The Philadelphia Inquirer has just run an article on William Penn's 'Holy Experiment' aka 'The Peaceable Kingdom,' Penn's name for his vision of a harmonious European-Native American sharing of the land, which you can read here.
I think this Pennsylvania dyad - Lenape versus Quaker - with all its karma, must have been a very powerful element in my great-grandparents' union in 1872, and perhaps also fueled the intensity of their impression on succeeding generations. My great-grandfather, Alfred Whittingham, was a descendent of 'First Proprietor' Quakers who pushed the Indians off their land, albeit in a genteel manner. I have not been able to trace his grandfather William Whittingham past a 1759 birthdate, but I know that British Thomas Livezey, a great-grandfather of William's wife Rebecca, purchased his land directly from William Penn, and that he needed to live in town (Philadelphia) for some time before the Lenape - who must have felt most unfairly treated - had finally cleared off land they knew was theirs, but which William Penn believed had been sold to him, and which he in turn had sold to Thomas Livezey.
My great-grandmother was the descendent of Indians (and probably pirates of a Moorish caste, hence the surname Carney) who were known as Moor Indians, and according to Weslager were a remnant of southern Lenapes. When my great-grandfather, Alfred, decided to 'do right' by Mary, he was shunned by family members, and I would guess also lost status in the community, which resulted in his no longer getting elected as county clerk. He had lost a leg in the Civil War, but the local folks voted him in to the job of Clerk. His wife went on record in the Pension File that he had asked her to keep their relationship under wraps until after he was elected the first time, so it is no secret that his liaison with her was unpopular. They elected him twice more, perhaps out of pity for the poor cripple, but when he made it clear that he was going to live as husband-and-wife with the outcast, the elections ceased. They had to survive on his pension and perhaps her needlework, which was artistic and expert, yet in the depositions, most neighbors denied knowing the couple 'well.' They would only aver that they knew Alfred and Mary had set up housekeeping and were living as husband and wife, raising several children, over the course of more than twenty years.
People often say, well, just look at the wedding license to get genealogical information -but there was no wedding license until 1897, twenty-five years after the supposed marriage, and it was issued in Camden New Jersey, capital of government record-keeping known to be sympathetic to the Moors, and on it she was listed as Mary Whittingham. So, Mary Whittingham married Alfred Whittingham. She wanted to keep her maiden name out of it. The whole difficulty with her claiming the pension after his death was based on the fact that she was using an assumed name when she met my great-grandfather. She wanted her Moor Indian identity kept out of the proceedings (and out of her life), but she did mention it once in the hundred plus pages of the civil war pension file's depositions.
Perhaps this is why I feel so driven to write about my great-grandparents, to re-hash so much of what happened, even in my own life, that relates to her presence in the family - because it was a Big Deal Once Upon A Time, although never acknowledged to me. In a certain way, I feel that Alfred Whittingham tried to bridge that gap between 'Quakers' (European invaders) and 'Indians' (in our case, 'Moors'). This couple tried to do the impossible, and faced a great deal of resistance, especially within the family. My impression is that they were both very spiritual people, and they had that in common. Yet he was literate and 'pedigreed' (or almost so - there is some question about the 'purity' of his great-grandmother, Lydia Roberts), while she was 'illiterate' and 'peculiar, almost as if she were foreign.' They were both very formal, almost rigid about behavior. If that sounds unlikely, in her case at least, I will mention that I recall Meridel Le Sueur described her Iroquois grandmother the same way. In order to live down the stereotypes, some of these native women became more 'proper' than the 'properest.' This part of the native-american story is not often told.
By the time we get to my grandparents, I don't think the 'Indianness' was so much the issue - there are rumors of native blood on my grandmother's side as well, and she did have a traditional Lenape utility basket, although she could have bought that, but I don't think so - rather, the issue may have been that the elder woman, Mary, was from the southern clan of the Moor Indians, most likely Unalachtigo, rather than Unami or one of the more northern clans which were more likely to be part of Katie's family. Even my husband's father once said, right before we were to be married, that those Unalachtigos were the ones you wanted to keep away from. (meaning me, I suppose) So all sorts of clan rivalries may have played a role in my grandmother's sense of superiority towards her mother-in-law.
My grandfather, Joseph, was a man who held within himself the perfect balance of 'exotic' (moor) and 'proper' (descended from Englishmen). He was adored by his family, but tubercular, and died leaving his wife and daughter to sort out their color-issues without the benefit of his halo of respectability or the warmth and mischievous humor of his native blood, which my mother remembered so fondly. The appellation of 'Moor' implies an African origin, even though most likely it was pirate rather than slave. There were many many antipathies among these small splintered remnants of conquered peoples mixed with the blood of the oppressor, and with each other. I think my mother's frustration with these endless divisions were part of what prompted her to try to opt for the white-identity, especially for me. Just to get me out of it. It didn't entirely work, however, since I still lived in a mixed-race environment in which I was elected to play the white role, not a very popular part, and I'm still not sure how successful my performance was.
The point is, there still seems to be work to be done on these issues that were a part of my mother's family, and it seems in addition that I am the person who needs to do it.