Pittsburgh Streets

Cuba Way

Neighborhood: Crawford-Roberts

There was once an alley between Jumonville Street and Wyandotte Street, when those streets extended further north than they do today, that was called Cuba-You-Quit Way. This unusual name comes from a Chippewa woman named Cub-ba-you-quit, who was involved in a legal battle over land rights in the 1870s.

The story begins with an early Pittsburgh physician, Peter Mowry, who by 1830 had acquired 76 acres of land in what is now Upper Lawrenceville. This tract of land stretched from the Allegheny River to about today’s Carnegie Street, between 50th and 53rd Streets, including part of the modern Allegheny Cemetery. Mowry died in 1833. His son William moved to Michigan around 1846, where he married Cub-ba-you-quit, the daughter of a Chippewa chief named Perot or Pero. She took the name Mary Mowry. After several years, William returned to Pittsburgh without his family, perhaps intending it to be a brief visit, but there he fell ill and died. The Mowry land deed was forgotten, and in the following decades the land was subdivided, sold to various individuals and businesses, and developed. In the early 1870s, a man named Bernard L. Meister rediscovered Peter Mowry’s will of 1833, which bequeathed this land (now worth an estimated $2 million) to William, therefore suggesting that it should have been inherited by his widow. Meister contacted Mary Mowry and offered her $30,000 for three-fourths interest in her claim. She agreed, and Meister went to court in December 1874 to gain control of the property. The sensational case attracted widespread attention in the newspapers and among the public. Mary’s original name of Cub-ba-you-quit became known during testimony. So did the fact that she had been married to William according to the Chippewa tradition and had refused a legally recognized ceremony, which damaged her case. The jury ruled against her claim. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, on the grounds that the marriage should be recognized under common law, and in 1877, in Meister v. Moore, that court ordered a new trial. The final outcome is unclear, except that Mary got a street named after her.[1, 11]

The name of the alley was spelled Cub-ba-you-quit in a city ordinance of 1875[6] but was soon corrupted to Cuba-You-Quit, and Mary’s brief local fame quickly faded. In a 1904 column in the Connellsville Courier, just 30 years after Mary’s court battles, A. G. McKean relates a “tradition” that the alley was given its name because of a child bully named Cuba to whom other children would complain, “Cuba, you quit.”[5]

The “Cuba” part of the name was often confused with the island. During the First World War, an anonymous writer praised the name Cuba-You-Quit Alley, under the false belief that it had originated in the Spanish–American war, and called for additional sloganistic street name changes (“‘Berlin-or-Bust Alley,’ ‘Buy-a-Bond Terrace,’ ‘War-Savings-Stamp Street,’ ‘Food-Will-Win-the-War,’ ‘Don’t-Waste-It Alley,’ ‘Over-the-Top Avenue,’ or ‘Carry-On Boulevard’”).[8] The association with the island was strengthened (and the connection to the true origins weakened) when Cuba-You-Quit Way was renamed Cuba Way by a city ordinance in 1926.[2, 3, 7, 10, 11] Bob Regan mistakenly includes “Cuba” in a list of streets named for countries.[9]

Cuba Way was still listed in a city street guide in 1953,[4] but by 2014 it no longer existed.[11]

References

[1]Andrews, J. C. Untitled letter. Printed in Frank C. Harper, “Pittsburgh day by day,” Pittsburgh Press, Jan. 8, 1929, p. 2 (Newspapers.com 146342285).

[2]Danver, Charles F. “Pittsburghesque: Cuba-You-Quit way.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 14, 1933, p. 6. Newspapers.com 88901942.

[3]Donalson, Al. “Signing in: Names of city streets reflect colorful history.” Pittsburgh Press, Mar. 19, 1985, p. A7. Newspapers.com 146595524.

[4]Gross, Alexander. The Complete Street Guide to Pittsburgh and 16 Nearby Suburbs: With large map of Pittsburgh and suburbs; streets, house numbers, transportation lines, places of interest, churches, etc., etc. Geographia Map Co. Inc., New York, 1953. DonsList.net PghStreets1953M.

[5]McKean, A. G. “Our Pittsburg letter.” Courier (Connellsville, Penna.), Apr. 28, 1904, p. 6. Newspapers.com 37848766.

[6]“An ordinance authorizing the opening of Wyandotte Lane from Fifth avenue to Cub-ba-you-quit alley.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1875, no. 7. Passed Feb. 27, 1875; approved Mar. 4, 1875. Ordinance Book 4, p. 26. Google Books QblEAQAAMAAJ.

[7]“An ordinance changing the names of certain avenues, streets and ways in the City of Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1926, no. 532. Passed Oct. 18, 1926; approved Oct. 20, 1926. Ordinance Book 37, p. 649. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post, Oct. 23, 1926, p. 19 (Newspapers.com 88200629), and Oct. 25, p. 15 (Newspapers.com 88200723).

[8]“‘Pittsburgh promotes progress.’” Union Postal Employe, vol. 14, no. 11, Nov. 1918, p. 32. Google Books IEg2AQAAMAAJ.

[9]Regan, Bob. The Names of Pittsburgh: How the city, neighborhoods, streets, parks and more got their names. The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, 2009, p. 64. ISBN 978-0-9770429-7-5.

[10]Swetnam, George. “Here in Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh Press, Sept. 29, 1947, p. 15. Newspapers.com 149729673.

[11]Wudarczyk, Jude. “Unlikely plaintiff: Lawrenceville historian Jude Wudarczyk unearths the details of a Chippewa woman’s legal fight with the city’s leading men.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 14, 2014, p. C-7. Newspapers.com 96351259.