Levin & Eunice (Ridgeway) Sockume



Levin & Eunice
about 1860

About the Levin Sockume family


Note: the following article is inaccurate in many respects and presents a picture of some of the nonsense our ancestors had to endure within the legal system of the day. The story of Miss Regua is legend. The outcome of the trial of Levin Sockum may have provided the incentive for many mixed-blood families to migrate from Delaware to Ohio and Michigan in the 1850's-1860's.


The So-Called Moors of Delaware

by George P. Fisher, Milford Herald, 15 June 1895

Reprinted by the Public Archives Commission of Delaware, 1929

When I was a boy and young man, the general impression prevailing in the several parts of this State where this race of people had settled was that they had sprung from some Spanish Moors who, by chance, had drifted from the southern coast of Spain prior to the Revolutionary War and settled at various points on the Atlantic Coast of the British colonies; but exactly where and when, nobody could tell.

This story of their genesis seemed to have originated with, or at any rate, was adopted by the last Chief Justice, Thomas Clayton, whose great learning and research gave semblance of authority to it, and, like almost everybody else, I accepted it as the true one for many years, although my father, who was born and reared in that portion of Sussex County where these people were more numerous than in any other part of the State, always insisted that they were an admixture of Indian, negro and white man, and gave his reason therefore--that he had always so understood from Noke Norwood, whom I knew when I was a small boy. Noke lived, away back in the 20's, in a small shanty long since removed, situated near what has been known for more than a century as Sand Tavern Lane, on the West side of the Public Road and nearly in front of the farmhouse now owned by Hon. Jonathan S. Willis, our able and popular Representative in Congress.

I well remember with what awe I contemplated his gigantic form when I first beheld him. My father had known him as a boy, and I never passed his cabin without stopping. He was a dark, copper-colored man, about six feet and half in height, of splendid proportions, perfectly straight, coal black hair (though at least 75 years old), black eyes and high cheek bones.

When I became Attorney General of the State it fell to my lot to investigate the pedigree of this strange people, among whom was Norwood. At that day Norwood was held in great reverence as being one of the oldest of his race. This I learned from my father, who knew him for many years, when they both lived in the neighborhood of Lewes, in Sussex County.

I have spoken of this race as a strange people, because I have known some families among them all of whose children possessed the features, hair and eyes of the pure Caucasian, while in other families the children would all be exceedingly swarthy in complexion but with perfectly straight black hair, and occasionally a family whose children ranged through nearly the entire racial gamut, from the perfect blond to at least a quadroon mulatto, and quite a number who possessed all the appearance of a red-haired, freckle-faced Hibernian.

My investigation of their genealogy came about in the trial of Levin Sockum, one of the race, upon an indictment found by the grand jury of Sussex County, against him, for selling ammunition to Isaiah Harmon, one of the same race, who was alleged in the indictment to be a free mulatto.

The indictment was framed under the 9th Section of Chapter 52, of the Revised Statutes of the State of Delaware, Edition of 1852, page 145, which reads in this wise: "If any person shall sell or loan any firearms to any negro or mulatto, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be fined twenty dollars."

The proof of the sale of a quarter of a pound of powder and pound of shot to Harmon was given by Harmon himself; and in fact, admitted by Sockum's attorney. So that the only fact I had to establish, in order to convict Sockum, was to identify Harmon as being a mulatto, and to do this I had to establish my proof, by a member of his family, Harmon's pedigree. To do this, Lydia Clark, who swore that she was of blood kin to Harmon, was permitted to testify as to the traditions of the family in respect to their origin. Harmon was a young man, apparently about five and twenty years of age, of perfect Caucasian features, dark chestnut brown hair, rosy cheeks and hazel eyes; and in making comparison of his complexion with others, I concluded that of all the men concerned in the trial he was the most perfect type of the pure Caucasian, and by odds the handsomest man in the court room, and yet he was alleged to be a mulatto. The witness, Lydia Clark, his kinswoman, then 87 years old, though only a half-breed, was almost as perfect a type of the Indian as I ever saw. She was as spry as a young girl in her movements, and of intelligence as bright as a new dollar; and this was substantially the genealogical tradition she gave of her family and that of Harmon.

