Chubb, Thomas B. (1811–1886)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 9, 2020

Thomas B. Chubb, Galveston shipmaster, the son of Thomas Chubb, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1811. He left home in 1818 at the age of six or seven to serve on a United States frigate and was employed by the navy until 1823. After that he worked as a stevedore on the Boston docks, where he unloaded goods with horse and pulley, an innovation that almost precipitated a general strike on the waterfront. He engaged in the cod-fishing business and became involved in the coffee trade between South America and New York. After observing the use of slaves in the West Indies, he made a trip to the Congo and returned with 400 Blacks to dispose of there. According to some sources, Chubb also acquired free Blacks as crew members in the north and sold them into slavery in the south. He engaged in business in Boston, managed a circus, and built the Federal Street Theater. In 1827, in the United States Navy, he was a coxswain on the U.S.S. Java.

As conflict in the Southwest grew, Chubb sailed with a shipment of arms to Texas, where he offered his services, became friendly with Sam Houston, and in 1836 arrived in Galveston to accept an appointment as admiral of the Texas Navy. On January 24, 1857, he was accused in State of Texas v. Thomas B. Chubb of stealing slaves. He remained in Galveston until 1861, when he became commander of the steamer Royal Yacht, a Confederate Navy vessel. During the war he was a member of a militia group that watched for enemy vessels from a tower on the Galveston Strand. Chubb was captured at Galveston harbor, imprisoned at Fort Lafayette in the North, and condemned to death for engaging in the slave trade; he was exchanged when President Jefferson Davis threatened to avenge his death by executing ten men.

Chubb married Phoebe Briggs in 1828, and they had eight children. After her death in 1867, he married Mrs. Martha A. Sturgis the same year and sold his two-story "flat roof" house, which was built in 1859 and still stood in Galveston in the 1980s. Chubb served as harbormaster in Galveston from 1882 until his death at his summer home in Post Mills Village, Vermont, on August 26, 1886. He was buried in Galveston.

Virginia Eisenhour, Galveston, a Different Place (Galveston, 1983). Earl Wesley Fornell, The Galveston Era: The Texas Crescent on the Eve of Secession (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States (Edinburgh and London: Blackwood, 1863). Galveston News, August 28, 1890. Charles Waldo Hayes, Galveston: History of the Island and the City (2 vols., Austin: Jenkins Garrett, 1974). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.

Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Chubb, Thomas B.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 9, 2020

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