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The Hubbard Families of Elgin: Part 2

The Hubbard Families of Elgin: Part 2

By David Siegenthaler

In 1866-67, William G. Hubbard’s second Elgin home, a large Italianate, was built at 378 Division St. In November 1873 this home was sold to Emeline Borden, second wife of Gail Borden. Intending to move here, Gail Borden became critically ill in Texas and died there on January 11, 1874. Emeline Borden and her son Alfred Church moved into the home and Emeline lived there until her death in 1890. Alfred built the home next door at 364 Division St. in 1886- 87. The Hubbard/Borden home at 378 Division St. still stands but was extensively remodeled in 1919 and converted into a Christian Science church with a Greek Revival style. It has been home to several different congregations since then.

In 1873, before he sold his home to the Bordens, William built his third Elgin home, an Italian-style villa, at 140 N. Gifford St. William and his wife Charlotte remained in this home until their deaths in the 1880s, and then their son Will and his wife Callie lived there until 1915. In 1920 the home was sold to Matilda Lange, whose husband Henry converted the home into several apartments. The home remained a multi-unit apartment house until 2001, when it was deconverted to a single-family home again. William died of pneumonia December 15, 1883, at age 79. His wife Charlotte died March 10, 1885, at age 68. They are buried in Bluff City Cemetery.

Henry Wright Hubbard, son of William G. and Charlotte, was born May 17, 1844, in Elgin. Like his father, he was active in the abolitionist cause and the First Congregational Church, to whom he bequeathed $5,000. Henry was educated at Elgin Academy and the University of Michigan law school. He served in the Civil War, then returned to Elgin, where he practiced law and helped organize the YMCA. He also practiced law at Denver, Colorado, and taught mathematics for a few years at Fisk University, a school for newly-freed slaves in Nashville, Tennessee.

In about 1879 Henry began a 34-year career as treasurer of the American Missionary Association in New York City. He died of heart failure on May 21, 1913, in a bank vault in New York City and is buried in Bluff City Cemetery. He was a wealthy man and bequeathed the bulk of his estate to the American Missionary Association for work among African-Americans of the South.

According to Elgin historian Mike Alft, Henry was the first person born in Elgin to be listed in the prestigious “Who’s Who in America.” He was a bachelor who considered Elgin as his ultimate home and was a frequent visitor to friends and relatives here.

William (“Will”) Hubbard, the last-born child of William G. and Charlotte, was born June 27, 1849, in Elgin. He was educated at Elgin Academy, Beloit College and the University of Illinois, where he was a member of the first graduating class in 1872. At age 20 he became a telegrapher for the Union Pacific railroad and worked at Greeley, Colorado. On July 10, 1872, Will married Callie Edwards of Champaign, Illinois. Callie was born November 14, 1852, in Felicity, Ohio, and her family moved to Champaign when she was a child.

Will and Callie’s first three children died young. Winifred (1875-76) and William (1877; 3 days old) died in Champaign. Charlotte (1879-83) died in Elgin. Their other two children were Ethel (1886-1977; Mrs. Roy Webster) and Marguerite (1891-1981; Mrs. Lyman Weld). Will and Callie moved to Elgin about 1879 and lived at 128 N. Gifford St. When Will’s mother died in 1885, they acquired her home next door at 140 N. Gifford St., and lived there until 1915, when they moved to their new home at 722 Cedar Ave. About 1923, the couple moved to Winnetka to live with their daughter and son-in-law, Marguerite and Lyman Weld. Callie died there June 29, 1925, at age 72, and Will died May 22, 1930, at age 80. They are buried in Bluff City Cemetery.

Fascinated by telegraphy and telephony since his teen years, Will experimented with many different systems, inventing early versions of the telephone, both electrical and mechanical. Eventually, Alexander Graham Bell’s invention won out. Telephone exchange franchises operating under Bell’s patents were being granted throughout the country. Will obtained the Chicago Telephone Co. franchise for Elgin in 1881 and supervised installation of the equipment on the second floor of his father’s building. He solicited subscriptions and managed the exchange for seven years. In 1888 he left to devote his energy to the development of independent telephone interests. That year Will and three partners incorporated the Elgin Telephone and Electric Supply Co. By the turn of the century, however, Will had changed careers and become an insurance agent.

Will’s private collection of antique telephone and telegraph instruments was shown throughout the country. He was the only independent exhibitor of “electric telephones” at the World’s Fairs in Chicago (1893) and St. Louis (1904), and his exhibit depicting the evolution of the telephone was purchased by Purdue University. At the time of his death he was collecting a display of antique telephone and telegraph instruments for Chicago’s Rosenwald Industrial Museum, now the Museum of Science and Industry.

