Culture & History of Tri-Racial Isolates in Pennsylvania's Welsh Mountains

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Anita Wills

Anita Wills

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The Welsh Mountains is a community near and dear to me, a place where my ancestors hailed from. They were Natives, who intermixed with whites, and Free Blacks. Few people know of the Welsh Mountains, an area located in Southeastern Pennsylvania, bordering on Berks, Chester, and Lancaster Counties. Prior to the name change Native Americans inhabited the region for thousands of years. They were the Susquahannocks, Conestoga, and Lenai-Lenape (to name a few). They are now lumped together and called the Delaware Indians. Eventually the Trail of Tears, disease, and attacks caused the First Families of America to decline in numbers. The remnants of Natives in the Mountains were joined by whites, Free Blacks, and escaped slaves. For many generations they lived in self-imposed isolation away from the mainstream community. Once they left the mountains they were categorized by the color of their skin. Those with European features were assimilated as white. The most common racial designation was Colored or Mulatto. After the Trail of Tears, the racial designation of Indian was seldom used. Although Tri-Racial Isolates are connected to Southern States, there are groups like the Moors (Delaware), the Jackson Whites (New Jersey), and similar groups in the north. No name was given to my ancestors who resided in the Welsh Mountains, however some of the surnames were Harris, Green, Martin, Parker, Buzzard, Page, and Nocho. In the south there are the Melungeons (Virginia), Redbones (Louisiana), Turks & Brass Ankles (South Carolina), and the derogatory reference to Issue (Virginia). The History and Culture of the Welsh Mountain Community is the topic this week, along with other Communities.

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