R. D. Hubbard was a true captain of industry in southern Minnesota. He founded the Linseed Oil Company, operated one of the largest flour mills in the state, and established a system of 42 grain elevators stretching across southern Minnesota and into South Dakota. Before coming to Mankato he amassed what amounted to a small fortune in the grocery business in Pennsylvania. His travels were truly prodigious and daring: he traveled to New York, California, Nicaragua, the Humboldt River country, and the gold fields of the Fraser River in British Columbia all before 1870.
R. D. Hubbard came to Mankato with his wife, Mary, from California in 1870. He was born in Maryland Township, Oswego County, New York on December 14, 1837. His farming parents' ancestry went back to Connecticut's colonial days. At age 15 he left home to earn his living by working on a survey crew for the Albany & Susquehanna Railway. In the spring of 1851 Hubbard went with a party to California to work on a farm in the Sacramento Valley. In 1857 he lived in Humboldt River country, then spent the next year near the Fraser River in British Columbia gold mining. Upon his return to New York in the fall of 1859, Hubbard secured a position as clerk in a grocery store with a salary of $50 per month, soon made manager of the store with a salary of $160 per month.
In January 1863, Hubbard attempted to enlist in the Union Army but was prostrated by a severe attack of pneumonia, rendering him unfit for military service. He then engaged in tobacco culture for two years in Sidney Plains, New York. On April 9, 1863, Hubbard married Mary E. Cook from his hometown. In the fall of 1866, he moved to Corry, Pennsylvania and engaged in the grocery business which proved a very profitable venture: starting with a capital of under $2,000, in four years Hubbard had cleared $30,000. In 1870 Hubbard traveled again to California, intending to start a bank, but conditions proved unfavorable. After looking over the country, he finally settled down with his wife, Mary, in Mankato.
In Mankato, Hubbard built a warehouse and engaged in the wheat buying business until March 1872 in partnership with J.A. Willard and J.B. Hubbell. He organized the Mankato Linseed Oil Company, which he managed for eleven years. After passing through a period of depression, the enterprise proved a financial success. In 1879 he established the Mankato Milling Company with himself as president. The corporate name was changed from R.D. Hubbard & Company to R.D. Hubbard Milling Company in 1894, and Hubbard Milling Company in 1897. Over time the mill changed from a stone grinding system to a roller process. The mill, one of the largest and most important in Minnesota, operated until Hubbard's passing in 1905.
Hubbard's first wife, Mary, died on April 21, 1877, leaving behind one son, Jay, born January 8, 1872. Hubbard married again October 7, 1878 to Miss Frank Griffith. They became parents of two daughters, Katherine Dean and Mary Esther. Mary Esther sold the Hubbard House to BECHS in 1938.
For more information on the Hubbard Family, purchase Meet the Hubbards by Beth Zimmer from our online store.