re:mixed race people were once banned from memphis

I have been searching and searching for more information on this.  I can’t find anything!  I’ve also been looking for information and photographs of the Mary Loiselle.  Again, nothing.  On MemphisHistory.org I found another account of Marcus Winchester’s life that does not mention the ban on persons of mixed-race and questions the “accusation” that his wife was indeed a Negro. 

He married Mary Loiselle of New Orleans somewhere around 1823.  Mary was said to be a woman of color, but in this context it is hard to say what that meant.  Many slaves by this time looked white.  In any case the idea that she was a Negro hurt Winchester’s reputation and contributed to a number of business reversals that were to follow him to his grave.

Marcus acted as an agent for the proprietors and opened the first store. He was one of the first five members of the Quarterly Court and was elected register in 1820. When Memphis was incorporated in 1826, Winchester became the first mayor. He operated a ferry and served as postmaster until 1849, although his loyalty to the Jacksonians came under question when he supported Davy Crockett for Congress.

Because of his marriage and the deep rifts occurring along race lines leading up to the Civil War, Winchester’s career declined. A whispering campaign by members of the Murrell Clan alienated Winchester from the community.  Ultimately Winchester moved his family to a home a few miles outside the city.  

The idea that she was a Negro… That says a lot.

I searched through the guide to the Winchester family papers on TN.gov.  I find it “interesting” that in all of the correspondence listed for Marcus, there is no mention of a wedding or a wife or children.  One can glean that he was in New Orleans around the time he is said to have married.  There is also a later request for a deed for a “lot south of town of Memphis” which gives credence to the town’s ban of mixed race people.

I am so curious about this.

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69 thoughts on “re:mixed race people were once banned from memphis

  1. Wow, an “accusation” that she was negro.

    Didn’t know that was a crime. I am grateful for that time and place i live in.(South Florida).

    It interesting though. We cant forget what people were like and had to go through.

  2. Marcus Winchester and Marie Louise Amarante Regis Loiselle are my great grandparents 4 times back. My Grandmother (Dorothy Richards) always told me that her father (Charles Richards) told her that Marie was part Osage or Blackfoot Indian. This is the story in the family. It sure would be nice to find out if Mary was part black or part American Indian. Guess we will never know.

  3. I would love to meet any “estranged” relatives. There are many of us out here…sad to say separated by divorce and abandoned. My line comes down from Marcus and Mary’s daughter Valeria m. to a Richards, and and their daughter Jesse m. to a Gryder, their son Joe m. a Brogdan (my grandmother Aileen) They had two daughters before divorcing: my mom Margaret Oswalt and aunt name changed from Barbara Jean to Bonnie by adoptive parents…she m. a Dohme. A lot of us live in the Memphis area I’ve been told by a first cousin to my mom (one of the Gryders) the blood is black. I have a photo of an older Jesse Richards Gryder and family that does show some influence. We are proud to be part of the line.

  4. I also have a photo of an older Jesse Richards Gryder. What do you think she “shows some influence” of?? When I was a kid we use to peak at her through a window and think she was a “witch” because of her long hair. Not very nice but kids can be that way. Like I posted earlier, Dorothy Louise Richards, my Grandmother told us that her father, Charles L Richards, was 1/16 Osage or Blackfoot. If that is true, who knows. It was said he was “ashamed” to be part indian. Maybe he was “ashamed” to be part black and made up the story. It would be interesting to know the truth.

  5. Anita,

    I actually have quite a few photos of the Jesse Richards Gryder clan. None are of a young Jesse. She looks darker than everyone else except for her stunningly handsome son Otis. He appears darkly tanned in some photos. The reason I believed we have a bit of black blood is due to info from one of my mom’s first cousins, Carroll Gryder. Jesse is his grandmother, too. The story of Marie Loiselle being beautiful and well educated is believable because of ties with New Orleans. We learned in college U.S. history that many well to do mixed race young people were sent away for an education in France. Do you follow Marie’s father’s lineage as Baribeau? He comes from a long line of French Canadian fur trappers back to an immigrant coming in as a Jesuit, which he renounced later. I also have been told that a good deal of the family remained Catholic. I can scan and send photos if you wish.

  6. Hi Debra & Anita,

    This is Julie (Anita’s cousin) and I would be thrilled to find out any information on Marie’s family as I have been unable to uncover anything on them.

