Gambar halaman
[graphic][merged small]

From an Oil Portrait by James R. Stuart in Wisconsin Historical Library



The Milwaukee Advertiser for June 15, 1839, contained the following personal item: "Hon. Henry Hubbard, Senator in Congress from New Hampshire, left here on Wednesday morning having traveled over a considerable portion of our territory within the last two months. Mr. Hubbard is a warm friend of Wisconsin and her interests, and we may confidently count upon his assistance in obtaining appropriations for harbors, roads &c in the Territory."

Henry Hubbard lived in Charlestown, New Hampshire, where he was born in 1784 and where he was to die in 1857. He was a graduate of Dartmouth, a lawyer by training and a politician by choice. From 1812 to 1827 he was a member of the state legislature, and during the whole of the JacksonVan Buren régime, twelve years, was in Congress, first as Representative, then as Senator. From 1842 to 1844 he was governor of his state and finally, under appointment from President Polk, was in charge of the United States subtreasury in Boston from 1846 to 1849. He thus held political office almost continuously for a period of thirty-seven years, spending only the last eight years of his life in retirement. His political affiliations, during the active period indicated, were consistently with the Democratic party.

It is thus seen that Hubbard was a man of importance at the East, and his career would doubtless repay study for the light it might throw on the political history of his period. However, in this paper it is our purpose to ignore all but a single one of his activities, namely, that of land speculator. And since our sources are restricted to Wisconsin speculations with which he was associated, and those again to transactions in which he was represented by a single one of several agents he is known to have employed, it will be necessary to

limit the scope of the paper far more sharply than we would wish to do were all sources available. Still, it is believed the story which can be written about Hubbard as a land speculator in Wisconsin during the decade 1836-46 ought to prove both interesting and instructive.

Mr. Hubbard operated in part through the agency of Moses M. Strong, and it is through the Strong papers that we are enabled to see something of the course and issue of his speculations.1 In 1836 Strong was living at Rutland, Vermont, where for some years he had been engaged in the practice of law. His father, Moses Strong, a distinguished Vermont lawyer and judge, was at this period in Washington, associated intimately with Hubbard and other eastern politicians. Accordingly, when Moses M. Strong decided to make a tour of inspection in the West, it was a relatively simple matter for him to interest capitalists in a plan he had to invest money in government lands.

Mr. Hubbard eagerly took advantage of Strong's proposition, agreeing (with two partners, Horace Hall and George Olcott-both Charlestown men, like himself) to supply Strong with money for investment purposes. Moreover, the business was to be a continuing one; lands which were entered today at Strong's discretion might be offered for sale tomorrow and the proceeds reinvested. By thus turning over investments from time to time it would have been possible to accomplish a very large business on an original capital of $30,000—the sum agreed upon—and both Strong and Hubbard faced the future with the confident expectation of getting rich. "I intend," wrote Hubbard shortly after his agent started west, "that you shall make me a fortune and at the same time secure to yourself a

A small addition to the Strong papers has recently come to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, in which are several documents bearing directly and in an important manner upon Hubbard's speculations. The papers of Moses M. Strong were presented to the Society by his granddaughter, Anna Strong Parkinson, a number of years ago. They are very voluminous and constitute a significant and valuable source for the study of Wisconsin history.

fortune. I can on a very short notice, give you all the means that any reasonable man could desire. Be faithful and continue in my employ and my belief is that we can both within three years make $100,000.”

In his original instructions Hubbard advised Strong to select lands near large navigable rivers, mentioning especially the Mississippi and the Wisconsin in Iowa County,3 Lands well timbered with either pine or oak, and lying near those streams, he thought would sell promptly. Locations near points which would probably become county-seat towns were also desirable, and the agent was given a large measure of discretion with reference to other types of locations. Mr. Hubbard also wrote new suggestions from time to time-for example, calling attention to the Four Lakes region and the area north of Milwaukee near the shore of Lake Michigan.

We do not know precisely how much land Mr. Strong entered for Hubbard in the early part of 1836, the record being incomplete. But according to Strong's second account, submitted December 2, 1837, he entered a total of eleven hundred and fifty acres between August 13, 1836, and the close of that year. Inasmuch as Hubbard supplied him at the outset with a large credit at the Bank of Detroit, and sent him within a few weeks Virginia land scrip worth eight thousand acres, or $10,000, the presumption is that he had entered a good many thousand acres. The partners had advanced to Strong for all purposes, prior to October 15, 1836, the sum of $24,000,the bulk of which had doubtless been invested. Hubbard himself declared, at a later time, that Strong and two other agents invested for him (meaning probably himself personally) more than $33,000; and it is fairly certain that nearly all of that sum was invested in the year 1836, for early in the next year the panic caused

* Letter to Strong dated Washington, May 30, 1836.

'At that time Iowa County included the later Grant and Lafayette counties as well as the present Iowa County.

him to draw back in alarm and to stop the flow of funds to

his agents.

The lands bought for Hubbard by Strong were not all farm lands, to be sold to agricultural immigrants. Among the items Strong listed in his second account was one showing the payment of $200 for forty lots in Madison, bought of J. D. Doty, and there were two entries for land in "St. Lawrence." The former was, of course, Doty's town site between Third and Fourth lakes, where the Territorial Council in 1836 located the future capital of Wisconsin; the latter was a paper town located on the Wisconsin River near the Columbia County line in Dane County (township 11, range 8 east). Strong was much interested in St. Lawrence, as he was in various other town sites, including Arena. Since he was a surveyor, it was a simple matter for him to enter a tract believed to cover a hopeful location, survey and plat it, and place it on the market. He held the Arena property as his own exclusive possession for a number of years. At one time during the stringency, when a brother in Vermont pressed him for help to raise between six and seven hundred dollars, he forwarded a deed showing an absolutely clear title to the town site of Arena and including some six hundred acres of land, with the suggestion that it might be used as security for a loan. But by that time eastern capitalists and bankers were very wary in regard to security based on western lands, and the brother wrote that the town site property was worth, for collateral, precisely as much as the same amount of blank paper.

Mr. Strong was instrumental in interesting Hubbard in an exceedingly ambitious speculation of his own. He found on reaching Mineral Point that the lead-bearing lands of southwestern Wisconsin had not been placed on the market. Those lands, under earlier laws, were open to lease from the government but not to purchase, the theory being that they should constitute a source of income for many years. How

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »