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Spotlight on ... The 'Chestnut Ridge People' (CRP)

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    Chestnut Ridge People (CRP) The Chestnut Ridge people (CRP) are a Mixed-Race (or Tri-racial Isolate
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3 5:22 PM

      Chestnut Ridge People (CRP)

      Chestnut Ridge people (CRP) are a Mixed-Race 
      'Tri-racial Isolate') community residing just northeast 
      of Philippi / Barbour County 
      in north-central West Virginia

      They are often called "Mayles" (from the most common 
      surname — Mayle or Male) or "Guineas" (a pejorative term).


      Some CRP have identified as 
      Melungeon and 
      attended the 'Melungeon Unions' an
      d / or they 
      have joined the 'Melungeon Heritage Association'.



      Many CRP identify themselves as Native-American 
      as an Indian/White Mixed-Race / Multiracial group.


      The local West Virginia historian Hu Maxwell 
      was bemused by the origin of the CRP when he
      studied Barbour County history in the late 1890s:

      There is a clan of partly-"Colored" people in Barbour 
      County often called "Guineas", under the erroneous 
      presumption that they are Guinea "negroes". 

      They vary in color from" white" to "black", 
      often have blue eyes and straight hair, 
      and they are generally industrious ...

      They have been a puzzle to the investigator; 
      for their origin is not generally known. 

      They are among the earliest settlers of Barbour. 
      Prof. W.W. Male of Grafton, West Virginia, belongs 
      to this clan, and after a thorough investigation, says:

      "They originated from an Englishman named Male 
      who to America at the outbreak of the Revolution
      From that one man have sprung about 700 of the 
      same name, not to speak of the 'half-breeds'." 
      Thus it would seem that the family was 
      only Half-Black at the beginning, and by the 
      Inter-Mixtures since, many are now almost-White.

      The local pejorative term "guinea" was still being used 
      more than a century after these words were written. 

      By the 1860s, many individuals of these Mixed-Race 
      families had become indistinguishable from Caucasians


      Several of the men served in West 
      Virginia regiments during the Civil War

      Records in the Barbour County Courthouse 
      indicate that several of them petitioned the courts 
      (successfully) to be declared 'legally' White at this time.

      The people of "The Ridge" have traditionally been subject 
      to severe racial discrimination, amounting to ostracism
      -- by the surrounding majority White community. 

      As recently as the late 1950s, a few Philippi businesses still posted 
      notices proclaiming "White Trade Only" directed at the CRP. 

      Although the local public schools were not segregated at this time,
      truancy laws — which were strictly enforced for White children 
      — were typically neglected with regard to "Ridge people".


      A 1977 survey of obituaries in 
      The Barbour Democrat 
      showed that 
      135 of 163 "Ridge people" (83%) 
      were married to people having the 
      last names 
      CollinsAdams, or Kennedy

      In 1984, of the 67 Mayles who had listed 
      telephones, all but three lived on "The Ridge."


      The  Guineas  of West Virginia

      --- posted by 
      Dave Tabler | November 23, 20117**

      In [past] American culture, if you [couldn't] prove 
      you're "100% White" or "pass" for such --[then]
      you [were] lumped into the 'minority' by default.  

      This is a cultural bias the Chestnut Ridge People 
      (CRP) of  West Virginia  have been familiar 
      with for several hundred years now.

      There is a clan of partly-"Colored" people in  Barbour  
      County  often called " Guineas ", under the erroneous 
      presumption that they are Guinea-"Negroes". 


      They vary in color from" white" to "black", 
      often have blue eyes and straight hair, 
      and they are generally industrious ...

      They have been a puzzle to the investigator; 
      for their origin is not generally known. 
      They are among the earliest settlers of Barbour. 
      Prof. W.W. Male of Grafton, West Virginia, belongs 
      to this clan, and after a thorough investigation, says:
      "They originated from an Englishman named Male 
      who to America at the outbreak of the Revolution
      From that one man have sprung about 700 of the 
      same name, not to speak of the 'half-breeds'." 
      [[["I believe each of our people 
      has the name Male as an ancestor," 
      says genealogist Joanne Johnson Smith.   ]]]

      Thus it would seem that the family 
      only Half-Black at the beginning, 
      and by the 
      Inter-Mixtures since, 
      many are now almost-White. 


      [[[Indeed,  Barbour   County  Courthouse records 
      indicate that several of the CRP petitioned the 
      courts (successfully) to be declared 'legally' 
      White during the Civil War era, and they

      undoubtedly wouldnot have done so if 
      being considered `West Hill Indians,' `
      Maileys,' `Cecil Indians,' `G. and B. Indians,' 
      or `Guinea-niggers' offered any "advantage".

      The word " Guinea "is said to be an
      'epithet' applied to "anything of 
      foreign or 'unknown' origin".]]]]

      By 1946, local courts treated the CRPas 
      "Colored" (regarding them as 'Mulattoes').

      [[[[William Harlen Gilbert, Jr., of theLibrary of 
      Congress, had more to say of the CRP that 
      same year in `Social Forces' magazine:

      "They do not associateas a rule
      with Negroes or [with] Whites.]]]]


      --- Primarily centered in Barbour and
      Taylor counties,  West Virginia .

      --- Also, small scatterd families in Grant, Preston, 
      Randolph , Tucker,  Marion ,Monongahela, 
      and Braxton counties, West Virginia
      --- Said to have originated in 
      Hampshire County , West Virginia
      --- A few occur in Garrett County, Maryland
      --- Have recently migrated to  Canton ,  Chillicothe , 
      Zanesville ,  Akron ,and  Sandusky  in Ohio  
      and to  Detroit , Michigan


      Have own schools and churches in 
      Barbour and Taylor counties. 

      Have an Annual Fair at 
      Phillippi ,  West Virginia . 


      Family names are Adams, Collins, Croston, 
      Dalton , Dorton,Kennedy, Male (Mayle, 
      Mahle, Mail), Minard (Miner), 
      Newman, Norris, and Pritchard.


      Sharp and angular features characteristic. 
      Originally a mixture of White and Indian 
      types-- to which Negro has been added. 

      Environment & Economy:  

      Original habitat was inaccessible 
      hilly area on a horseshoe bend of the 
      Tygart   River , the so-called  Narrows . 
      Live in compact settlements in this area.


      Mainly Free Methodists in 
      Barbour and Taylor counties.


      Have special schools classed locally as "Colored". 
      Considerable tension over attendance 
      at White schools in  Taylor   County
      In  Barbour   County two schoolshave 
      been burned down due to troubles.

      Military Draft Status: 

      In  Taylor   County  (Grafton and vicinity) have 
      almost uniformly gone into the White status.

      Voting and Civil Rights: 

      Have voted since organization of the State. 
      Now hold balance of power in  Barbour   County.


      Claim English descent from Revolutionary ancestors. 
      Building  of  Tygert River Dam in1937 scattered them in 
      Taylor   County due to flooding of originalsettlements."


      "We would like you to keep an openmind as we, the 
      " Guineas ",tell you about ourselves, since we know 
      more about ourheritage than anyone else," 

      -- said Joanne Johnson Smith & Florence Kennedy Barnett 
      in a 1997 presentation at the First Union in Wise, VA., 
      where about one thousand people converged on the 
      College  of  Wise campus to reclaim their lost heritage. 

      Their 20 years worth of combined research
      on  Guinea bloodlines is available here


      The History of  Barbour   County, by HuMaxweoo, 
      (Morgantown, West Virginia, 1899) pp. 510-511.
      Mixed Bloods of the Upper  Monongahela Valley
      West Virginia, by William Harlen Gilbert,Jr., 
      Journal of the Washington Academy of the Sciences, 
      36, no. 1 (Jan. 15, 1946), pp. 1-13.
      `Memorandum Concerning the Characteristics 
      of the  Larger   Mixed-Blood Racial   Islands 
      of the  Eastern United States,' 
      by William Harlen Gilbert, Jr., 
      Social Forces 21/4 (May 1946): 438-477



      --- Author Joanne Johnson Smith is a 
      first-generation descendant of Chestnut 
      Ridge on both sides of her family. 

      --- Lois Kennedy Croston and Florence Kennedy 
      Barnett, the other two authors, were born 
      on Chestnut Ridge during the mid-1900's. 

      --- Now living in Ohio, these three 
      women have devoted the past 
      18 years to tracing their roots. 

      (Note: Photo shown is of 'Elizabeth `Betsy'
      of Chestnut Ridge, circa 1975/76. )


      We, the People of Chestnut Ridge:

      A Native Community in Barbour County

      By Joanne Johnson Smith, Florence 
      Kennedy Barnett, and Lois Kennedy Croston

      Ronald Dean Johnson of Hanging Rock, the 
      brother of co-author Joanne Johnson Smith, 
      takes his native heritage seriously. 

      Born in Ohio, he moved to the Chestnut Ridge area 
      as an adult in order to be close to his people.

      Many historians hold that West Virginia was never 
      home to any Native 
      American tribe, but maintain 
      that it was used only as a hunting ground. 

      There remains today, however, a well-documented 
      Native community which 
      has existed since the 
      late 1700's on Chestnut Ridge in Barbour County. 

      Many outside writers have attempted to tell the story of these 
      people, but never has it been told by the people themselves. 

      That is, until now.

      Here is their story.

      We grew up and experienced life on Chestnut Ridge in much 
      the same way as our ancestors had for nearly 200 years. 

      Our earliest memories involve associating 
      with our own people in the community. 

      Everyone we came into contact with 
      was related to us in some way.

      We lived on a side road off Chestnut Ridge Road. 

      The neighbors called it Kennedy Road 
      because the Kennedy clan lived there. 

      Our fondest memories are of our grandfather 
      walking up our road on his way home from town. 

      He carried a large handbag full of groceries, but we waited 
      for the candy he passed out to all the grandchildren. 

      Although he never drove a car, he always 
      had a ride to town and back. 

      He started out walking but was usually picked 
      up by someone from the community.

      Grandpap's two sons from his first 
      marriage were already grown. 

      Grandpap married a second time and 
      raised three sons who were our age. 

      We played and worked with our uncles and cousins. 

      Our extended family worked together in the summer 
      to provide the necessities to live through the winter.

      You can read the rest of this article in the 
      Fall 1999 issue of Goldenseal, available in 
      bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.

      West Virginia Division of Culture and History 
      Copyright 2011 / (c) All Rights Reserved.



      1. ^ Price, Edward T., 
        "A Geographical Analysis of White-Negro-Indian 
        Racial Mixtures in the Eastern United States"
        Association of American Geographers 
        , Vol. 43 (June 1953) pp. 138-55.
      2. ^ "The Guineas of West Virginia:
        A Transcript of A Presentation at First Union"
        July 25, 1997, Wise Virginia by Joanne 
        Johnson Smith & Florence Kennedy Barnett
      3. ^ McElwain, Thomas (1981), 
        Our Kind of People: 
        Identity, Community, and Religion on Chestnut 
        Ridge, A Study of Native Americans in Appalachia

        (Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion, No. 20).
      4. ^ Maxwell, Hu (1899). 
        The History of Barbour County, From its Earliest 
        Exploration and Settlement to the Present Time, 
        The Acme Publishing Company, Morgantown, W.Va. 
        (Reprinted, McClain Printing Company, 
        Parsons, W.Va., 1968)
        . pp. 310–311.
        ^ Petitions of George W. Male and 
      5. James Male, January Session,1861; 
        Petitions of Hiram Male, Stephen Newman, Richard Male,
        Stephen A. Male, Levi Collins, Franklin Male, George W. Collins,
        Elisha Male, Hezekiah Male and William Male, November Session,
        ; Barbour County County Circuit Court Records.
         Cited in: Shaffer, John W. (2003), Clash of Loyalties: 
        A Border County in the Civil War
        Morgantown, West Virginia
        West Virginia University Press, pp 220-221, n. 81.

      6. ^ "My Melungeon Depot"Pittsburgh 
        Post Gazette
        . 31 December 1984.
      7. ^ Mayhle, Bernard Victor (1983), The Males of Barbour 
        County, West Virginia
        , Seattle, Washington, 167 pages. 
        (West Virginia University, in Morgantown, West 
        Virginia, has a copy of this privately printed item.)
        • Gilbert, Jr., William Harlen (1946), "Mixed Bloods 
          of the Upper Monongahela Valley, West Virginia"; 
          Journal of the Washington Academy of the Sciences,
           Vol. 36, no. 1 (Jan. 15, 1946), pp 1–13.
        • Gilbert, Jr., William Harlen (1946), "Memorandum  
          Concerning the Characteristics of the Larger Mixed-
          Blood Racial Islands of the Eastern United States"; 
          Social Forces; 21/4 (May 1946), pp 438–477.
        • "Barbour County Home Of 'Guinea' Colony," 
          Beckley Post Herald, 27 May 1965.
          "We The People Of Chestnut Ridge", 
          Goldenseal, Fall 1999.
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