  7. To all who want info,

    Are we allowed to give out email and phone numbers? I have some good contacts if they are still living. Mr. Bill Boyd is in Memphis/Cordova and might be a big help. There are many others who may or may not wish to be contacted. Do not forget the Tennessee Genealogy Society in Germantown. The biggest thing most of us want is a picture of Mary Winchester! What if sometime we could have a get together and bring what we have along with a printer.

  8. I don’t know about leaving phone number on this site but I would certainly be willing to get together with all the stuff all of us have collected over the year and share it. It would be fun to see exactly what we do have and don’t have. We could just email each other privately and see what we could come up with.

  9. Debra,
    Jesse Richards Gryder is Jesse Beulah- everyone called her Beulah. She had 7 children. Otis was married to Beulah’s daughter Mary Margaret. (my grandparents) I believe the “Otis” you referred to is actually Carroll, as he was the darkest of all the brothers. The children of Beulah & Jessie Virgil Gryder were Gladys b. 1897, Virgil b. 1889, Carroll b. 1904, Norma b. 1905? Mary Margaret b. 1907, Joseph b. 1910, William Virgil b. 1913 – middle name after older brother Virgil who drowned.

  10. I came to this site out of curiosity re: Amarante Loiselle after reading “David Crockett, the Lion of the West” by Michael Wallis. He mentions the friendship with Marcus Winchester, and the marriage in 1823 to A.L. “brilliant & educated in France, & reputed to be one of most beautiful women in the South. She was 1/16th black, which is why the wedding took place in her hometown of New Orleans, where mixed-race marriages were legal. Amarante Winchester was ostracized by Memphis society, & Winchester’s career declined. Eventually city aldermen passed an ordinace forbidding anyone of mixed race from owning property or living within the city limits. This caused the Winchesters to move to a farm outside of Memphis. They remained married until her death in 1840” . Hope this is helpful.

  11. They had a son named loiselle Winchester and he is buried in Elmwood cemetery. I would like to see photos of Mary as well

  12. DEAR SIR OR TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. ihave a 29 page booklet. with an article titled outcast for love the story of marcus b. winchester and wife marie louise amarante loisel covering about 12 pages if interested

  13. Right Susan Auble.. She moved to an area called Neshoba. This area is off :Poplar Ave, down from SaddleCreek.

  14. My paternal grandmother, Margaret Richards, was from Memphis. Marcus and Marie Winchester are my 3x great grandparents. My grandmother told me her husband (surname Clark) would tease her about having to use the back door in summertime, when her skin was dark from the sun. I have seen a photo from 1907 of her, dark with big beautiful eyes and Asiatic features, surrounded by her pale cousins with long thin faces.
    I would love to get in touch with Anita and Jesse!

  15. HI, I too have done a lot of searching on Maria Louise Amarante Regis Loiselle, born in 1806 in St. Louis , MO.; died Aug 19th 1839 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was my Greatgrandmother 4’s back. My Great grandmother was Valerie Winchester. My great grandfather was Charles Richards, and my Grandmother was Dorothy Louise Richards, Woods, Moore, Nemes. I have never found a picture of Maria either. Guess none survived or were not painted of her. My Grandmother always told me that we were part Osage Indian from Maria’s side of the family. I have done research on Maria Loiselle and have found her parents, etc. for 4 generations. I find no reference of “black” blood. But some clues as to indian blood. I think the only way to really find out would be a DNA test.

  16. I had my DNA done, but female side follows back to mother, and to her mom’s mother, and her mom’s mother’s mother so on. My descent is going to cross over to Joseph S. Gryder (one of Jesse Beluah Richard’s sons)who was married to Aileen Brogdon before a marriage to Nell Edmonds. So my test does not show what we are looking for. It would be nice to find a close male relative to test. I have a family tree chart labeled “Chart II”, with some references to a “Chart I”. I see several Charles, several Margarets, Clarks, a Dorothy, and more. This “tree” was sent to me by one of the Gryders. Does anyone have something like this that was shared by family members?

  17. Hi, Anita!
    It is cited in history of Memphis/Memphians books that Marie was (part) black. I believe “quadroon” means one-fourth.
    We have Richards (my paternal grandmother) and Winchesters in the family tree. In fact, my younger brother’s name is Louis Winchester Clark. My parents have visited an old family home (plantation?) in Tennessee called Craig House or Craig-something. Craighead.

