Marlboro County, SC History
On "Redbones/Croatans/Lumbee"

 
 

 

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

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 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 Jacob 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, free
will, 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

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