History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 2: Biographical – George Curtis Waldo jr.
In three huge volumes George Curtis Waldo jr. has amassed a wealth of information on the beautiful town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Volume one spans the settlement of the town, its governments, military and educational history and much more. It also includes chapters on the evolution of nearby Stratford and Fairfield. Volumes two and three contain hundreds of biographical sketches of the most prominent men and women of these towns, offering an almost flawless overview of the most important Connecticut people. These three volumes are treasure chests for everyone interested in the history of Connecticut and/or genealogical sources thereof.
History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 2: Biographical
Excerpt from the text:
Dr. Robert Hubbard, of Bridgeport, was born April 27, 1826, in Upper Middletown, now the town of Cromwell, in Middlesex county, Connecticut. He was a descendant of a prominent pioneer family, the first American Hubbard having come from England to the Connecticut colony about 1660. His father, Jeremiah Hubbard, was also a native of Upper Middletown and for many years sailed a vessel in the West Indies trade and also engaged in farming in this state. He married Elizabeth Roberts, a native of Middletown and a daughter of Winkham Roberts, who was a farmer. To this marriage were born eight sons and two daughters.
Robert Hubbard was the eldest of the family and in his boyhood attended the district schools but spent most of his time in work on the farm, his services being badly needed in the cultivation of the fields, so that his educational opportunities were therefore somewhat limited. Finally, however, he entered the academy and worked his way through that institution. In 1846, at the age of twenty years, he had finished his preparatory course and was then admitted to Yale College. At the close of his freshman year he accepted the position of principal in the academy at Durham, Connecticut, and a year later he was induced to take up the study of medicine. After two years as principal of the academy he entered the office of Dr. Benjamin F. Fowler, who directed his reading for about a year, when he became a student under Dr. Nathan B. Ives, of New Haven. During the two years spent under Dr. Ives he also attended the Yale Medical School and in 1851 was graduated with the M. D. degree, winning the valedictorian honors of his class.
In February, 1851, Dr. Hubbard removed to Bridgeport and opened an office on Wall street. He was without capital and in fact had incurred an indebtedness of two thousand dollars in meeting his expenses while pursuing his education. With resolute energy, however, he set to work and soon won a good practice, early demonstrating his ability to successfully cope with the complex and intricate problems that continually confront the physician. In May, 1854, he entered into partnership with David H. Nash and that relationship was maintained for seventeen years. In 1861 Dr. Hubbard was appointed by Governor Buckingham a member of the board of medical examiners to examine every applicant for surgical work in connection with the Connecticut regiments and in 1862 he went to the field as a surgeon of the Seventeenth Regiment of Connecticut Infantry. Later he was promoted to the position of brigade surgeon in General Sigel’s Corps and following the battle of Chancellorsville was made division surgeon in General Devin’s command. He was next given the rank of medical inspector on the staff of General Howard and at Gettysburg he served as medical director in chief of the Eleventh Corps, which he also accompanied to Lookout Mountain, where he was staff surgeon to General Hooker. He participated in the battles of Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and Ringgold and won high professional honors through his splendid service there. On account of ill health he resigned from the army and returned to Bridgeport, where he resumed practice, but suffered greatly from sciatica and in search of relief he took three trips abroad, incidentally studying in Europe. Something of his standing among his professional colleagues is indicated by the fact that in 1879 he was elected to the presidency of the Connecticut State Medical Society.
This, however, was but one phase of his activity. His powers of leadership were recognized in other directions and in 1874 he was elected from Bridgeport to the state legislature. The following year he was nominated for congress but was defeated by William H. Barnum. In 1876 he was again sent to the legislature and in the following year was again nominated for congress but was defeated by Levi Warner.
On the 15th of April, 1855, Dr. Hubbard was married to Miss Cornelia Boardman, a daughter of Sherman and Sophia (Hartwell) Boardman, of Bridgeport. She passed away in 1871, leaving a son and two daughters. Sherman Hartwell, a Yale graduate, who engaged in the practice of law, died in 1891. He had married Comete Ludeling and they had one son, John T. Ludeling Hubbard. Sophia Todd Hubbard became the wife of Charles M. Everett, of Rochester, New York. Cornelia E. Hubbard became the wife of Courtlandt H. Trowbridge, a ship owner and trader of New Haven.
