Was Varina Howell Davis, Wife of Jefferson Davis Créole?

AshleyMel

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This is a crazy good piece of writing, Ashley. I'm just smitten by your generation. It's like the visionaries who came up with the whole idea of ' American ' targeted completion of the project for this century, on purpose. Took that long to work the kinks out and produce such an insightful, generous bunch.

You know, there's just no graceful comeback, in any book on the social graces, for " Well, he does look black ". It's so off the wall, what is there to say? Never had anyone look at Dad's photo and say " Well, he does look Swiss/English/French and do I see some Greek in there? " Same thing, so why.....? Like you said. You're Ashley.
Thank you for you kind words as always dear one! Sometimes I feel I am just spewing forth the things that I should be swallowing. My past has taught me to not talk about these things but my Nanny's stubbornness seems to shine forth. I'm trying to discover balance on my journey. God's grace has gotten me this far.
 

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It seems that in this day and age people have an agenda to run down, discredit people or in general make them into something they are not. The truth it seems does not matter, even if the truth of it is rock solid. It is sad to see people delve into these areas with no compunction. The truth does not matter to many only the lies they can spread about subjects and areas they have no expertise in. Local experts are often not, although some might be, so we are suddenly deluded with experts in junk or garbage history where the truth needs not be bothered with, only the unfounded rumor, that someone said who is never identified.
 
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I will say I always liked Sarah Knox Taylor, who died so young at 21. No doubt of her heritage. She was married to Davis for only 3 months. She is not the subject here only Varina H. Davis is, still Sarah is worth the remembering. Varina no doubt had to deal with the memory of Sarah, who must have cast a formidable shadow. She prevailed, as she always did. I suspect it will be a long time before the truth about her background will prevail.
 

Northern Light

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I will say I always liked Sarah Knox Taylor, who died so young at 21. No doubt of her heritage. She was married to Davis for only 3 months. She is not the subject here only Varina H. Davis is, still Sarah is worth the remembering. Varina no doubt had to deal with the memory of Sarah, who must have cast a formidable shadow. She prevailed, as she always did. I suspect it will be a long time before the truth about her background will prevail.
Sarah had the misfortune to die so soon after the marriage that the bloom never had a chance to come off of the rose. I wonder, though, how much of the Sarah shadow was invention by people who didn't like Varina. I wonder if she mentions it in her writing?
 

Rebforever

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The only problem with this statement is sheer wording? Even 150 years ago, perhaps a wife would raise an eyebrow over the thought she served her husband. That would get you cold oatmeal, with lumps. :angel:
Well, lets take a look at the word serve.

Definition of serve
served; serving
intransitive verb
1a : to be a servant
b : to do military or naval service
: to assist a celebrant as server at mass
3a : to be of use
  • in a day when few people could write, seals served as signatures
  • —Elizabeth W. King
: to be favorable, opportune, or convenient
c : to be worthy of reliance or trust
  • if memory serves
d : to hold an office : discharge a duty or function
  • serve on a jury
4: to prove adequate or satisfactory : suffice
  • it will serve for this task
: to help persons to food: such as: to wait at table: to set out portions of food or drink
: to wait on customers
: to put the ball or shuttlecock in play in various games (such as tennis, volleyball, or badminton)
transitive verb
1a : to be a servant to : attend
: to give the service and respect due to (a superior)
c : to comply with the commands or demands of : gratify
: to give military or naval service to: to perform the duties of (an office or post)
: to act as server at (mass)
3archaic : to pay a lover's or suitor's court to (a lady)
  • that gentle lady, whom I love and serve
  • —Edmund Spenser
: to work through (a term of service): to put in (a term of imprisonment)
: to wait on at table: to bring (food) to a diner
c : present, provide —usually used with up
  • the novel served up many laughs
: to furnish or supply with something needed or desired: to wait on (a customer) in a store: to furnish professional service to
: to answer the needs of
b : to be enough for : suffice
c : to contribute or conduce to : promote
8: to treat or act toward in a specified way
  • he served me ill
: to bring to notice, deliver, or execute as required by law: to make legal service upon (a person named in a process)
: to copulate with
: to wind yarn or wire tightly around (a rope or stay) for protection
: to provide services that benefit or help
: to put (the ball or shuttlecock) in play (as in tennis, volleyball, or badminton)
— serve one right
: to be deserved

So I am sure somewhere in the mix of this, plenty can be found to fit the Presidents wife.
I guess I could have made it to "stood by her Man". :wink:
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Well, lets take a look at the word serve.

