The Hughes, Cox, and other Depression-era families
1923-1943

When Morgan Davis bought Plum Grove from the Switzers in 1923 he continued to rent it out, but did not live there. Some of his tenants were Zack and Jennie E. Hendeson (Zack was a teamster) and Webb and Anna Hughes. Davis, a large-scale landholder, eventually sold the property to one of his farm hands, William Hughes, in 1925. Hughes (not related to Webb or Anna) grew up in Wales, immigrated to the U.S. as a teen and settled in Iowa just prior to the first World War; drafted, Bill served in the U.S. Army in France.

After his return, Bill married Winnie Davis in 1923, and they moved into Plum Grove with their son, Richard, in 1925. The family was impoverished, and Winnie's produce garden at Plum Grove provided a big part of their income. The also made money by renting out the house to various families including Arleigh and Maggie Cox. Arleigh was a day laborer and Maggie worked as a washerwoman at laundries and as a maid.
 
Plum Grove in the 1930s. Note the car parked under the porch. Photo facing southwest.

By the 1940s, Plum Grove was in disrepair, and a group of concerned citizens were able to convince the state to purchase the house and its property in 1943. After extensive renovation, including the demolition of the additions and outbuildings, the house was opened for public tours in 1946.

Richard Hughes served in the Navy in WWII, and returned to Iowa City, were he became a prominent educator in the Iowa City and Coralville area. Richard retired as principal of Coralville Kirkwood Elementary in 1986, and spent some of his retirement summers as a volunteer docent at Plum Grove. Sadly, he died in 1992; he was the last resident with detailed memories of Plum Grove.

View a reconstruction of Plum Grove from 1937
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