Sunday, November 08, 2009

Indian Grandmas

by Donna Gloff
Native American Heritage?
At least two Orlando grandmothers in the Oil Creek area steadfastly claimed Native American heritage to their grandchildren: Francis Willa (Jackson) Sands Krevitch, b.1889. and Ingabo (Church) Parmer, 1842-1935.
There is also evidence of Native Americans south of the Oil Creek watershed. As mentioned in an earlier entry, Nettie Gregory recalled a church on Curry Ridge near Falls Mill and nearby, she was told, were a cemetery for blacks and a cemetery for Indians. Another piece of evidence is a photo of Elzara (Conrad) Wine 1843- 1903, who lived a little south of the Oil Creek watershed. It shows facial features that seem strikingly Native American. (She was the niece of David Smith Wine.)

Left: Francis Willa (Jackson) Sands, Ingabo (Church) Parmer, Elzara (Conrad) Wine

On the other hand, this author has found no indication of Native American heritage in any Orlando-related family trees, censuses or birth, marriage and death records. Nor has anyone mentioned Native Americans in the Oil Creek area.

Pioneers and Indians
It is easy to imagine why there is no word today about Native American heritage. Especially in the early years, a large and abiding segment of the population saw Indians as enemies, threatening and uncivilized. Most of the older pioneers in this area had lived through vicious Indian Wars in the 1770s and ‘80s. The Europeans and Native Americans gave to each other as good as they got. Both the Indians and the Europeans had ambushed and massacred each other with a white-hot hatred. Many pioneers had lost family and neighbors.

The Riffle families, for example, lost one of their patriarchs, Frank Riffle, in 1781. From an 1857 interview with old David Crouch who was a boy present at the time, "Frank Riffle and William Currans were killed next. They were living in George Westfall's fort...They were out at their farms, expect they were planting. Late, at near dusk, they started for the settlement. The men were before, walking, and were shot. Susan Shaver, a married daughter of Riffle's and some other woman, I expect one of her sisters, were behind and were to ride. They heard the guns and just mounted the horses and rode to the fort. The horses galloped and Susan Shaver's horse, as he came galloping along, just jumped over her father. It was so dark she never saw him. Only saw a bulk or something, didn't know what it was. The Indians had stripped the clothes, every bit off of him and stretched him right across the road…" Frank was the brother of Willa Jackson’s 2-great grandfather Jacob Riffle.

Francis Willa (Jackson) Sands’
first husband James “Jim” Sands’ great grandmother Levisa "Levicy" Fields also knew the fear and violence of the Indian Wars. "When Levisa was about five years old, her family lived in a log cabin about three miles from a fort, established at or near the present site of Charleston, West Virginia. Mr. Fields and his wife had seven children, including Levisa. One day some little distance from the cabin, Levisa was up in an apple tree breaking apple blossoms. The family dog saw Indians approaching the cabin and barked, thus attracting the attention of both Levisa and her father to the Indians. Levisa sat still up in the tree and her father hid under a log. The Indians ran into the cabin, killed and scalped Mrs. Fields and six of the children, and then went to the clearing and killed and scalped Mr. Fields. They set fire to the cabin, and ran away. They did not discover Levisa, and when she saw them leave, she climbed down from the tree and went to the fort."-- Chapman, Berlin B., Chapman Family: A Study in the Social Development of Central West Virginia, [The] (Tulsa, OK: Mid-West Printing Co., 1942), p.8. [Located at University of Nebraska Library, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-4100.]

Left: A Cherokee woman and child from an unknown source, found on the internet
.Right: Green is the boundaries of the Cherokee nation in the 1700s. Orlando is in red north and east of the Cherkee area.

We have no word about the nature of Ingabo (Church) Parmer’s or Elzara (Conrad) Wine’s Indian heritages, or the Indians who are buried on Curry Ridge to the south of us. However, Francis Willa (Jackson) Sands told her grandsons they were Cherokee.

We don’t think Francis knew how her people came to be in the area. Looking for clues leads to the infamous Trail of Tears in 1832 which began the removal of the Cherokee from their land. Some Cherokee disappeared into the hills rather than move west. The Cherokee Nation extended, at its greatest reach, to the Kanawha River, where Charleston is located today. Charleston is about 85 miles south of Orlando.

Systematic oppression of Native Americans continued into at least the second half of the 1900s. An entry at the West Virginia Cultural Archives states that “According to newspaper reports, individuals were being shipped away to Oklahoma reservations as late as the 1950's. Until 1965, it was considered technically illegal for a Native American to own property in West Virginia, though this law was seldom enforced.”

It is no wonder there is no public knowledge of Native American lines in the Orlando area.

A Grandmother’s Gift
Pauline Bennett remembers her grandmother Ingabo Parmer told her they were part Indian. Francis Sands was specific. She was Cherokee. Her grandson Noel remembers, “My Grandmother was very proud of her Cherokee blood and she was quite a character. Granny used to keep me and my cousins spellbound with tales of Jackson Mill. If I listened to Granny long I'd soon picture Cherokee's dancing around their fire getting ready for the warpath. I'd be willing to bet what's left of my life on Granny's many stories being truthful. I've never known or found out Granny said anything that was a lie or intentionally deceitful.”

Left: Noel, Doug Foster, Pauline Bennett

[1] Draper Collection of Kentucky Papers, David Crouch Interview, (Draper Mss #12CC225 on microfilm at WV University Library at Morgantown):

1 comment:

  1. Bessie Mcpherson (Skinner-Riffle) also claimed native American heritage. We have a younger photo of her in which she looks alot like Ingabo (Church) Parmer.

    Bernadette Skinner-Hartsough