INDIAN BLOOD RUNS IN
MANY HARLAN COUNTY FAMILIES ©

by Holly Timm
[originally published 3 June 1987
Harlan Daily Enterprise Penny Pincher]
Many families in the mountains have traditions of being part Indian. Ed Ward refers to just such a tradition about Susannah Skidmore Farmer in his letter to the editor Saturday, May 30. Other families with a tradition of Indian blood are descendants of Isaac Callahan, some of the King and Jones families and the Sizemores.

In most cases it is very hard to find any documentary evidence supporting these traditions of Indian blood. For most of 1800's, such a connection was not something a family bragged about. Many of those with even a small fraction of Indian blood were regarded as non-citizens and were generally looked down upon.

There is a large amount of research material on those of Indian blood available on the individuals who were moved west by the federal government in the form of various census rolls, annuity payment rolls and so forth. There are also a few records on the Eastern Band of Cherokee who lived mostly in the mountains of North Carolina.

In the earliest years of settlement and exploration in Kentucky, many men took Indian wives whether or not they had wives and children in the east. Some of these half breeds took to the Indian ways and moved west with the tribes, others chose to live as white and there may be many families with Indian blood who have no such tradition.

The three major tribes in the Kentucky area with the greatest possibilities for intermarriage were the Cherokee, the Chickasaw and the Shawnee with the Cherokee being the most numerous in the immediate area. The Quadrule Indians mentioned as living locally were probably not a separate tribe. They were most likely a small group of one of the major tribes who simply settled here, more peaceful than many of their brethren.

There are two local families with documentary evidence supporting their claims to Indian blood. These are the Cole and Bowman families. The Coles are listed in census records for 1860 Lee County, Va., and for 1870 Harlan as being Indian. The state and counties of birth given for the Cole family of 1860 implies they moved around frequently. The head of the household, John Cole, was born about 1799 in Lincoln Co., North Carolina. His daughter Eliza was born in Scott Co., Va., and daughter Elisabeth, in Knox Co., Ky. Eliza's two children, Jacob and Elmira were born in Lee Co., Va.

Next door to John's household is another Eliza Cole, born about 1834 in Lee Co., Va., with two daughters - Jane born in Claiborne Co., Tenn., and Elisabeth born in Lee Co., Va. All of these Coles and a Jefferson Cole living in the same neighborhood were listed as Indians. Elsewhere in Lee County was a John M. Cole, 20, also of Indian blood.

In 1870, the younger Eliza Cole, her two children mentioned above and three more children, Robert, Mary Jane and Mollie were listed in Harlan County. All were indicated as being Indian. It must be noted that the degree of Indian blood is not listed in census and even a small fraction could be cause for such a listing.

Jacob Cole married Kizzie Eldridge, another family with a strong tradition of Indian blood. Mary Jane Cole married William Brittain, son of James and Jane Ely Brittain. The Coles were closely connected with another area family with proven Indian blood, the Bowmans. Hawkins Bowman was born about 1790 in North Carolina. In 1838, in Lee Co., Va., he married Nancy Barbour.

In 1879, his widow applied for a pension on his military service. She stated that he had served in the Tennessee Infantry in the War of 1812 under Captain Jesse Cole. She described him as being of dark complexion, commonly called part Indian and that he was about five-feet nine inches tall. They had at least seven children: George, Mary who married Hiram Fugate, Lucinda, John, Nancy, Thomas who married Mary Moore, and Elijah. In the 1860 census of Harlan County. Hawk Bowman is listed as a blacksmith. In the 1870 Harlan, the family is listed as Indian.

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last edited Thursday, 05-Jun-2008 14:32:23 MDT