Favorite Photo Friday – James & Barbara Cubbage

Above my desk I have two large images of my second great-grandparents:


These images were in possession of my grandfather, then my father, before being passed down to me in 2014. My guess is that James and Barbara sat for these in the 1890s in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

James Cubbage was born in 1829 in Allegheny County to John Cubbage and Mary Jane Stoup.[1] He moved to Butler County around 1850 and married Barbara in 1852.[2] Barbara Black was born in 1837 in Butler County to John Black and Margaret Sarver.[3]

James and Barbara had nine children between 1853 and 1873 (20 years of childbearing!).[4] They did not own any property until 1873, just before their last child was born (my great-grandfather Charles).[5] James died in 1906 in Penn Township, Butler County.[6] Barbara died just under a year later.[7]

I love having these images over my desk … they inspire me as I research, write and learn more about my ancestors. I see some other Cubbage men in the face of James – especially in the eyes. Barbara looks pretty serious … maybe even stern a bit stern, but it might have been the 20 years of childbearing. Or it reflects what life was like with a large family in rural western Pennsylvania. Or maybe it was because that around this time, five of her sons began to move away from Butler County and scatter around the country.

These treasured family heirlooms bring me joy every day. Do you have any family photos or images that are important to you?


[1] Pennsylvania Department of Health, certificate of death no. 13513 (1906), James Cubbage; Bureau of Vital Statistics, New Castle.

 [2] 1850 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Buffalo Township, p. 22 (stamped), dwelling 308, family 310, John Black household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 28 February 2018), citing National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 760. Also, James Cubbage, drinking glass, ca. 1852, privately held by William Arthur Cubbage, Jr. [address for private use,] Long Valley, New Jersey. The glass is etched with “James Cubbage married 1852.”

[3] Butler County, Pennsylvania, Probate file B-120, will of John Black (1851). Also, “In Memoriam – Barbara Cubbage,” obituary from unidentified newspaper; photocopy privately held by William Arthur Cubbage, Jr. [address for private use,] Long Valley, New Jersey, ca. 1975.

[4] James and Barbara Cubbage Family Bible Records, 1853-1902, The Holy Bible (New York: American Bible Society, 1870), “Births”; privately held by the author, Metuchen, New Jersey.

[5] Butler County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 36: 150-151, James Bartley and wife to Barbara Cubbage, 28 April 1873; Recorder of Deeds, Butler.

[6] Pennsylvania Department of Health, certificate of death no. 13513 (1906), James Cubbage.

[7] Pennsylvania Department of Health, certificate of death no. 11927 (1907), Barbara Cubbage.


Women’s Words Wednesday

So much of our history is recorded, remembered, and influenced by the views our male ancestors. But that was only part of our story, and I am fascinated by the words of our female ancestors. I am adding a new blogging category called Women’s Words Wednesday where I will post and reflect on these important words that I have found in my research, in whatever form they arise (letter, photo, document or record).

Below is a letter from Sara Logan to Charles Cubbage, my great-grandfather, about Sarah Cubbage, Charles’ sister. [1]

[unreadable along frayed top edge of letter]
Dec. 16, 1902

Mr. Charles Cubbage,
Dear Friend –
Will write you a few lines this morning in place of your parents to tell you that Sarah had fallen yesterday evening and got seriously hurt. It was so very icy, and she had gone to the shed to feed the chickens and was lying there when they found her. Her head pains her awfully and her back hurts her too. The Dr was here again this morning and said there was little improvement on her
[unreadable along frayed top edge of letter]
be no change for 48 [?]
She just lies and seems to be sleeping and does not seem to notice any one. Charlie I think poor Sara is quite [unreadable] your Father and Mother are so worried but I know Charlie you will come out if you can and if you do not come out the [unreadable, possibly “next word you” ??] that Sara will be better and fully recovered again and a marked improvement from her present condition.

Sara Logan

Sadly, Sarah Cubbage died on Christmas Day, ten days after her fall. She was 45 years old. I do not know if Charles ever traveled the 30 miles from Swissvale to Penn Township in Butler County to visit his sister before she died. At this time in 1902, only Sarah and her brother James L. were still living at home with their parents – their five brothers, including Charles, had all left Butler County.

But who was Sara Logan? And why did she write the letter “in place” of Charles’ parents, James and Barbara Cubbage? Sara mentioned how worried they were and that her brother should “come out if you can”. Were James and Barbara too distraught to write the letter? These are questions I most likely won’t know the answers to, but get me thinking about the role that women played during a tragedy.

Sarah Cubbage, who never married, worked for many years as a servant in the home of John R. Logan. I am fairly certain that Sara Logan was connected to this family – either a relative of John, or possibly the spouse of one of John’s sons. Sara Logan wanted Charles to travel to see his sister, yet she seemed to stay positive at the end of the letter, hoping that Sarah will be “better and fully recovered.”  What was it like for her to be the bearer of bad news? Did she reach out on her own, or at the request of the parents? And since Sarah Cubbage didn’t survive, did Sara Logan need to write another letter to  Charles, and possibly the other brothers, to let them know about her passing? Or did Sarah’s parents James and Barbara send a letter?

Sarah’s obituary reported that “her death was made harder to those who loved her best by her continued promise of recovery”[2] making it appear that she was improving before she died. It also mentioned that she had for many years “remained in the home of Mr. John R. Logan, deceased, and where she was loved and will be mourned deeply” suggesting a close relationship with the Logan family. The obituary also notes that her brothers in Montana and Washington were unable to attend the funeral, leading me to believe that Charles made the trip from Swissvale to Penn Township.

Sara Logan’s letter to Charles, as well as Sarah Cubbage’s obituary, were found tucked inside of the Cubbage Family Bible, originally owned by her parents, James and Barbara.[3] I’m thankful for Sara’s words that convey part of Sarah’s story.


[1] Sara Logan (Valencia, Pennsylvania) to “Mr. Charles Cubbage”, letter, 16 December 1902. Privately held by the author.

[2] “In Memoriam,” undated clipping from unidentified newspaper, citing death of Sarah Cubbage on 25 December 1902 in Penn Township, Pennsylvania; privately held by the author.

[3] James and Barbara Cubbage Family Bible, The Holy Bible (New York: American Bible Society, 1870); privately held by the author.