Wednesday, October 28, 2009

History & Culture of the Minqua People of the Welsh Mountains

Few people know of the Welsh Mountains, an area located in Southeastern Pennsylvania, bordering on Berks, Chester, and Lancaster Counties. It was not that long ago, when only those who lived there, ventured into the Mountains. There are still some people in Pennsylvania, who do not know the area as the Welsh Mountains. It is not on the maps, except some made by local officials, but is part of the Blue Ridge mountains. The Blue Ridge Mountain Range extends from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The Welsh Mountain Range rises about one thousand feet, in Lancaster County, making it more of a Ridge than a Mountain.

The Conestoga Indians (Susquehanna), inhabited the region for thousands of years. The name Susquehanna refers to an Algonquin name meaning, “People of the Muddy River" (Susquehanna). They were also referred to as Black and/or white, Minqua, and separated along racial lines. Another name given them by Europeans was Conestoga (derived from Kanastoge), which the Conestoga Trail was named after. Conestoga was the name of the last Indian village in Pennsylvania.

Their villages lined the Susquehanna River from Southern New York to Maryland. There were also smaller tribes in the area like the Lenai-Lenape, who are now referred to as the Delaware. These tribes did not have a concept of borders, or land ownership, they followed game, and moved from place to place freely. Warring tribes tended to stay away from each other, and respected each others sovereign rights. Eventually the Trail of Tears, disease, and attacks by settlers, caused the First Families of America (Natives), to decline in numbers.

Slaves escaping from Pennsylvania, and Southern States, ran to the mountains, with the assistance of Natives. Slavery was a foreign term to Natives, who accepted members of conquered tribes into their Villages. To own another human being, or even to own property was a foreign concept. The whites who escaped into the mountains were usually Indentured Servants fleeing from abuse. This trio made up the Tri-Racial Isolates in the Welsh Mountain Region of Pennsylvania.

My Grandfather, Charles Martin, his father, and his father before him, spent their childhood in the Welsh Mountains. They were descendants of the Natives that lived there and often visited relatives who remained their. My mother told of going to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the summer on vacation, as a child. She talked about the Blue Crabs that they plucked out of the River and dined on. My Grandfather, Charles Martin was an Entrepreneur, who brewed and sold Corn Liquor.

With only a limited education his options were to work on a Farm, or in the Steel Mill. He learned how to brew Corn Liquor from his cousins in the Welsh Mountains. They stored the Liquor in caves there, and moved it by night. He also owned a Mechanic Shop and worked on cars, on his property (according to the 1930 census). Some of my family Surnames from the Mountains are Boots, Page, Martin, Parker, Harris, Green, Nocho, and Johnson.

Great Grandmother, Lydia Green was the daughter of Henry and Susan Green, and was born at Nine-Points Lancaster County Pennsylvania. Her father Henry Green was from a long line of Free Persons of Color, who were mixed raced Indian/Negro. His Great-Great Grandfather, Thomas Green owned Warrants and Patents in Chester and Lancaster County. The documents were signed by William Penn's sons, John, Richard, and Thomas whose offices were in Philadelphia. The documents were dated as far back as 1733, for Chester and Lancaster County. In his Will dated 1737, Thomas Green names his Wife Ann Executor, and his sons are listed as Thomas, Samuel, Moses, and Joseph.  In 1733, Thomas Green is granted 200 acres of Land, 200 acres in 1735, and  25o acres in 1737. The land was "lying on a Branch of Pequea." This was some of the land being purchased over many generations, land which is now in dispute as to ownership.

 

It is the opinion of those from the lowlands, that those in the Welsh Mountains were lawless. That is a matter of opinion, to Natives those who massacred their tribe members were breaking the law, yet no one was prosecuted. The slaves who escaped into the mountains did not believe they were breaking laws. The whites who escaped from the abuse of those who held Indentures on them, did not believe they were breaking laws. Those who hid in the Mountains, to avoid being killed or sent to reservations were not (in their opinion) breaking any laws. In many minds, the laws that were broken were the ones allowing slavery and abusive of Natives on their own land.

When I was a child, my father took us on a trip to the Mountains to visit the Boots who lived up there. I remember how breathtakingly beautiful it was up there, and how vapor came from the trees. Some of the people there lived in buses and run down shacks, but there were also nice homes on the Mountain. The skin coloring of the interracial families alternated between generations, and a person with very light skin, could produce a dark skinned child.

My Green relatives were light brown skinned with Hazel Colored eyes. There were light-skinned persons with blue eyes, and dark skinned persons with straight black hair. Because of the intermixing, some were almost white looking, with light eyes, and fuzzy hair. The influx of those who comprised the community slowed down after the end of slavery, and eventually, those who were able left. The ones left behind were the elderly and in-firmed.

In 1780, the slave register of Chester County, Pennsylvania, shows mulattoes made up twenty percent of the population.

“The “Pennsylvania Chronicle” from 1767-73 advertised sixty-one fugitives, of whom about twenty percent had white blood in some degree. In some cases, the proportion was so high that the advertisers warned the fugitive slave could pass for white and probably would attempt to do so.”