  18. I know the history books call Marie quadroon but I also read that the politics of the times was out to destroy Marcus B Winchester. I don’t believe all history books as they have been proven wrong so many times. Having my DNA done would certainly prove the black one way or another. I have also been to Cragfont, the plantation that James Winchester finished in 1802. It is a very interesting place to visit. They allowed us to take pictures which I love looking at. Did you know that our family is related to the McCormick that invented the reaper? That is a very interesting side of the family too.

  19. TN GEN in Germantown is having a featured guest from a TV genealogy program to do a seminar on Nov. 7th. I signed up and all of you can too…even if you are not a member, $45??? Seats go fast. Hope you all will check on this. Part of the seminar will be on the 1800’s period where records are not so good.

  20. Anita,
    Girl! You gotta get your DNA tested! Then we can finally know whether it’s American Indian or Black running down from Marie. I too was told by grandparents & great Aunts that it was Indian blood. The times were so nuts; I have to wonder if it was “better” to carry Indian than Black blood or if they were equally as “undesirable” to Marcus & his immediate descendants.
    For me personally, I just think it’s so cool to be related to such an enigma (Marie)

    I want mom to have her DNA done too. Having both of you do it, would be awesome! Let me know if you decide to do it 🙂
    Best,
    Caroline

  21. Yes, I think it is really cool to be have Marie as a direct descendant too. It is too bad there isn’t a painting of her somewhere. I would love to see what she looked like. OK, in the near future I will have my DNA tested. I think I will us 23 and Me for the company.

  22. Since very few African Americans have Native American blood despite family lore, (Henry Gates Jr. researched this) it is unlikely that Marie was Native American, too. It is funny that NA blood is used in family histories to explain both light skin in African Americans and dark skin in European Americans. The vast majority of interracial relations, especially in the South, were between African and European Americans. Have you seen any reference to her being Creole? Wasn’t she native to New Orleans? Also, my father, who has researched the Winchesters, spoke of Jamaican ancestry on Marie’s side.

  23. I really feel it will be African blood. I would really be surprised if it was native american. What did your father find out about the Jamaican ancestry? Well I sent for my 23 and Me kit so it will take a while to send it back to them and then get the results. I will share on here what the results are when I get them. Of course, I have other relatives that could have surprising blood in them also. I don’t know how that is going to work; I will just have to wait and see.

  24. Hi all, I’ve had my DNA tested by 23 and me. I am related to Amerante through the maternal line only, through her daughter Frances, her daughter Agnes, then Edna, Iola and Edna again. That makes her my greatX4 I believe. My “maternal haplogroup” is L3e2a, which means hers would have been also, and it traces back to Africa pretty directly, without detours to Europe or wherever else. I am still trying to figure out exactly what this means! If anyone else is on 23andme who is related to her, please contact me here.

  25. Please share whatever you can with the rest of us. So hard to know very much about Marie, No portrait? Really? I am related back to Marie and Marcus through their daughter Valeria, Valeria”s daughter Jesse Beulah Richards Gryder, Jesse’s son Joe Gryder (divorced from my grandmother Alliene Brogdon), their daughter Margaret Gryder Oswalt, and I am Debra Oswalt Sellmansberger. All of us are from Memphis. I have only done DNA through Ancestry .com. Heard that 123 was better. Ancestry gives percentages, pie graph, and trace percentages. I believe there is someone on this message board who has recently done a 123 and hope she shares. Good luck and thank you so much for sending in DNA. I may try 123 also.

  26. Hi Debra. I am also related to Marie through Marcus, through their daughter Valeria. Then Charles Richards and Dorothy Richards, my grandmother. I think we have talked on this site before or possibly another site. I had my Genome done on 23andMe. This is what I got. It was only my maternal side. I am haplogroup H18; 97.2% European, 1.3% West African, 1.1% Native American. I feel this might provide the info. we needed about all the mystery around Marcus B Winchesters wife, Maria Loisel. The history books state she was “woman of color”. If I have some African in my genome that must prove Maria did too. But the story my grandmother, Dorothy Richards Woods, Moore, Nemes said was we had Indian blood in us; Which my genome says I have also. So I think Maria Louise Amarante Regis Loiselle Winchester was part black and part native American and all the other things my genome shows. I too would love to see a painting of her; I don’t think they had cameras during her time. You would think there would be some painting of her somewhere. If you had your DNA done by 23andMe we could share genomes and see how related we are (well we know that); but it would be interesting about the rest of it. Anita Jessop

  27. I am interested in more testing and would choose 123, thinking they are highly recommended. A friend who seems knowledgeable told me even Ancestry gives more info than just your maternal line. So you would be getting a bigger picture than thought. There is a name for that: autosomal.

