Fountain Hughes spent his boyhood in slavery on the Hydraulic Mills property of the Burnley family near Charlottesville. After the Civil War, in which his father was killed while with the Confederate Army, his mother, Mary Hughes, had to hire Fountain out for a dollar a month. In the 1880s he purchased horses and a carriage and worked as a hack driver, but soon sought greater opportunities in Baltimore, MD. There he worked for several decades for the Shirley family as a farmer and gardener.
An interview with Fountain Hughes in 1949 is among the few surviving sound recordings of former slaves. He had vivid memories of slavery in central Virginia and of the harsh conditions for black people during and after the Civil War. His longevity attracted notice and led to numerous articles about him in Baltimore newspapers. Shallie Marshall, his only surviving descendant, remembers outings to the Shirley farm to visit her great-grandfather, “Pap.”