Humphrey’s Hughes’ Claim to Millions!

One of my brick walls is my 2nd g-grandfather John Hughes.  When he married Kittie (Katherine) E. Perry, daughter of George Perry and Ann Jones (who were Welsh and of Rome, NY) in June 1880, the newspaper lists Hughes as being of Ilion, Herkimer, New York. Ilion was a small section of German Flatts.

John Hughes

On 18 Feb 1889 Kittie married second Frank Clough of Bath, NH in Frankfort, NY.

The listing from the 1889 village directory shows Humphrey L. Hughes as a boarder at the home of Frank Clough, 129 Main Street, Frankfort.  In the 1891 directory this same man is living at 26 Main Street and is a “car inspector.” He is also listed in the 1892 State Census as a “car builder”.


A memorial book created by Kittie’s niece Annabelle Palmer (daughter of Kittie’s sister Cordelia b. 1885) has three entries – her father, a brother who died at age 16 and Humphrey who died when she was ten.  This leads me to believe that Humphrey was related.  Is there a tie to John or another of my ancestors?  Hughes was a common Welsh name in the area.

Humphrey mass card

Humphrey was born in Tremeirchion, Flintshire, Wales about 1846. His baptismal record has not been located.

He does not appear in Herkimer County in the 1850, 1860 or 1870 federal censuses or in the 1855 or 1865 New York State censuses which leads me to believe that he is not a native of the county. There is a Humphrey Hughes (no middle initial) listed in Little Falls in the 1880 census as “single” and a “hostler,” but it is impossible to know if this is the same man.

He was injured at work in January 1895, died 29 March 1895 in Utica, New York and is buried in Floyd, New York.

humphrey injury

humphrey death notice

Also buried at Floyd Cemetery:

Hughes, Elizabeth, d. 25 Aug 1898, age: 66yrs, wife of Edward Hughes
Hughs, Edward, d. 21 Nov 1894, age: 80yrs

A death notice from the Ilion Citizen  (5 April 1895) reads:

“Alleged Heir To Millions – It is claimed that Humphrey Hughes, who died Wednesday, was a nephew of Blythe, the California millionaire. Hughes was a railroad workman, and spent considerable money attempting to prove his claim the Blythe millions. Hughes’ death was a result of an accident about a year. ago.”

Another obituary from the Little Falls “Evening Times,” 4 April 1895:

“Humphrey Hughes died at the residence of his sister in Utica Monday morning. He was born in Tremerchion, Flintshire, Wales, 49 years ago and came to this country about 20 years ago. …”

ny times

It appears Humphrey never married.  He left his assets to George Twill, relation unknown (he did have an unnamed sister in Utica at the time of his death).

probate Humphrey Hughes pg2.jpg

probate Humphrey Hughes pg2


But what about the millions?

The Thomas Blythe case was well documented Nationwide and in Europe I have read a few hundred newspaper articles seeking a connection between Humphrey Hughes and Blythe, finding none.

There are many version of the story, one follows:

Blythe came to California in 1848/9 from Wales. In 1850/1, through the purchase of two quitclaim deeds for the total price of slightly over $2,000, he had acquired a triangular-shaped, block sized parcel of real estate located amid the sand dunes in the northeastern portion of the San Francisco peninsula. This area afterward became the heart of downtown San Francisco and this single piece of property, which came to be known as the Blythe Block and which was bounded by Market, Geary, and Grant (then Dupont) streets, made Blythe a millionaire.

Blythe went on to invest in other properties and companies. He died in 1883.

Blythe’s estate, exclusive of the Mexican holdings, was worth between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000. Although Blythe’s attorney, W. H. H. Hart, claimed that Blythe had made a will, and produced an office copy to prove it, no legally admissible will was ever found.

Nearly two hundred aspirant heirs from various parts of the United States and the United Kingdom filed their claims with the San Francisco probate court.

Another reads:

On the evening of April 4, 1883, the person whose name heads this article died in the city of San Francisco, leaving an estate at that time worth at least $6,000,000, and which said estate has increased in value until it is now worth at least $20,000,000.

At the time of his death little was known of the millionaire Blythe, except that he was the sole owner of that splendid property on Market street in San Francisco, comprising all of the block of land and building bounded by Market, Grant avenue and Geary street; and being now the best block of real property in the city of San Francisco, and, perhaps, the very best upon the American continent, from the fact that its position in the city of San Francisco makes it the key to the entire business portion of the city.

Mr. Blythe had so lived that none of his most intimate friends seemed at that time to know much about him, or who, or where, his kinspeople, if he had any, lived. Having left no wife or family, and dying intestate, it was for a time the all absorbing topic of the community as to what disposition would be made of his vast fortune.

The case was finally resolved in 1897 when Blythe’s illegitimate daughter, Mrs. Florence Hinkley, was determined to be sole heir of the fortune!

The article states:

The case of ” Tom” Blythe, thus settled, Is historic. Blythe was an eccentric old Welshman, over whose millions his relatives, real and imaginary, have quarreled in the courts for twelve years….

Blythe’s real name was not Blythe at all, but Thomas Williams. Blythe came to America from Wales In 1848, when he was 21 years old…..

Blythe went on a visit to Europe In 1873. Hle dressed shabbily, but he gave champagne suppers Ad libitum. One day he met Julia Perry….

Blythe left Julia and returned to San Francisco, and in December 1873, he received a letter from Julia Perry in London announcing that a daughter had been born to him and that she had been named Florence. In response Blythe sent her a draft and a friendly letter. When Florence was 3 years old her mother married a London man named Asheroft, a drunk.

It Is not known that Blythe ever knew of the of Asheroft. Up to the time of his death he and Julia Ashcroft wrote to each other as man and wife might have done, and the little girl, Florence, also received numerous letters from her father, many of which were preserved and have been the most important of all the evidence In the twelve years’ litigation.

In these letters Blythe displayed great affection for the little girl he had never seen. He referred to her as his darling child, and promised to educate her.


Although the millions were awarded to Blythe’s illegitimate daughter, the Williams family made a good case that Blythe was actually Thomas Henry Williams, one of five children born to John Williams and Elizabeth Savage, about 1822, in Mold, Flintshire, Wales (about 13 miles from Humphrey Hughes’ reported birthplace).  Siblings included  John, Elizabeth Powell and Sarah Roberts.

map flintshire


thomas williams birth

blythe welsh

williams claimants

It seems that all court records related to this case were destroyed by the San Francisco earthquake. CA Supreme Court record on the case:

I am posting with hopes that someone reading knows more of Humphrey, his family, relationship to Blythe and perhaps his connection to my family!


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