Melungeon Heritage Association by Redbone Heritage Foundation Stacy R Webb, president Gone To Texas A forthcoming book by Stacy R. Webb. A recollection of the Redbone People
Who Are the Redbone People? • The origins and ancestry of Redbones continues to be debated. The families appear to have inherited English surnames both matrilineal and patrilineal. The most common surnames appear to originate via the British Isles rather than being wholly acquired on these shores. Redbones trace their families ancestral surnames back to early Virginia court, taxation and census records commonly classifying them as "African Americans", "Free people of color" as well as "mulatto", “Mustee”, “Mixt blood”,” Mestizo”, “Caste and half caste.” • Colonial Taxation Cases • Residents of Northampton County, Virginia, petitioned the county court on 26 November 1722, complaining, "That the great number of Free Negros Inhabiting within this County are great Grievances most particularly because the Negro Women pay no Taxes" [Orders 1719-22, 192-3]. Virginia passed a law in May 1723, "That all free negros, mulattos, or indians, (except tributary indians to this government) male and female, above the age of sixteen, and all wives of such negroes, mulattos, or indians shall be accounted tithables [Hening IV:133]. • A 1738 North Carolina defined tithables as, "every white Person Male of the age of Sixteen Years and upwards all Negroes Mulattoes Mustees Male or female and all Persons of Mixt Blood to the fourth Generation Male and Female of the Age of Twelve Years and upwards" http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/sections/hp/colonial/editions/Acts/tithable.htm • Only isolated Redbone cases such as Reverend Joseph Willis were ever known to have been enslaved or born into slavery. Some Redbone families are listed among Negro slave owners. • The Redbone was born from the unions of native & endogenous people who mixed with and absorbed the white indentured element, runaway slaves, outcasts and other undesirable peoples upon arrival to these shores and continued into the 20th century. • The Redbone people trace familial relationships to many clans and tribes including the Saponi, Oceenechi, Moors of Delaware, Cheroenhaka (Nottoway), Meherrin, Tuscarora Brass Ankles of South Carolina, The Melungeons of Tennessee, Lumbee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, Shawnee and Coushatta. Redbone • DNA results prove the most prevalent admixtures, Native American in varying degrees, sub-Saharan African, South Asian matches with the Rom “Gypsy” Hindu Kush of North India.
Who Are The Redbone People • Hunted and haunted by their dark complexion and swarthy appearance the Redbones migrated westward into uncharted territories as encroaching European settlers pushed through the wildernesses imposing racial integrity and miscegenation laws. In an attempt to prevent the mixing of races and preserve "racial integrity" many states passed laws against racial intermarriage. Society encourages homogony (marriage between people who are alike with regard to race, ethnicity, religion social class background) through informal norms, and in some cases, formal norms (laws). Miscegenation laws also refused blacks the opportunity to attain the cultural status of whites. White colonists also were fearful of an alliance between African Americans and American Indians and the strength in numbers that such a union of oppressed peoples could produce. Whatever the motivation for miscegenation policy, in 1661 Virginia passed legislation prohibiting interracial marriage and later passed a law that prohibited ministers from marrying racially mixed couples. The fine was ten thousand pounds of tobacco. Then, in 1691, Virginia required that any white woman who bore a mulatto child pay a fine or face indentured servitude for five years for herself and thirty years for her child. Similarly, in Maryland, a woman who married a Negro slave had to serve her husband’s owner for the rest of her married life. Over time, Maryland’s laws became increasingly strict, and in 1715 and 1717 Maryland’s legislature made cohabitation between any white person and a person of African descent unlawful. As the number of colonies grew, miscegenation laws became increasingly commonplace; by the time of the American Civil War, at least five states had enacted anti-miscegenation laws (7). • The Redbone who by the turn of the 19th century were well established as privateers, traders, interpreters and guides migrated from the Upper South traveling and settling in family clans. Most were seeking freedom, trade and survival. A rugged, tenacious people with a pioneering spirit and wandering nature they settled and established communities in Natchez district , Mississippi Territory, Louisiana and Spanish Texas.
GTT…GONE TO TEXAS • In 1721 a group of Cherokees moved west to the Rocky mountains., after a tribal disagreement. Many years later this dislocated branch of the Cherokees began appearing in the Neutral Zone and by 1820 they moved into Spanish held Texas. The Sabine Free State was settled in part the mixed-race people known as Redbones. The Adams-Onís Treaty, signed in 1819 and ratified in 1821, recognized the U.S. claim, setting the border at the Sabine River. Spain surrendered any claim to the area. (Two years after the treaty was negotiated, New Spain won its independence as the Mexican Empire.) Even after the treaty, however, the Neutral Ground and the adjacent part of East Texas remained largely lawless. The Regulator-Moderator War in East Texas in 1839-44 had its roots in the earlier anarchy of the Neutral Ground. Along with the Cherokee, several other tribes from the Southeastern United States also moved into this region of Texas. These were the Alabama, the Coushatta, the Shawnee, the Biloxi, some Creek Indians and a few other smaller groups. • 1817-1820 -- Jean Laffite occupied Galveston Island and used it as a base for his smuggling and privateering operation. •1820 William Goyens, Jr arrived in Texas. • •1821. George Orr , a prominent Redbone familiy moved from Louisiana to the Atascosito District of southeast Texas. He had previously served as a captain in the Magee-Gutierez expedition against Spanish held Texas in 1813, which was an attempt by a private paramilitary group to wrest Texas from Spain. •1822 Rebecca Nash daughter of Wm Nash, granddaughter of the most prominent Redbone progenitor, Thomas Nash/Ash with hr husband, William H Taylor migrate to Texas, DeWitt Colony where their 3rd child Feliciana is born.•3 January 1823 -- Stephen F. Austin received a grant from the Mexican government and began colonization in the region of the Brazos River.
Sabine Free State “No Man’s Land” • 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The Neutral Territory or “No Man’s Land” Before there was a Texas, both France and Spain claimed the region on both sides of the Sabine River--an area known as the "neutral ground“, "no man's land“ or “Sabine Free State” because of early explorations by both nations. French explorers claimed all land drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries as Louisiana Territory. Spain claimed all southern lands beginning with the first watershed west of the Mississippi. The dispute arose over claims that the "first watershed" was the Sabine or the Atchafalaya River. As a result the land between the two rivers was claimed by both nations. When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana territory in 1803 and inherited France's claims, the U.S. and Spain agreed that the disputed strip would be neutral territory until an agreement could be reached by the two nations. Men of intrigue, desperation or adventure came to the neutral ground for their various purposes. The strip soon became a refuge for outlaws and deserters seeking to avoid the laws of any government, leading to the violent Regulator-Moderator War in Shelby and surrounding counties. GTT ‘Gone To Texas’ was a contemporary term for fugitives from justice. • 1807 Thomas Nash aka Ash progenitor of many Redbones settled in Nuetral Zone or No Mans Land, Rio Hondo Lands Joseph Grubb of Thomas Nash on Bayou Kisatchi. • 1826 Atascosita District of Austin's Colony, Mexico 1826 militia against insurgents at Nacogdoches.
GTT…GONE TO TEXAS • 1826 The Atascosita District bounded on the west by Austin’s Colony by the north Nacogdoches, on the east by reserved lands on the Sabine, on the south by by the Gulf of Mexico including all Islands and Bays within 3 leagues of sea shore. Listed as inhabitants include Redbone families, Benjamin, Micheal, Thomas & William Nash families, George Orr, John & William Cherry, James Griffin John Cotton, James Drake William H Taylor, George White, WM, Hugh B & John Johnson. • •1827 Joseph Willis, Apostle The Apostle to the Opelousas, The First Baptist Preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ West of the Mississippi River. He went "far and wide" establishing a church October 21, 1827, just seventeen miles from Orange, Texas, and the Texas State line near Edgerly, Louisiana named Antioch Primitive Baptist Church. April 1830--Relations between the Texans and Mexico reached a new low when Mexico forbid further emigration into Texas by settlers from the United States. • 1830 A large group of Redbones settled on the west side of the Sabine River in what is today Newton County, Texas. Some of the family names in that area were Adams, Bass, Bennett, Bond, Brack, Brown, Clark, Coleman, Cole, Collins, Davis, Droddy, Hall, Harper, Hart, James, Johnson, Knight, Lee, Lewis, Martin, Mattox, Moore, Nash, Page, Parker, Perkins, Powell, Smith, Stringer, Taylor, Thompson, Weeks, West, White, Willis, Williams, Woods, Wright, and Young. • 1831 William Ashworth had emigrated from Louisiana and many of his Redbone families followed him. The Ashworths immigrated to Louisiana from South Carolina in 1799. During the Revolution against Mexico, William and Abner Ashworth paid Gipson Perkins and Elijah Thomas to take their places in the Texas Army. The Ashworths were classified as "free blacks" and were land and slave owners.