About fifteen or twenty years before the Revolutionary War, which she said broke out when she was a little girl some five or six years old, there was a lady of Irish birth living on a farm in Indian River Hundred, a few miles distant from Lewes, which she owned and carried on herself. Nobody appeared to know anything of her history or her antecedents. Her name she gave as Regua, and she was childless, but whether a maid or widow, or a wife astray, she never disclosed to anyone. She was much above the average woman of that day in stature, beauty and intelligence.

The tradition described her as having a magnificent complexion, large and dark blue eyes and luxuriant hair of the most beautiful shade, usually called light auburn. After she had been living in Angola Neck quite a number of years, a slaver was driven into Lewes Creek, then a tolerable fair harbor, and was there, weather-bound, for several days. It was lawful then, for these were colonial times, to import slaves from Africa. Queen Elizabeth, to gratify her friend and favorite, Sir John Hawkins, had so made it lawful more than a century prior to this time.

Miss or Mrs. Regua, having heard of the presence of the slaver in the harbor, and having lost one of her men slaves, went to Lewes, and to replace him, purchased another from the slave ship. She selected a very tall, shapely and muscular young fellow of dark ginger-bread color, who claimed to be a prince or chief of one of the tribes of the Congo River which had been overpowered in a war with a neighboring tribe and nearly all slain or made prisoners and sold into perpetual slavery. This young man had been living with his mistress but a few months when they were duly married and, as Lydia told the court and jury, they reared quite a large family of children, who as they grew up were not permitted to associate and intermarry with their neighbors of pure Caucasian blood, nor were they disposed to seek associations or alliance with the negro race; so that they were so necessarily compelled to associate and intermarry with the remnant of the Nanticoke tribe of Indians who still lingered in their old habitations for many years after the great body of the tribe had been removed further towards the setting sun.

This race of people for the first two or three generations continued principally to ----------- of Sussex County and more particularly in the neighborhood of Lewes, Millsboro, Georgetown and Milton, but during the last sixty or seventy years they have increased the area of their settlement very materially and now are to be found in almost every hundred in each county in the State, but mostly in Sussex and Kent. From their first origin to the present time they have continued to segregate themselves from the American citizens of African descent, having their own churches and schools as much as practicable.

With very rare exceptions these people make good citizens. They are almost entirely given up to agricultural pursuits, but they have managed to pick up sufficient knowledge of carpentry and masonry to enable them to build their own homes. They are industrious, frugal, thrifty, law abiding and respectful. During my long practice at the bar I have never known but two instances in which one of their race has been brought into court for violations of the law.

One of these was the case of Sockum, tried in Sussex in 1857, and the other was that of Cornelius Hansor of Milford Hundred, tried at Dover in 1888 or 1889. Sockum's case originated in the private spite of envious Caucasian neighbors, and Hansor in the envy and malice of one of his neighbors who charged him with an attempt to commit murder by shooting his accuser.

I defended Hansor against the charge and it was shown by the testimony of several of the most respectable men in the vicinage that Hansor was a man of exemplary character for peace and good order, a truthful and estimable Christian, and that instead of being the aggressor his accuser was shown to have attempted to shoot Hansor. Such was the opinion of the jurors who tried the case. I suggested to Hansor that he had better go before the grand jury at the next term of court and make complaint against his persecutor. But he replied, "With thanks to you for your advice and my acquittal, I most respectfully decline, as the Good Book teaches us to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us; and I shall leave Mr. Loper to God and his conscience, praying myself that he may become a more peaceable man and Christian.

Some years ago, I received a note from a lady in Philadelphia stating that she had heard of the trial of Levin Sockum, and that it had developed the origin of the yellow people, the so-called Moors of Delaware, and requesting me to give an account of it, which I did. In her letter thanking me for it she gave me the following story:

"Mrs. ***, whom you mentioned, a New Jersey lady, was an English woman by birth, highly connected, of refined associations and superbly educated. As a young girl she fled from her friends whom she was visiting in this city with ***, whose acquaintance she made at a dancing school, and who was represented to her as being a Spaniard of wealth and good family. Fair as a lily and as pure, she did not discover until after the marriage either the occupation or real condition of her husband as a man tabooed by his fellow men for supposed taint of African blood. She believed him to be of Moorish descent and one of the best and noblest of human kind; his ostracism and her own (she was even denied a pew in the Episcopal church in which she was educated and confirmed) surely though slowly killed her.

