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Hubbard, Olivia Jane Roberts [Janie] (1849–1887)

Ted Banks Biography Entry

Olivia Jane “Janie” Roberts Hubbard, wife of Texas governor Richard Bennett Hubbard, Jr., was born in Cobb County, Georgia, on August 9, 1849, to Willis Roberts, a planter, and Elizabeth (Jones) Roberts. Her father had served as a state senator in Georgia before moving the family to Tyler, Texas, before the Civil War. According to a family grave marker in Oakwood Cemetery in Tyler, the Roberts family moved with a hundred enslaved people to Smith County, Texas, in 1859. The family, however, appeared in the 1860 census and slave schedules, compiled in August, for Cobb County, Georgia (see SLAVERY). Later in her life, Janie Roberts was reputed to have inherited from her father “not only a brilliant mind but much of the inborn tact of the master politician.”

Janie Roberts married Richard Bennett Hubbard, attorney, former state legislator, and Civil War veteran, in Tyler, Texas, on November 2, 1869. She was twenty years old. Janie and Richard Hubbard had three children: Charles Faye, Clarence R., and Searcy. Janie also helped raise her husband’s young children, Serena (often called Rena) and Richard, from his first marriage. She became a member of the Baptist church in 1876. Richard Hubbard was elected lieutenant governor in 1873 and served in that capacity until December 1, 1876, when Richard Coke resigned the governorship to become a United States Senator, which elevated Hubbard to the state’s highest office. He served as governor until 1879.

Janie Roberts Hubbard was remembered by Austin society of the 1870s as “an elegant and imposing hostess of the mansion, famed for her charming manners and good looks.” While Hubbard was governor, he and Janie hosted the small, intimate wedding of Nettie Houston, daughter of Sam and Margaret Lea Houston, and Maj. William L. Bringhurst in the Governor’s Mansion.

The Hubbard family returned to Tyler, Texas, after his term ended in 1879. There the couple’s two sons died during an epidemic of diphtheria in 1882 (his son Richard died in 1875 or 1877). Janie Hubbard was said to be physically weakened after these loses and the birth of her daughter, Searcy, two years earlier. Richard Hubbard supported the first presidential campaign of Grover Cleveland, who rewarded Hubbard with an appointment as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Japan in 1885. According to his diary, his wife, children, and mother traveled with him to Japan, where they intended to live during what became a four-year assignment. Janie accompanied her husband to numerous dinners hosted by the royal family at the Imperial Palace, where she was greeted ceremoniously by the Empress of Japan.

Both Janie and Richard were frequently ill during their time in Japan. Historians suspect she had cholera. Janie Roberts Hubbard died on July 9, 1887, in Nikko, Japan, about a year and a half after arriving at the legation. Her body was embalmed and placed in an above-ground tomb until 1889 when her husband returned to the United States with her remains, which were then reinterred in Oakwood Cemetery, in Tyler, Texas.

Austin Statesman, August 24, 1887. Jean S. Duncan, “An East Texas at an Oriental Court: Richard Bennett Hubbard, Minister to Japan, 1885–1889,” East Texas Historical Journal 16 (1978). Pearl Cashell Jackson, Texas Governors’ Wives(Austin: E. L. Steck Publishing, 1915). “Janie Roberts Hubbard,” Find a Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/61764520/janie-hubbard), accessed September 20, 2020. Carl R. McQueary, Dining at the Governor’s Mansion (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2003). “Willis Roberts,” Find a Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10026195/willis-roberts), accessed September 20, 2020. 

Categories:

  • Politics and Government
  • Religion
  • Baptist
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

Places:

  • East Texas
  • East Central Texas
  • Tyler

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

Ted Banks, “Hubbard, Olivia Jane Roberts [Janie],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 03, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hubbard-olivia-jane-roberts-janie.

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