Redbone Cattle Ranching • The multiethnic character of early Texas cattle ranching is suggested by the diverse origins of the major stockmen. James Taylor White (Leblanc), a Cajun from Louisiana, owned the largest herds east of the Trinity River by 1830, though he was soon rivaled by the "redbone" Ashworths, Perkins, Dials and Johnsons who moved in from South Carolinian via Louisiana. The families of mixed white, black, and Indian ancestry. Thomas O'Connor, an Irishman from Wexford County, became the leading rancher in the Coastal Bend country north of Corpus Christi in the 1840s, and the German Klebergs later helped build the famous King Ranch in South Texas. • Among the early Angelina County stockmen were pioneering settler and cattleman James Ashworth and his wife Mary (Polly) Perkins and their son-in-law Patrick Johnson, who married their daughter Mary Vianna.They arrived from Southwest Louisiana. The Ashworths and Johnsons as well as others such as Dials and Goins were members of a Southwest Louisiana group of Redbones. The Redbones are a dark-skinned people with Europen features who emigrated from the Pee Dee region of South Carolina to South Louisiana about 1810. The Redbones brought their cattle culture with them, and University of Texas geographer Terry Jordan credits the Redbones as inventing the Texas cattle industry in Louisiana and bringing it to Texas. James Ashworth's brother, Aaron, was an early settler in the Orange area and supplied beeves to feed Sam Houston's army. It is said that Aaron Ashworth had over 3000 head of cattle in the woods.
1832 William Goyens married Mary Pate Sibley, the daughter-in-law, of DR Sibley. Mary Pate Sibley Goyens had one son, Henry Sibley , however Will iam and Mary Goyens had no children. • 26 June 1832--The Battle of Velasco resulted in the first casualties in Texas' relations with Mexico. After several days of fighting, the Mexicans under Domingo de Ugartechea were forced to surrender for lack of ammunition. • 1834 The heirs of Nancy Johnson Gowans widow of Thomas D Goyens, a slaver and Redbone progenitor received from The Republic of Texas signed by Sam Houston, one league & labor, 26,000,000 square acres in the County of Liberty about seven miles from Trinity River boarder by the Wm Hardin survey.
Political correctness at work? Ashworth Act The Ashworth Act, passed by the Texas Congress on December 12, 1840, came in response to an act passed on February 5, 1840, which prohibited the immigration of free blacks and ordered all free black residents to vacate the Republic of Texas within two years or be sold into slavery. The earlier act was designed to make color the standard mark of servitude in Texas by eliminating the free black population. It repealed all laws contrary to its provisions and nullified the act of June 5, 1837, which permitted the residence of free blacks living in Texas before the Texas Declaration of Independence. On November 9, 1840, the Hardin and Richardson petitions were referred to the Committee on the State of the Republic. A bill exempting Samuel McCulloch, Jr.,qv and some of his relatives passed its first reading the same day. On November 10, 1840, the Ashworth bill passed the House, and the McCulloch bill was read a second time. At this reading attempts were made to amend the bill by adding the names of William Goyens,qv who was supported by Thomas J. Rusk,qv and two other parties. The amendments lost, but the original bill passed.
