Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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South Street in Litchfield is historic. In the Oliver Wolcott house lived a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of Connecticut. Directly across the wide village street is the Tapping Reeve house, and the first law school. In the next house south, in 1856, lived John H. Hubbard, a lawyer "then in large practice." In 1863 Charles B. Andrews came to Litchfield, became Mr. Hubbard's partner, lived in the next house south, became Governor, and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Mr. Hubbard was for many years State's Attorney, and during the Civil War was a member of Congress. Mrs. Hubbard was a woman of rare spiritual power, dignity and charm. A son, John Tomlinson Hubbard, was born November 30th, 1856. For nearly four score years he trudged serenely up and down this beautiful street.
And now South Street has lost its most important, its most picturesque modern personage, for John Hubbard died January 18th, 1937, in the eighty-first year of his age. A great philosopher, he yet scorned Mr. Emerson's advice
"It is time to be old,
to take in sail."
John Hubbard did not have time to be old; "full steam ahead" was his philosophy at eighty. With his strong, rugged frame, full white beard, and great shock of white hair he was indeed a fine figure of a man. He took a cold bath every morning (even when the thermometer was fifteen below) for, as he said, "if I miss my cold bath in the morning, along about four o'clock in the afternoon I begin to feel kind of old." He was a prodigious walker, and used his old green model T Ford only for long distance travel. He wrote learnedly and delightfully for the local paper on his favorite subjects of metallurgy, Greek mythology, wild life, horticulture, probate law, and particularly concerning local history. He was in the active practice of the law; president of the Litchfield County Bar Association; a director, and vice-president of the Litchfield Savings Society; a director of the Litchfield Mutual Fire Insurance Company; senior warden of St. Michael's Episcopal Church.
All this at eighty.
Going back over the span of his years, - the opening paragraph of this memorial makes it evident that his early training, associations and precepts were of the best. Instruction came from his parents, the Litchfield schools, Yale College in the class of 1880, the Yale Law School in the class of 1883. "There followed fifty-three years of scrupulous law practice, of good deeds, of public service and charity, of honorable and dignified dealings with all persons, whether of prominent station or humble caste." Every problem known to the law, and many that were strangers to it, came into his country law office. He was Judge of Probate from a time the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, until his retirement by constitutional limitation.
John Hubbard was for thirty-five years a member of the examining board of the State Bar Association. Pause a moment and think what this really means, - what a deep impression this scholarly, kindly man has left on the minds and lives of the lawyers of today.
He had been warden of the Borough of Litchfield, perennial moderator at town meetings, town counsel, representative in the Legislature for two terms, charter member of the town fire department and active in it until 1932.
"Metallurgy and Greek mythology were two subjects which gripped the Judge in complete fascination." Add farming to this. He had been president of the Proprietors of the Ore Beds of Salisbury and for eleven years was secretary of the old Connecticut Mining Company. He was president of the Echo Farm Association. He owned farms in his beloved village of Milton, and operated a picturesque saw mill and a grist mill there, and owned many interesting abandoned mines in Litchfield County.
From this brief and incomplete sketch there emerges the portrait of an unusual man, a picturesque personage. He was strong, yet shy, and whimsical. In spite of (or because of) his many hobbies and avocations, be was a sound lawyer, a profound scholar. He loved the early days of his beloved Litchfield; he loved better the days in which he lived and worked. He was a friend to man. He did no wrong. His wish was to be useful. His endeavor was unspoiled by greed. He walked in the path of his Master.
We all come through the years "by a way we did not know." Ever burning before his vagrant feet was the kindly light of faith in mankind. John Hubbard came to the end of his days with a record of solid accomplishment, with the respect, the affection of his fellow men, full of honors, and yet his evening's twilight found him gentle still.