Friday, November 24, 2023

My lost Lenape heritage

I want to tell this story in the most honest and genuine way possible, so please don't @ me. My intention is not to take focus away from indigenous voices, but to try and amplify them. Please check out the links at the end of this article, and support native American culture. 

As I was growing up in Western Pennsylvania, my family used to tell me that my great-great-grandmother, Anna Laura Cathell, was "Indian," and that we are descended from the Delaware people. Everyone said that Anna looked "Indian" (my grandfather pronounced it "Engine"), and my grandfather himself looked the part. I thought that was cool, but that's all the detail I ever heard about it. As a child, I would proudly boast about it, without really knowing what it meant. Of course, now I acknowledge my privilege. I did not grow up on a reservation. I did not learn the culture, etc.

Then, I did the DNA thing. Sure enough, the marker showed up - 1% Indigenous North America, but that's hardly a reason to boast, is it? I mean, I can't definitively say what my tribe or lineage is. Still, I am curious. I want to know more. 

Many years ago, my mother and I visited my Great-Aunt Sarah - daughter of said great-great-grandmother, and keeper of the family lore. She said that our native American ancestor was Jane Bond - my 4th great grandmother, and I thought she said "Lakota," but she either misspoke or I misheard, because that seems very unlikely. Lenape was the word I was looking for, because that is much more likely the case. The Lenape were also called the Delaware people - Bingo.

So, who was Jane Bond? Was she Lenape? I have not been able to find any official records to prove this. All I have is my family's oral tradition, and 1% DNA to show for it. I know that's not a lot to go on. Let the googling begin!

"Facts" that I gathered from my research on (I don't trust everything on there 100 percent, because some info is contributed by people without any backing records):

From the New York Evening Post, August 9, 1820

I found one record for Jane's father, an obituary for Joshua B. Bond, died 1820 in Sloane Springs, NJ, age 50. When I google Sloane Springs NJ, I find no such place exists now, but there are several places and businesses in NJ with "Sloane" in the name. I can't be sure that this particular Joshua Bond is the father of Jane, but I am pretty sure that her father's name was indeed, Joshua Bond. 

I found another clue that was shared in an Ancestry Member story, from another descendent of Jane Bond, but I don't have the original document so I can't check the sources, but it says that:

"Jane was born ca.1798/99 in New York, the daughter of Joshua and Jane (maiden surname unknown) Bond. "Joshua Bond brought his family [to what became Preston County] in 1814 . . . [his wife] Jane was a wonderful mother, and teacher as well (since there were no schools), and instilled in them [her children] the traits of honest hard work and becoming good citizens."

-- From Chapter 7 - Descendants of Ambrose Lipscomb (1762-1841) A Candid Family History:  Fielding Lipscomb: A Tale of Two Marriages, of the unpublished book written by Jeffrey Lipscomb who is a descendant of Ambrose’s son, Levi Lipscomb (1798-1878) 

If Joshua was born around 1770 in New York, and then moved to Preston County WV in 1814, that loosely fits with the Lenape history and pattern of migration. 

The Lenape originally occupied the Eastern parts of what is now PA, NY, NJ, and Delaware. They lived in this region for thousands of years until they were pushed out by colonization(1). Fun fact: They were the first indigenous tribe to meet the Europeans in the early 17th century. 

Original Lenape homeland

After that, it gets complicated. According to Curtis Zunigha, an enrolled member and cultural director of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, the displacement of the Lenape “is a history of deprivations, of swindles, of murders, of dishonorable behavior by the Dutch, by the British, and later by the Americans."(2)

A map at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia showing the forced migration of members of the Lenape Nation.

So, I looked at this map for a while, and you see that orange dotted line that curves right-to-left underneath the PA/Maryland border? It runs right past Preston County, WV, and then continues on into Ohio, where the story gets even more interesting (and tragic). 

Cue, the arrival of the Moravians

“The Moravians treated the Native Americans as equals,” Johnson said. “They did not attempt to exploit them and for those who wanted to become Christians, the Moravians were there to help.”

Many Delawares converted to Christianity thanks to the teachings of the Moravians. 

