The Indians of North Florida

1893 Letter concerning Mixed-bloods from Marlboro County SC

Letter written in 1893 to Mr. McDonald Furman by J.A.W. Thomas on the subject of  Marlboro County "mixed races".

(Contributed to Marlboro County SCGenWeb by Patsy Quick.)

Bennettsville May 17, 1893

Mr. McDonald Furman

My Dear Sir

Yours of 13th inst is before me and in reply let me say that I not only appreciate your laudable desire to rescue the traditions of an obscure race, sometimes wronged, from oblivion, but to call the public mind to a number of important facts of our brief history, both secular and religious, which in the eager haste of this fast age, our people are liable to forget. Your brief, but important, communication to the public press calling attention to things of this sort have always interested one reader at least. You will permit me to thank you very sincerely, that you, young man, as you are, have respect to the days, and the men of "auld lang syne" and can find interest and worth, if not beauty and charms amid the bygone years. And I trust that if the response of your contemporaries is not always as generous as your fond wishes may desire, that still your inquiries may bring to light facts and principles, that shall gratify and profit your own mind, and help your generation, and those who shall come after.

The question now upon your mind, of which you write me is not unworthy your research. And I wish that I were able to give you more information than I can. Of course the people of "mixed breed," that we have among us in Marlborough are not (now) known as "Redbones," and not until recently have they been called "Croatans," a name which some of them are now adopting. For generations, they have claimed to have been of "Portuguese" extraction, while commonly the white people have thought them mulattos. Since the "Revolutionary War" the Quicks and a few other names connected with them, have enjoyed the respect of white people; and all the privileges of citizenship were accorded them in consideration of "distinguished services," they rendered to the cause of independence. And the consequence has been that their complexion, their circumstances and general character has wonderfully improved, until now they are scarcely recognized as having "mixed blood" in their veins. You can see how on account of the special favor shown this family, other men of "mixed breed" would naturally claim and seek alliances with them: and so it came to pass in the years "before the war between the states," that questions would sometimes arise as to the citizenship of parties making the claim as only free whites were so accounted and many a long controversy arose in the courts over such "points in law." Judge Hudsen, was attorney in a case of this sort, and made a very thorough investigation of the question of descent and has told me more than once that he was satisfied that "several of the larger families of this color, were free from Negro blood." He says that "they have a well authenticated claim that they sprang from a parentage that came from the south of Europe, Spain or Portugal, and that with this European blood was probably some Moorish, but no evidence of Negro." Other families claim affinity with the American Indian and there can be little doubt but that their claim is just, as they have the natural characteristic marks of that aboriginal people clearly developed. While everybody believes, that some who claim to be Indian, or Moor, are unquestionably mixed with Negro.

You ask me if we have "any Chavis" in Marlborough? They are here, and have been for two or three generations, and are among the best known people we have after the Quicks. And it is very likely that they have intermarried. Why, Sir, if you were here to accompany me to one of my appointments next Sunday, and take a seat in the "a.... corner," [might be Arian!] just about the hour for the service to commence, looking through the window blinds, you might see a "covered buggy with two horses (or mules) drive up, and presently a young man about "six foot three" would enter the door, lift his beaver, and with slow and courtly tread walk down the aisle, "straight as an arrow, raven locks, prominent raised cheeks, complexion brownish red," and take a seat about mid way the house, and if you were not looking for "Redbones," you might ask, "what fine looking well behaved young man is that," well that is "Lewis Chavis." He has a valuable farm, a "good bank account," his mother owns a fine place, and valuable mortgages, and he has a younger brother just as good looking, only not quite so tall. And has some cousins that are enterprising valuable citizens. But there are others of the name, not so well to do, and not so well received in social circles. These better ones however when they open their lips, betray their origins as they tell you of the "housens"and "chillens," etc.

And then we have a large family of Locklears, another of Jacobs Turners (Jacobs & Turners), in making a society and class of their own, who do not seem to aspire to anything higher. Poor pitiable creatures, they scorn (?) to associate with Negroes, cannot with the better class of whites, and yet many of them are good people, industrious, honest, humble citizens. Of course you will find vicious, envious, worthless fellows among them, but no more than many a "pale face" or "black skin." They have two Baptist churches in Marlborough, one of them located near the little town of Clio, where they have a large congregation, and well behaved. And the existence of the church, and a comfortable framed building to worship in, makes them a fixture in the community, and an advantage in the way of farm laborers. The other is in the upper part of the county and is not doing so well, I judge mainly for lack of a sensible pastor. The young man who does most of their preaching, being a noisy, ignorant sort of fellow, and yet sharp enough to keep his place among them. This latter church is known, in doctrine and practice, as badly mixed as the blood of its members. Feet washing, freewill, immersionists. And yet the leading people of the community, who are mostly Methodists, enjoy having the church among them because it moralizes and improves the character, as well as settles and fixes laborers on their farms.

Now I have filled up my space, and fear that with it all I have not met your wishes, as I certainly desired to do. If however from what I have written you shall suppose that I may yet help you in the way of information you will not hesitate to command me. With the kindest regards to your excellent father and profound veneration for your honored name through three generations, I am yours with great respect

J.A.W. Thomas

Copyright ©2005, Patsy Quick, all rights reserved