2000 – 05 May Newsletter – GRF

Sections in this issue:

1) Louisiana Redbones information;
2) Mihil Gowen, Slave of Christopher Stafford Received His Freedom in 1657 in Virginia.

All Gowen Manuscript Pages and Newsletters:   https://goyengoinggowengoyneandgone.com/gowen-research-foundation-pages-and-info/

Gowen Research Foundation
Electronic Newsletter

May 2000 Volume 3, No. 5

By Don C. Marler
Editorial Boardmember
HC53, Box 345, Hemphill, Texas, 79548
409/579-2184 dcmsmm@inu.net

1)  Louisiana Redbones information

The purpose of this paper is to pull together the scant
writings on the Louisiana Redbones and to present from
those materials an account of their arrival in Louisiana,
where they settled and how they lived. A definition of
Redbones will be offered and it is hoped that their re-
lationship to the Melungeons of the southeastern United
States will be evident. The Melungeons have been called
the mystery people, but their mysteriousness pales be-
side that of the Redbones. In order to properly under-
stand these mystery people it is necessary to look first
at the state into which they came.

THE STATE

To say that Louisiana is culturally diverse is to state
the obvious. What is not so obvious is the extent of the
diversity. Louisiana has nurtured more cultural and eth-
nic diversity than perhaps any other state. One usually
thinks of Louisiana as having two cultural groups: French
Catholics in the south and Protestants in the north. That
division is only a fraction of the picture. It omits the
Germans, Irish, Spanish, Cubans, Mexicans, Czechs, Ital-
ians, Hungarians, Croatians, Canary Islanders (Islenos),
Guatemalans, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Thais Laot-
ians, Vietnamese [largest population of Vietnamese in the
U.S.], Africans, Haitians, Jews, Greeks, Romani [Gypsies]
and Native Americans. Louisiana has more than 30 Native
American groups.

Louisiana has had its share of demagogues, discriminatory
laws and practices, scandals, and racial and ethnic abuses
[especially in regard to African Americans and slavery];
but it has fostered, more than most southern states, a
milieu in which ethnic groups could survive. The state
has avoided large scale massacres, deportations or forced
migrations of its ethnic groups such as that which led to
the “Trail of Tears.” Reasons for this relatively benign
treatment of minority groups are varied and speculative.
Among these reasons are that the French generally prac-
ticed a rather peaceful co-existence with the Native Amer-
icans, they were more tolerant of interracial marriage and
they adopted of the Napoleonic Code. The geography of the
state has favored the preferences of some minority groups
which could remain isolated from the main culture, cut off
from it by rivers or swamps. None of the above is to sug-
gest that survival for these groups has been easy or with-
out interference from the state; it has not been easy.

Today, there are Native American groups in the state still
speaking their own language, practicing their religion and
maintaining their tribal governments. In Tangipahoa Parish,
Hungarian is taught in some elementary schools. There was
a period in which spoken French was prohibited in public
schools; now it is encouraged.

The Louisiana Territory was owned at sometime by England,
France and Spain until it was purchased in 1803 by the Uni-
ted States. Louisiana became a state in 1812. Ancestors of
the people we now know as Redbones first came to the area
when it was still a territory. They first came to the La-
fayette area in the south and then moved to the west and
central part of the state.

THE AREA – THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Following the Louisiana Purchase, the United States and
Spain disagreed over the western boundary of the territory.
Spain owned Texas and the territory to the west of Texas,
including Mexico. The U.S. argued that the western bound-
ary of the Louisiana Territory was the Rio Grande River,
and Spain claimed it was the Red River. Both sides knew
these claims were exaggerated and both gradually compro-
mised, but not to the point of reaching an agreement.

Spain eventually settled on the Arroyo Hondo [and by ex-
tension the Calcasieu River as the boundary] and the U.S.
claimed the Sabine River as the boundary. Thus, an area
from the Calcasieu River on the east, the Sabine River on
the west and from near Natchitoches in the north to the
Gulf of Mexico in the south, containing an approximate
5,000 square miles, was in dispute. The area was designa-
ted by the 1806 treaty as the “Neutral Strip” or “Neutral
Zone.”

In 1806 both the United States and Spain were pre-
pared for battle over this boundary when the generals in
the field reached an agreement. The agreement stated that
neither side would send troops or peace officers into the
disputed area until the two countries could settle the is-
sue peacefully. The issue was settled in 1821 when the Sa-
bine River was formally agreed upon as the boundary. Ear-
lier, in 1819, there had been an informal understanding
that the Sabine River would be the boundary.

When word of the agreement to create a neutral zone spread,
outlaws and anyone else who wished to avoid the law flock-
ed to the Neutral Zone. Since by treaty, law officers
could not enter, it became a haven for outlaws. The area
became notorious and both Spain and the U.S, by popular
demand, violated the treaty by sending troops into the
area in an effort to remove the outlaws. It was too late.
The outlaws knew the canebrakes and swamps too well. It
was dangerous for any outsider to enter the zone. Those
who wished to cross it had to do so in large, armed par-
ties.

Among the many who smuggled contraband goods, ran slaves,
murdered, robbed, counterfeited, raped, and pillaged in
the Neutral Zone was the infamous land pirate from Ten-
nessee, John Murel [Murrell]. His men in the Louisiana
contingent included some familiar Redbone names such as
Beverly, Baley, Robinson, Miller, Johnson, Willis, Park-
er, Ray, Coper, Boalton, Jones and Phelps. It should be
noted that not all persons with these names, indeed all
names referenced throughout this paper, were Redbones or
Melungeons.

In 1808 a law was passed prohibiting the importation of
slaves. The Neutral Zone became a main corridor for smug-
gling slaves into the country. The privateer Jean Laffite
used the Calcasieu and Sabine Rivers to smuggle contra-
band goods including slaves into the United States. The
filibusters [private paramilitary invasions] against
Spanish-held Texas were outfitted in the Neutral Zone.
There was so much illegal activity in the Zone that John
Quincy Adams called it the “backdoor to the United States.”

In 1836, when Texas was revolting against Mexico, the peo-
ple of east Texas would escape the attacks by coming to
the Neutral Zone. Still later when the Civil War was rag-
ing, the former Neutral Zone became a haven for Jayhawkers
–those who refused to fight in the war. In the beginning
of WWII, the Neutral Zone was the scene of the largest
military maneuvers ever held. Fort Polk at Leesville, Lou-
isiana was built in the former Neutral Zone following
these maneuvers.

In 1803 the area was a vast wilderness of swamps, cane-
brakes, and hills clad with virgin timber in unimaginable
beauty and abundance. The yellow pine timber on the Cal-
casieu River set the standard for yellow pine lumber. The
white oaks in the Sabine River bottom were sought after by
the wine industry of France for use in the making of wine
casks, and the cypress trees on both rivers were unequaled
in beauty, size, and abundance. These forests were largely
undisturbed until the 1880-90’s when logging became a ma-
jor industry. By that time Redbones were well established
there.

However, in the early 1800’s there were few people other
than Native Americans living there except those in the Nat-
chitoches area to the north. It was in the Neutral Zone
that most of the Redbones eventually settled.

WHO ARE THE REDBONES – DEFINITION

A Redbone is a person of mixed racial heritage who is a
member of a group which defines its relationship to the
dominant culture in a certain way.

The racial mix may be any combination of two or more of
the following: Native American, European Caucasian, [ie.
English, French, Irish, Welsh], Asian or Portuguese,
Spanish, Moor, Turk), and any of the various Negroid sub-
groups.

Physical characteristics are varied but typically include
a dark skin, often with a copper hue, high cheekbones,
dark eyes, dark straight hair, and no single body type.
Less often they are of lighter skin, blue eyes, and blond
hair. In those persons with some Negroid genetics Negroid
features may be evident, such as darker skin, curly hair,
wide nose, and thick lips.

The cultural milieu is one where the group members band
together for protection against a perceived hostile domi-
nant culture. They often, in times past, have isolated
themselves from the dominant culture taking a physical
stand to protect their territory and discourage intermar-
riage with members of the dominant culture and prohibit
or try to prohibit intermarriage with persons of African
heritage.

DISCUSSION

This definition is offered to stimulate us to define and
describe the people we are discussing so as to not become
so inclusive that our search for roots and origins is
meaningless. Who in America does not have some combina-
tion of the genetic factors alluded to above? Dr. Brent
Kennedy offered a definition of Melungeons in his book,
“The Melungeons: Resurrection of a Proud People,” and he
has stated many times that he hoped his book would stimu-
late thought, discussion and research. In that spirit,
this definition offers a challenge to his definition of
Melungeon and by extension Redbones. The challenge is to
broaden the Caucasian element to include others than Med-
iterraneans the gene frequency distribution research of
James Guthrie notwithstanding.

Bonnie Ball argued that some Melungeons had English an-
cestry. In a more recent statement Rhonda Robertson wrote
that the Turks and Portuguese intermarried with various
Indians and “much later with the northern European set-
tlers; primarily the Scotch-Irish…”Most definitions of
Melungeons omit references to the English or northern Euro-
peans. We need to rule them in or out.

A further challenge is to add a sociological element to
the definition; namely, that one must have experienced be-
ing a Redbone or Melungeon with the stigmata, mind-set,
orientation to life and attitude toward the dominant cul-
ture that such experience brings. Since the publication of
The Melungeons: Resurrection of a Proud People, this au-
thor has learned that he may have genetic ties to Louisi-
ana Redbones. And although he grew up near the Redbone
country and has always had a keen interest in them, he
did not grow up identifying with the group nor experienc-
ing the pain its members experienced. His resentment at
the treatment Redbones received from the dominant group
is, therefore, less personal, more removed, and more aca-
demic than it would be had he grown up as a Redbone.

People in America who are a mixture of American Indian,
Asian, Caucasoid, or Negroid genetics are ubiquitous–
perhaps in the majority. People who have lived as a Red-
bone or Melungeon are relatively few.

To be a member of an ethnic group one must, as Elliott
Oring says, “… claim an identity with a historically
derived cultural tradition or style, which may be com-
posed of both explicit behavioral features as well as
implicit ideas, values and attitudes. Furthermore, mem-
bership in an ethnic group is acquired primarily by des-
cent.”

One hears of Redbones/Melungeons as being a separate race,
and they may be; that is yet to be determined. A modern
definition of race, given by Richard Goldsby, follows:
“A race is a breeding population characterized by gene
frequencies different from those of other populations of
the same species.”

However, as stated above, membership in such a race is
made much more meaningful when accompanied by an ethnic
identity that matches it.

Finally, are Redbones a sub group of the Melungeons or
did they develop parallel to Melungeons? The author be-
lieves they are a sub group, but the question is still
open.

LOCAL THEORIES OF ORIGIN

Let us review of some of the other groups who are not Red-
bones but have been confused with them. The United Houma
Indian Tribe embraced French whites and Africans. From
this amalgamation came the “Sabines.” Occasionally, one
hears Redbones referred to as Sabines. Perhaps the con-
fusion is because so many Redbones live in the Sabine
River area. The Sabines, however, live in Terrebonne and
Lafourche Parishes. They are historically French speaking
fishermen and trappers who live along the Gulf Coast.

The Clifton Choctaw Tribe is a group living in a closed
community in Rapides Parish. They are Choctaw, Chatot,
Creole and African. The tribe has failed to receive fed-
eral recognition as an Indian tribe but has received
state recognition. It maintains a tribal office. The
Clifton Choctaw Tribe has not accepted the Redbones nor
have Redbones accepted it. One student of this group re-
lates that some of the families from the Clifton group
may have come originally to Louisiana from North Caro-
lina where they were members of the Lumbee Indian Tribe.
This has not been documented.

Bonnie Ball in her book “The Melungeons” says the “Cane
River Mulattoes” near Natchitoches are Redbones. This
is an error. She relied upon the writings of William H.
Gilbert, Jr, who was wrong in almost everything he said
about Redbones in Louisiana. He did not correctly ident-
ify a single group which was Redbone. Gilbert apparently
relied heavily upon Lyle Saxon’s novel “Children of
Strangers,” which was not about Redbones at all, but
about the Cane River Creoles. Gary Mills, in his other-
wise excellent book, “The Forgotten People: Cane River’s
Creoles of Color” says some slaves owned by the Cane
River Creoles ran away to join “redbones” whom he re-
fers to as “marauding groups” of racially mixed people.
Mills makes clear that the Cane River Creoles of Color
[a mixture of Spanish or French and Negro] are not Red-
bones. Whatever else Redbones are, they are not Creoles
and are not marauders.