Dr. Robert Hubbard on the 18th of July, 1897, while ascending his office steps fell to the sidewalk, fracturing his skull, and passed away the next morning at the home of his daughter-in-law, Mrs. C. F. Stead, of Bridgeport.
Bridgeport probably had no more distinguished citizen than Phineas Taylor Bamum, whose eventful life was closed at his home in this city on the 7th of April, 1891. He was one of the most public-spirited citizens of the community, always taking a keen and helpful interest in Bridgeport’s progress. Anything, no matter how . large or small, that pertained to or involved the city in any way was of great interest to him. He was a lineal descendant in the sixth generation from Thomas Bamum, who was one of the first eight settlers of the town of Danbury, Connecticut, they purchasing the land from the Indians in 1684, and making their residence there in the spring of 1685.
Ephraim Bamum II, grandson of Thomas II, born in 1733, married in 1753, Keziah Covell, by whom he had ten children. He married (second) in 1776, Mrs. Rachel Starr Beebe, daughter of Jonathan and Rachel (Taylor) Starr, and widow of Jonathan Beebe, of Danbury. They had five children, among them being Philo, born in 1778, married Polly Fairchild, of Newtown, Connecticut, who died in 1808, leaving five children. He then married Irene Taylor, daughter of Phineas and Mollie (Sherwood) Taylor, of Bethel, and among the five children of this marriage was Phineas Taylor, born July 5, 1810, at Bethel, in Fairfield county.
The grandfather of our subject was a captain in the Revolutionary war. His father was a tailor, farmer and sometimes hotel-keeper, and Phineas drove cows to pasture, weeded garden, plowed fields, made hay, and, when possible, went to school. Later on he became clerk in a country store established by his father. The latter dying in 1825, leaving the family in comparatively indigent circumstances, young Phineas then started into the world, securing employment for a time with a mercantile firm at Grassy Plains, his remuneration being six dollars per month. In 1826 he went to the city of Brooklyn as clerk in the store of Oliver Taylor, and for a time in the following year he was in business in New York. In 1829 he had a fruit and confectionery store in his grandfather’s carriage house in Bethel, and also had on hand “lottery business,” and was auctioneer in the book trade. In 1831, in company with his uncle, Alanson Taylor, he opened a country store in Bethel. Several months later the nephew bought out the uncle’s interest, and also the same year, on October 19th, he issued the first copy of the Herald of Freedom. Unfortunately he lacked the experience which indicates caution and was soon plunged into litigation, being finally sentenced to pay on one suit a fine of one hundred dollars and be imprisoned in the jail for sixty days. He had a good room, lived well and had continued visits from friends, edited his paper as usual, and received large accessions to the subscription lists. At the expiration of his imprisonment he received an ovation, and after a sumptuous dinner, with toasts, speeches and ode and oration, in a coach drawn by six horses, accompanied by a band of music, forty horseman, sixty carriages of citizens and the marshal of oration of the day, amid roar of cannons and cheers of a multitude Mr. Bamum rode to his home in Bethel, where the band played “Home Sweet Home,” and the procession then returned to Danbury. His editor’s career was one of continual contest, but he persevered in the publication of the Herald of Freedom until the spring of 1835. He then removed to New York, and after being engaged as a drummer for several firms opened a private boarding house, at the same time purchasing an interest in a grocery store.
In 1835 Mr. Bamum began the business which has made his name a household word in all civilized nations. His start as a showman began by the purchase and exhibition of Joyce Heath, a colored woman, said to have been the nurse of General George Washington, and one hundred and sixty -one years of age. His next venture was the exhibition of “Signor Antonio” and a ”Mr. Roberts.” In 1836 he connected himself with Aaron Turner’s traveling circus, going south. In the following year he organized a new company and went west, reaching the Missouri river, where he purchased a steamer and sailed down the river for New Orleans. There he traded the steamer for sugar and molasses and returned north, arriving at New York, June 4, 1838. In 1841 he bought the American Museum in that city and commenced a series of improvements by way of attractive exhibitions. He introduced the lecture room, a reform of the stage or theatre. He was constantly searching for and obtaining something new, amusing and wonderful, and all the exhibitions he made were instructive to the people, moral and elevating. His methods of bringing his institution constantly before the minds of the people and the success thereby secured first impressed the American mind with the advantages of advertising. In 1842 he secured General Tom Thumb lor exhibition; in 1844 he took him, in company with his parents, across the ocean. They went to London and soon to the presence of the queen at Buckingham Palace. From London the party went to Paris, where the General received great attention. He was invited to the presence of the king and queen and the royal family. For the first day’s exhibition to the general public in Paris, Mr. Bamum received fifty-five hundred francs. From Paris the party traveled through France and Belgium and back to England, where the profitable exhibition continued until the return to New York in 1847. The General’s father, on arriving from England with a handsome fortune, placed a portion of it at interest for the General, more for himself, and with thirty thousand dollars of it built a substantial dwelling on the corner of North avenue and Main street, Bridgeport.
After returning to America, Mr. Bamum made a tour with his little general through the United States and Cuba. It was during this tour in 1847-48 that he had his beautiful dwelling built in Bridgeport, which he called “Iranistan,” the word signifying “Oriental Villa,” and on November 14, 1848, nearly one thousand guests were present at an old-fashioned “house warming.” It stood a little back from the northeast corner of the present Fairfield and Iranistan avenues, and some years after it accidentally took fire and was consumed. This beautiful and very remarkable structure, built in oriental style, was the first great boom for the celebrity of Bridgeport. The picture of it went over the country in the illustrated papers as “a thing of beauty,” a marvel of wonder and an honor to all America.
The Jenny Lind enterprise was the next great undertaking of Mr. Bamum. It was conceived by him in October, 1849, the engagement made with the great singer January 9, 1850, by which one hundred and eighty-seven thousand, five hundred dollars was to be deposited by Mr. Bamum in advance of all proceedings, and which was done. Miss Lind arrived in New York, September 1, 1850, and the first concert occurred September 11th following, the proceeds of which amounted to seventeen thousand, eight hundred and sixty-four dollars and five cents. Ninety-three concerts were given under Mr. Bamum ‘s contract, terminating in May, 1851, the receipts for which amounted to one hundred and twelve thousand, one hundred and sixty-one dollars and thirty -four cents. It was the greatest project of the kind ever introduced into America up to that day and probably to the present, unless it be ”Bamum’s Greatest Show on Earth.” and was successfully, and even grandly, carried through. During this time the American Museum was running successfully with Tom Thumb in attendance, besides many other entertainments added every year. About this time he fitted out his “Great Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie” at an expense of upward of one hundred thousand dollars and exhibited it for four years.
In 1851 Mr. Barnum purchased of William R Noble, of Bridgeport, the undivided half of his late father’s estate, consisting of fifty acres of land lying on the east side of the river, opposite the city of Bridgeport. They intended this as the nucleus of a new city, which they concluded could soon be built in consequence of the many natural advantages it possessed. In view of securing this end, a clock company, in which Mr. Barnum was a stockholder, was prevailed upon to transfer its establishment from the town of Litchfield to the new city. In addition to this it was proposed to transfer the entire business of the Jerome Clock Company of New Haven to East Bridgeport, and for this purpose Mr. Barnum lent that company money and notes to the amount of one hundred and ten thousand dollars, with the positive assurance this would be the extent of the company’s call on him; but by peculiar management on the part of the company they soon had Mr. Barnum involved to the amount of over half a million dollars. Then they failed, and after absorbing all of Mr. Barnum’s fortune they paid but from twelve to fifteen per cent of the company’s obligations, while, in the end, they never removed to East Bridgeport. Mr. Barnum’s extrication of himself from this gulf of obligation by paying such a percentage on the whole as could not be met by the sale of all his property at the time, was a financial feat of the highest genius, energy and honor.