Hobbs and his horses
One of Camden’s prominent citizens, a businessman and horse racing enthusiast, was Josiah H. Hobbs.
Hobbs was born May 18, 1870, to James Philbrook Hobbs and Nancy M. Miller. He was the eldest of his siblings, which included Grace, Lizzie, James, Flora Everett, Miller, Alice and J. Crosby. He attended school in Hope from about 1875 until 1888.
Dec. 25, 1891, Josiah married Grace Maud Elms in Belfast. They had one daughter, Josephine. He was employed as a clerk in a lumber company for a couple of years and then managed lumber and building material for a company until he became postmaster. In 1914, when Camden had a brand new post office on Chestnut Street, he was appointed as its first postmaster, receiving $3,100 year. In 1923, he retired from that position and Reuel Robinson took over. Robinson soon was notified that not only would he be postmaster but also custodian of the post office as well. The postal workers gave Hobbs a complimentary banquet at the Green Gables in recognition of his work as postmaster.
Shortly after his retirement, Hobbs and James A. Brown bought the Strawbridge Wharf and Ogier Building on Bay View Street. It was here that they established a lumber yard and building supply store. That partnership was dissolved in June 1929, by Hobbs buying out Brown. It then became J. H. Hobbs Lumber Company. On Jan. 1, 1946, Hobbs sold the lumber company to Vernon Packard from Warren. He started working for the company 53 years before, when it was known as the M. K. St. Clair Company.
Hobbs loved horses and horse racing. Hosmer Pond’s favorite sport in 1926 was horse racing on the ice. Brown, Hobbs and some others owned racing horses.
“Carioca” was a favorite of his owner and most of the kids in his neighborhood. The horse raced as a 2-year-old in 1936. He drove the colt to first victory at Norridgewock on the 4th of July. Hobbs was in charge of the popular horse races at Lily Pond on Sunday afternoons in the late 1930s.The colt weighed 840 pounds. Hobbs said,”Our first colt,”Carioca,” on the day he won, he got his record at Gorham, Maine 1938. Nice trotter – won his first race on his 26 months birthday.”
During the 1938 Winter Carnival at the Snow Bowl, there were two days of horse racing. Hobb’s “Carioca” turned in the fastest time.
Hobbs also had other race horses. Some were “Grace Rose”,” Josephine Rose” and “Ruth Rose.” At one time ,he lived on Chestnut Street and his stables were where the parking lots are for Waterfront Restaurant and the Episcopal church. Girls didn’t “hang around” anywhere in those days, but all the boys would visit Hobbs’ horses. Billy Metcalf took care of them, cleaning and feeding the horses for some spending money. The boys were allowed to ride bareback. Hobbs would be friendly but had a commanding voice that would state, “You may ride for 20 minutes.” By the tone of his voice, they knew they were welcome but no “horsing around.”
Hobbs bought the large home at 8 Union St., previously owned by one of the Knowltons of Knowlton Bros. Foundry family. Mrs. Samuel Glover lives there today in the lovely home. The land went all the way up to the brook that runs across Belmont Avenue. It was fenced in such a way that the horses would be confined to one pasture at a time. The picture in this article shows Hobbs, “Carioca” and some of the fences in his back yard. The neighborhood boys would move the horses to one pasture and play touch football in the other.
In addition to his large business and his love of horses, he was a prominent Camden resident, serving on many committees and boards.
In 1907, he called the meeting to order for the Village Corporation and was elected clerk at this meeting and many others; some years he was treasurer. This was the group that had been responsible for the building of Camden Opera House in 1893, and many good things. He also served on the Board of Trade (before we had a Chamber of Commerce) for many years and was president of it in 1908. He held other offices in it as vice-president. In 1923 the Highway Commission wanted to divert Atlantic Highway from Brunswick inland to Augusta and Bangor. It was The Board of Trade from Camden who opposed that and must have won as we still have the Atlantic Highway along the coast. The Board of Trade was also responsible for the Archway on Union Street.
He was a determined Democrat and attended state caucuses. He was chairman of the Democratic Committee and worked to have Woodrow Wilson elected president. Often at town meeting he was the moderator. He served several times as first selectman of the town, and also on the school board
Hobbs was junior warden of the Camden Commandery in 1915. This man wore many hats in Camden. He was secretary of Camden Public Library, elected sheriff; he was on the committee for public safety, a director of Camden National Bank, chairman of Camden Relief Association, treasurer and director of Camden Outing Club. In 1923, Community Christmas boxes were packed and delivered Dec. 24 under the direction of Hobbs, who was chairman.
Camden lost a fine citizen, when Hobbs died June 27, 1953, at age 83. At that time he was one of its oldest residents. He was a communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, a 50-year member of Amity Lodge of Masons, a member of the Camden Businessmen’s Club and Camden Rotary Club.
He was survived by his wife Grace Hobbs, a daughter Mrs. Harry Jarrett, two brothers, Miller and Everett Hobbs both of Hope, and three sisters, Mrs. James Robbins of Searsmont, Mrs. Grace Johnson of Appleton and Mrs. Arthur Harwood of Hope.
His funeral services were June 29 at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church with Rev. Haig Nargesian officiating.