The Hubbard Family in West Haven
The first Hubbard ancestor settled in West Haven in 1810: he was John Hubbard Jr. He bought the farm and farmhouse at the corner of Jones Hill Road and Hubbard Road from the Merwin family, tanners who had built the house in 1701; he paid for all of this by cutting and selling firewood to Yale students to heat their dorms. The farmhouse has stayed in the family ever since.
During the War Between the States, the Hubbard farm operated a mill that produced the sweetener known as sorghum, since during wartime other sweeteners were in very short supply. Nineteenth century photos of Hubbard Road include this mill, which was located next to the stream that ran through the property.
The Rev. George Hubbard was born in 1855, and attended First Church while he was growing up. Early in life, young George—then five years old–showed signs of his drive to do for the benefit of others: During the potato harvest on the family fields, he picked up the potatoes that had been overlooked, and sold them. With the money he had earned, he bought his mother her first kerosene lantern.
George graduated from Yale in 1881, and from Yale Divinity School in 1884; from there, he and his new wife, Nellie, went to Foochow China as missionaries. Eventually, George was responsible for thirty small churches throughout the area, and some were a full day’s walk from his residence.
In 1925, Nellie died while they were in China, and was buried there. Subsequently, George returned home and bought three acres of land on Wagner Place, where he grew vegetables that he gave away to his neighbors.
One Sunday in 1928, George preached in the Baptist church, so that their young minister could leave town briefly. George had been having chest pains that the doctor dismissed as indigestion. George gave his sermon, and at the end finished with “God bless you all,” whereupon he collapsed and died at the pulpit.
By the twentieth century, the Hubbard farm was just a shadow of its former self. At one time, it had stretched from north of Grand Street in West Haven all the way to Merwin Avenue in Milford, and from Jones Hill Road over to beyond the railroad tracks.
During the 1930s, Jones Hill Road and Benham Hill Road had become something like busy thoroughfares: as many as one automobile per day might be seen passing along these dirt roads! Otherwise, they were used by the farmers of the West Shore, as they drove their livestock from field to barn and back again.
There were two ponds on the Hubbard properties; one lay on either side of Hubbard Road. In the wintertime, these ponds were opened up to the public for skating, and the family lit the ponds with strings of electric lights, for nighttime skating. Many an old-timer from the West Shore can recall skating on these ponds.
By the 1970s, the Hubbard Farm was confined to the lands between Hubbard Road, Grand Street, Jones Hill and Benham Hill Road, with a bit of overlap south of Hubbard Road. Most of this acreage was surrounded by a stone wall, according to this writer’s recollection. Within the confines of the stone wall were acres of pastureland and a pond that was fed by waters flowing from up near Morgan Lane. During the 1920s and 1930s, this pond had been a stopping point for Gypsies that camped along its banks, as they migrated from here-to-there.
But finally, the increasing domestication of West Haven farmland, and the increasing taxes that were brought to bear on farmers, made the existence of open land in the former farming community no longer viable: the Hubbard farm was sold off and subdivided into housing lots in the late 1970s.
Today, the Hubbard farmhouse still stands, right where it has for over three hundred years, along with a couple of remaining acres of adjacent dooryard. Along Jones Hill Road and Hubbard Road, several homes are still occupied by Hubbard descendants, many of whom can still “remember when.”
And the Hubbard ancestors who lived in West Haven are all buried at Oak Grove Cemetery, while most early New Haven Hubbards lie in their eternal repose beneath New Haven Green; their gravestones have long since been removed to New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery.