Monday, November 12, 2007


Oct. 2007

By Gary J Gabehart

Discussed here is my Drake family and what I know to be accurate and known concerning their Virginia Mulatto/ Indian connection. There also is a final note on Free People of Color in Louisiana; however, it is not about Black or White, Colored People or groups of persons “in transition.” It has nothing to do with the official, legal aspects of the colorline. It is about the people known as Redbone’s and the many ethnicities involved, the same people who were ignored by the legal description of the colorline.

I recently began to compile a kinship report of my family to get a better view as to who and how I was related to in Redbone Country. This record is 35-40 pages long and reads like an alphabet soup of Redbones and related families – Abshire (Abcher), Ashworth, Bass, Braneff, Buxton, Doyle, Dial, Goins, Gwaltney, Hargrave, Jackson, Johnson, Morris, Nash, O’Jetty, Ozenne, Padier, Perkins, Rigmaiden, Ryan, Vincent and others. I think you will agree that I am well related in this part of the world. Ryan Street (Isaac Ryan died in the battle for the Alamo in 1836) crosses downtown Lake Charles, and Albert Rigmaiden operated a well known hotel there. I hope this puts a face on who I am with regard to the people listed.

Rather than to just say you are related to someone, you need to be able to know just what they are to you, and it will help you to track out these lines. It puts a face on everything when it comes to comprehensive genealogy reports. I urge everyone to print these reports on the data you might have in an electronic genealogy program. If you do not have a program, get one.

I also want to impress upon you that all genealogy is under construction at all times. For me to say that these reports and those trees are the final word would be absurd. I once attempted to involve some of my family in putting these records down on paper, and they looked at my work and said “oh wow, can I have a copy of this, and can I have a copy of that and when you get finished writing all this information into a book, can we have a copy.” However, as you can expect, that was the end of it, you are really on your own and your work will forever be a work in progress.

When I began my research into the Goins/Drake family, I had two families to research, and I had never heard the name Redbones. That was about 1990.

I found out quickly that the Drakes were from Louisiana and that Sharofina Drake b. abt 1804, d. 31 May 1881 (daughter of John Aaron Drake, Jr., b. abt. 1776, d. 1828 and Rosalie Abshire, b. 15 Jan 1782, d. abt. 1871), had married Jeremiah Goins in Louisiana. You will hear that they were married in this City and that City, but she was married in Louisiana – quite possibly Attakapas Post.

Jeremiah Goins father was Philip Goings – note the one “L” in Philip and the difference in the Goin[g]s spelling. It is known that Philip came out of Mississippi to Louisiana but not when or where he was born or died, I use 1750 for an about date of birth. Philip married Thomas Nash’s daughter Keziah in 1816 at Natchitoches.

About the time I began genealogy research, I involved myself in Indian Heritage groups. If you think things are tough over here, try running two Inter-Tribal groups at the same time where it is “my tribe is better than your tribe” or “I am a big Indian and you are but a minor Indian.” I guess that is common in many families, even in Redbone families.

I had dinner one night with an Indian from Louisiana who spoke of the Choctaw, and the “Redbones.” I had never heard the word Redbone except for a Black Blues or Jazz Singer, and now I was hearing it in conjunction with Indians. His take was that it had something to do with Choctaw Indians and White folks in Louisiana. I was interested in the term, but I put it in the back of my mind.

I continued my search into the migration of the Drake family into Louisiana and discovered that John Aaron Drake, Jr. was considered a Mulatto. At the time, I guess I was like everyone else with the big “M” word. Later, I began to realize that John Aaron Drake, Sr. kept African Slaves as did the son John Aaron Jr. If John Aaron Drake, Sr. was not considered to be Black, but White and his wife Charity Chrieves an Indian, then how was John Aaron Jr. a Mulatto. Apparently I thought, Mulatto did not mean what I thought it did in 1800.

A piece of family lore here and a piece there led me to understand that there was an Indian connection with John Aaron Drake, Jr. and his mother Elizabeth Charity Smith (son of John Aaron Drake, Sr. b. abt 1750 Elizabeth, Va., d. 1813 La. – Elizabeth Charity Smith (Chevis/Chavis) Chrieves b. abt 1750 Elizabeth, Va., d. 10 Apr 1815. La.). The original story as it was told, was John Aaron, Jr. was a descendent of a male relative of Pocahontas. However, the story now appears to be that his mother was a member of a Powhatan Confederacy tribe, which made more sense. Whether there is a connection there with Pocahontas is unknown, but doubtful. At least not a direct connection but the relationship could be indirect from a sibling of Pocahontas.

