Robert Bacom Harbaugh Sr. was born on Feb. 8, 1855 on a farm at what is now Clairton Lake near Scullton, Somerset County, PA, the son of David and Mary Magdalene (Whipkey) Harbaugh.
On Christmas Eve 1889, at Cumberland, Allegany County, MD, the 33-year-old Robert married 20-year-old Elizabeth Long (1869-1952), the daughter of Enoch and Rachael (Firestone) Long. He was 13 years older than his bride. Rev. W.E. Bird, of the Kingsley Methodist Episcopal Church, officiated at the wedding ceremony.
The Harbaughs had eight children -- Edward Charles "Eddie" Harbaugh, Rachel "Flossie" Heins, Oakey David Harbaugh, Garrett "Hobart" Harbaugh, William "Sturgis" Harbaugh, Robert Bacom Harbaugh Jr., Ollie Magdalene Hall and Harold Dwight Harbaugh.
Sadly, eldest son Edward died at the age of one year, 10 months in 1893. His grief-stricken parents laid him to rest in the Imel Cemetery. His grave marker was still legible when photographed in the 1990s, and was inscribed, "Gone but not forgotten."
Their other seven children were born over a 21-year span between 1893 and 1914.
In 1893 Robert and Lizzie settled on a nearby farm in the mountainous community of Maple Summit, just over the county line near Mill Run, Fayette County, PA. The Connellsville Courier reported that Robert "was an industrious farmer and was held in high esteem in his community. He was a regular attendant at church, being a teacher in the Sunday School."
Also a carpenter by trade, Robert donated land in 1893 for the Peoples United Church of Maple Summit, and with the help of cousins Lawson Minerd and Allen Rowan, constructed the building, which still stands. In February 1893, Robert's cousin Sadie Minerd wrote a letter to their distant cousin, Roy Sheppard Minerd, with excitement about the new church soon to be under construction: "Tell your Papa that we are going to get a church house at last. They are going to begin next Monday."
In 1912, he was baptized by immersion in the Youghiogheny River at Bidwell, and joined the church. He became an elder and deacon, while wife Elizabeth was treasurer, daughter Flossie was secretary and son in law Lloyd Hall was deacon.
In March 1895, reported Normalville's The Mountaineer newspaper, he was "building a new house."
Robert and daughter Flossie suffered injuries in a freak accident in September 1909, while riding toward Bryner's Ridge, near Ohiopyle, where Flossie had been hired to teach. Reported the Connellsville Courier:
The horse Mr. Harbaugh was driving, an animal that had been used for driving purposes in the family for several years, ran into a bees' nest along the road, took fright and dashed down Burnsworth hill at top speed. Mr. Harbaugh and his daughter were riding in a large covered buggy which prevented either of them from jumping out. About half way down the hill the buggy turned over and the occupants were dragged along the road for several hundred feet. That both of them were not killed is almost a miracle. Both, however, were badly bruised and cut about the head and face.
Dr. H.Y Brady treated Robert and Flossie as best he could, and escorted them back home. Due to Flossie's injuries, school was postponed for a few weeks.
The portrait of Robert, seen here, was taken at Porter's Art Studio in nearby Connellsville, PA.
On Sept. 18, 1922, Robert died at home of stomach cancer. He was just 66 years of age. His remains were laid to rest in the Imel Cemetery.
Elizabeth outlived her husband by three decades, and maintained her membership in the old family church at Maple Summit. Not much else is known about her remaining years.
In about 1937, Elizabeth moved to the Lemont section of Uniontown, Fayette County, residing on the Connellsville-Uniontown Road. Tragically, just a few months later, son Harold was struck and killed in a foggy automobile accident in Hopwood, Fayette County.
Elizabeth lived in Lemont for a total of 15 years, until her death. She passed away at age 83 on Aug. 9, 1952, "following a lingering illness," reported the Uniontown Daily Standard. She was buried with her husband in Imel Cemetery.
The Harbaughs' children have remained very active supporters of the annual Harbaugh Reunion over the years. Their children attended the first reunion in 1926, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have served in continuous leadership capacities since the 1960s to the present.
Copyright © 2000-2003, 2006-2007, 2011, 2016, 2021 Mark A. Miner