Three New Markers for Roanoke-Chowan People.
The North Carolina State Highway Historical Marker program has accepted three nominations made by the Chowan Discovery Group for Roanoke-Chowan people. This first marker honors the town of Choanoac (Chowanoke) which was the largest coastal town in North Carolina when the second Roanoke Island expedition explored the Chowan River in 1586. The town was first reported in 1584. Choanoac, commonly referred to as Chowanoke, was located on the Chowan River at Swain’s Mill Road and the river in the Mount Pleasant community. Its people were the among the first known residents of what is now Bertie, Gates and Hertford County.
The Chowan Discovery Group coordinated a dedication program that was held on Friday, October 21 at 3pm at the Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, during the Meherrin Indian Tribe’s annual powwow. There are Meherrins who are also Choanoac descendants, and they were present for the program. The Harrellsville Historical Association and the Chowan Discovery Group sold have books available related to the history of the area.
On January 16, in Duplin County, a marker for Parker David Robbins will be dedicated in Magnolia where he lived for 30 years. Robbins, a Gates County native and Bertie County resident, was a mechanic and farmer near Colerain. He served as a sergeant-major in the 2nd Cavalry, United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. Along with his brother and three cousins, he enlisted at Fort Monroe and he took part in battles from Suffolk to Richmond, eventually riding into Richmond at the end of the war. Robbins was a representative in the North Carolina State Assembly, served as postmaster in Harrellsville and received two patents while in Harrellsville. In Duplin County, Robbins was a builder, sawmill owner, and steamship builder and operator. He was a Choanoac descendant.
The third marker honors Ahoskie and Harrellsville’s Robert Lee Vann, lawyer and publisher. Vann graduated from Waters Training School in Winton, attended Virginia Union Colllege and University of Pittsburgh. His newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, was the nation’s largest African American publication with circulation of 250,000 in 1935. The Courier is still a national newspaper, now 102 years old. The marker will be dedicated in Ahoskie next year.
For more information on the markers, contact Marvin T. Jones of the Chowan Discovery Group at 202.726.4066 or www.chowandiscovery.org. For Meherrin Powwow information visithttp://www.meherrintribe.com.
MHA at National Genealogical Society 2011
MHA’s four day presence at NGS was the perfect antidote to any perception we might have had that our interests are a small niche, relevant only to a tiny percentage of Americans. Julie Williams Dixon’s showing of Melungeon Voices on the first night of the conference drew a sizeable audience, as did Terry Mullins’s lecture presentation on Melungeons, “Cultural Diversity Comes Home.” But the combined 150 or so attendance at these programs was dwarfed by the number of people who visited the MHA booth in the exhibit hall. Most of the hundred and twenty booths were hosted by vendors of books and online databases, or local and state genealogical societies. The MHA booth was consistently once of the most visited, and often was swarmed by visitors between the sessions for genealogists. Perhaps this was partly due to the fact that we had three authors and one filmmaker at the booth. Terry Mullins, Frank Sweet, Julie Williams Dixon, and I all spent hours responding to inquiries, as did S.J. Arthur, Elizabeth Williams, and Mary Lee Sweet. But all this activity was from the 1600 registered conferees who had paid to attend the event. On the final day, more than 600 more people arrived for free genealogy classes offered by ancestry.com, and they greatly increased the traffic in the exhibit hall. The influx of new people kept all of us busy answering nonstop questions; the most frequent being simply “What is a Melungeon?” Each of us heard story after story about mixed ancestry backgrounds, or family secrets and mysteries that hinted at such. We left feeling that the interest shown in the past for MHA’s work is only the tip of the iceberg and many thousands of Americans continue to discover that their own ancestry is more complicated than they had suspected.
One of the questions asked at the showing of Melungeon Voices was about the connection of the Melungeon story to the new book by Daniel Sharfstein, The Invisible Line. This provided an opening for MHA to announce the author’s participation as a featured speaker at 15th Union.
The board of directors of MHA includes Scott Withrow (SC, President), Laura Tugman (TN, Vice President), Stephanie Musick (VA, Secretary), Lynda Davis-Logan (WV, Treasurer), S.J Arthur (KY, President Emeritus), Claude Collins (TN), Kathy Lyday (NC), Manuel Mira (NC), Terry Mullins (VA), Mary Lee Sweet (FL), Rose Trent (TN), and Eddie Manuel (VA).
MHA Consultants are Lisa Alther (TN), Marilyn Cheney (MA), Ina Danko (TN), Julie Williams Dixon (NC), Michael Gilley (VA), Shirley Hutsell (TN), Jameson Jones (VA), Marvin T. Jones (DC), Toney Kirk (WV), Elmer Maggard (KY), Phyllis Morefield (VA), Arwin Smallwood (NC), Stacy Webb (KY), and Wayne Winkler (TN).
For further information about MHA, write to firstname.lastname@example.org; we are not able to answer genealogical research queries.
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