Social Origins of the Brandywine Population

Social Origins of the Brandywine Population

Phylon (1960-)
Vollume 24, Number 4 (4th Qtr., 1963)
pages 369-378

Thomas J. Harte
Catholic University of America

ALL RACIAL ISOLATES present problems of unknown or mysterious origins. [C. A.] Weslager notes the lack of specific information for the Nanticokes of Delaware and for the Moors as well.  There is some historical evidence that when white people first settled in Robeson County, North Carolina, in the 1730’s, they found a mixed blood people inhabiting the swamps there. However, proof that these people constituted the survivors of Sir Walter Raleigh’sLost Colony” of Roanoke Island is far from conclusive. A similar lack of specific historical data applies to the “Guineas” of West Virginia, although Gilbert believes that the history of this group can be reconstructed in a general way. Authentic historical information is also lacking for the Melungeons of Tennessee and for some Louisiana racial hybrids as well.

The present paper attempts to trace the Brandywine triracial isolate population of southern Maryland back to its earliest beginnings. Conclusive factual evidence cannot be expected for historical developments in the early period of the group’s evolution. There are, however, substantial materials to support some sound hypotheses which can serve as guides for future research on this and similar populations. The data presented below represent the cumulative results of a systematic search of public and parish records, supplemented on some points by data from personal interviews, for leads as to the origin of this deme. The analysis is largely confined to the late seventeenth century, the whole of the eighteenth century, and the early decades of the nineteenth century.

The hypothesis that racial isolates originated in illegal interracial unions between Indians, whites, and Negroes provides a particularly fruitful lead in tracing the history of the Brandywine group. This hypothesis has been proposed explicitly and implicitly by a number of students of…

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