(Article) Ohioans take pride in Tri-Racial heritage
- Ohioans take pride in
Monday, September 26, 2005
Michael Sangiacomo, Plain Dealer
Reporter (Cleveland, Ohio )
Chesterhill , Ohio --
The librarian at the Chesterhill Public Library
didn't know where to find books on the
Tri-Racial people of southeastern Ohio .
But she knew where to find Tri-Racials.
"Walk out the door and talk to the first
person you meet," said Debbie Cunningham.
"Everyone in town is Black, Indian
and White and other things as well.
I'm Tri-Racial myself."
The thing that the people of towns like
Chesterhill, Cutler and Kilvert find
hard to understand is that anyone
would consider Tri-Racials interesting.
"We're all Tri-Racial," said Cunningham.
"It would be unusual to find
someone from this area who is not."
Lack of information about the Multi-Racial
people has encouraged the Multicultural
Genealogical Center to open a museum across
the street from the library in Chesterhill.
The museum will document their
stories and serve as a repository
for local historical artifacts.
It will also be a place for people to go
to track down their lineages, if they
have roots in southeastern Ohio .
The group bought the old house in May
and hopes to have it open by next
summer after a $130,000 refurbishing.
The 2000 U.S. Census turned up a lot
fewer Tri-Racials than actually exist in the
rolling hills and forests of southeastern Ohio .
Since people are permitted to declare their
race, many call themselves "black" or `White'
and do not check off the Multi-Racial box.
It's common to see families with
both light- and dark-skinned children.
They share another bond that
is more important than the
color of their skin --- poverty.
The Appalachian region of Morgan,
Muskingum, Meigs , Washington and Athens
counties is among the poorest in Ohio .
Jobs of any kind are hard to find,
and well-paying jobs are a rarity.
What the people of the area do have is their
heritage, and they claim every bit of it:
American Indian, African and European.
Henry Burke, resident historian of the
genealogical center, disputes many of the
local tales on the origins of the Tri-Racials ...
In response, people can only retell
stories they have been told, stories
handed down over generations.
Like the story of Michael Tabler.
Tabler fell in love with Hannah, one of the
slaves on his father's Virginia plantation.
Tabler's father did not approve and sold
Hannah, but Michael Tabler tracked her
down and they ran off to live in the hills
of Athens County in the early 1800s.
One of their descendants married an
American-Indian woman who had been
adopted by an Ohio University professor,
adding the third "race" to the `mix'.
Hundreds of people in southeast Ohio
trace their lineage to Michael Tabler.
Others offer family photographs of
ancestors who display American-Indian
characteristics ---- and no apology.
"I don't care to argue about it,"
said Irene Flowers
"We have our histories,
and that's what we believe.
It's all very unimportant anyway."
Flowers, who said she has never been
to a doctor in her 78 years, practices folk
remedies passed down for generations.
She tells anyone interested about which
roots and herbs to gather to stay healthy
or cure themselves of illnesses and
injuries, like earaches and snakebite.
A little pepper in a cotton cloth
put into the ear will cure an earache.
Warts can be cured with a salve made
from milkweed, and a tea brewed
from red elm bark will cure snakebite.
"We're all just who we are," she said.
"No one cares about the color
of your skin down here.
It just does not matter."
Many of the Tri-Racial folks don't
know `where' their American-Indian
blood came from -- just that it is there.
Mildred Vore, the secretary of the
Multicultural Genealogical Center ,
believes her Mixed-Blood is
obvious from family photos.
She is darker-skinned; her husband
is an orphan who looks White.
Their two children look White
with a bit of American Indian.
Burke believes people should have their DNA
tested to determine their racial heritage.
He did it and was surprised to
learn his heritage included African,
European and Eastern Asian.
But most people in Morgan, Muskingum,
Meigs and Athens counties have better
things to do with $300 than spend
it on a DNA test-- to settle a bet.
As Flowers said
"What would it matter?
We are what we are."
Geraldine Tabler of the small village of Stewart
believes her American-Indian ancestors were
from the Tutelo or Catawba nations.
She said she lived in Chesterhill in the 1940s
and 1950s and encountered racial prejudice.
"The White people called us 'Coloreds'
whether we looked "black" or not," she said.
"It was not easy in those days.
It's much better today."
"I'm proud of every drop of blood that
flows through my veins," said Rhonda
Tabler, who lives in Buckeye Ridge,
just outside the Chesterhill limits.
"Three of my mother's siblings
were white and seven were brown.
Since we were all born at home by midwives,
a doctor would come to the house a few days
later and give us the birth certificates."
Several people said that some had their
birth certificates altered to indicate that
they were `White', instead of "black"
Mildred Vore said her
"black" heritage is a blessing.
"My father was unable to find a job until
he had his birth certificate altered to
indicate he was `White'," she said
"Maybe I'm naive, but I never was
denied anything because of my color,"
she continued. "I had all White friends.
I do remember when I was young
that the theater and skating rink
in Chesterhill was segregated."
Ada Woodson Adams of Stewart is vice
president of the genealogical group.
She said she hopes the new center will become
a place for people to learn more about their
family history and the history of the area.
"The "black" people that settled here
were aided by the Quakers of Chesterhill,
who opposed slavery," she said.
"Ours is a very rich history.
If our stories are woven into the history
books, the story would be more complete."
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