Ball also suggests that Melungeons may be related to the
Gypsies [Romani]. She lists some common Gypsy names, two
of which, Stanley and Boswell, were common among Louisi-
ana Redbones. Since Gypsies were present in the Redbone
country from the early 1920’s to 1960, the author has
been exploring the possibility of a relationship between
the two groups. The Romani originated in India before
the year 1000 and have spread over much of the world in-
cluding many countries from which Melungeons, and thru
them the Redbones, may have derived, but no evidence
has been found thus far to establish a common heritage.

Certainly there are physical similarities between the
two groups and both groups have a history of being skill-
ed metalworkers, but their lifestyles are otherwise quite
different. Melungeons/Redbones are not nomadic nor are
they wanderers. They are wedded to their property and the
Redbones defend their real estate with a vengeance as we
will see later.

[To be Continued]

About the Author: Don Marler was born in Hineston, Lou-
isiana in 1933 on the east side of Calcasieu River. The
the west side of the Calcasieu was Redbone country. He
went to school with the Redbones, once worked for a Red-
bone and became the close friends of many.

Following Naval service as a frogman, Don was graduated
from Louisiana College with a BA degree in sociology. He
received his MSW degree from Louisiana State University
and began work on a PhD at Tulane University.

Before retirement, he was a psychotherapist for the Vet-
erans Administration, director of a mental health and
mental retardation center, a family counselor and a civ-
il rights activist.

On the side, he was a historian. He wrote “Historic
Hineston” which contained a chapter on the battle of the
Redbones in the Westport Fight. The book generated a
great interest in the Westport Fight, and Don researched
and published a more complete volume on the battle in
“The Cherry Winche County.”

Currently Don is gathering material on the role of the
Louisiana Jayhawkers in the Civil War. The Redbones
shared “No Man’s Land” in Southwestern Louisiana with
the Louisiana Jayhawkers.

 

2)  Mihil Gowen, Slave of Christopher Stafford Received His Freedom in 1657 in Virginia

Mihil Gowen, a slave of Christopher Stafford of York
County, Virginia, was given his freedom September 16,
1657 in two declarations made by Anne Barnhouse, sister
of Stafford. The declarations, recorded in “York Coun-
ty, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders, 1657-1659,” made
after the death of Stafford and after Mihil Gowen had
served an additional four years with Robert Stafford,
read:

“I, Anne Barnhouse of Martin Hundred, widow, have given
Mihil Gowen, Negro, at this time servant to Robert
Stafford, a male child born 25 August 1655 of the body
of my Negro, Prossa, being baptized by Mr. Edward John-
son 25 September 1655 and named William, and I bind my-
self never to trouble Mihil Gowen or his son, William or
demand any service of them. 16 September 1657.”

“Mihil Gowen, Negro, of late serving my brother Xtopher
Stafford, dcsd, by his last will & testament, had his
freedom given him after the expiration of 4 years ser-
vice to my uncle, Robert Stafford. I, Anne Barnhouse do
absolve, quit and discharge the said Mihil Gowen from
my service 25 October 1657.

A. B. [The mark of Anne Barnhouse]

Witnesses: Arthur Dickenson Joseph Albrighton”

It is estimated that Mihil Gowen was born about 1630.
Some researchers regard Mihil Gowen as a Portuguese Ango-
lan, others a Melungeon; and others regard him as a mu-
latto. Apparently he came into the possession or employ
of Capt. Christopher Stafford about 1645 perhaps on a
voyage. Capt. Richard Barnhouse was married to Anne
Stafford, sister to Capt. Christopher Stafford. Capt.
Stafford died about 1652, and Mihil Gowen was required
to serve his uncle Robert Stafford an additional four
years.

Capt. Richard Barnhouse was born in England about 1595.
He appears to be the “Richard Barnehouse of Bristol,
sailor, aged 22, deposes July 28, 1617 that he has lived
at Bristol for two years, and before that was a captive
in Algiers,” according to “Genealogical Notes from the
High Court of Admiralty Examinations” by J. R. Hutchin-
son, page 179. It is suggested that he was the Richard
Barnhouse who gave bond to William Pester of Salem in
1638. Pester perhaps provided the ransom for his free-
dom in Algiers.

