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William P. Hubbard

Statesman & legislator

(with Chester D. Hubbard and Dana Hubbard)

-- from History of West Virginia, Old and New. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1923 (v.2, p.621-22)

WILLIAM PALLISTER HUBBARD. The recent death of Hon. William P. Hubbard of Wheeling makes appropriate a review not only of his notable career but of his father and grandfather. These citizens, constituting three generations, afforded a splendid succession of abilities and services that are linked with the fundamental history Wheeling and in many respects with the history of West Virginia as a whole.

Dana Hubbard, the pioneer settler of Wheeling, came of a long line of sturdy New Englanders, a descendant in the sixth generation from William Hubbard, who arrived in Plymouth Massachusetts, in 1630, and for six years was a member of the General Court of the Colony. His son William was one of the early graduates of Harvard College and a minister and historian. The next three generations were represented by John Hubbard, Rev. John Hubbard of Connecticut, and Maj. Gen. John Hubbard. Dana Hubbard, son of General Hubbard, moved with his family from Connecticut in 1815 to Pittsburgh. In 1819 he came with his family down the river in a flatboat, and the family remained on the boat while he was building a log cabin at Wheeling. From that time forward an important share of Wheeling's industrial enterprise originated in the impulse and management of Dana Hubbard. He built in 1827 the first saw mill and the first grist mill at Wheeling, and later set up the first steam saw mill in Western Virginia. Dana Hubbard lived for some years on a farm in Ohio County. He died October 16, 1852. His wife, Asenath Dorman, died April 23, 1878.

His eldest son, Chester Dorman Hubbard, was not only a leader in the industrial and financial affairs of Wheeling but exercised a great influence in the formative shaping and development of the new state of West Virginia. He was born in Connecticut, November 25, 1814, acquired his early education at Wheeling, worked around his father's mills and later entered Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut, where he graduated valedictorian of his class in 1840. He soon returned to Wheeling to assist his father in business, and continued the management of the lumber mills and related industries until 1852. In that year he and others established the Bank of Wheeling, of which he became president, and later for many years, until his death, he was president of the German Bank of Wheeling. His was one of the most important influences in making and developing Wheeling as an important center of the iron and steel industry. C. D. Hubbard & Company in 1859 leased the Crescent Iron Mills, and later he was an organizer of the Wheeling Tin Company and for twenty years was secretary of the Wheeling Iron & Nail Company. He was among the promoters and builders of the Pittsburg, Wheeling & Kentucky Railroad in 1873, becoming president of the road in 1874.

A brief statement of his public record is all that is necessary to indicate the great influence he exercised for many years. He was elected and served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1852-53. He was a member of the State Convention of 1861 and strenuously opposed the ordinance of secession. At the beginning of the war he promoted the organization of military companies for home defense and these companies proved the nucleus of some of the first Union regiments raised in Western Virginia. He was a member of the Wheeling Convention of May 13th, and also the convention of June 11, 1861. He was a member of the first State Senate of the new state, and subsequently represented the First District in Thirty-ninth and Fortieth congresses. Chester D. Hubbard was for many years a trustee of Linsly Institute at Wheeling and also one of the founders in 1848 of the Wheeling Female Seminary and later president of the trustees of Wheeling Female College.

Chester D. Hubbard died August 23, 1891. September 29, 1842, he married Miss Sarah Pallister, who was born in England in 1820 and was brought to the United States when a child. Chester D. Hubbard and wife had five children: William Pallister, Dana List, Chester Russell, Julia A., who became the wife of W. H. Tyler, and Anna G., who married Joseph C. Brady.

The late William Pallister Hubbard, though he chose the profession of law rather than banking or industry, had the broad and comprehensive spirit of the man of affairs which distinguished his father. He was born at Wheeling December 24, 1843, and was granted seventy-eight years in which to achieve his destiny and service, passing away December 5, 1921. He was educated in the public schools of Wheeling, in Linsly Institute, in his father's alma mater, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut where he graduated A. B. in 1863. In 1866 Wesleyan conferred upon him the Master of Arts degree. Following his college career he read law at Wheeling, was admitted to the bar, and during the closing months of the Civil war served as a lieutenant in the Third West Virginia Cavalry. He was in active practice as a lawyer at Wheeling for nearly forty years. From 1865 to 1870 he was clerk of the House of Delegates, served as a member of the House of Delegates in 1881-82, was chairman of the commission to revise the text laws of the state in 1901-03, and in 1906 was elected by the First West Virginia District to Congress and served two terms, retiring in March, 1911. He was a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1888 and in the same year on the state ticket for attorney general. In 1912 he was a delegate to the National Convention, and proved a strenuous supporter of Roosevelt in that campaign. Mr. Hubbard had put his business affairs in order a number of years before his death, and that left him leisure, with the blessing of good health, to attend to many public and charitable interests. He was a leader in the Liberty Loans and Red Cross campaigns during the World war. He and his brother Chester Hubbard donated a valuable tract of ground in South Wheeling to be used for playground purposes.