"Desdemona," as her friends who knew her well called her, died suddenly of heart disease brought on by mental suffering, leaving three or four children, all golden haired, blue-eyed, flower-like little ones to be educated in France, where their origin, even if known, would never affect their standing socially. They remained until the Franco-Prussian was broke out and were, I think, sent to England. Mr. *** with great self-denial, voluntarily accepted for himself a life of loneliness in a country where his pecuniary interests compelled him to remain. He is highly esteemed, but still socially ostracized."

The father of this gentleman I knew very well many years ago. He was a resident of Kent County. The gentleman himself I knew by sight only. He seemed to me to be quite a shade fairer in complexion than myself. He has, since the letter I quoted was written, filled a very high and responsible position under the Federal Government with great credit to himself and satisfaction to the Government.





Management Counsel
422 North 40th Street
Camden, New Jersey 08110
June 15th 1984


Mrs. Rose Marie Ridgeway,
23 Terrace Street,
Bridgeton, New Jersey 08302.

Dear Mrs. Ridgeway:

Your letter is received, and the first thing I wish to do is apologize to you for not writing sooner. Ruth and I have been retired over five years, and it seems we are busier now than when we worked. We have just returned from the South Jersey Annual Conference of the Methodist Church, at Ocean City.

As I told you, I do have a considerable body of fact centering on and around Levin Sockum, so without further ado I will enter upon the subject, my only fear that the letter will be a long one.

About 1948 I obtained a copy of Weslager's book "Delaware's Forgotten Folk" and when I read that Levin Sockum removed to Gloucester City New Jersey, following his disappointment in Sussex County, Delaware, my curiosity was whetted, as Gloucester City is right next to Camden, where I have spent all my life.

The first thing I found was the burial plot of Levin Sockum and his family, in Cedar Grove Cemetery on Market Street, Gloucester, about four blocks west of the railroad. Since visiting you I paid another visit to the cemetery, and, while, Levin's tombstone is still partially legible, but much weathered, in the 35 years since I first found it, several of the markers have since fallen over, and all of them are now about half covered up.

After leaving the country store in Sussex County, the family seems to have added a terminal "e" to the name, and then pronounced it "Sock-yoom," with a long "u" rather than Sockum, with a "short" "u." In this connection it is interesting that Beer's Atlas of Delaware, published in 1868, on the town map of Milton, in Sussex County, shows a house owned by "L. Sockume," so perhaps the name change did take place before he left Sussex County.

The cemetery plot yielded much interesting data, which I was later able to supplement with several personal recollections of persons I interviewed. Following are the inscriptions, all of which are not presently observable in full:

In Memory of
Levin Sockume
Died Dec 25 1864
Aged 57 yrs
I have fought a good fight
I have finished my work
And I have kept the faith


The quotation is from Saint Paul, and is taken from the Bible. I think it says much about his piety. And note the sadness of his dying on Christmas Day. This was just as the Civil War was drawing to a close.

His wife's marker is more explicit with dates:

Eunice W.
Wife Of
Levin Sockume
Born Oct 13 1813
Died Apr 16 1896
Asleep in Jesus


The Camden Daily Telegram for April 27, 1896 carried the following obituary:

Mrs. Eunice Sockume, widow of the late Levin Sockume, aged 83 years. In Gloucester City, New Jersey. Died at her home on Mercer Street after a short illness. On April 16 1896. The deceased was one of Gloucester's oldest residents. Interment at Cedar Grove Cemetery.

Continuing with the other markers:

Eliza A. Prot
daughter of
Eunicey & Levin Sockume
Wife of J. Prot
Born May 10 1832
Died Sept 7 1862
Farewell to you dear husband
I am now going home
Farewell to you dear father
My Lord he bids me come
Farewell to you dear Mother
Dry up your tears of love
Farewell to you dear brother and sister
I hope to meet you in heaven above.


I believe the above surname is wrong as shown, and should be Perot, as a notice appears in a local paper a few onths afterward mentioning the settlement of the Estate of Eliza A. Perot. You can see the sentiment expressed by the verses is very sad. I heard a very interesting story perhaps accounting for this heaviness of heart.

In Memory Of
Joseph M. Sockume
Died Mar 21 1863
Aged 12 years
We had a little Joseph once
He was a lovely child
Perhaps we loved him too much
For once he slept and died.

In Memory Of
Robert M.
Son Of
L. & E. W. Sockume
Died Aug 19 1872
in the
24th year of his age
Gone But Not Forgotten

In Loving Remembrance Of
Isaac M. Sockume
Born May 14
Died Sept 6 1889.
Gone But Not Forgotten


It must have been either Robert or Isaac that died in a boating accident on the River, something I heard about from one of my interviewees back about 1950, that either remembered it or had heard about it.

