Many living along and in the region of the Rocky River hold to the belief that at some point in the past there occurred a mixing betwixt their ancestors and the indigenous peoples. It’s not really a farfetched idea, as we know many who settled in the area migrated from the northeast part of North Carolina where early European settlers sometimes intermarried with “People of Color”, including Algonquin, Tuscarora, Haliwa-Saponi, and black Africans.
I, myself, have been curious about my ancestors’ ethnicity because of how easily and darkly my paternal family tans. Recently, in searching my family roots, my curiosity was peaked after learning of one certain person’s given name.
My namesake ancestor George Thomas was born 9 Feb 1852, the son of David and Alice Newsome Thomas. From the Joseph Newsome family bible, we know that, sadly, Alice died less than three months after the birth of her baby boy, George. And, from an estate book in Union County, we know that George’s father David did not live much longer, dying prior to 1854.
Thomas Family burial plot at the Edmond Davis Cemetery
The burial location of David and Alice are unknown though I can’t help but think they lay at rest behind or near David’s father Ananias at the Edmond Davis cemetery. George Thomas may have been raised by Edmond Davis, who was his guardian and the administrator of his father’s estate.
George eventually moved to Stanly County where in 1870 he was enumerated as living in the home of John Brooks. It’s here that the story gets interesting . . . John Brooks’ son Joshua married George’s older sister, Puah Ellen Thomas. I’d never heard the name Puah before and thought for sure it was a Native American Indian name until I learned better.
As it turns out, Puah Ellen Thomas was named for her mother Alice’s sister, Puah Newsome. Puah Newsome’s birth record is found in the same Newsome family bible that records the death of Alice. Puah Newsome married Edmond Davis’ brother Andrew Jackson Davis and together they eventually removed to Chester County, Tennessee. We’ll hear more from them later.
Given names have meanings and are given with purpose. If not Native American, I wondered, what is the story behind Joseph Newsome’s daughter, Puah? I found the following scripture in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 1: 15-17.
15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah. 16 And he said, when ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
Knowing of Joseph Newsome’s Quaker heritage, an internet search opened my eyes to the above verses used by Quakers and others in the Abolition Movement to end slavery.
One of the prominent voices in this movement was that of Emily Angelina Grimke, born in 1805 in Charleston SC. Her father was a politician and profitable plantation owner in SC. Emily accompanied her father on a trip to Philadelphia where she was introduced to the Quaker religion. She came to the realization that it was no longer possible for her to continue life in the presence of slavery and became a prominent American political activist, abolitionist, women’s rights advocacy, andsupporter of the women’s suffrage movement.
Published in 1836, Emily Grimke’s Appeal to Christian Women of the South makes the case that women, like their male counterparts, should be held accountable for their actions. She writes:
“We do not make the laws which perpetuate slavery. No legislative power is vested in us; we can do nothing to overthrow the system, even if we wished to do so. To this I reply, I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken. You can do much in every way…”
Rationalizing her argument in the above scripture from Exodus 1:15-17, Emily Grimke includes the following suggestion on how southern women could actively support the Abolition Movement.
“Teach your servants then to read and encourage them to believe it is their duty to learn, if it were only that they might read the Bible. But some of you will say, we can neither free our slaves nor teach them to read, for the laws of our state forbid it. Be not surprised when I say such wicked laws ought to be no barrier in the way of your duty, and I appeal to the Bible to prove this position.
What was the conduct of Shiphrah and Puah, when the king of Egypt issued his cruel mandate, with regard to the Hebrew children? “They feared God, and did not as the King of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.” Did these women do right in disobeying that monarch? “Therefore (says the sacred text,) God dealt well with them, and made them houses” Ex. I.
What was the conduct of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image in the plain of Dura, and commanded all people, nations, and languages, to fall down and worship it? “Be it known, unto thee, (said these faithful Jews) O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up.” Did these men do right in disobeying the law of their sovereign? Let their miraculous deliverance from the burning fiery furnace, answer; Dan. III.
What was the conduct of Daniel, when Darius made a firm decree that no one should ask a petition of any man or God for thirty days? Did the prophet cease to pray? No! “When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows being open towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” Did Daniel do right thus to break the law of his king? Let his wonderful deliverance out of the mouths of the lions answer; Dan. VII.
Look, too, at the Apostles Peter and John. When the rulers of the Jews, “commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus,” what did they say? “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” And what did they do “They spake the word of God with boldness, and with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus;” although this was the very doctrine, for the preaching of which, they had just been cast into prison, and further threatened. Did these men do right? I leave you to answer, who now enjoy the benefits of their labors and sufferings, in that Gospel they dared to preach when positively commanded not to teach any more in the name of Jesus ; Acts IV.”
Reading this passionate plea, I can’t help but think that the name of Joseph Newsome’s daughter Puah arose out of readings, sermons, and other connections to a Quaker perspective on the Abolition Movement. What were Joseph’s political leanings and did they change with time? While numbers of his grandchildren served in the Confederate forces, were there any remaining vestibules of Quaker ethic?
(to be continued)