“Richard Barnhouse, Jr. appears as a resident of Glouces-
ter County, Virginia in 1653, according to “Early Vir-
ginia Immigrants” by George Cabel Greer. “Capt. Richard
Barnhouse” and “Richard Barnhouse, Gentleman” were both
residents of James City County, Virginia in 1656. Anne
Stafford Barnhouse identifies herself as a widow August
25, 1657, suggesting that she was married to Richard
Barnhouse, Sr.

It is unknown how the slave acquired the Scottish surname
“Gowen.” If Mihil Gowen were a Portuguese Angolan, as
the tradition of Melungeon ancestry implies, then, in
speculation, his original name might have been the Por-
tuguese surname Goyon. When anglicized, it emerged as
Gowen.

Paul Heinegg, writing in “Free African Americans of North
Carolina and Virginia” suggests that “John Geaween” was
the father of Mihil Gowen. Geaween earned his freedom
March 31, 1641, according to “Virginia Council and Gen-
eral Court Records, 1640-1641.”

John Geaween [Gowen?] was one of the first Africans to
earn his freedom in Virginia according to “Virginia
Magazine of History & Biography,” Volume XI, page 281.
On March 31, 1641 the Virginia Court ordered:

“That John Geaween being a negro servant unto William
Evans was permitted by his master to keep hogs and made
the best benefit thereof to himself provided that the
said Evans might have half the increase . . . and
whereas the said negro having a young child of a ne-
gro woman belonging to Lieut. Robert Sheppard . . .
the said negro did for his said child purchase its
freedom of Lieut. Robert Sheppard . . . the court hath
therefore ordered that the child shall be free from the
said Evans . . . ”

Normally, under Virginia law, when a slave was set free,
the minor children of his household were also freed.

Mihil Gowen and the negress Prossa were the parents of
William Gowen “free colored” who was born August 25,
1655. William Gowen was given his freedom at the same
time and with the same document that Mihil Gowen was
freed.

In February 1668, Mihil Gowen received a deed for “30
or 40 acres,” according to York County, Virginia Wills,
Deeds and Orders.” The deed read:

“Mihill Gowree, 30 or 40 acres situated in Merchants
Hundred Parish in James City County, formerly belonging
to John James. decd, and by him purchased of Capt. Rich-
ard Barnhouse and lately bound to escheat [forfeiture
and reversion to the Crown] and by a jury for said
county under hand and seal of Col. Miles Carey, 20 De-
cember 1666 and now granted to said Gowree 8 February
1668.”

By the time Mihil Gowen died, apparently November 24,
1708, the property was again in escheat, according to
“York County, Virginia Wills, Deeds and Orders.”

“Inquisition, James City County, Virginia, 11 Septem-
ber 1717. It appears that Mihill Goen, late of said
county of James City, dyed seized of 30 or 40 acres
escheat 24 November 1708 by Christopher Jackson, sur-
veyor of James City County is found to contain 37 acres.”

“Mihil Goen” [either the estate of Mihil Gowen or Mihil
Gowen, Jr.] transferred 37 acres of escheat land to Rob-
ert Hubbard February 2, 1718 ,” according to James City
Deed Book 9. The metes and bounds read:

Yorkhampton Parish; beginning at the corner of Mihil
Goen, Hubbard & Fancis Moreland, adjoining Graves Pack;
down the Beach Spring Branch to the place called Horse
Bridge,” according to James City County Patent Book 10,
page 415.

Other notes reveal: “Escheated from Mihil Goen, dec’d
by inquisition under Edmund Jennings, Esqr, Escheater
11 September, 1717.”

 

___________________________________________________________

NOTE:  The above information produced by the Gowen Research Foundation (GRF), and parts of the “Gowen Manuscript” they worked on producing.  It has tons of information – much of it is correct, but be careful, some of it is not correct – so check their sources and logic.  I’ve copied some of their information in the past researching my own family, only to find out there were some clear mistakes.   So be sure to check the information to verify if it is right before citing the source and believing the person who researched it before was 100% correct.  Most of the information I found there seems to be correct, but some is not.

Their website is:  Internet: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~gowenrf

There does not seem to be anyone “manning the ship” at the Gowen Research Foundation, or Gowen Manuscript site any longer, and there is no way to contact anyone about any errors.   The pages themselves don’t have a mechanism to leave a note for others to see any “new information” that you may have that shows when you find info that shows something is wrong, or when something has been verified.

Feel free to leave messages about any new information found, or errors in these pages, or information that has been verified that those who wrote these pages may not have known about.

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