In Memory Of
Martha J.
Wife Of
Peter Sockume .
and daughter of
Chas and Unice Palmer
Born Sept. 24 1846
Departed This Life
Sept 21 1896


About twenty years ago I visited the old First Methodist Church in Gloucester City and asked the Rev. Howard if I might examine the old record books. He graciously consented, and I found the following:

MARRIED On December 8, l887 by Rev. W. S. Barnart
Benjamin Durham, 836 Leonard Street, Philadelphia
Age: 66. Occupation: Carter
to Rebecca Tull Sockume, Gloucester City. Age 42. Occupation: Dressmaker

Note: The 1850 Census for Sussex County, Del., lists Rebecca as 11, which would make her 48 when married).

MARRIED: On May 20 1875, by Rev P. Cline
Isaac M. Sockume, Gloucester City, N.J. Age 22.
Occupation: Barber. Parents: Levin & Eunice Sockume
to. Ella Dean, Philadelphia. Age 20. Parents: William & Lavinia Dean.

And from the Vital Statistics Records on file at the Camden County Historical Society, Camden, New Jersey, the following:

MARRIED: On Aug 10, 1872, by Mayor S. M. Gaul, of Camden
Sarah Sockum to Peter Pruitt, of Camden

MARRIED: On Jan. 3, 1888, by Rev. I. W. Bagley
Hamilton W. Sockume, Gloucester City, N.J. to Mary A. MacKinney, of Philadelphia.

Back in 1949 I interviewed three people in Gloucester, two quite aged, and the third younger (about 50) but keenly interested in all aspects of local history, to see what I could learn from personal knowledge or hearsay about the Sockum family in Gloucester.

Mrs. Emma Burns (then about 80) of 427 Monmouth Street, told me that her father was one of the founders of the Cedar Grove Cemetery, and that she had the books of record that he kept from the time it started. She allowed me to see them, and I learned that Lots 36 and 37, in Section D, had been sold to Levin Sockume for the sum of $ 22. The deed is recorded on page 241 of Book A, and the deed is dated 10th June 1863. This must have been following the untimely death of Joseph at age twelve.

Mrs. Burns told me that she distinctly remembered the store still operated by old Mrs. Sockume when she was a young girl. It was a millinery shop, but also something of a general store, selling many other things. She said that in those days it was the only place a lady could buy and that she had had new hats from the shop. She said her father always spoke well of the Sockumes, that they were decent law-abiding people that always went quietly about their work. It was Mrs. Burns that told me the sad, sad story she had heard from her father about Eliza Sockume who had died of a broken heart after her short but happy marriage broke up when her husband left her. According to the story, Eliza was very attractive with striking long black hair, and she married a well-to-do businessman from New York City who had never met her parents before the wedding (as Eliza was living in New York City), and who left Eliza suddenly and permanently, after having met them, thinking his wife had been unfair to him in not being completely candid in so intimate (and apparently so blissfull) a state as that of matrimony. Whether or not the story has been romanticized in retelling after so great a lapse of time, it certainly seems to correspond with the doleful words of the epitaph where her husband is mentioned first of all, despite his unworthy conduct.

In 1949 Mr. William Robert Hammill was in his 91st year (born 1858) and still lived at 223 Hudson Street. He remembered the Sockume family. They lived right next door to him at 225 Hudson Street (now a lawn of grass and flowers). He said one of the Sockumes operated a barber shop in the house next door (225) , and that the house on the other side (227) was occupied by a family named Muncy or Munson. Mr. Hammill's brother (somewhat younger) that lived with him, volunteered the information that the Munsons living two doors away either had relatives on Cumberland Street, or that they themselves had lived there and that Mr. Munson was a huckster, and that he (the younger Hammill) had earned the first money he had ever made, at age 11, when he was an assistant to Mr. Munson in his huckstering. He was paid 25¢ a day, and was paid at the end of each day. Both these old men said the Sockumes and the Munsons were "good hard workers and quiet living people."

In 1949 I also spoke with Mr. Albert J. Corcoran (then about 50), who had lived in Gloucester all his day, and was much interested in everything connected with Gloucester. When Corcoran was 9 or 10 Zed Muncy had a barbershop on Hunter Street. He had a reputation for being a good barber and had a good trade. He said his most vivid memory of Zed was that he chewed tobacco, and he thought it a great joke if he spit tobacco juice on the feet of some passing barefoot boy, all the while pretending it was a terrible mistake.