I thought that I knew that a Black or Mulatto could not marry a White in Louisiana in 1800 and certainly not in a Catholic Church of the French/Spanish culture and yet, this marriage was performed at St. Martins de Tours Church in St. Martinsville, La. However, I was to discover that a Mulatto could marry in the church under certain circumstances.

Further research was to bring me to the transcription records of Father Don Her’bert and his Church Records of Southwestern Louisiana that stated there had been an investigation by the Church prior to the marriage. Additional research of James Johnson and his book Drake Cousins led me to find that John Aaron Drake, Jr. was not a Catholic prior to his marriage to Rosalie Abshire/Abcher. In fact, James Johnson had obtained a Baptismal Certificate from St. Martins Church for John Aaron Drake, Jr. dated 1800.

James Johnson states; “Nothing was found in the records to indicate that the Drake family was Catholic prior to this time. It is believed that this event was precipitated by Drake’s desire to marry a Catholic lady whom he had met in the area.”

Although there are some folk’s who will tell you otherwise, with some convoluted reason why the marriage was handled in one way or another, the mystery of why Rosalie Abshire had filed for a marriage Certificate is quite simple. Rosalie Abshire was Catholic and a member of St Martins Church -- John Aaron Drake, Jr. was not even Catholic. I would expect it was understood that the application was conditioned on John Aaron Drake, Jr. completing certain requirements.

In the Catholic Church, a non-Catholic, in order to marry a Catholic in the Church must submit to certain agreements such as Catholic Baptism, agreeing to raise any children born from that union in the Catholic Church, etc. Prior to and after the formal Baptism, Aaron was likely given some instruction in the religion and the rest was a part of the verbal vows at the wedding.

The business of John Aaron Drake, Jr. being a “Mulatto Libre” was mentioned in the marriage documents and the decision as to whether John Aaron was a Black Mulatto or an Indian Mulatto was up to the Church to decide. Apparently, he was determined to be a North American Indian Mulatto.

Now, if we look back in time to a Virginia Law of 1705 (Remember that John Aaron Drake, Jr. was born either in Virginia or North Carolina) that clarifies the definition of a Mulatto, we will find that this law change stated “the offspring of an Indian was also to be considered a Mulatto.”

These Virginia Laws rubbed off on other forming Southern States and began to create a basis for their laws as well, and in time, were adopted by those States or Territories.

The other thing I want to draw your attention to is the term “Free People of Color” (FPC). In the 1800’s, many of our people were accounted for not as White, not as Black, not as Indian, not as Mulatto's and not as Redbones – they were called Free People of Color. I do not believe that Free People of Color were one Ethnicity, they could not have been – they had to be many Ethnicities -- they were grouped, and the possibilities were staggering. You can answer that question by asking what other Ethnicities other than White or Black were present and how would they be viewed in a “Black or White” world?

Let us start with Middle Eastern people of all types (we are not talking Chinese), where did they list those? Ask yourself about Turks, Afghans, East Indians, Russians, Greeks, Italians, Persians, where did they list those? Where did all the American Indians go? What I want to bring forth is, if you think there were either Whites or Blacks in Louisiana or the South and you only fit one category or the other, you are mistaken. Even today, the ratio of American-Europeans, with an African Admixture in their genes, is only about 30%. Ask what other ethnicities might be involved? I am only talking in general, and then in only the last 800 to 1,000 years. It would be up to you to hunt out those connections -- family by family. Keep in mind, Redbone core families really only amounted to a hand full of people by today’s measure, I do not believe they were imported by White Society into Louisiana to fill a void and were not considered even “colored people.”

Of course, some of these FPC families may have been knowingly in transition and crossing the color line but with a twist when confronted by some modern day thinking – any ethnicity could have qualified not just Africans alone. Some families simply wanted to be left alone and never gave it a thought.

Some Ashworth family members report that their DNA tests for the Ashworth/Droddy’s were coming back with a recent percentage of Haplogroup E3a, but that does not mean all Ashworth lines will carry those same genes. Some of these members reporting Western African also carry a high percentage of DNA material common to the area around Guam on the Pacific Rim.

Finally, the dates and deaths I have given you are, in some cases, an “about” date. If you have further information about the Drakes, feel free to speak with me about it.

References: James Johnson, Drake Cousins; Rev. Don Her’bert, SWLR; Laws of Virginia; Various 1810 Louisiana Census’; Drake Marriage records, LSU; Drake Records, Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish Library.

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