While they were subject to discrimination, gaining free status helped these families get ahead in society.
Heinegg noted that many of these free people of color migrated west with white neighbors and settled on the frontiers of Virginia, what became West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, as these areas were less bound by racial caste than were the Tidewater plantation areas. On the frontier, settlers were more concerned about people fulfilling social obligations as citizens.
Heinegg's work was praised by , an expert in Southern history, and won a genealogy award. Heinegg analyzed generations of many families classified as free blacks on those first two censuses. Note that, prior to , the area of Barbour County west of the Tygart Valley River was part of Harrison County and the area east of the river was part of Randolph County. Mail settled in Virginia with his parents William and Mary in the s. As an adult, Mail purchased a black female slave named Nancy.
In , when he was 71, Mail both emancipated and claimed her as a common-law wife; interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia. The emancipation document reads as follows:.
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Be it known to all to whom it may concern that I, Wilmore Mail, of the County of Hampshire and Commonwealth of Virginia do by these presents liberate, emancipate, and forever set free I have set my hand and affixed my seal on this 6th day of May in the year of our Lord Over the following two decades, Mail was classified as "white", "colored" and "mulatto" in official documents. The Federal Census of classified him as "free colored". Although no documentary connection was made, Mail is the only one of Gates' white ancestors for whom a name is known.source
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In addition to the Mail family, Finley's work also identified a number of other CRP families that can trace their heritage back to Revolutionary War-era mixed-race forebears, notably Sam Norris , Gustavus D. Croston ca. The descendants of each of these progenitors fostered their own local "race" complete with unique folklore and origin story. He claimed to have found only one incident of interracial union.
In an interview [ citation needed ] , he pointed out that the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania press had carried repeated sensational magazine articles in the early s about the area, highlighting its poverty and mixed-race communities. He suggests this was the origin of accounts that the group was mixed-race. Note: The account above predates such articles. The photographs of Male descendants that are included in his book, many from this same time period, do not show physical characteristics associated with African phenotypes. But, other photographs of self-identified Chestnut Ridge people now available on the Internet do show some with such phenotypes.
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Finley fails to state is, that Wilmore Mail is the son of Wilmore Sr. Wilmore Jr. Her mother was supposed to have been a slave girl brought to this country in the middle s by a Frenchman from the Bahamas by the name of Marquis Calmes.
It is not known whether she was of native Bahamian Indian ancestry or not. She eloped with a Cherokee Indian by the name of Harris and to these two Priscilla was born.
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French and Spanish settlers in America intermarried freely with the Indians, but the English seldom mixed with the natives. Hence it appears that among the pioneer families of our County, the Mayle, Mail or Male family have Indian blood in their veins. In a Maryland local paper reported on Garrett County family history. It said that, according to family tradition, Marquis Calmes, a Frenchman residing in Virginia, had a French servant woman.
It was not known whether she was from France or the French colony on Haiti. She was said to fall in love with a Cherokee man, and they had a daughter known as Priscilla Harris. Priscilla grew up on the Calmes plantation, and was said to be beautiful, with an olive complexion, black eyes, and long hair -- "so long that she could sit on it.
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