Which Paul K. Hubbs Married Flora Ross, Part Two: The Evidence
In an earlier article on this site, there is an analysis of conflicting claims as to which Paul Kinsey Hubbs—Senior or Junior—was married to, and divorced from, Flora Amelia Ross. Several sources such as certain online biographies assert that Flora married a man “40 years her senior.” But the claim arises from confusion between this father and son who happened to both live in Washington Territory in the time of Flora’s marriage, and who were rather careless in their use of the “Sr.” and “Jr.” designations.
This article provides more detail about the evidence that proves that Flora Ross married Paul Kinsey Hubbs, Junior, who was twenty-seven to her seventeen at the time of their marriage in 1859. Every primary record from the era either confirms that she married the younger Hubbs, or provides mere ambiguity from a failure to use a “Sr.” or “Jr.” designation. At the same time, all primary records pertaining to Paul K. Hubbs, Senior, confirm that he was and remained married to his second wife, Maggie Gilchrist, throughout his residency in Washington Territory.
The evidence begins with Flora’s marital records, which may appear somewhat ambiguous by their lack of any “Sr.” or “Jr.” designation for the groom, though other information is instructive. The Christ Church records of the wedding record that “Paul Kinsey Hubbs” married Flora Ross, without further specification. Similarly, the newspaper coverage of their marriage doesn’t include any “Sr.” or “Jr.” designation. Instead, the notice that was published in the Victoria Gazette on December 7, 1859, and in the New Westminster Times on December 10, 1859, identifies the groom as “Paul K. Hubbs, Esq., U.S. Revenue collector for the Island of San Juan.” The “Esq.” reference might suggest to a modern reader that this particular Hubbs was an attorney, though “Esq.” was a far more general reference to a gentleman at the time. But the material information contained in the notice is his position as “U.S. Revenue collector for the Island of San Juan.” The term suggests a promotion—he was “Deputy Revenue Collector”—but Junior’s position in this job is confirmed in dozens of newspaper articles and military records pertaining to the 1859 Pig War, census records, and other documents. Similarly, dozens of newspaper articles, court records, and government records from the Washington Territory Legislative Council, confirm that the father, Senior, was living in Port Townsend in 1859 (through 1866) working as an attorney and politician.
The first primary records that clearly distinguish between the father and son, and their respective wives, are the U.S. Census records for 1860, six months after the Ross/Hubbs marriage. The Census records for Port Townsend in 1860 list Paul K. Hubbs, age 55, a “lawyer,” as residing with his wife, Maggie Hubbs, age 29, and their infant son Bayard J. Hubbs, age 2. Meanwhile, the 1860 Census records for Whatcom County, which at that time included San Juan Island, show Paul K. Hubbs, Jr., age 27, working as the “Inspector of Customs,” and residing on San Juan Island with Flora Hubbs, age 18. Both Census records are available online.
Further support can be found in three letters that Junior wrote during the years of his marriage to Flora, and that can be found in the B.C. Archives. The first is a joint letter written as husband and wife on February 23, 1863. The letter is signed by “Paul K. Hubbs, Jr.” and “Flora Hubbs” on behalf of Junior’s brother, Charles, who had been convicted of illegally selling whiskey to local indigenous communities. Junior wrote a second letter five days later to James Douglas, Governor, listing his address as “Floravilla, San Juan Island,” and repeating that he was writing on behalf of his brother, Charles Hubbs. He describes the difficult relationship that “Charley” had with their father, living in Port Townsend, and the lengths “Charley” had gone to in order to escape their father’s “restrictions”—a similar reason for Junior’s own escape from California for Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii a decade earlier, in 1853.
Two years later, Junior wrote a letter to the Colonial Secretary on December 11, 1865, concerning road access to land sold “to my wife, Flora Hubbs,” in 1864. It is a reference to a portion of the Isabella Ross farm at Ross Bay that was deeded to Flora in 1864 in what appears to have been a settlement of a bigamy lawsuit arising from Isabella’s second marriage to a man determined to obtain control of her properties. Although Junior did not sign the letter with either a “Sr.” or “Jr.” designation, the signature confirms that it is his signature. Comparisons can be made to the relatively simple signature of Junior that appears on correspondence of this era and on his divorce records, and to the more flourished signature of Senior that appears on court records in the course of his legal practice.
Further confirmation is found in the couple’s divorce records, filed in September 1866 in Jefferson County District Court, in Port Townsend, and which are available from the Court’s archives. Junior is named as Defendant, and signs the papers with a “Jr.” designation. And though the papers say nothing of the ages of the couple, neither do they suggest that bigamy was grounds for the divorce—as it would have been if Flora had married Senior, who was already married to Maggie Gilchrist.
But it is two of the Hubbs’ respective obituaries that both create the confusion and help to confirm the truth. The document that appears to have created the confusion is an editor’s footnote on page 164 of The Reminiscences of Doctor John Sebastian Helmcken, claiming that Flora’s former husband had died in 1874 at the age of 75. Helmcken writes briefly of the 1859 Pig War, and mentions “Paul K. Hubbs” as someone involved in the dispute, who was briefly married to Flora, and whom Helmcken “subsequently knew very well.” The corresponding editor’s footnote cites to a brief article—just a sentence—that was published in the Victoria Daily British Colonist on November 25, 1874, announcing that: “Col. Paul K. Hubbs, a former resident of Port Townsend, W.T., died at Vallejo, California, on the 17th inst., aged 75.” Helmcken, however, goes on from the footnote to describe how the “Paul K. Hubbs” who had been married to Flora had approached him “a couple of years ago” when he had sought Helmcken’s assistance in obtaining his U.S. Government pension. As Helmcken’s memoir was dated 1892, “a couple of years ago” would have been more than a decade and a half after Senior had died. The editor’s footnote is the only “evidence” to be found suggesting that Flora Ross married a man “40 years her senior,” and it is an editor’s mistake.
Junior’s own obituary helps to complete the picture of evidence. Paul K. Hubbs Jr. died of a stroke on San Juan Island on February 12, 1910, at seventy-seven years of age. His obituary was published in the San Juan Islander on February 18, 1910. It includes the statement that his “first wife was a Miss Ross, of Victoria,” with the statement that he “squatted with a young Indian woman on what was for years known as Hubbs’ point.” This is likely a dual reference to Flora, who throughout her life was described variously as “English” and “Indian”—depending on the speaker—with little recognition of the discrepancy, though the latter could be a reference to whoever might have replaced Flora in the years between the divorce and Hubbs’ eventual sale of the San Juan Island homestead.
While the confusion is understandable, given the frequent failure of father and son to identify themselves with a “Sr.” or “Jr.” designation, and the mistaken editor’s footnote, there is no primary record of any kind that supports the notion that Flora Ross married a man forty years her senior.