The Legend of the White Indians


October 30, 2017

My Research Uncovers Story

During the past several weeks I have been researching for the first draft of the next book that I am writing which I will be writing during November 2017 in NaNoWriMo. This book is about Andrew Mayford, the son of Jonathan Mayford, Lacey’s younger brother. During this past week, I found a legend that I had never heard before about how the Welch Prince, Madoc came to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Columbus founded the West Indies.

The Welch Account

Madoc sailed west from Wales in 1170, allegedly becoming one of the first Europeans to reach the Americas. At the death of Madoc’s father, Prince Owen Gwynedd of Wales, saw his brothers struggling over the throne. He desired no part in the conflict, so Madoc sailed west across the ocean with a small fleet of ships. Sometime later he returned to Wales, telling of an unknown country, pleasant and fertile. Convincing some of his countrymen to accompany him, he set sail again and never returned. This is the story as it presents itself in Wales.

The American Account

The story does not end here, however. With the colonization of the Americas, the legend of Madoc was renewed. It became common belief among the early settlers that Madoc’s explorers had intermarried with local Indian tribes. Their descendants were said to still reside somewhere in the country. Stories emerged among the colonists detailing encounters with the Welsh-speaking descendants of Madoc. According to historian Reuben T. Durrett, the Madoc tale was especially popular among the early settlers of Kentucky and was often told on long winter nights.

 

The Falls of the Ohio area became connected with the Madoc mythology. A story related to early settlers by local Indians meshed with the Madoc legend. A tribe of “White Indians,” remarkable for their light hair and blue eyes, was said to have resided in the falls area at one time. However, hostilities broke out between the “White Indians” and another neighboring Indian group. A final battle between the two tribes occurred on Sand Island at the Falls of the Ohio where the “White Indians” were massacred. Contemporaries to this account soon connected the story of this “White Indian” tribe with the Madoc legend, believing they had found the descendants of the Welsh voyagers.

Further Discoveries

Further discoveries seemed to confirm this conclusion. A large burial ground was found on the North side of the Ohio, opposite the Falls, with the haphazard arrangement of the skeletons indicating they may have been the remains of the “White Indians” who were massacred. Earthen fortifications discovered at Devil’s Backbone were also believed to be the work of the “Welsh Indians”. Most intriguingly, an account circulated of six skeletons found near Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1799. Each skeleton was said to have been encased in a brass breast plate emblazoned with the Welsh coat of arms. Where  this armor is now unknown, if indeed, it ever existed at all.

True or Not, A Wonderful Story

Perhaps the story struck a chord with a group of people who were inhabiting a new country—a people who were delighted to find something familiar in a strange land. Perhaps the story also served as an explanation for evidence of advanced civilization among the Indian societies of the Americas—evidence that did not mesh with the prevailing view of the Indian as barbaric and uncivilized.

Whether this story is true or not, I think that the Madoc legend is a good story that was included as one of the main forms of entertainment at the time. The Madoc legend is a compelling story with an element of mystery. Like the tale of the lost colony of Roanoke and Viking civilizations, the ending is unknown. One can only imagine what might have happened to Madoc and those who sailed with him and incorporate them into this or her own stories. This is exactly what I intend to do.

 

 

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2 comments
  1. Billybuc said:

    Your last point was a good one…true or not,a wonderful story. I love good stories….great messages….we can all learn from them if we are willing.

    • 1authorcygnetbrown said:

      Thanks, Bill!

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