"Of old I have known from Your testimonies
That You have founded them forever."
Last night I started and finished (at 2:00 A.M.) one of the best books I've read in awhile, "The Story Keeper" by Lisa Wingate. I highly recommend it to my family from the George Wise lineage. It tells through fiction, the story of some of our people in the Appalachian region of the Carolinas.
Melungeon was a derogatory term
for a tri-racial group in Appalachia:
white, African American and Native American.
Some just called them Mulatto.
Some claimed Portuguese roots.
As I've said before, our 11th great grandfather was a slave, the son of Henry Spanish Viceroy of Sicily (of royalty) and a slave woman from Senegal. Emmanuel Rodriguez (1620-1685) came through the Caribbean slave trade as one of the first to be brought to the new colonies in Northampton, Virginia. His name soon became Americanized to Driggers. He was freed and worked to free as many of his family as he could.
His descendants moved south from Virginia to the Carolinas to escape the bonds of slavery. Rather than being counted as mulatto, they often insisted on their "Portyghee" (Portuguese) heritage. Many were known to have startling blue eyes which were a trait of the family of the ship captain who fathered Emmanuel. This no-man's land in the Blue Ridge Mountains was a little dangerous and lawless at times. Later some moved to Alabama and Louisiana and finally to Texas where our people, the Peoples' lineage came from. My great grandmother was a Peoples from the Ivey-Driggers line.
Originally, the Ivey's were plantation people from Virginia who petitioned the government of Virginia to allow interracial marriage in the late 1700's. It was refused. Evidently, there was some loving going on to spur this request. So, some of the family of these interracial unions, legal or not, moved like the Driggers did to Appalachia and intermarried with them, like my 6th and 7th great grandparents, James Ivey (1752-1820) and Mourning Driggers (1754-1820).
Some probably considered them to be part of the Melungeon people, brown-skinned, blue-eyed, who were often times feared. This word possibly came from an African word meaning "friend" or "shipmate." Some even thought they were from the Lost Colony. But as I follow my DNA, our people were descendants of Emmanuel Driggers, which shows a faint Portuguese and Sengala heritage, but no Native American. The Melungeon were "considered to be tri-racial isolate of Anglo, African American, and Native American blood. They suffered under prejudice, discrimination, and misinformation. Their family stories were often lost or altered as later generations chose, in self-defense or shame to hide their Melungeon roots." (Lisa Wingate) That's us, folks!
Back to Lisa Wingate's book, "The Story Keeper," it is a wonderful tale spun going back and forth from a New York publishing editor who has roots in Appalachia and chases a story of a young Melungeon girl of an earlier generation. The name of Drigger is used for one of the bad characters, and there were some bad Driggers! So, though fiction, it is a window into life for the interracial people backwoods people. I highly recommend it to my relatives who descended from George Wise. (As I've said, whose mother was a Peoples who descended from the Ivey-Driggers.) I couldn't put the book down, so I was a little sleep deprived the next day. That's always a sign of a good-read.
Wise Reunion 1939
I don't believe Grandpa Wise and Miss Ruby were there.
Heritage is important all through Scripture as this verse says, "Of old I have know from Your testimonies, That You have founded them forever." I am thankful that there was a thread of a Christian heritage that came from this diversity and adversity in our family tree.