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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Living on the water

My current work in progress is about a young Melungeon girl who ends up living on a steamboat. Part of my research for this story includes the steamboats of the 1830s-1840s period.

I had the privilege several years ago to have dinner and a show aboard the Branson Belle.

My protagonist, Flora Jean, starts out living on a shanty boat with her parents. Much like this one here: 

I don't know the source of this picture or the location but as you can see there is a body of water in the background and by the looks of the trees, it looks like it might be winter time. Apparently those who lived on the water were able to pull their boats up to land during the winter months. 

Why live on the water? During the Indian removal and the time of the Trail of Tears, people of color lived on the water to escape the US Cavalry that tried to herd Native Americans into internment camps. African Americans were almost always seen as runaway slaves or they were kidnapped and sold. The Melungeons were considered either Indian or African American but were actually sometimes a mixture of both or simply neither. It is thought they are descended from either from Native Americans mixed with Portuguese or even Turkish or Middle Eastern descent. Still, if caught, they could have been mistaken for Native Americans and herded into the internment camps before marching onto Oklahoma.

Shantyboat living fascinates me. I love the water and I particularly enjoy boating. I have always wanted to rent a family houseboat for a vacation but haven't talked my husband and kids into thinking it's a great idea:

What about you? Would you like living on a houseboat? Or do you think I'm nuts?