Friday, January 25, 2013

Cora Gibson Manis Leistner Harris Marsh Wylie - my Melungeon grandmother

Cora S Gibson (Gipson) was born on Oct 5, 1876  in, Ohio.  She was the sixth of eight children.  My mother had never really told me much about her.  I knew her name and I knew that she was married to a Scotsman.  My mother always talked about his brogue.   She said they called him "Scotty".  She told me that she had a great grandmother who was a full blooded Cherokee Indian.  So when I began to search for information on my family, the first tie I found to Cora was her grave.  She is buried beside her daughter, my grandmother.

When I searched the census records I found her in the 1880 Census with her family.  It took a while to find because the census taker had put her reversed her father's name.  His name was Henderson Gibson. Since the census taker had written it down with the last name as Henderson, they were all shown as Hendersons instead of Gibsons.  Next, they were all listed as Mulatto.  Then I began to think I had found a connection to African American heritage.  As I searched and went back as few generations they were all listed as Mulatto.  In every census after 1880 all family members are listed as White.  At this point I was really confused.  I began researching mulatto and related searches and came across the term Melungeon. I found a book North from the Mountains, A Folk History of the Carmel Melungeon Settlement, Highland County, Ohio, and ordered it.  In the book they listed all the Melungeons who were living in Carmel, Highland County, Ohio in 1970.  My great-great grandfather and his family were listed.  At that time my great grandmother had not been born.  My great grandfather and family were counted twice in the 1970 Census.  They were in Highland County, Ohio in June and in Henry County, Indiana, living with his parents in August, 1970.  I am going to write more about the Melungeons in later posts. for now I will continue on with Cora.

Cora married Lester Mannis, my great-grandfather on April 1, 1895.  The had three children together, Ethel- my grandmother, Fred, and Delores.  They were divorced in 1910.

Cora's next marriage was to Christian Leistner.  Christian was born in Indiana to German parents.  Cora married Christian on August 6, 1913.  Christian wasn't around long, according to her next marriage record  he had died.

Her third husband was Frederick Harris.  They married on March 1, 1918.  I am assuming they were divorced, because on the 1920 Census she is listed as the wife of Charles Marsh.  Her youngest  daughter was still living with her. I found Frederick Harris living as a roomer in a nearby town.

Cora and Charles Marsh were also short-lived because by around 1924 she was married to Kennedy Kennith Wylie, the step-grandfather my mother knew.  In 1930 she is on the census with Mr Wylie, and Mr Marsh is living with other people.

My mother would have been around 5 when her grandmother married Mr. Wylie.  She talked about "Scotty"  quite a bit.  The 1930's were a rough time for Cora.  Her daughter, Ethel died in 1935, her daughter, Delores died in 1938 and her son, Fred died in 1940.

Mr Wylie died in 1948.  Cora lived until April 3, 1949.  She had survived longer than her three children and at least two of her husbands.

My oldest sister remembers Mom saying that she was a grouchy woman who liked to drink.

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