According to Johnson, the Moravians taught the Delaware skills to succeed as Christians, but this forced the Delaware to abandon many of their traditions. In return, the Delaware showed the Moravians how to live off the land. A major part of the Delwares’ responsibilities was farming, taking care of livestock, hunting, and getting food."(3)

However, it doesn't end well for the Lenape. Long story short, the Moravians failed to protect the Lenape from greedy settlers. In 1782, a group of militiamen murdered 96 pacifist Moravian Christian Indians (primarily Lenape and Mohican) at the Moravian mission village where they lived in Ohio, in what was called the Gnadenhutton massacre. This happened before Jane was born, and luckily, my ancestors didn't make it that far, instead stopping to settle in Preston county, WV.

In 1824, Jane married Fielding Lipscomb, and they lived in the German settlement in Preston County, which is now known as Aurora. From then on, the family tree is well documented. There are lots of records, and the Libscomb family cemetery is an historical landmark. Still, no literal mention anywhere of Jane's tribal origins. What I've gathered is that if there is any Lenape or native American heritage to speak of, it would have been passed down by word of mouth (and it was, in my case). A couple of other things to consider:
  • Some colonists (looking at you, Moravians) were known to take Lenape brides. 
  • Indigenous status was not recorded in early census data.
  • Lenape who avoided removal from their land had to integrate with the locals, and remain undetected.
Even though I might never find definitive proof of my tribal origins, at least I have a better idea of where they might have come from. Perhaps Jane's mother was Lenape. Maybe Jane's parents were Moravian Christian converts, and they followed an established migration path to their homestead along the Cheat River. Another fun fact:

"The Delaware (Lenape) Indian name for Cheat was reportedly Ach-sin-ha-nac, meaning "stony river". "Cheat River" is variously reported to have been named for (1) a French explorer (or an Indian) named Cheat or Chaet, (2) an abundance of cheat grass along its banks (possibly a misidentification of frost-killed wheat), or (3) deceptively deep sections containing whirlpools that presumably "cheated" men of their lives by drowning them.[6] None of these theories have strong documentary support, but the latter is the most often cited."

The Lipscomb family would later become famous during the Civil War because one brother fought for the Union Army, while another brother fought for the South, but that's another story.


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Magifest 2023 - Columbus, OH

I attended Magifest this year. It was a fun-packed couple of days and I had a fantastic time. 

Before the show even started, we met one of the performers, Peter Turner, in the convention space, just hanging out with fans and doing mentalism tricks. When I approached the crowd gathered around his table, he immediately asked me if I would like to help him do a trick. IT WAS AWESOME. We attended his performance and lecture later that evening and that, too, was awesome. 

Peter Turner, center

The first lecture we actually attended was about Ionia - a famous female magician in the early 19th century. She only performed magic for a few years, but her act was said to be spectacular, and the beautiful promotional posters that survived from that time are highly valuable collectibles. 

Ionia - Inspiration

Charles Green
Aside from that, she lived a long and interesting life, married a Russian prince, and eventually returned to France where she died in 1973. This was one of my favorite talks. The presenter, Charles Green, researched, wrote, and published a gorgeous book about her life.

Book cover

 We saw another great presentation by Margalit Fox, the author of The Confidence Men, a true story about two men who used mentalism to escape from a POW camp. 

As luck would have, we ran into another magician/performer that we've been following on Youtube for some time - Chris Ramsay. 
Chris Ramsay, on right

One of the biggest highlights of the whole weekend was meeting Lance Burton, who gave an interview about his life and career, and generously signed posters for 1000 fans at this convention. 

Lance Burton

So, I spent way WAY too much in the dealer room. I picked up a beautifully bound hard copy of the catalog for an auction of items from Ricky Jay's collection that will happen in February 2023. He had a lot of weird bizarre interesting things in his collection. 

Now I have a couple/few beautiful magic-related coffee-table books to display around my home. 

We saw many other amazing performances by other magicians including six different winners of FISM, and Paul Gertner, who appeared on Penn & Teller's Fool Us FIVE times. Interestingly enough, Paul Gertner was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and his father was a steel worker. 

That's all I will say for now. A magician never reveals her secrets. 
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