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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Orton Hubbell

It so happens that the historian of Sonoma county is privileged to portray the life-history of this life-history of this well-known citizen of Petaluma, but so widespread have been his influence and accomplishments elsewhere, both in other portions of this state and in other states of the Union, that each locality that has benefited by his citizenship might give to the world a history of his life in that particular place which to the unsuspecting reader might seem sufficient for an average man to accomplish in a life time. From a number of the sources mentioned the following account of the life of Mr. Hubbell has been compiled. He was born in Delaware county, N. Y., November 27, 1832, into the family of Richard Andrew and Susanah (Babcock) Hubbell. When he was two years old his father died, and immediately after the loss of her husband Mrs. Hubbell removed to Washtenaw county, Mich., Orton Hubbell there receiving his education and a careful and wholesome training b his mother, who faithfully did her part to make up for the loss of the father to the child. When he was sixteen years old he started out to take up life’s responsibilities, going at that time to Detroit, where in two years he mastered the brass-founder’s trade and was made foreman of the shops in which he was employed. It was while filling this position that he made up his mind to come to California, where he believed he could make more rapid progress than was possible in Michigan. In the spring of 1855 he set sail at New York on a vessel bound for the Isthmus of Panama, from there came on the steamer Sonora, and the following June found him among the immigrants who landed in San Francisco.

Mr. Hubbell had brought with him all that he had been enabled to lay by through work at his trade, and this he invested and lost in the mines, so he was compelled to return to San Francisco and find employment. The trip to the metropolis was made in company with a party of eleven other men. All went well until they were met by another party, consisting of Mexicans and one Indian, in charge of a pack train. Without any apparent reason, a shot was heard and the Indian fell, mortally wounded. Pandemonium ensued, but when quiet had in a measure been restored, it was found out that a young man belonging to Mr. Hubbell’s [party had committed the murder without just cause. Trial immediately followed, in which according to border custom, the accused pleaded in self-defense that while crossing the plains his father, mother and infant sister had all been killed by the Indians, and that he had taken this way of avenging their deaths. Mr. Hubbell took the young man’s part, “court” being held under a near-by tree, and the accused was released upon his promise never to repeat the offense.

Soon after Mr. Hubbell’s return to San Francisco, in 1856, a committee from the southern states came to California for the purpose of winning the southern part of the state to the cause of slavery. One of the representatives of this committee came to Petaluma for the purpose of conferring with representative citizens on the subject. Mr. Hubbell, who had always been a stanch anti-slavery man, was chosen as one of those selected to confer with the southern representative; his arguments were convincing, and it was largely through the influence of Mr. Hubbell that the tide was turned in favor of holding the state free and a part of the Union.

Going from San Francisco, Mr. Hubbell next went to San Leandro, Alameda county, there renting a ranch from Barton E. Edsall, property which is now owned by Andrew Gaver. Subsequently Mr. Hubbell purchased a part of the Clark ranch in Marin county, but this he sold in 1859 and the following year returned to Michigan. As agent for the McCormick reapers he traveled throughout the state of Michigan, and still later sold hot-air furnaces over this territory. Ever since leaving the far west, however, he had not been content, and the year 1863 found him again westward bound, this time taking with him the bride whom he had married the year previously, Eliza C. (Howard) Hubbell. She was born in Waltham, Addison county, Vt., June 19, 1832 and died August 31, 1877, leaving three children. Named in order of their birth they are as follows: Orton, of Sebastopol who is married and has one son, Howard; Susan L., the wife of M. T. Hunt, of Freeport, California, and the mother of four children, Ray Orton, Lester Clarence, Grace Mildred and Myrtle Evelyn; and George R., who is a practicing physician of San Francisco. Mr. Hubbell’s second marriage occurred July 3, 1879, and united him with Cynthia Foster, who was born in 1841, in St. Lawrence county, New York, the daughter of Ambrose and Salina (Persons) Foster. One daughter was born of this marriage, Eliza May, whose birth occurred on the home ranch.

Politically Mr. Hubbell is a Republican, and it is one of the most satisfactory recollections of his life that he was permitted to have such a conspicuous part in the election of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. Circumstances did not permit of his participation in the Civil war, but his heart was in full sympathy with the northern cause and he willingly joined the ranks of those who devoted months to campaigning in the effort to bring the question of slavery plainly before the people of the United States before the day of election. Mr. Hubbell made many eloquent speeches during that campaign, not only in Michigan, but in Missouri and Kansas, and after the election he visited Springfield in order to express his congratulations verbally to the president-elect. Mr. Hubbell has been a delegate to state and county conventions on numerous occasions, and in 1896 was active in campaigns in Marin and Sonoma county. Few citizens have been endowed with the wonderful ability which has formed so large a part of the make-up of Mr. Hubbell, in the use of which he has been enabled to make a marked impress upon events in the locality which has been his home for such a long period.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011