Delaware's Forgotten Folk

Delaware's Forgotten Folk: The Story of the Moors and Nanticokes

With photographs by L. T. Alexander
and drawings by John Swientochowski
Copyright Date: 1943
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Delaware's Forgotten Folk
    Book Description:

    "It is offered not as a textbook nor as a scientific discussion, but merely as reading entertainment founded on the life history, social struggle, and customs of a little-known people."-From the Preface C. A. Weslager's Delaware's Forgotten Folk chronicles the history of the Nanticoke Indians and the Cheswold Moors, from John Smith's first encounter with the Nanticokes along the Kuskakarawaok River in 1608, to the struggles faced by these uniquely multiracial communities amid the racial and social tensions of mid-twentieth-century America. It explores the legend surrounding the origin of the two distinct but intricately intertwined groups, focusing on how their uncommon racial heritage-white, black, and Native American-shaped their identity within society and how their traditional culture retained its significance into their present. Weslager's demonstrated command of available information and his familiarity with the people themselves bespeak his deep respect for the Moor and Nanticoke communities. What began as a curious inquiry into the overlooked peoples of the Delaware River Valley developed into an attentive and thoughtful study of a distinct group of people struggling to remain a cultural community in the face of modern opposition. Originally published in 1943, Delaware's Forgotten Folk endures as one of the fundamental volumes on understanding the life and history of the Nanticoke and Moor peoples.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0808-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    C. A. W.
  4. 1. Red, White, and Black
    (pp. 1-24)

    During his explorations three centuries ago, Captain John Smith sailed across Chesapeake Bay to land on a pine-forested peninsula occupied by wild animals and Indian tribes, which he called the “Eastern Shoare of Virginia.” Salt boilers were later stationed on this peninsula to evaporate salt from the water for use by the Virginia colonists on the western shore of the bay. In due time, planters sailed over from Jamestown and founded a new colony on the fertile soil. The Eastern Shore was also accessible by boat from Delaware Bay; and the Dutch, Swedes, and Finns came to compete with the...

  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  6. 2. The Mysterious Moor
    (pp. 25-39)

    Where did the forefathers of the so-called Moors of Cheswold and Nanticokes of Indian River Hundred originate? These folk relate several legends to explain their origins. Out of deference to them, let us examine their own interpretations of who they are and where they come from. The legends which they repeat have been handed down from parent to child, rarely reaching print but perpetuated in the family solely by word of mouth. These stories are seldom imparted to outsiders. A Moor boy, becoming sensitive to his difference in color from his Negro and white neighbors, questions his father. In reply...

  7. 3. Plot in the Swamp
    (pp. 40-58)

    When Captain John Smith explored the estuaries on the bayside of the Delmarva Peninsula in 1608, he found Indians living along the banks of all the streams. Smith had more than a casual interest in the natives, and he took pains to record his observations and to draw several excellent maps showing the locations of the Indian towns. He noted approximately how many warriors could be mustered in each town that he visited. Using his figures, it would not be amiss to estimate the population of the lower counties of Delaware, Virginia and Maryland in 1600 as between five and...

  8. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  9. 4. The Persistent Red Thread
    (pp. 59-81)

    During the three decades following the exposé in 1742 of the plot at Winnasoccum, hundreds of the Eastern Shore Indians left the Peninsula. The whites made living unbearable, and to find peace the Indians had no alternative except to take their departure. Their lands were gone; their villages destroyed; their numbers greatly reduced. They paddled up the Chesapeake in their log pirogues, a few families at a time, and found haven under the protection of their former enemies, the Five Nations Iroquois (later to be called the Six Nations), They settled temporarily along the Susquehanna River, where the Conoy, Shawnee,...

  10. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  11. 5. An Unexpected Champion
    (pp. 82-111)

    The year 1912 opened up a new chapter in the story of the mixed-blood Nanticokes. It began in Georgetown, the seat of Sussex County, Delaware. Here, almost a century before, in the shadows of the wistaria and magnolia trees of Courthouse Square, the Indian Levin Sockum went away in disgrace after having been pronounced a Negro by the court. It is ironical that a movement to emancipate the mixed-bloods should begin in the place where they were condemned. But Georgetown has been the setting for other episodes relating to racial questions. One of the most conspicuous cases involved the notorious...

  12. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  13. 6. The Good Fight
    (pp. 112-127)

    Previous to 1860, the question of educating Negro children received some thought but little practical achievement in Delaware or elsewhere on the Delmarva Peninsula. Educational facilities for white children were also woefully inadequate, and the situation was not corrected until many years later. By 1867, through the efforts of the Negroes themselves, seven schools for colored children had been erected in the state of Delaware, three of which were in Wilmington. Where the money should be obtained to pay the colored teachers and buy textbooks and other equipment provoked considerable debate. There were many whites who did not relish the...

  14. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  15. 7. A World Unknown
    (pp. 128-155)

    During the course of his investigations at Indian River, Dr. Speck learned of the colony of mixed-blood peoples called Moors at Cheswold. He was naturally curious and even amazed to find that a second community of Indian descendants existed in Delaware. Russel Clark dissuaded the ethnologist from opening an investigation at Cheswold, claiming that the Moors living there were of a “different tribe.” As we might now infer, Russel had good reasons for keeping Speck at Indian River. Not the least was his desire that his own people continue to remain in the limelight. He can hardly be blamed for...

  16. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  17. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  18. 8. Links with the Past
    (pp. 156-206)

    The Cheswold Moors and the Indian River Nanticokes are not the only Indian descendants maintaining separate and little-known communities east of the Mississippi. The reader may be surprised to learn that in North Carolina a people called Croatans, descended from whites, Indians, stray seamen, and unrecorded Americans, live in a self-contained colony. In South Carolina are found the Red Bones, another mixed group with an Indian nucleus. In Eastern Tennessee are the Melungeons. In Virginia, at least ten mixed-blood bands occupy the same general area where their Indian ancestors of the Powhatan Confederacy lived. A little-known community called the Wesorts...

  19. [Illustration]
    (pp. None)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-215)