William Hubbard, born in 1787, raised in Connecticut and New York served as a colonel in the War of 1812. Hubbard and his wife moved to Ashtabula County, Ohio to help his relatives with their lumber and warehouse businesses. Ashtabula County had a large abolitionist movement that operated several Underground Railroad stations. Hubbard quickly joined his brothers in the Ashtabula County Anti-Slavery Society using his house as a station on the Underground Railroad. Hubbard's home became a vital stop on the Underground Railroad in Northern Ohio. Situated near Lake Erie, Hubbard's home was usually a last stop for runaway slaves before escaping to Canada by boats. Hubbard hid runaway slaves in his basement and in his hayloft. Underground Railroad conductors and runaway slaves referred to William and Katherine Hubbard’s home as Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and The Great Emporium.
“The wealthy William Hubbard, was responsible for Ashtabula County being
nicknamed “Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.” The cellar of Hubbard’s Lake Street
brick mansion held large numbers of fleeing bondpeople, as did his lakefront
lumberyard. He also built a barn with a tunnel going straight to the water’s
edge, where rowboats carried people to waiting vessels.” William
worked with his brothers Matthew and Henry who helped start the Ashtabula Sentinel an abolitionist
newspaper. The Hubbard family actively worked with other residents of Ashtabula
nurturing an abolitionist stronghold in the county. Hubbard’s house being
located by Lake Erie served as a last stop for many runaway slaves escaping to
their freedom. Many runaway slaves passed through the Hubbard House on their
way to Canada. Residents of Ashtabula created an atmosphere that some free
African Americans chose to stay in the county. A statement in the Ashtabula
Sentinel reflects the sentiments of the community: “The voice of the people is,
Constitution or no Constitution, law or no law, no fugitive slave can be taken
from Ashtabula County back to slavery,” the Ashtabula Sentinel wrote after the
Fugitive Slave Law passed. If anyone doubts this real sentiment, they can easily
William Hubbard worked as an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground
Railroad until his death in 1863.
The Holmes House changed hands several times in subsequent years after
William’s death. Several clubs and a temporary kindergarten were used in the
house. The parks and recreation used the house as well. Eventually the house
sat empty for years until Thomas Huntington Hubbard the great-great grandson of
William Hubbard worked out a deal with the city that the house be restored. Now
the Hubbard House serves the Ashtabula community as a museum, fully restored to
its original architecture, the museum offers two exhibits, the Underground
Railroad Exhibit, and the Civil War-American Collection.
Margret Washington. Sojourner Truth’s
America. (University of Illinois Press, 2009), 237.
Washington, Sojourner Truth’s America,