  28. @Caroline Anita and other Family Members of the Winchesters, it was very common in the south to claim native american heritage rather than black. The discrimination against black people caused this. It is unfortunate that today, many people think they are “blackfoot” indian or some other tribe but they are black. This pressures of a racist system often pushed families apart, tore children light enough to pass, from their parents and elevated “mulattos”, “quadroon” and others for marrying white to eliminate the evidence of black blood. This was also common in my family on my father’s side. His father was dark skinned with strong native american features and straight hair. My father inheritaed many of the same traits. He was encouraged by his family to pass for Arab.

  29. My grandmother, Margeret Josephine Richards, always said it was “the French”.

  30. However, our French relatives, who immigrated in the 1800s, were Alsatian. Alsace borders Germany, and is very Germanic culturally.

  31. So far I am aware if Pilgrim an ancestry, Black Irish, Scotch Irish, Alsation (northeast France), and African. My kids can add Ashkenazy Jewish to the list. 🤗

  32. Came across this thread accidentally. I did a little research on the Winchesters after I communicated with the late Jesse Winchester on a New Orleans newspaper forum after Katrina. He was a noted performer in the 70s who moved to Canada to avoid the draft. One of his many tunes is “Down Around Biloxi.” In any event, he confirmed that he was descended from the founding Winchesters. i don’t know if he had siblings or if his widow can help you with information or pictures, but I thought I’d tell you. By the way, I do believe Marcus’ first wife was Creole. If she was descended from freed slaves, that lineage would not have passed through Europe, as you can imagine. Good luck and give my love to Memphis, my hometown.

  33. Exciting. I love New Orleans & lived there; 1998-2005. It would be chilling – in a good way! – if my great 6x grandmother were from there. My dad has said she was Jamaican. But since she spoke French, New Orleans and maybe Haiti before make more sense. However, I read her parents were from Canada.
    I do have a Haitian trivet passed down from my grandmother on that side.

  34. I was thinking Haitian–free people of color. It fits. My grandmother was from New Orleans. Her sister lived in Treme after she married. In any event, I really think someone should try to contact Jesse Winchester’s surviving relatives. Suppose his widow is still in Charlottesville. THINK he had an ex and children still in Canada. THINK he was the first one to flee to Canada rather than serve. I remember Joan Baez talking about him. Jesse went to CBHS, which is why Allen Toussaint (yes) contacted him cause AT knew I was from Memphis and my significant other graduated from CBHS. You may also know there are quite a few records of the gens in New Orleans. I’m pretty sure baptismal records exist. . .Last night, I had a horrible thought: That Mrs. Winchester had to return to New Orleans for treatment in a hospital. But that is only speculation.

  35. How about that the Canadian was the man and a Haitian was the woman? It makes sense to me. She has the name of the Canadians. And you know the history of some of the octoroons, quadroons, and the rest.

  36. Marcus Winchester and Maria Amarante Loiselle reportedly went to New Orleans to marry, where it was legal to marry outside your race.

  37. If you look at the geni info on Marcus’ father, the general, you’ll see the family had ties to New Orleans and Biloxi and that Mrs. Winchester died there.

  38. A Debra Oswalt Selmansberger comments on here. I wish she would see my question. If you search for Marcus on line, you can see the geni info on his family. Also, there’s another photo of him on the graveyard site.

  39. I don’t understand all the speculation on this site about Maria Loiselle Winchester and Marcus Winchester. I have had my DNA tested. I have 1.5 % African and 1.2% Native American in me. Marie was my great grandmother 5 X’s back and Marcus was my great grandfather 5X’s back. My DNA was tested on my maternal side because my biological father is dead and so is my brother. So that info comes from my mothers side of the family which is the Winchesters and Loisel’s. Marie’s mother (Victorie Loiselle 1774-1828) was born in St. Louis, MO. and Pierre Baribeau 1761-1831(Maria Louise Amarante Regis Loiselle father) was in born in Canada and died in St. Louis, MO.
    The question I am trying to answer is who was Maria Loiselles mother? I think she was part African and American Indian. In the archives of New Orleans you find legal documents where Pierre Baribeau was testifying for people who were claiming to be part indian instead of part black. I think legally this gave those people more freedom. And…there is mention of part of his family being on a Blackfoot reservation. Boy, would I love to solve all of this. Anyways, just putting my 2 cents into the conversation. What does anyone else think? Anita Jessop

  40. Howdy,
    I commented in August 2015, but don’t remember how to log in that way again. So, I am Anita’s distant cousin on 23andMe, and am following her around on the internet, apparently!

