The compelling stories of our ancestors have remained dormant for years like fragments of a puzzle whose scattered pieces were left suspended in time. The African American families of the Sourland mountain and surrounding region left descendants who had their own stories to tell, stories as inspirational and touching as those of their ancestors.
SSAAM has created a series of Oral Histories, which will soon be available to the public at the museum’s listening stations. These presentations will allow our museum visitors to hear the stories of people who descended from amazing pioneers who populated this region. These stories will expose their triumphs, tragedies, family stories, and how reliance on their unwavering faith in church and community helped them to persevere.
We have included three of those stories here.
Our special thanks to the New Jersey Council for the Humanities for a grant that made this project possible, and Cliff Wilson, who generously offered his studio for the audio recordings, as well as his audio engineering skills
Herbert Albert Hubbard (1875-1947)
For much of his young life, Herb Hubbard was raised by J. Hervey Stout and his sister, Sarah, after Herb’s mother (the Stout’s housekeeper) passed away when he was four. Herbert married Sarah Matilda Hoagland and raised their children on the Sourland Mountain where he worked most of his adult life for the Pembleton family on a 70 acre dairy farm in Hopewell, New Jersey.
A brilliant penman, Herb was the first Black graduate in 1894 from Rider University then known as Trenton Business College. Prior to farming for a limited time Herb used his exquisite penmanship to draft documents for his employers. Eventually he grew tired of working out of sight in back rooms where he asked to sit in order not to offend White clients.
Herbert Hubbard was a man of many talents; he was a self-taught musician who made his own violins.
Leona Hubbard Stewart (1913-2003)
Leona Hubbard Stewart, the youngest child of Herbert and Sarah Matilda Hubbard, was born on the Sourland Mountain along with her siblings, Herma, Earl, Basil and Hervey. Leona married Stanley Stewart and raised her children, Janice, Stanley II and Jeffrey in one of the oldest historic homes in Pennington, New Jersey. It was in this house where early followers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church worshiped before the church was built on land next door. For a short time this was also the home where the actor, Dooley Wilson, who appeared as “Sam” in the movie Casablanca, once lived.
Marvel Aleta Clark Harris (1915-2015)
Marvel Harris was the eleventh child born to Henry and Pinky Clark who migrated from Virginia to settle in Pennington, New Jersey. Marvel was born in the middle of a blizzard and was a very sickly child not expected to live. Defying the prediction of her doctors Marvel married, raised two children and lived a full life which included seventy years of working within her church. Not only did Marvel survive to adulthood, she passed away a mere two months after celebrating her 100th birthday.