The Migration of some Native American
Inhabitants of Delaware to



E-mail discussions from the Mitsawokett List



Leslie Schwalm e-mailed Ned Heite 23 Aug 2001 who forwarded Mr. Schwalm's message to the Mitsawokett List --

...I am historian at the University of Iowa working on a project that concerns African Americans in Iowa in the nineteenth century.

In the course of my research I came across an extended family, the Sammons, who came to eastern Iowa in 1840 from Sussex Co., Delaware. (Smaller families also came at that time from the same area--Perkins and Townsends). Although the sources (and the prevalence of the name) make it difficult to be certain, it seems that the four eldest Sammons family members to come to Iowa appear in the 1830 Sussex Co. census as free "mulattos" (Joseph, b. 1794, Nehemiah, b. 1810, Zachariah, b. 1789, Solomon, b. 1799). I've been trying to find out a bit more about this family, mostly because it is so unusual to see a migration of this distance at this time period, particularly among free blacks.

Having looked through your material on the website (and it certainly seems that you would rank as the leading authority on this subject), I now see that this may very well have been a family of Indian people rather than free blacks. I am certain they were light-skinned, in any case, as the census enumerators varied in their assignment of racial category to some of the family members.

I'm hoping you can direct me to some secondary source that will help me get a fuller understanding of the likely origins of this family, their ancestry, and the community from which they migrated. I know from reading William Williams' book on slavery in Delaware that the state legislature was making life increasingly difficult for free people of color in the early and mid-nineteenth century, and I assume that the Sammons, whether free blacks or Indian people, were subjected to these legal restrictions. Yet why would they have chosen Iowa as their destination, given the state's own laws circumscribing the rights of free blacks (and assuming the Sammons would have been identified and treated as such in Iowa, which had less than 200 black residents in 1840)?

From your own understanding, how did the Indian people of this region (Sussex Co., Nanticoke) self-identify? Did they maintain tribal identities into the mid-19th century? Did they regard themselves as "free people of color," and was it likely that Indians intermarried with the large population of slaves and free blacks in the area? Any research advice you can impart would be greatly appreciated. And, thank heavens for the Mitsawokett website--a real gem.


Sue Grable replied to the Mitsawokett List 24 Aug 2001 --

---I am just excited to find someone who cares about this Sammons family in Iowa that I have been searching for 30 years. ...I know one of these years I will connect my Joseph with all the Sammons who are still around there and we will all be cousins!

Preston (Sammons ) has some theories but I still am missing the links. I will send the professor what I know about the Iowa families, but would appreciate receiving copies of anything any of you might theorize in answer to any of his questions. -- Sue Grable in South Dakota



Marie added 24 Aug 2001 --

... I may possible be related to the Sammon's but have not yet connected it.


Sue Grable added 24 Aug 2001 --

Marie, I believe I noticed a while back that you have a Lankford in your surname list. Now you mention a Sammons connection. My Joseph Sammons who went to Iowa from Delaware in 1840 married, in Iowa, 1847, Catharine Lankford. This Catharine stated in census records that she was born in Virginia, about 1813-1816. When she arrived in Iowa in 1846 she had with her 7 minor children, so I am assuming she was a widow and her maiden name was not Lankford. By 1850 only two of the Lankford children were living with her and her husband Joseph Sammons, Jane and John, born 1842 and 1843 in Ohio. Do you see any connections with these names, dates, places?



Dan Cambridge added 24 Aug 2001 --

I've responded to Leslie Schwalm directly as my ancestors (descendants of William Cambridge of Worcester Co, MD, who is included on the Mitsawokett site)pioneered in Johnson County, Iowa in the early 1840s.

They came there from Maryland by way of Kentucky and Indiana, and I don't know of any connnections with the Sammons or other families mentioned. However, they were regarded as mulattos in Kentucky and Indiana and probably hoped to "pass" in Iowa, even though that state adopted the hostile laws that were common in the 1840s against "free negroes."


Sue Grable replied to the Mitsawokett List 20 Mar 2003 --

I just returned from a long winter vacation to find I missed out on a discussion about my Sammons families in Iowa. Here is what I know:

Joseph Sammons, born Delaware about 1791 according to death and census records, came to Iowa in 1840 (census records). He was listed in Louisa County in 1840 as free colored, as were Zachariah and Myers, last names all spelled Salmons, relationship to each other and parentage unknown.

In the Iowa Territorial census of 1846, we find Joseph Sammons, Elija Sammons and Zachariah Sammons, and John Townsend and James Littleton families who came from Maryland and Delaware.

In the 1856 Iowa State census Zachariah's widow, Huldah, says that she was born in Delaware and came to Iowa in 1840. Elijah's wife Rachel says that she was born in Ohio. Also born in Ohio were some of the children in the Littleton and Townsend families and a son of Myers Simons, James, born in 1835.(Did this group stop in Ohio on the way from Delaware to Iowa?) Iowa listed all these families in 1856 as mulatto.

B. Perkins is in the 1856 census. He is 34 years old, born in Del. His wife, H. Perkins, born in Delaware, says she has been in the state for 3 years. B. does not say when he came. Their daughter, Selena Ann, will marry Joseph Sammons in 1866, when she is 21 and Joseph is 70. This is Joseph's fourth wife, and they had no children together, so I have not spent too much time on her Perkins family. They were married for 13 years until his death, and then she married another older man, a widower who lived next door to her and Joseph, a German man with children, Jacob Myer. By 1885 Selena was not with Jacob, but lived with some of the Sammons family.

Do you notice that in 1880 Brinkley's sister, Mahala, lives with him? She was also mentioned in the Warner Perkins will.

Joseph's son, Joseph Jr., married a Townsend and they left Iowa and moved their family to South Dakota.(My connection) Other Sammons families stayed in Louisa and other Iowa counties.







"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
of Kent County, Delaware, and
Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
and Southern New Jersey"



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