John Lorenzo Hubbell was raised in Pajarito Mesa, New Mexico, south of Albuquerque. His father was Anglo and his mother Spanish. He didn’t learn to speak English until he was 12. He made his way to Arizona in the summer of 1873, less than a decade after the Long Walk. He purchased property and several small buildings that formed a compound from a trader named William Leonard. He was 25, single, and didn’t speak Navajo fluently. With an abundance of optimism and ambition, he set up a trading post, opening in 1878.
The trading post became the headquarters of Hubbell’s business empire, which grew to include several ranches, bean and apple farms, two wholesale stores, a few curio shops, stage and freight lines, saloons, mail lines, and up to 24 trading posts, managed by him or one of his family members. Over the years, he became one of the most respected Navajo traders of his time. His influence on Navajo silversmithing can be seen today. He brought Mexican silversmiths to the small village that gradually developed around the Hubbell homestead. Hubbell paid them to teach silversmithing to local Navajo men. He wanted to promote outstanding craftsmanship while creating financial opportunities for the local community.
As a prominent citizen in the territory, Hubbell turned his eye to politics later in life, serving as a senator on the Territorial Government in 1912. Arizona achieved statehood that year so Hubbell became a State Senator. However, after his wife died unexpectedly in 1913, he retired from politics in 1914. Prior to his death, he wrote a memoir entitled, “Fifty Years an Indian Trader.” John Hubbell passed away at home in 1930 at the age of 77. He was buried in the family cemetery behind the trading post on Hubbell Hill. The Hubbell Trading Post is a National Historic Site and National Historic Landmark.