to look like that.

  5. Founder of Rugby? At first I thought you meant the sport.

    Very interesting post. Upping sticks and moving to a different continent was so much more of an adventure then than it is now.

  6. Neat bit of history. You have to admire people willing to give it all up and take up a challenge.

    Darryl and Ruth :)

  7. Wonderful post! I really need to come see Rugby...

  8. Just let us know when you would like to come, Vicki, and we'll set up a book signing for you. Jim