It was from Corcoran too that I heard one of the Sockumes died in a drowning accident on the river, and that another of them was said to have a barber shop over on Grays Ferry Road in Southwest Philadelphia. He also said there were in Gloucester representatives of the families of Norwood, Johnson, Carter, and Carney, and that he knew some of these were interconnected, with the Sockumes and the Munsons.

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, at 13th & Locust Streets in Philadelphia, I have off and on over the years snooped around quietly on the Philadelphia connections of some of these families, and much of it I found very interesting.

The earliest date I have found which I strongly suspect is somehow connected to the family line of Levin Sockum is a marriage that took place in Christ Church, Philadelphia (then the most prestigious church in Philadelphia, and where George Washington worshipped when he was in town) on December 16, 1729, when Charles Henzey married Margaret Haycock. On July 28, 1742, Zachariah Whitepaine married Sarah Henzey, who may well have been Charles' sister. And on Jan 3, 1757, Isaac Course married Elizabeth Still. And on Jan. 3, l793, Stephen Socom was married to Patience Henzey. The given name Stephen keeps repeating in later generations of the Sockums, and I strongly suspect the name Henzey is a variation of the Hanzor, or Handsor, that you are familiar with from Delaware.

There is much more to all this, which I have not tied together as fact, but it is all very tantalizing, and it all seems to center around the neighborhood of Front Street, Second and Third Streets, in the immediate vicinity of Pine Street. This is what is now called Society Hill, and it is where the elite of Philadelphia lived before the Revolution. The vocations of Merchant, Cordwainer (shoemaker or leatherworker), and Mariner, and later that of Carter (trucker) seems to be the principal fields of activity. And some are even listed as "Gentleman" or "Gentlewomen," which means they had enough money to live without working. In this framework of neighborhood/trade around 1800 were also others named Course, Harman, Street, Wright, and Mosley, and even Frame, all strangely remindful somehow of a Sussex County environment. Even a Norwood was an innkeeper. This is a big mystery that could stand a lot of patient investigation.

There is also some evidence that Bristol, Pennsylvania had some later connections with this seemingly somehow closely associated group of people.

I truly hope I have not bored you with all this. It is a subject that has fascinated me for a long time, but I have worked on it very irregularly, and I have experienced a great many rebuffs in trying to piece a lot of things together down through the generations, as it is a subject a great many people seem to be extremely reticent about, and especially with complete strangers.

As I did not communicate with you very promptly, so I have not written to the lady in Sussex County, Delaware, about a copy of the publication bearing Levin Sockum's picture, but I have not forgotten it, and I will do so in the future.

Thank you again for writing me. I have a lot of other census and directory facts from the 1800-1900 period, which I have culled, but it is all in random rude note form, and not organized as a coherent tale. But I have given you herewith a good sampling of what I have.

I look forward to learning any other facts you unearth.

It is a pleasure to communicate with someone with a like interest.

Very truly yours,

Samuel H Wyatt



Age 88 years. On November 5, 2003 at his residence. Born in Camden, NJ, he was a lifelong resident of Camden. He was a graduate of Camden High School (1931) and the University of Pennsylvania (1939).

An accountant, he worked for Brownell Printing Company, Scarborough Corporation and Charles H. Knecht & Sons Contractors. He was a member of Bethel United Methodist Church where he served as a Sunday School Teacher. He later became a member of Trinity United Methodist Church of Merchantville, NJ. He was a member of and past president of The Camden County Historical Society and he was a lifetime member of the Philadelphia Zoo.

He is the widower of the late Ruth Kathryn Wyatt. He is survived by his son Joseph Rayhow Wyatt II and his wife Hazel of Deptford, NJ and his daughter Marian and her husband William Dustan of Victoria, British Columbia, his grandchildren Evan and Gwyneth Dustan, and his sister in-law Carmen L. Wyatt. He is also survived by three nieces and four nephews.

His viewing and family visitation will begin 7 pm Friday evening at Trinity United Methodist Church, Maple and Chapel Aves, Merchantville where his service in celebration of his life will be 8:30 pm. Interment 11:30 am Saturday in Barratts Chapel Cemetery, Frederica, DE.





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