Definition of serve
served; serving
intransitive verb
1a : to be a servant
b : to do military or naval service
: to assist a celebrant as server at mass
3a : to be of use
  • in a day when few people could write, seals served as signatures
  • —Elizabeth W. King
: to be favorable, opportune, or convenient
c : to be worthy of reliance or trust
  • if memory serves
d : to hold an office : discharge a duty or function
  • serve on a jury
4: to prove adequate or satisfactory : suffice
  • it will serve for this task
: to help persons to food: such as: to wait at table: to set out portions of food or drink
: to wait on customers
: to put the ball or shuttlecock in play in various games (such as tennis, volleyball, or badminton)
transitive verb
1a : to be a servant to : attend
: to give the service and respect due to (a superior)
c : to comply with the commands or demands of : gratify
: to give military or naval service to: to perform the duties of (an office or post)
: to act as server at (mass)
3archaic : to pay a lover's or suitor's court to (a lady)
  • that gentle lady, whom I love and serve
  • —Edmund Spenser
: to work through (a term of service): to put in (a term of imprisonment)
: to wait on at table: to bring (food) to a diner
c : present, provide —usually used with up
  • the novel served up many laughs
: to furnish or supply with something needed or desired: to wait on (a customer) in a store: to furnish professional service to
: to answer the needs of
b : to be enough for : suffice
c : to contribute or conduce to : promote
8: to treat or act toward in a specified way
  • he served me ill
: to bring to notice, deliver, or execute as required by law: to make legal service upon (a person named in a process)
: to copulate with
: to wind yarn or wire tightly around (a rope or stay) for protection
: to provide services that benefit or help
: to put (the ball or shuttlecock) in play (as in tennis, volleyball, or badminton)
— serve one right
: to be deserved

So I am sure somewhere in the mix of this, plenty can be found to fit the Presidents wife.
I guess I could have made it to "stood by her Man". :wink:

Ha! I was just kidding but this is wonderful- have always liked Varina. She sure could have married anybody so it's always a little annoying hearing all about how her husband buried his heart with his poor first wife. This is preaching to the choir, I know, but Southern women weathered shattering years. Have yet to see Varina behaved with anything but stubborn grace. Cover a ton of stories in Ladies Tea. It was an awful war.
 
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It was proudly said by my southern mother for many years as she worked on our family tree that Varina was related to us, probably as a cousin. She said a number of southern belles at the time did not accept Varina, felt she did not fit the physical image of a genteel southern lady and commented on her unusual looks, gossiping that she might be Creole. My grandmother was Harriett Howell, and that branch of the family tree went back to my 2nd great grandfather John H Howell.(1787-1857) who married my 2nd great grandmother Winnefred Settle Bates (1795-1888). Varina nicknamed her daughter "Winnie" after her aunt (?) Winnefred. John and Winnefred moved west by horseback from Va to Missouri. The later family members ended up in Mississippi where my grandmother Harriett was born to a prominent judge, Thomas Stone Howell. My mother described my grandmother as having olive skin, high cheekbones, dark eyes, and thick straight blue black hair. My German/Irish father delighted in teasing Harriett that she was Creole, but in fact my mother's family roots are Celtic and French (Howell 'the Good' was a Welsh king way back when). My 2 sisters and I were intrigued enough by all the rumors to have our DNA done through Ancestry.com. My 2 sisters came up primarily Celtic and Western European (French and German and trace Viking), where mine came up with a higher percentage Celtic, some Western European plus some exotic traces. I have less than 2% each (meaning it must have gone way back to various migrations over the years) North African Berber, Indian/Pakistani, Western Russian Satellite, Finnish, and Iberian. No Native or black was reported at all. Hope this may help a little. Valerie
 
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alan polk

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It was proudly said by my southern mother for many years as she worked on our family tree that Varina was related to us, probably as a cousin. She said a number of southern belles at the time did not accept Varina, felt she did not fit the physical image of a genteel southern lady and commented on her unusual looks, gossiping that she might be Creole. My grandmother was Harriett Howell, and that branch of the family tree went back to my 2nd great grandfather John H Howell.(1787-1857) who married my 2nd great grandmother Winnefred Settle Bates (1795-1888). Varina nicknamed her daughter "Winnie" after her aunt (?) Winnefred. John and Winnefred moved west by horseback from Va to Missouri. The later family members ended up in Mississippi where my grandmother Harriett was born to a prominent judge, Thomas Stone Howell. My mother described my grandmother as having olive skin, high cheekbones, dark eyes, and thick straight blue black hair. My German/Irish father delighted in teasing Harriett that she was Creole, but in fact my mother's family roots are Celtic and French (Howell 'the Good' was a Welsh king way back when). My 2 sisters and I were intrigued enough by all the rumors to have our DNA done through Ancestry.com. My 2 sisters came up primarily Celtic and Western European (French and German and trace Viking), where mine came up with a higher percentage Celtic, some Western European plus some exotic traces. I have less than 2% each (meaning it must have gone way back to various migrations over the years) North African Berber, Indian/Pakistani, Western Russian Satellite, Finnish, and Iberian. No Native or black was reported at all. Hope this may help a little. Valerie
Welcome to the forum. Interesting information. Thanks for posting!!
 

