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So many mysteries around Grandma Elizabeth. I’ll start with her possible race combinations:
- Part African-American, part French Canadian or European descent, part Native American
- Half African-American, half European descent or French Canadian
- Half African-American, half Native American
- Half Native American, half European descent or French Canadian
Whew… so many possibilities but only one is true. On a census she is marked black, while on others she is marked as white. Her first daughter is marked as black on nearly all her censuses, her second daughter Madora is marked as white on all of her censuses. What is the truth? I have no idea because my dna kit has yet to be processed.
Starting from the beginning, as told by her grandson Hollister Plourde and recorded down by his family, backed up by the records I have thanks to Ancestry:
Elizabeth was born in 1843 to the Barkers, who lived in Illinois. There is a rumor Elizabeth and a sibling were adopted by the Barkers. If true, it’s not known if the Barkers had any relation to Elizabeth or if they just wanted to care for her. Either way, I can’t find anything on this period of Elizabeth’s life or even the name of her parents and the mysterious sibling.
Around late 1850s, the Barkers left Randolph County Illinois for Oregon. Somewhere in Owyhee, Idaho, their caravan was attacked, her parents, an unknown sibling listed as not even a year old, were slaughtered by Native Americans (thanks Grandpa 4x for that, you asshat) and Elizabeth was taken captive. She was around 12-15 years old when this took place.
It’s unknown when exactly she was taken as a wife by one of the warriors. About 1859, at the age of 16, she gave birth to her first daughter, Mary. Mary is marked as black on nearly all of her censuses, lending credit to the theory that Elizabeth is at least mixed, which would mean the Barkers may have been interracial or adopted a mixed ethnicity Elizabeth.
About 1864 she again gave birth to a daughter, Madora, who is my Great 3x Grandmother. It’s not known what the girls were called by the tribe or how they were viewed, since their mother was technically taken as a slave.
While Elizabeth did have two daughters with the warrior, and the girls either were not abused or did not speak of abuse, Elizabeth fled from the tribe first chance she got. Some time shortly after Madora’s birth, the tribe was doing business with some traders from the Hudson Bay Company. Elizabeth was sent to fetch some water from a well where she was approached by a man from the company.
He thought her strange enough to ask why was she with the tribe. Elizabeth told him she was slave and couldn’t leave. He offered to help her escape but she declined stating she would not leave her daughters behind. The man told her to come back the next day and he would take all of them to Oregon City, Oregon, where Elizabeth supposedly had family.
The next day, under the guise of collecting water, Elizabeth, Mary, and Madora went to the well. The man also returned with two water barrels. Quickly, he put Elizabeth in one and Mary and Madora in the other. When they were far enough away he took them out of barrels and they continued on their way to Oregon.
Mary and Madora themselves confirmed they were left with a man named Antoine Le Fleur in Oregon City. It’s not known the exact relationship Elizabeth had with Le Fleur as she was married to my Step 4x Grandfather, Basil Plourde a French Canadian logger, by 1868.
Personally I believe Le Fleur may have been a cousin but on Ancestry no one is too certain and there is no information on the Le Fleur’s beyond Antoine caring for the girls. A census shows Mary living with him in 1880 but she’s also married to Basil’s brother Albert so I do believe they were probably cousins. Yes, mother and daughter married brothers. It was really weird trying to figure it out on Ancestry especially since there were times where Mary appeared as Elizabeth’s and Basil’s daughter or as Elizabeth’s sister, both older and younger.
I’ve noticed a thing with female rape victims where they claim their daughters as little sisters or cousins if they’re being held captive for periods of time. I guess it’s some sort of emotional defense or way of protecting the child from the truth of the situation. Elizabeth and Mary for a long time, claimed to be sisters which makes me think she was indeed raped and abused by the warrior who married her. Somehow before Elizabeth died, the story was set straight by them and the federal records show them as mother and daughter. So far, there has been no mention of what her relationship was like with Madora.
From the children she had with Basil, comes the Oregon Native American heritage, which my cousins enjoy. I am not from any Oregon tribe but whatever one happened to attack and kidnap Elizabeth. Either she never knew what they were called, which is unlikely, or she decided to never pass that information on.
Tonight I sent out an email to the Illinois State Archives place hoping to get more information. I really hope they can help. Their basic search tool for the archives brought up absolutely nothing and I can’t submit a request because I’m not an Illinois resident. Fingers crossed they can send me something or have a hidden out of state form that isn’t mentioned on the website.
I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out which Idaho tribe it was that attacked the Barkers. I don’t even know if they were traveling with a caravan or on their own, Elizabeth never told anyone.
Dammit, Grandma. Why does this side of the family has issues with communication? I swear no one ever talks to each other, I don’t know how we manage to hold family reunions every year.
I’m really hoping some African American dna will show up to at least solve one mystery. I want Elizabeth’s ethnicity stamped down. If she isn’t African American then why does Mary mark herself down as such? This could be mean Elizabeth was adopted by the Barkers who were African American or at least an interracial couple, and Mary really was her adopted sister. If she is African American then that still leaves me with some possibilities, none of which really confirm is she was adopted or not, just that she’s mixed:
- half French Canadian or European descent, half African American, potentially part Native American
- half French Canadian or European descent, half African American
- half African American, half Native American
I’m not sure if French Canadian would show up at all and unfortunately even if it does, Madora’s husband was part Native American, part French Canadian, part European descent. Joy. So really all this is riding on whether any African American shows up. Either way, there is still a mystery around her I don’t think I can solve, especially if the Archives department can’t help me.
I don’t think racism really worked the people said it did back then because on all sides of my family there are more than few of interracial relationships. If people wanna fuck, they gon’ fuck regardless of the law and boy Fubi’s side of the family sure mixed in with everyone. Even today that side is low-key racist but a lot has a lot of mixed race kids. Not sure how that works but okay cousins, you do you.
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