Born at Sunbury, son of George and Elizabeth Osgood Scarth Hughes, and grandson of Thomas Hughes, who was appointed tax collector of Sunbury and Saint Johns Parish by the House of Commons in 1770. He was educated at Sunbury Academy and later became a member of its teaching staff. He married Letitia Lane of Burke County, Georgia, and in 1818 relocated at Jones Creek near the Altamaha River.
Their children were Joseph William Jr., Thomas D., Elizabeth L., John P., George J., Westley Turner, Laura C., Leola A., and Lee J. Hughes. The home he built at Jones Creek in 1853 was still standing in 1984. Joseph William Hughes Jr. (1820-1887) married Miriam S. Martin of Taylors Creek, and one of their children was Joseph William Hughes III, who married (1) Amanda E. Parker, daughter of Hampton C. Parker, and (2) Missouri Folsom. His children by the two wives were William Hampton Hughes, Joseph Marcus Hughes, Wilmer Hughes, Alice Hughes Smith, Daisy Hughes, Gladys Hughes Huff, Alvah Hughes, Mae Hughes Hodnett, Thad Hughes, and H.F. ("Dock") Hughes.
Joseph William Hughes Sr. was a captain in the Georgia Militia during the War of 1812. Joseph William Hughes Jr. was captain of the Liberty Guards (Company D, Fifth Regiment, Georgia Cavalry) during and after the Civil War. Joseph William Hughes III was the third and last captain of the Liberty Guards. His son, Joseph Hampton Hughes, was first sergeant of the organization in 1894. He married Carol Taylor in 1899, and their children were William Hampton Hughes, Lynah Hughes Mains, Talmadge Hughes, and Mrs. Foy Purcell. Joseph Marcus Hughes was a teacher at Jones Creek Academy and then became a medical doctor and practiced medicine in Tattnall County, Georgia, the rest of his life.
Andrew Jackson Hughes (1835-1887) was the son of Joseph William Hughes Sr., a teacher at Jones Creek Academy, a Baptist minister, and captain of the Altamaha Scouts (Company J, 25th Regiment, Georgia Infantry) during the Civil War. He served churches in the New Sunbury Association after the Civil War, and was active in the Liberty County Agricultural Society.