WJC

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It was proudly said by my southern mother for many years as she worked on our family tree that Varina was related to us, probably as a cousin. She said a number of southern belles at the time did not accept Varina, felt she did not fit the physical image of a genteel southern lady and commented on her unusual looks, gossiping that she might be Creole. My grandmother was Harriett Howell, and that branch of the family tree went back to my 2nd great grandfather John H Howell.(1787-1857) who married my 2nd great grandmother Winnefred Settle Bates (1795-1888). Varina nicknamed her daughter "Winnie" after her aunt (?) Winnefred. John and Winnefred moved west by horseback from Va to Missouri. The later family members ended up in Mississippi where my grandmother Harriett was born to a prominent judge, Thomas Stone Howell. My mother described my grandmother as having olive skin, high cheekbones, dark eyes, and thick straight blue black hair. My German/Irish father delighted in teasing Harriett that she was Creole, but in fact my mother's family roots are Celtic and French (Howell 'the Good' was a Welsh king way back when). My 2 sisters and I were intrigued enough by all the rumors to have our DNA done through Ancestry.com. My 2 sisters came up primarily Celtic and Western European (French and German and trace Viking), where mine came up with a higher percentage Celtic, some Western European plus some exotic traces. I have less than 2% each (meaning it must have gone way back to various migrations over the years) North African Berber, Indian/Pakistani, Western Russian Satellite, Finnish, and Iberian. No Native or black was reported at all. Hope this may help a little. Valerie
Welcome! And thanks for the information on the Howell family.
Now that you're here, be sure to join in some of our many discussions! New perspectives are always appreciated!
 
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Thank you all for the welcome!
I should add that Varina has a memorial page set up for her on FindaGrave. Several people who indicate they are direct descendants have posted some very nice comments there.
I guess this would have to be through the one daughter who had a family .

Interesting that the memorial page for Jefferson Davis had to have all the comments removed as they were too negative.
 
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"Over to Professor Stephen Oppenheimer of Oxford University, who says some 81% of the Welsh have DNA evidence which shows a common link to ancestors who came to Britain from northern Spain many thousands of years ago."

"The Welsh are of a predominantly Mediterranean appearance. Most people in Wales have black hair and brown eyes with white skin (some have dark skin like Ruth Madoc, Imogen Thomas and Catherine Zeta Jones. . some welsh people have blonde hair or red hair with blue eyes too (about 5-7% at most)."

"both authors state that according to genetic evidence, most Welsh people and most Britons descend from the Iberian Peninsula"

"96% of lineages in Llangefni in north Wales derive from Iberia. Genetic research on the Y-chromosome has shown that the Welsh, like the Irish are genetically very similar to the Basques of Northern Spain and South Western France although the Welsh do contain more Neolithic input than both the Irish and the Basques."
 
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Only one way to know for sure and that is to try to find her descendants. Varina had if memory serves me right and @diane can confirm one daughter who produced had at least one grand daughter. There might of been another daughter as all of her sons died before giving birth. Ideally we could find a GGGgrand child and give a DNA test. Failing that a GGG nephew or niece. Of course said descendents have to agree to be tested. Actually from the above picture Varina had at least 3 grandchildren unknown if they had children of their own.
I wouldn't be surprised if she had some black in her. After all President Obama' s mother was white and supposedly a DNA test showed she was related to John Punch one of the first male slaves.
Leftyhunter
There are descendants of Varina and Jefferson Davis although I'm uncertain of our legitimacy. My grandmother, Mattie Lee Davis, was born in 1884. She is Jefferson and Varina's direct descendant.

All Mattie's children are dead except her youngest son, William Louis B-----. My Uncle Bill might be willing to take a DNA test but he is old and in poor health. He also has a son and a daughter. I'm adopted so I wouldn't be much help although I'd certainly be willing.
 

OpnCoronet

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From my studies,i think her family were Scot-Irish, from Northern Ireland(mostly Scot I would think) her dark good looks was probably 'Celtic'(with, perhaps a 'Black' Irish anbcestor or two thrown in).
 
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It's interesting that so many Southerners thought of Creole as a racial label, and some still do, when Louisiana natives didn't see it that way at all. Most Louisiana Creoles were either French ancestry, Acadia Indian, African, or some combination of the above, but here is the traditional Louisiana definition of a Creole:

1. born in Louisiana
2. member of the Catholic Church
3. speak French as your primary language

Nothing about race in there. It was America's first post-racial culture. Mixed race marriages were fine. That's why the group became increasingly tri-racial.
 



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