The Question of Race

    When the minister referred to Simon Barnet as "mulatto" what did he mean? After defining a mulatto as a person with one white and one African parent the American Heritage Dictionary of  2000 says this:

The terms mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon originated with the racial policies of European colonizers in the Americas, especially the Spanish. Because civil rights and responsibilities were based directly on the degree of European blood that a person had, such classifications were highly elaborated, and minor distinctions in ancestry were carefully recorded. While these terms have highly precise definitions, in actual practice they were often used based on impressions of skin color rather than definite knowledge of ancestry.

    It seems clear that Simon had noticably dark skin. Early histories of Chenango County refer to him as a "creole". The writers, working in the 1880s, never saw him, since he died in 1832, but rather took their information from then living informants. The word "creole" has a confusing history. Originally, it referred to people of mixed black and European ancestry. A little later, and mostly in Louisiana, it included  Spanish, Portuguese and Native American mixtures. Later still it referred to anyone of any ancestry who was born in the Caribbean.

    I believe it is safest to agree with the statement in the Dictionary that when the minister used the word mulatto in 1775 he meant a mixed African and European person.

    Sexual alliances between French slave owners and their slave women were common in the French Caribbean colonies. Common enough, indeed, that laws were needed to regulate the practice. The "Code Noir" or "Black Code" assured that if a child was born of such a union then both mother and child would be freed and supported by the father. This led to a rather large mixed racial community in Martinique made up of  artisans, merchants, and others. Some people from this group left the islands and appeared in Louisiana and Philadelphia and other American cities.

    The minister's comment is not the only evidence for the belief that Simon was of mixed African and European blood. The 1790 Census of the United States has five columns. The page listing Simon's name as head of family has been partially burnt making the fourth column obscure. The first column is to list all white males over 16. It is blank. The fourth column to list all other free persons is partially burnt but seems to have a 1 in it. The fifth column is for slaves and is missing. The 1800 Census, when the family was in New York City, seems to show a white family living in a predominantly black neighborhood. Likely, Simon was not present at the enumeration and the enumerator, looking at the wife and children, assumed white. In 1810 and 1820 the entries are as a white person. However, in 1830 Simon appears as a "free colored person" living in a small area of  Chenango County where his neighbors on both sides are black. One of them is called in the census Charles Barnard, but appears to be Charles Felix Barnett, Simon's son. (the numbers and sexes of the children are correct for 1830)All family members except the mother are shown as free colored persons. The 1850 Census shows Charles F. Barnard and is the first to list family members. He is clearly Charles F. Barnett. Race is not indicated for anyone on the page.

The Casler Cemetery, where Simon and his wife Margaret were buried is now abandoned, but some record of it still exists in the form of a survey of stones done by a scout troop many years ago. Pamela Chapel aged 2, and daughter of Aaron and Margaret Chapel is buried there. She and her parents were black. They were near neighbors of Simon in 1830. It is today impossible to know all those who were buried there. 

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