Missionaries Geneva Hubbell and Ernest Carlburg Marry in China
Geneva Hubbell taught school for the China Inland Mission and married Ernest
Carlburg in China. The Carlburgs served as missionaries for over two decades.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Presbyterian, Methodist, Wesleyans, Baptists and other ecumenical women’s hands pieced missionary quilts with loving zeal. The vast country of China itself resembled patchwork quilt with checkered squares of mountains, rivers, and lush green valleys.
Geneva Hubbell Leaves Union City, Pennsylvania, for China
The quilts symbolized and warmed missionaries like Geneva Hubbell Carlburg and her husband Ernest of the China Inland Mission who devoted their lives to serving in China. Ernest and Geneva Carlburg came from a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania called Union City.
In September of 1930, Geneva traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia and on Thursday, September 18, 1930, she sailed from Vancouver for Shanghai, China. She spent the winter at Yanchow, China, studying the Chinese language to further equip herself for the mission work. Her future husband Ernest Carlburg also arrived in China the same year.
Geneva Travels to Siho
In January 1932, Geneva began her second year of work in China stationed in Siho where she expected to serve for some time. She described her journey through the mountain passes leading to Kansu, where she and her party were accosted by soldiers at the first of the passes. They demanded a price for the safe arrival of the missionaries, but Geneva reported “Our Father had provided for this need for we had a passport from a military leader that protected us from these evil men.”
Geneva’s future husband, Ernest W. Carlburg, also wrote letters home. In October 1932, he wrote about having the “delight of meeting Miss Hubbell and there we spent a very happy week together. I am sure that by this time you will have heard that we are engaged. And want now I want to take the opportunity of inviting you and any of the rest of the gang you can pick up to come out for the wedding in January 1933.”
Geneva Hubbell Marries Ernest Carlburg
On January 25, 1933, Geneva Hubbell of Union City, Pennsylvania, and Siho, Kansu, and Ernest Carlburg of Union City, Pennsylvania, and Kankuh, Kansu were married. The ceremony was performed in the guest room of the Ti Hsia Tang under an evergreen arch that Mac Phillips borrowed from the nearby Temple grounds at great risk. The ceremony began at noon. Ernest Carlburg took his place wearing a black watered silk ma-kua (jacket) over a blue gabardine gown, and other garments of gray sateen bound by black sateen tai-tsi, (white sox) and black velvet shoes.
Reverend Reuben Gustaffson of the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America, officiated at the ceremony. He and his wife had traveled across the perilous mountain trail from Lungchow, Shensi, five days distant to preside at the wedding. He wore a navy blue foreign suit that covered his six feet two inch frame well.
The Bride Wears a Bright Blue Silk Chinese Gown
The guests sat around with Syd Walker and his bridge Mildred, newly returned from Shanghai who had come across with Reverend and Mrs. Gustaffson. Sister Ruth Benson and Harriette Barnard assisted the bride and Lillian Phillips played the organ. Richard Phillips was chosen to be the ring bearer, but pleaded illness at the last moment.
Lillian Phillips struck up the wedding march from Lohengrin. During the last stanza, the bride appeared. Her crown of red hair harmoniously contrasted with a bright blue silk Chinese gown. She was supported by her bridesmaid, Betty Bain, who was wearing a gray silk dress. The bride walked over and stood by her groom. Esther Gustafson sang a solo, “I Will Never Leave Thee.”
Ice Cream with Wild Strawberries for Wedding Dinner Desert
Passages from the Book of Proverbs describing the ideal wife were read and then the wedding ceremony according to Episcopal form was performed. Two hymns,
“Let Me Come Closer to Thee Lord Jesus,” and “Light That Grows Not Pale”,
followed. Mac Phillips closed with prayer and the bride groom kissed the bride.
Congratulations and a “sit around” wedding breakfast followed. The meal was
crowned by dishes of ice cream with wild strawberries.
That afternoon, the friends of the bride and groom gave them a “shower” that
provided the bride’s kitchen with dishes and linen. Ernest and Geneva spent two weeks with the Phillips in Tsinchow after the wedding, and then they traveled to Siho.
For the remainder of their twenty years in China, the Carlburgs and their family (they would eventually have three sons, Herbert, Clifford, and Gordon) faced the menace of the Communists in China. Despite the challenges she faced Geneva persevered, and she and Ernest ministered to the Chinese for over twenty years.
Wheaton, Illinois and Taiwan
In 1953, the Carlburgs left China to operate a home for the children of the China Inland mission in Wheaton, Illinois. The Carlbugs lived in Wheaton, Illinois for twelve years and
then Ernest and Gen Eva returned to the Orient for a four year term of work in Taiwan and served until the late 1960s.
Through all of her years in China and Taiwan, Geneva smoothed home pieced missionary quilts on stove top and straw beds. Even in their retirement home in Wheaton, Illinois, she and Ernest treasured the quilts that the Baptist and Presbyterian missionary society women in Union City had sent to them.
Ernest died in 1986 at age 81 and Geneva in 1994 at age 90.
Austin Alvyn, Frykenberg, Robert Eric, Stanley, Brian. China’s Millions:
The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905, W.B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 2007.
Carlburg Letters, Union City Times, 1933-1960