Moses Hopkins and Jonathan Hubbard are recognized as the first settlers in what is now the town of Cortland. Amos Todd and Joseph and Rhoda Beebe were the first to settle in what would become known as Cortland County in 1791. Moses and Jonathan traveled to the area from Brimfield, MA in 1794. Jonathan’s elderly parents and 3 brothers (Soloman, James, and John) also arrived about this time. We learned that the men went to the top of what was to become known as Court House Hill and surveyed the land. Moses chose land to the west to build while Jonathan envisioned a new town at the base of the hill to the east. He bought a large plot of land later bounded by Main Street on the west, the river on the north, Greenbush Street to the east, and Pt. Watson Street on the south. He built the first frame house on what is now the corner of Main Street and Court Street, later the site of the National Bank and then the BT Jones jewelry store.
He became the richest man in the growing town. It was because of this wealth that Jonathan was instrumental in getting the smaller town of Cortland designated the county seat of the newly formed Cortland County (1809). His $1000 and a lot belonging to his friend Samual Ingalls on Court House Hill enabled him to approach the commissioners who were to decide the matter. Before the other contenders knew it Cortland was chosen!
Jonathan’s first wife, Abigail McClure, died in 1805 at the birth of their daughter, Abigail. He then married Polly Trowbridge in 1811 and their son Jonathan Hubbard III was born in 1813. Jonathan died on December 21, 1814, at the age of 41.
Four early Hubbard gravestones are located in the Cortland Rural Cemetery. Research by local historian Mary Dexter suggests that Jonathan Sr (d. 1806), his wife Mary (d. 1928), their son Jonathan II (d. 1814), and his wife Abigail (d.1805) were originally buried in a small private cemetery on land owned by Solomon Hubbard on the west side of ‘courthouse hill” road. An interesting pencil rubbing by Mary Dexter of Jonathan Sr.’s marker shows the curious epitaph “Death excuses none”.
– gravestone rubbing by Mary Dexter, National Bank image from Cortland County Historical Society