Prior to the influx of Europeans Natives lived by the Rivers and Creeks in the Welsh Mountains and surrounding areas, as either Grandmother (Female) or Turtle (male) Clans. The villages were situated near River and Waterways throughout Welsh Mountains. They traveled the trails from the mountains as far North as Canada, and as far South as Florida. The Conestoga Trail was used by the Susquehannock tribe for thousands of years.

The Moors of Delaware

The Moors of Delaware are one of a group of Tri-Racial Groups, who developed their own culture. The predominance of a limited number of surnames within each group at present is in line with such a conclusion, and is indicative of their high degree of endogamy, resulting from their intermediate status and their relative geographic isolation from the mainstream population. The Moors generally reside in the Kent and Sussex Counties of Delaware, and across the Delaware Bay in Southern New Jersey. There are some remnants of this group in Pennsylvania as well, for instance within my family are the Davis and Green lines. Both lines were moved back and forth from Delaware to Lancaster and Chester County in the 1800’s. They are classified as Mulatto in the early 1800’s, and in the 1900 census, the classification changes to black.

Moors make up the largest portion of the total population, (a little over three hundred persons), of the small community of Cheswold, Kent County , Delaware . (Cheswold is about five miles north of the larger state capital, Dover). These people also inhabit the rural area surrounding Cheswold. A number of Delaware Moors make their homes in and around the small town of Millsboro, and along the north shore of the Indian River in Sussex County, Delaware. In addition to the Moors living in and around Cheswold and Millsboro, Delaware, a similar, but more dispersed, number of Moor families live in rural, southern New Jersey. One finds Moor families in the farming territory outside of Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland, New Jersey.

A Wilson Davis is listed as a Delaware Moor as late as 1974. He states that the Moors of Cheswold originally lived about ten miles to the northeast at Woodland Beach, a more marshy area along the Delaware Bay. According to Mr. Davis, the Moors moved to farm farther inland and to settle in Cheswold during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as the result of a large storm, which inundated much of the land surrounding Woodland Beach.

The Melungeons are the largest of these groups, ranging from about five thousand to fifteen thousand. They are scattered throughout East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Southeastern Kentucky. The 1950 census identified over twenty of these populations in the South, numbering from a few hundred to a few thousand, often isolated in swamps or mountain communities. Like most of the other, “Isolates” they have been stereotypes as inbred, violent, and degenerate.

Return to Welsh Mountains

A Project to Record the oral history of those who lived in the Welsh Mountains was completed by the State of Pennsylvania. How much they were willing to tell has yet to be determined. Within my family, there are elders who will not speak openly about life on the Mountain. My mother often made potions and teas, for us, especially during the winter months. One of her favorites was Sassafras tea, made with bark brought in from the Welsh Mountains. She said that her father taught her about the teas and potions, which she fed us. Root Vegetables, which grow in the earth, are good for healing, at least according to my mother. Everything that came out of the Welsh Mountains was surrounded by Myth and Folklore.

A factor that affected my ancestors who lived in the Mountains was the Europeans control of, or ownership of land. Although my Native Ancestors lived there for thousands of years, they had no ownership of the land. Even though William Penn had a fondness for Natives, he did not allow lands to be set aside for them. The Natives, Free Blacks, and Whites inhabiting the land, had no or rights to it. After the older generation died off, the Welsh Mountains became a part of Lancaster County, and much of it has been developed.

The History and Culture of Tri-Racial Isolates, is only recently being explored. The Culture depends on the part of the country they lived in, and how isolated they were. They were affected by the movement of educated and young people out of the community. There was more than likely, more people leaving than entering the communities, low birth rates, and an increase of elderly and infirmed people. The Welsh Mountains lost many of its young men when World War II broke out. The men went off to war, and few returned to the Mountains. Other factors worked against the Mountain Community, including a more liberal attitude from the Dominant Community.

We are just beginning to open up and talk about this part of our Culture and History. We must not allow ourselves to be shamed into silence by those who do not believe our History is relevant. There is a History and Culture that was created from the Minqua, who resided in the Welsh Mountains. They are more than a community of Tri-Racial Isolates. They, like similar communities all over the world have lessons to teach all of us.


Link to Minqua Website:
http://minqua.ning.com

Link to book Site - Black Minqua:
Black Minqua The Life and Times of Henry Green

3 comments:

  1. You are a busy person! Best wishes!
    Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    http://drbilltellsancestorstories.blogspot.com/
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"
    http://www.examiner.com/x-53135-Springfield-Genealogy-Examiner
    http://www.examiner.com/x-58285-Ozarks-Cultural-Heritage-Examiner

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very well put Ms.Mills, my parents now live on the mountain, the buses and shacks are gone, and the down to earth folks they all have been replaced by expensive house and wealthy folks! I do know that "Peg Leg Boots's" Welsh Mountian Community Center is now being run by a gun club rather then the community. What a shame that folks throw history away!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I live across from the community center and I am glad that the gun club is now running the park. My neighbors had been doing it for almost 40 years with little or no help from the decendants of the origional population. I have lived in the Welsh Mountains since 1958. It's beautiful up here but all the woodland is now posted and offlimits. Very sad.

    ReplyDelete