Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Howard’s Grandma was from Keosauqua

I was surprised to find rather quickly the genealogy of famous Howard Hughes that positively connects him to this area. In fact, Howard’s grandmother was born in Keosauqua.

William Hughes of Virginia, was Howard’s great-great grandfather, and was born c.1780. He married Judith Hughes, daughter of Josiah Hughes, who was born sometime before 1790. Since they both were named Hughes, they were probably cousins, although this is speculative and not established in the contents.

Their son was Joshua Waters Hughes. Another possible son of theirs was Chelsey Woodward Hughes, but that has not been proven. He was 18 years younger than Joshua and was born in a different state.

Joshua Waters Hughes, born October 15, 1808, was a blacksmith and farmer. His wife, Martha Atkins, was born September 25, 1808 in Kentucky. Joshua Waters Hughes began serving in the U. S. Army on April 18, 1832 from St. Clair County, Illinois. Later, he moved to the frontier land in northeast Missouri after settlement began.

In 1898, Joshua Waters Hughes was shown as owning several properties between Arbela, Missouri and the Iowa border, in Scotland County. Joshua died on March 24, 1901 and is buried in the cemetery near Mt. Moriah Church north of Arbela, about 7-8 miles southwest of Mt. Sterling, IA. He outlived Martha, who died September 16, 1892 and is buried in the same cemetery. These were the great-grandparents of Howard Hughes.

Joshua W. And Martha had at least five children: William P., born c.1832; John Wesley, born c. 1836; Felix Turner, born Nov. 10, 1837; Joshua Waters, born c. 1844; and Martha, born c. 1855.

Felix Turner Hughes was born in Milstadt, St. Clair County, Illinois. In Memphis, MO on August 1, 1865 he married Jean Amelia Summerlin. She was born May 6, 1842 in Keosauqua and was the daughter of Thomas Summerlin and Bathsheba Robard. These two are grandparents of famous Howard. "Grandma" died Nov. 4, 1928 in Los Angeles and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Keokuk. Felix also died in Los Angeles, on October 19, 1926 and is likewise buried in Woodland Cemetery, Keokuk.

Felix and Jean had the following children: Greta, born June 4, 1866 in Schuyler County, Missouri, who was a singer known as "Jeanna Greta;" Howard Robard, born September 9, 1869 in Lancaster, MO; Rupert, born Jan. 31, 1872 in Schuyler County, MO; and Felix, born Oct. 1, 1874 in Lancaster, MO who was an opera singer. Two children died in infancy.

Howard Robard Hughes of Lancaster, MO married Allene Gano on May 24, 1904 in Dallas, TX. She was born in Scott County, KY, and was the daughter of William Bariah Gano and Jeannette de la Fayette Grissom. She died Mar. 29, 1922 in Houston and Howard died Jan. 14, 1924, also in Houston. So by the time Howard was 21, he had lost both parents and his paternal grandparents. He was apparently an only child.

Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., was born December 24, 1905 in Houston, TX. He was the famous aviator and movie producer. Howard was married at least twice: from June, 1925 to 1929 to Ella Botts Rice, and from March 13, 1957 to 1970 to Jean Peters from VA, who listed her occupation as "movie star." Howard died April 5, 1976 aboard an airplane between Mexico and Houston.

Howard’s great uncle Joshua Waters Hughes, born c. 1844, was an attorney and died in Mt. Pleasant. His great aunt Martha, born c. 1855, married George Busby Jan. 6, 1895 in Scotland County, MO. His uncle Rupert (b. Jan. 31, 1872) was married 3 times, to Agnes Wheeler Hedge, Adelaide Mould, and Elizabeth Patterson Dial. He divorced Agnes, Adelaide committed suicide in Dec., 1924 and actress "Patterson Dial" died of an overdose Mar. 23, 1945.

Mystery surrounded the famous recluse. A movie was made about a man who claimed to have been named in Howard’s will for once giving him a ride to Las Vegas. (Legal experts proclaimed the will a forgery) A woman was paid off a large sum of money, who claimed she married Howard aboard a yacht in 1949 and they were never divorced. Several people who wanted out of their binding contracts with his studio died mysteriously, including one who claimed he had a gay affair with Howard. In spite of rumors, no shred of evidence ever appeared that would prove Howard to be anything but a ladies’ man--and he surrounded himself with many beautiful, glamorous stars including Jean Harlow (whom he personally disliked) and Jane Russell.

Thus, the grandmother of one of the world’s richest, most famous, and sometimes most eccentric men was a lady who grew up in Keosauqua. There is no doubt that many people in northeast Missouri and southeast Iowa are descendants of the family of this talented billionaire.

(Genealogy of Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. by Mary Smith Fay, National Genealogical Quarterly, March 1983, vol. 71 #1, pp. 5-12)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick