Ethnicity of Burke People

The vast majority of Burke residents through the years came from the Deep and Middle South and were of Scots and English ancestry. The included families such as McCall, McCarty, Burke, Fairchild, and Conner.

Some Burke area residents, such as the Ashworths and Johnsons of Pine Valley, were members of groups variously known as Redbones and Melungeons. These groups are an unknown mix of European, American Indian, and perhaps African. Most claimed to be Portuguese, and some researchers claim they include Jewish and Spanish ancestry. It is even claimed by the few that these groups descended from the residents of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Other names in the Burke area that are common in people of these groups include Goins and Nash.

As far as can be determined, Burke had on a few African-American residents. Prior to the Civil War, slavery was not a factor in the Burke area since most residents were small farmers. One of the few Pine Valley residents with slaves was Jeptha Smith.

After the Civil War the vast majority of Angelina County's black residents lived at Lufkin, Hoshall and Diboll and worked in the various sawmills and wood products mills. The author's parents spoke of a black man who lived in a cabin in the woods south of the Johnson farm in far north Burke. He was probably a laborer who worked for the farmers in the area. When he was still farming and needed extra help, the author's father, Elroy Murrah, hired black workers in Lufkin and bring them to the farm at Burke to help hoe cotton in the spring and pick it in the fall.

Roy McDonald recalls that before World War II a black family, including a son and daughter, worked for Mrs. Hengington and lived in a one or two room shack behind her house that lay adjacent the school on the south side. Even though the son did not attend Burke School because of segregation laws in effect at the time, his parents would sometimes let him play football with the Burke students. He was much in demand as a team member because of his athletic skills.

Sources:

  1. M. Lee Murrah, Personal Recollections
  2. Roy McDonald, Personal Recollections