    Marie Amarante Loiselle was my greatX5 grandmother. I’m a maternal-line descendant, so have her haplogroup, L3e2a, which is typical of a current Nigerian, which means I have African ancestry on the maternal line.

    Also, here’s how 23andme further explains my percentages of autosomal DNA, which show 0.4% each of West African and Native American:
    You most likely had a fourth great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, sixth great-grandparent, or seventh great (or greater) grandparent who was 100% West African. This person was likely born between 1690 and 1780.
    You most likely had a fourth great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, sixth great-grandparent, or seventh great (or greater) grandparent who was 100% Native American. This person was likely born between 1690 and 1780.

  41. Which could, if accurate, mean that one of Marie’s parents was the child of a 100% West African person and a 100% Native American person. Marie was born in 1809. I too am trying to find out more about her parents and grandparents.

    I grew up in Memphis, and what I hear from my extended family is that, in the 50s and 60s and before, everybody wanted to suppress the fact that there was an African-American in our ancestry.

  42. I have fallen away from research, but seriously hope others continue. If you have your DNA tested, please be aware your 50% from each parent can vary from what your full blood brothers and sisters inherited. Those of you living in the Memphis area maybe interested in the Tennessee Genealogical Society in Germantown and taking this to a new level.

  43. Yes, my grandmother, from Memphis, contributed her dark skin to our French immigrant ancestry. However, they were not from south France but from L’Alsace, which is adjacent to Germany.

  44. Who has been to Marcus Winchester’s grave site? At the gas station?
    Where is Marie buried?

  45. I believe Marie is in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 in New Orleans. No tours are given of that cemetery. My family went before Katrina and we got robbed:(. Be careful going there. My understanding about Marcus is he is somewhere under the St. Jude parking lot. Used to have a historical marker….???? You can go to Cragfont in Castilian Springs TN and visit General and Mrs. James Winchesters’ graves.

  46. Hello. If you believe Mary is buried in New Orleans, an index of burials is housed at 400 Esplanade, by the French Market. Also, I recall getting records of my Catholic ancestors from the diocese in Baton Rouge. I need to find details in a box in my basement.

  47. Well I’m the Jamaican side! Lol. Still trying to figure it out. I see a Margaret Richards married to a Charles Allen in Mandeville. I also see some Winchester also. I did the test on 23andme and i recognize many of you as DNA relations. The parish to research is Manchester, St Catherine.

  48. Marie’s parents were Victor Loiselle and (I think) Cezarie Loiselle. They moved to St. Louis before the Louisiana Purchase.

  49. Don’t forget to upload your DNA to gedmatch for free!!!
    Note. During the Haitian revolution, many Whites, Creole ( Mulatto and Mestizo) and Mulattoes who were sdlave holders and privileged fled the country to Jamaica, Cuba and New Orleans. If you look at Jamaicanfamilysearch.com or lds.orgfamilysearch you will see many French there, especially in Saint Andrew, Saint Mary, Port Royal what I know. Also many Jamaican Whites have migrated over the years and some White Americans migrated there also in 1700s to 1800s andc before.

  50. Marcus B. Winchester’s grave is under a gas station in Memphis. Mariie died in New Orleans. If she is buried in in New Orleans that would be awesome, since I lived there for 9 years!!!

  51. My grandmother Margeret Richards married Ovid Barnes Clark. They lived in Little Rock, moved to Louisiana & settled in Little Rock.

  52. Correction. Her parents were Victoire Loiselle Baribeau (mother) and Pierre Baribeau of St. Louis. Their families were from Quebec. Ile d’Orleans.

  53. Susan Johnson, she is my 4x great grandmother. I found the family tree for the French side on Wiki Tree. They came from Paris, Brettagne, and inbetween.

  54. I started a tree on Ancestry.com.
    It isnt all filled in, but I’ll keep working on it. It seems her family was mixed French-Canadians and moved to St. Louis well before the Louisiana Purchase. Marie Amarante Loiselle Winchester’s death certificate can be viewed on Ancestry.com.

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