It's where Ada gets its news!
Ada Sports
December 13, 2019

You are here

Once upon a time in Ada

Gabriel Reeder Hubbell

By Leland Crouse
Excerpt from the Small Town Sampler by Betty Miller
The Ada Herald 24 January, 1990

Gabriel Reeder Hubbell - 14 March, 1825 to 15 May, 1909
If you like adventure stories with Indian encounters and narrow escapes on the frontier, you don’t have to search for old “shoot-em-up” movies or books about the West of long ago. You can find a better story in our local history, and all of it really happened.

One winter day in 1896 a respected area farmer Gabriel Hubbell, stopped at the the Ada Record office to spend a few hours chatting with the editor, Agnew Welsh. During the conversation the editor discovered  that thirty some years earlier “Gabe had spent some time in the West prospecting for gold in the Denver area. He also mentioned he had served fron 1861 to 1864 in the Civil War as a scout and spy for the 1st Colorado Calvalry. Agnew Welsh heard enough in those few hours to recognize a story with “sufficient” romance and adventure to make a novalist dance with delight.” He persuaded Gabe to share his stories with  Ada Record readers. A year later, the first installment of “Scout and Spy; A tale of Adventures on the Frontier” appeared in the January 20, 1897, issue of the paper. Fifteen installments later, Gabe wrote “The End.” What exciting tales he told.

Gabe left for the West in 1856 when he was 21. Stopping in Iowa to earn some money he had his first narrow escape. Gabe and his companions were cutting logs on an island in the Missouri River when heavy rains flooded the island and their cabin. Setting out for shore in a hastily constructed canoe fashioned from a trunk of a cottonwood tree, the men found the canoe filling with water. Gabe grabbed a tree branch, climbed to the top, and waited for help. Rescued by Jacob Preston from Ada, who lived in Nebraska, Gabe wrote that even after his close encounter with disaster, he still had “a great desire to try my fortunes in the mines of Colorado.

In Nebraska he found work wherever he could for money to “fit out a wagon, buy ponies and provisions.” Joining five men and other wagons, he crossed the Missouri and headed west on the California trail. Now he was in the real West where wagon trains had to be on the lookout for buffalo herds, where the cries of wolves “made our hair stand on end,” and tornadoes destroyed the camps and wagons. Indians stole their food at night and thieves disguised as Indians stampeded their livestock. But the mountains were beautiful and Gabe described Denver as “a small little town consisting mostly of miners.”

Near the mining town of Hoosier’s Gulch they prospected for gold. Their claim produced $25 a day for Gabe and each of his companions. Since a sack of flour cost $50, eggs and onions 50c each and coffee was $1 a pound Gabe concludes, “You can see where most of the gold went.”

Winter spent in a mountain cabin near Leadville brought encounters with some friendly Ute Indians, a mountain lion, a large panther, a wounded elk and an angry charging black bear. Spring thaws rekindled the thoughts of gold and, with a lot of hard work, the California Gulch yielded nuggets. Although the claims above and below Gabe’s were bringing in $60,000 rewards, Gabe’s results were far below that figure. He still had hopes of striking it rich.

In October 1861 Gabe started for Buckskin Joe, a Colorado mining camp. The Civil War had just begun and the recruiting office was at Buckskin Joe. Gabe and four of his companions enlisted in an Independent Calvalry Company. The company’s “work consisted of scouting and fighting guerrilla and Indians.” Gabe had been in the West for five years, and because of his experience in the mountains he was selected as a special scout and spy for the army. His real adventures began.

Gabe recounts his search of the officer’s quarters leading to the discovery under a floor board of a Cache of blasting powder. Installment III ends with the arrest of “a rebel from Kentucky” who had plans to blow up the fort. He was given a military trial and found guilty. One of the army guards decided to speed up justice and shop the rebel, saying he had tried to escape.

When a group of captured Southern rebels appeared to be planning an escape from the prison, Gabe was sent to stay in one of the cells at night. In the darkness when the prisoners were asleep, he discovered the escape tunnel under a wash stand.

Scouting trips took Gabe to New Mexico and Fort Craig on the Rio Grande. When he slept at night on the grass, he put his lariat on the horse and held on the end in his hand. If his horse was restless, so was Gabe. Since the Indians mistrusted the regular army but knew most of the volunteers, often Gabe carried government gifts to appease the Kiowa’s and Comanche’s. But he learned never to turn his back on any Indian.

In one adventure Gabe’s curiosity led him to explore Deep Hole Canyon in Comanche territory even though the guide warned him of “much Diablo.” When Gabe found himself surrounded by whistling lizards standing 18 inches tall he concluded, “The Indians said it was full of little devils and I thought they were about right.”

In 1863 he was sent to carry a dispatch from Pueblo to Fort Larned in Kansas. The group, consisting of four men, was pursued by Sioux Indians on the war path for five days with “little to eat or drink and scarcely any sleep.” Gabe provides vivid details of the fights with the Indians worthy of any western saga. Not only did the Indians present a danger but ranchers protecting their homes and livestock also posed a threat. His group was taken captive once by ranchers with ropes in hand “to string us up: until they realized they were soldiers and not cattle rustlers. On the journeys, which might cover hundreds of miles between forts, they often stopped at small adobe hut settlements. If they could convince the families they were not bandits, they received a meal. One hut provided a dish called “Chilacolarough (a mixture of corn meal, goat milk and cayenne pepper).” Gabe compared it to eating fire.

Often traveling alone on a ride of 200 miles, Gabe explained that he was never lonely for “the country through which I passed was very beautiful.” He describes the herds of buffalo and wild horses in the valleys below. Occasionally he met another person from Ohio in the wilderness and tells of seeing as copy of the Cincinnati Weekly Times in an isolated mountain cabin.

His final western adventure began when a man with an arrow in his back struggled to the fort to tell of a nearby attack by a band of Sioux Indians. Supplies for western forts were brought in by wagon and families heading west often joined the supply wagons. When the soldiers hurried from the fort to help they found the “savage butchery” of a massacre. Searching for anyone still alive they found two boys, seven and eleven. Both had been scalped and were taken to the fort and cared for.

Gabe and his company had enlisted for three years, but had remained for an extra three months to help in the Indian fighting. Now they anxious to cross the plains and head “for the states.”

When his train finally reached Lima, Gabe decided to spend the night at a hotel where he could have a good sleep, a bath and a shave before he met his friends at a little wooden depot in Ada. On one of his last scouting trips he lost 60 pounds and he knew he had changed in the eight years he had been gone. It was 1864 and he had enough adventure and memories to last a life time. He was ready to settle down.

The next year he married Sarah Carman. After the loss of their first baby they had three , Franklin and Jesse. Sometime during this period the spelling of this name was changed  to Hubbell from Hubble. Many of Gabriel’s descendants still live in the area and some live on the Hubbell farms. Esther Huber, Elsie Tressel, Edna Koch and Robert Hubbell are Samuel’s children; Isabelle Nelson and Reed Hubbell are the children of Jesse; Mary Noe, Franklin D., who died in 1976, and Charles who died in 1984, are the children born to Franklin.

Since the young men who traveled West seldom used their real names, Gabriel was known as “Buckeye.” Somewhere in the pages of the history of the Old West, Buckeye’s adventures are recorded. They are more vivid than any novelist could imagine.

Thanks to Robert and Wilma Hubbell, Norma Jean Hubbell and Isabelle Hubbell Nelson for their help.  Gabriel Hubbell’s family history can be found at the Ada Public Library. A copy of Scout and Spy: A tale of Adventure on the Frontier” from the Ada Record is included in the file.