Augustine (“Gus”) Hamilton Hubbard, no relation to the William G. Hubbard family of Elgin, was born March 17, 1843, in Salem, Michigan, to Harvey and Emily Hamilton Hubbard. In 1855 he moved with his family to Minnesota, where he graduated from the state normal school at Winona and worked as a store clerk in Lake City. In 1861 he went to St. Paul to enlist in the Union Army but was persuaded by General Sibley to be his special messenger, carrying messages between the military posts of the Northwest during a period of Indian uprisings. For three years he was engaged in this service, almost day and night in the saddle, facing every kind of danger.

In 1864 Gus came to Chicago, where he graduated from Eastman’s Business College. He then became a dairy farmer in McHenry County for three years, where he married Martha Lorette Hatch on October 25, 1870. Martha was born April 14, 1850, in McHenry County. In March 1871 the couple moved to Elgin where Gus partnered with R.W. Padelford in the insurance business. In 1876 he partnered with Erastus Gilbert in an insurance firm that also dealt in real estate and loaned money. In 1877 he was elected justice of the peace, an office which he held for the next 26 years.

Gus and Martha had two children: Frederick A. (circa 1872-1956) and Lewis Roy (“Roy,” circa 1876-1935). Frederick married Beryl Burns in 1895 and they had a daughter Dorothy. He became an insurance executive and in 1914-15 built a new home at 950 W. Highland Ave. In September 1915, as they were preparing to move to New York City for Frederick’s job promotion, Beryl died. Frederick became president of multiple insurance companies and lived in New York and Florida, where he died in Fort Myers. His widow, Luella, died in 1989. Roy married Clara Mackey in 1897 and both died in Chicago—Roy in 1935 and Clara in 1948. Gus’ wife Martha died February 11, 1897 and he married Clara Pettis June 1, 1898.

In 1903 Gus was elected mayor of Elgin and served a 2-year term. He defeated Arwin Price, who had been mayor for the three preceding terms (1897-1903). Gus’ administration was highlighted by a large increase in the miles of paved streets, a requirement for concrete sidewalks, and a revision of the building ordinance, focusing on fire safety, following the horrific Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago.

Gus lived at 145 Hill Ave., a home he owned and occupied from 1883 until his death in 1926. In 1890, when George E. Linkfield’s Addition was platted in northwest Elgin, it included Hubbard Ave., a street named for him. In 1926, when Green Acres Subdivision was platted, Hubbard Ave. was extended north to Wing St. Gus died June 3, 1926, and is buried in Bluff City Cemetery. His widow Clara died October 26, 1935.

Acknowledgments: Mike Alft’s books and newspaper articles; Kane County histories; “Elgin Today” (1903); obituaries and other newspaper articles; Internet sources; city directories; federal censuses; Kane County Recorder of Deeds research by Laurel Garza; house photos by Judy Van Dusen; etc.

The Hubbard Families of Elgin: Part 1

The Hubbard Families of Elgin: Part 1

By David Siegenthaler

William G. Hubbard

Two unrelated Hubbard families were prominent in early Elgin. William G. Hubbard came to Elgin in 1843 to manage a store and became one of Elgin’s most important pioneer merchants. He bought a business lot at the northeast corner of Chicago St. and Douglas Ave. in 1844 and built a store there that was rebuilt three times before it was finally razed and left vacant. He was also instrumental to the success of the first railroad to reach Elgin in 1850, and to bringing Gail Borden’s milk condensing plant to Elgin in 1865. His son William became a telephone pioneer in Elgin, not only inventing early versions of the telephone but also bringing the first telephone exchange to Elgin. Augustine Hubbard came to Elgin in 1871 and was a longtime justice of the peace and insurance agent before being elected mayor in 1903. A street on Elgin’s northwest side is named in his honor. William Grosvenor Hubbard was born December 1, 1804, in Providence, Rhode Island, to Stephen and Zerviah Grosvenor Hubbard. At age six his family moved to Rome, in upstate New York, where his father was a merchant. William learned the trade and became the owner of a store in Boonville, New York, about About the same time he attended a series of revival meetings and publicly professed his faith in Christ. On June 6, 1828, William married Mary Schuyler of Boonville and the couple had a daughter Mary, born August 9, 1829. His wife died October 14, 1829, and their daughter grew up to marry William Chase, dying in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1865. In 1829 William became president of the local temperance society, whose members were required to pledge total abstinence from all intoxicating liquor.

