William Charles "Tennessee" Hughes

In His Own Words

Born June 25, 1949, Hanover, Penn.

I grew up in East Tennessee, graduated from high school 1967, and off to the military. I spent three years in Southern California, Riverside at March Air Force Base, and my last year in the Air Force was served over seas. After my Honorable Discharge from the Air Force I went back to Tennessee. Things were pretty slow for me in Tennessee, so I decided to return to California. I moved to Santa Cruz, California in November 1976. While in Santa Cruz about 1983, I stopped at a small military surplus store in Moss Landing, while there I noticed a poster in the window. This was a recruiting poster for the 14th Tennessee Infantry, Company B, of the Civil War Association (CWA) what is now known as the National Civil War Association (NCWA). Being from Tennessee I had to find out more about this organization. Well, in no time at all I was a new recruit in the 14th Tennessee Infantry, the only one with a genuine southern accent I may add.

After a brief period in the 14th Tennessee, and while at an event at Roaring Camp Railroad, in Felton, California, I met a gentleman by the name of Don Aubrey. What a super guy, he and I became buddies at once. Don had spent time in the south and I felt as though I had known him all my life.

Well, that same weekend while at Roaring Camp, Don and I bumped into this guy walking around taking pictures. He approached us and said, "Howdy, my name is Floyd Oydegaard and I would like to get some information about joining this organization." Needless to say Don and I jumped at the chance to enlist a new recruit for the 14th Tennessee.

Well, what more can I say, that was the beginning of a long and enjoyable friendship. We had no idea at the time, but that was also the beginning of the living history group, "Shadows of The Past." (One of my many characters)

We had our ups and downs, but we all stuck in there and became really close friends. Don has since passed away, and I moved away from the area but my heart will always be a part of the SOTP. Floyd, has kept the group together and has made a positive impression in the world of living history.

After moving out of the area my wife Donna, and I settled down in Jackson, California right in the middle of the Mother Lode. I had been portraying a prospector from the gold rush era, and now I had my chance to be the real thing. My wife and I put together a living history program called "Tennessee & Pardner," along with our Springer Spaniel, Brownie. We worked hard and in no time at all we had put together a complete gold rush prospector's encampment. Donna and I started going to schools and doing a living history program of the gold rush. Brownie and I would participate in parades through out the gold country, always bringing home an award for our effort.

This program took off, before we knew it we had become volunteers at the Gold Rush State Park in Coloma, California, (Coloma is where the gold rush of 1849 began). Through working at Coloma as a volunteer (Floyd Oydegaard and I panning in the river at Coloma) I was asked to take part in several National Televised TV Programs. A&E's The Real West (The Rush for Gold), PBS' (Discovery Channel) Secrets of the Gold Rush, BBC's Making Waves (Gold Rush) and KRON San Francisco's Bay Area Back Roads; The Gold Rush. I also did living history programs with Columbia State Park, San Juan Bautista State Park, Wilder Ranch State Park, San Jose Historical Museum and others.

My character was simple, a man from Tennessee, seeking his fortune who came west after hearing the news of gold being discovered in California. I would describe my venture to the gold fields, to the school children as well as the adults, making sure I told them about all the hardships I encountered on my journey. I am also very proud to say that I had a part in the foundation of the living history programs that now exist at Coloma State Park. I am also a life member of the Kit Carson Mountain Men of Amador County, California. (Jack Lowe and I) My love for the Mother Lode will never die, she will always hold a part of me in her mountains and streams. Living history will always be apart of my life no matter where I hang my hat. For now my hat hangs here at home in Tucson, Arizona part of the wild west where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and even Geronimo, last renegade of the Apache have left their tracks, you might say they are just Shadows of The Past.

Oh yes, by the way, my character name "Tennessee" came from a man I greatly admired and loved as a young boy, my Great-Uncle Tennessee Hughes, may he rest in peace.

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