May 21, 1868, Mr. Hubbard married Miss Ann E. Chamberlin of Louisiana. He survived her about twenty years. The children born to their marriage were: Julia P. now deceased, who was the wife of William I. Kelly; Nelson C., his father's successor as a member of the Wheeling bar; Miss Alma R., Louise P., Mrs. W. E. Hudson of Staunton, Virginia; and Sarah P., who died in infancy.

It is men most prominent in the affairs of Wheeling over a long period of years who can best appreciate and value the character of and services of the late Mr. Hubbard. As a lawyer his portrait is presented in resolutions by the Ohio County Bar Association in the following words: "He was a lawyer in the broadest sense, and above that a law giver. Whether in the making of laws or giving them the proper interpretations, the ground whereon he stood, to him was holy ground. He was a statesman; recognized as a leader among statesmen; easily chief in West Virginia; called before the Cabinet, and advised with President Roosevelt. In the practice of the law he walked with those whose final declaration was the law, and he walked their equal -- often their counsellor. In all his varied activities -- local, state, and national -- he was a leader among men, public spirited and generous, always for the right, because above all he was an honest man."

But for the tribute that passes current without depreciation on account of its source, and because the writer spoke with discrimination derived from intimate knowledge, the best that can be appended as a final estimate on the life and character of the late Mr. Hubbard was the editorial in the Wheeling Intelligencer, quoted herewith:

"Death at any time brings a shock to loved ones and to friends, but death that comes in the fullness of years to one who has finished his work well; who has lived a useful and honorable life; who has enjoyed the priceless priviledge of seeing his children grow up around him in strength and honor, comes not as a tragedy, but as the seal upon a finished work, a crown of glory.

"Such was the death of Hon. William Pallister Hubbard, who passed away at his home near Elm Grove yesterday morning.

"Mr. Hubbard was born in Wheeling and lived far more than the allotted years of three score and ten in this community. It would have been difficult to find in our citizenship a man whose personality through so many years had been so closely associated with the public, the civic and the industrial development of Wheeling and its immediate section. The name of Hubbard is stamped upon our public places. The imprint of his life will long be felt in numberless organizations activities having to do with the industry and the business conditions and the social and civic life of this community.

"William P. Hubbard was more than a citizen of Wheeling. He was a citizen of West Virginia and of the American Republic. More than that he was a world citizen, and through the long years of his useful activities he gave many and varied evidence of his profound interest in all things that made for the welfare of humanity. In short space it is impossible to sum up and to estimate the value of Mr. Hubbard's contribution to his city, his state, and his nation. When that contribution is rightly valued it will be found to be splendid not to say monumental.

"Mr. Hubbard's most important public work was undoubtedly in the commission created by the State of West Virginia in 1903 for the purpose of studying the tax laws then existent in the state and suggesting reforms thereto. Mr. Hubbard took his duty most seriously, and the report of the commission finally made was largely the product of his brain and his hand. Later, in a most memorable campaign of public education, Mr. Hubbard by his writing and his speaking largely effected a change in the public mind in the matter of taxation, which has since been reflected in most of the tax legislation in West Virginia. The power of the influences set in motion at that time is still felt in this state today. Later, as a member of Congress and in private life, as a profound student of public question, Mr. Hubbard took a prominent part in shaping the policy and influencing the thought of the citizenship of the state.

"Admitted to the bar in his early youth, he soon took a leading place as a practitioner, and in the course of time came to be regarded as easily the first lawyer in West Virginia. His grasp of difficult questions and his profound knowledge underlying the principles of law commanded the admiration and wonder of the members of his own profession who were associated with him, and at the time of his voluntary retirement from active practice it is fair to say that he had no superiors and few, if any, equals in the general practice of the law, not only in this state but even in the country at large.

"During recent years Mr. Hubbard had voluntarily refrained from much active employment, preferring to devote himself to his books, to the study of literature and history nad to the intimate association of a few warm friends. Nevertheless, he was fortunate in continuing to enjoy good health, and his mind was so broad and so liberal that all good causes appealed to him and found in him sympathetic support. The charities and the public institutions of this community shared liberally his bounty and the civic conditions of the city and the state commanded his thoughful attention. It is hard to realize that one so full of strength and vigor only a few days ago could so easily have slipped away, but death undoubtedly came to him as he would have willed it himself."

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