Vigilantes Vs Free Negroes in Texas • Frederick Law Olmsted, in Texas, 1857 • A Journey through Texas ( New York, 1857). • A characteristic of vigilantism often is that it is hard to tell the vigilantes from the desperadoes. So it was in the "guerrilla of skirmishes and murders" that developed in east Texas in the 1850's. An issue of racism was present, there was feud like involvement of entire families, and the victims included not only the sheriff and deputy sheriff, but a couple of strangers caught in the cross-fire. Guerrilla, feud, battle--it was also vigilantism. The account that follows is by a noted traveler and reporter on Texas and the antebellum South. • This county has been lately the scene of events, which prove that it must have contained a much larger number of free negroes and persons of mixed blood than we were informed on the spot, in spite of the very severe statute forbidding their introduction, which has been backed by additional legislative penalties in 1856. Banded together, they have been able to resist the power, not only of the legal authorities, but of a local "Vigilance Committee," which gave them a certain number of hours to leave the State, and a guerrilla of skirmishes and murders has been carried on for many months, up the banks of the Sabine, with the revival of the old names of "Moderators and Regulators" of the early Texans. • Upon this the Vigilance Committee was organized, and the sheriff, who was suspected of connivance at the escape of Ashworth, and all of the Ashworth family with their relatives and supporters, summoned to leave the county on pain of death. On the other hand, all free men of color on the border, to the number of one hundred and fifty, or more, joined with a few whites and Spaniards, formed an organized band, and defied the Committee, and then ensued a series of assassinations, burnings of houses and saw-mills, and open fights. The Moderators, or Committee-men, became strong enough to range the county, and demand that every man, capable of bearing arms, should join them, or quit the county on pain of death. This increased the resistance and the bloody retaliation, and, at the last accounts they were laying regular siege to the house of a family who had refused to join them. The feud appears to have commenced with the condemnation, by a justice of the peace, of a free mulatto, named Samuel Ashworth, to receive twenty-five lashes, on a charge of malicious killing of his neighbor's hogs, and of impertinent talking.
1857 Vigilance Committee • Thirty families had been compelled to leave the county, and murders were still occurring every week. Among those killed were two strangers, traveling through the county; also the deputy sheriff, and the sheriff himself, who was found concealed under the floor of a lonely house, with a quantity of machinery for the issue of false money, and immediately shot; the proprietor of the house, defending himself, revolver in hand, fell pierced with many balls. The aid of the military power of the State had been invoked by the legal authorities, but the issue I had not seen in the newspapers.
Walter Plecker SURNAMES, BY COUNTIES AND CITIES, OF MIXED NEGROID VIRGINIAFAMILIES STRIVING TO PASS AS "INDIAN" OR WHITE.Albemarle: Moon, Powell, Kidd, Pumphrey. Amherst (Migrants to Alleghany and Campbell): Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this family is now trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or Birch, which was the name of the white mother of the present adult generation), Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless, Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southards (Suthards, Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Willis, Clark, Cash, Wood. Bedford: McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley. (See Amherst County) Rockbridge (Migrants to Augusta): Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd, Hartless, Hicks, Mason, Mayse (Mays), Painters, Pultz, Ramsey, Southerds (Southers, Southards, Suthards), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Wood, Johns. Charles City: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins. King William: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn, Custalow (Custaloe), Dungoe, Holmes, Miles, Page, Allmond, Adams, Hawkes, Suprlock, Doggett. New Kent: Collins, Bradby, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins, Langston. Henrico and Richmond City: See Charles City, New Kent, and King William. Caroline: Byrd, Fortune, Nelson. (See Essex) Essex and King and Queen: Nelson, Fortune, Byrd, Cooper, Tate, Hammond, Brooks, Boughton, Prince, Mitchell, Robinson. Elizabeth City & Newport News: Stewart (descendants of the Charles City families). Halifax: Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Talley, Sheppard (Shepard), Young. Norfolk County & Portsmouth: Sawyer, Bass, Weaver, Locklear (Locklair), King, Bright, Porter, Ingram. Westmoreland: Sorrells, Worlds (or Worrell), Atwells, Gutridge, Oliff. Greene: Shifflett, Shiflet. Prince William: Tyson, Segar. (See Fauquier) Fauquier: Hoffman (Huffman), Riley, Colvin, Phillips. (See Prince William) Lancaster: Dorsey (Dawson). Washington: Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley. Roanoke County: Beverly. (See Washington) Lee and Smyth: Collins, Gibson (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch, Freeman, Mise, Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins. -- Chiefly Tennessee "Melungeons." Scott: Dingus. (See Lee County) Russell: Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee & Tazewell) Tazewell: Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell) Wise: See Lee, Smyth, Scott, and Russell Counties.
Redbone Spirit Redbones successfully resisted categorization as non-white, though discrimination continued to exist. So much so that they typically established their own communities with churches, stores, and schools. As late as 1896 some Redbone families joined family members among the Cherokee who had been removed to Oklahoma with final removals…still others made application to be counted on the final rolls but they choose to remain in Texas in exchange they forfeit all tribal head rights. Much of the Redbone history, culture and folklore has been lost to the passing of time and the keeping of secrets. Many families worked diligently to shrug the clutches of oppression and the legacy of a multi ethnic heritage the Redbone spirit persist and we no longer admit our heritage with trepidation.