The severe New York winters were affecting his health so William decided to scout out the Illinois frontier as a possible residence. In 1832 he came to Illinois via the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois rivers, as far north as the Jacksonville and Springfield area. This was the year of the Black Hawk War and the Chicago area was not yet opened for white settlers. William was favorably impressed and returned to New York, intending to move to Illinois the following year. However, his inlaws were strongly opposed to the idea, so William put his dream on hold for a couple of years. By 1835, William was convinced that he could not endure the New York climate any longer and came to Chicago in May 1835 with his younger brothers Benjamin and Stephen. He found Chicago, with its 1,300 residents, to be a muddy hotbed of land speculators, with merchants who did not respect the Sabbath. Unable to rent a store in a suitable location, William went to Joliet but found business prospects there unsatisfactory as well. He and brother Stephen took a prospecting tour to the vast prairies south of Joliet. Though neither had any farming experience, they purchased a claim along the Vermilion River in Livingston County, near Pontiac. William noted, “we could have all the prairie we wished by paying $1.25 per acre.” Following their farm purchase in late 1835, William returned to New York and in 1836 came back to Joliet with his parents and his daughter Mary. In the spring of 1837 the family moved to their farm in Livingston County.

Their first year as farmers, 1837, was successful. They raised corn and other grain and provisions, enough for their own use as well as a surplus to sell. They got good cash prices and had a good market, with the many immigrants in the area. However, a national depression hit the country that year and the next few years were a struggle. On September 19, 1839, William married Charlotte Wright of Lisbon in Kendall County. She was born February 28, 1817, in Rome, New York. Their daughter Harriet (“Hattie”) was born September 16, 1840. In the spring of 1841, they left the farm and moved in with the Wright family in Lisbon. In September 1841, William got a job in a dry goods store in Chicago. The family moved to Chicago, where their second child, William (“Willie”) was born May 11, 1842. William’s wife was a cousin of B.W. Raymond, the Chicago capitalist, who owned a store in Elgin. William had asked for a position in the store in case of a vacancy. After the store manager died suddenly in 1842, William was offered the position and his family moved to Elgin in January 1843. The store was at the southeast corner of Chicago and Spring streets and William remained there as manager for two years. In September 1843 baby Willie died at age one, and two months later young Hattie died at age three. The couple’s third child, Henry Wright, was born May 17, 1844; their fourth, Charlotte Julia, was born February 11, 1846; and their fifth and last child, William (“Will”), was born June 27, 1849. Charlotte Julia died in November 1850 at age four.

William had his home built about 1844 at 106 N. Spring St. Also in 1844, he decided that it would be a good investment to buy a business lot. He selected a vacant lot at the northeast corner of Chicago St. and Douglas Ave. It was long and narrow, 132 feet by 22 feet, and owned by Dr. Anson Root, who told him that the price was $200. This was just after the whole town plat had been sold by the government for $1.25 an acre. William and Dr. Root worked out a credit agreement and the lot was his. William was then able to quickly have a store built on the lot, thanks to further credit agreements with a brick-maker, lumber dealer, mason and carpenter. The lot was in a desirable location and commanded high rent, which enabled him to get along nicely and pay on his indebtedness. For the remainder of his life, William was able to live comfortably as a business landlord from the rents, though he did conduct his own dry goods store in the building from 1851-1861, retiring due to health issues. The original and second Hubbard buildings were destroyed by fire. The third building, built in 1874, was a 3-story brick structure, nearly fireproof.

Hubbard Building, three stories, built 1874
Hubbard Building, five stories, built 1910

William’s son Henry rebuilt the Hubbard building one more time, in 1909-10, when he added two stories. In 1967 the Hubbard building was sold and renamed the Lawyers Building. In 1979 it suffered severe fire damage and was razed in 1980. The site stood vacant for 19 years until 1999 when Kurt Kresmery built a 4-story brick business building on the site. A vocal abolitionist and member of the Kane County Anti-Slavery Society, William received death threats but was not intimidated. He helped draw up resolutions adopted by his church that slavery was a sin not to be condoned. William served 35 years as a trustee of the First Congregational Church. A pair of stained glass windows in the current church building were donated in memory of William and his wife Charlotte, who helped organize Elgin’s first women’s missionary society in 1856.

Firmly convinced of the necessity of a railroad through Elgin, William became the local agent for the Chicago &Galena railroad in the late 1840s, soliciting subscriptions to their stock. The common roads between Elgin and Chicago, except when dry in the summer or frozen in the winter, were almost impassable. The railroad reached Elgin in 1850 and the local business environment quickly changed. There was now a cash market here for farm products, prompting William to open his own dry goods store in 1851. In early 1865, William became a partner in the organization of the Elgin Milk Condensing Co. He met with Gail Borden in February 1865 in New York and in May the Elgin condensing plant opened in a converted tannery building. Just before it opened, the Civil War ended. The Union Army was the principal consumer of condensed milk and now this market had almost completely disappeared. William welcomed the peace but noted that “had the war continued a few years I should have made all the money I could have desired.” To be continued. . .
Acknowledgments: Mike Alft’s books and newspaper articles; Kane County histories; obituaries; William G. Hubbard’s autobiography, written in 1878, excerpts of which were published in the Courier-News in Aug.-Sep. 1928; Linda Eder (First Congregational Church historian); etc.