By Cathy Ingalls, Albany Regional Museum board member
At least one way Hubbard Bryant proved that he was a civic-minded citizen of Albany came in 1911 when he and his wife, Adda, announced their plans to deed about 40 acres of his 640-acre farm west of town to the city for a park.
The offer, however, came with restrictions.
Mayor L.M. Curl was uncomfortable with those requirements so it wasn’t until 1914 that he put the issue to a city vote. By a 3-1 margin, voters declined to accept the gift.
Following the vote, Hub as he was known, and his wife issued a statement in writing: “You have chosen to refuse the offer of a tract of land for a park. In making this offer, we assure you we had it in our hearts to be generous…believe us, there will be on our part no ill will towards anyone, not contentions and no regrets.”
The restrictions that the mayor and others found so onerous included: the city would have to replace any bridge onto the property when necessary, the city would have to maintain the road to the property and develop a branch stretch of street from the road; and no alcohol would be permitted in the park.
Bryant wanted to pick members of a parks commission to govern the park, and the Chautauqua Association would have the right to use the park each summer for is assemblies.
Five years later in 1919, the Bryants made another offer with mostly the same restrictions, however the park commission requirement was modified.
Again Mayor Curl came out against the offer and another citywide vote was ordered. The folks who wanted the acreage for a park launched a well-organized campaign and this time the vote was favorable to accept the land.
To acknowledge the gift, the city ordered that a bronze plaque be erected on a rock at the entrance to the park with the following inscription, according to Dr. David Fitchett, who has researched the Bryant family. The plaque is still there.
It reads: “This tablet erected by the city of Albany in memory of Hubbard Bryant and his wife Adda E. Bryant whose love of nature and little children and their loyalty to home people led them to give 39 acres to make this city park possible. May 14, 1919.”
So who are Hubbard and Adda Bryant.
Hubbard was born in 1848 in Missouri to John and Lucinda Bilyeu Bryant. He was the oldest of five children, based on material on file at the Albany Regional Museum.
The family, which at that time included Hubbard and his sister Susan, moved west by wagon train in 1852, settling in Jordan Valley near Scio. The three younger children Nancy, Thomas and Mary were born there.
Hubbard attended a nearby school and later enrolled at Willamette University in Salem, graduating in 1872 at age 23. Although born with a clubfoot, Hubbard walked home most weekends during the school year to Jordan Valley, a distance of 25 miles.
His school clothing consisted of a suit his mother made from homespun material and woven fabric. His shoes also were homemade. Later to accommodate his different foot sizes, he had to order one shoe in size a 6 and the other in a size 7.
Following graduation, Hubbard wanted to make sure his economic future included a number of options so he took business courses in Portland, and he read the law in Salem and then passing a test was admitted to the bar.
The year 1874 was a big one for Bryant. He moved to Albany and married Adda. He also was elected surveyor, winning election to the post three times.
Bryant practiced law for 10 years and then concentrated on becoming a big landowner. Eventually, he was one of the biggest taxpayers in Linn County.
As his income grew, he moved to 1933 Santiam Road next to Periwinkle Creek, then to Fourth Avenue in west Albany, and he purchased the 640 acres just west of Albany.
At its peak, the farm boasted 24 acres of corn, two silos, 94 acres of oats that produced about 9,000 bushels, a large herd of Jersey cows, a pasteurizer, a cooling plant, and an ice works and water washing setup. Later he owned about 40 hogs.
His family included nine children and 12 grandchildren at the time of his death in 1924.
He died in a car wreck in Eastern Oregon, where he was scouting for farms and visiting his daughter and husband in Union. His driver missed a detour and the car rolled twice down a 20-foot embankment, crushing Bryant against a fender, breaking his neck.
His funeral was on July 11, 1924, and as a sign of respect, banks, stores and the courthouse were closed.
Emblematic of his civic mindedness, Bryant was quoted as having said in wishing to donate his land for a park, “I think it is the duty of every man who makes money in town to leave something for that town….and I am willing to show by my actions that I believe that way.”