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Ten members met at the The Old Brick Inn on August 12th for the Shakespeare meeting. We were all Happy to see Caroline Heath once again. The meeting was hosted by Marge Foor and Mary Lou Reader. Joy Stewart created a delicious ice cream sandwich dessert. It was a huge success.
The roll call for this month was “Your favorite vacation spot.” It seems we all have done a fair bit of traveling, both here and abroad. The British Isles ranked as a favorite spot for several of our members, with the countries of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and of course, Great Britain. Speaking the language is a plus, that is if you understand the different dialects and accents. Cruises are also very popular with our travelers…whether it is an Alaskan cruise, a cruise to the Caribbean islands, or the rivers of Europe…even a gondola ride in Venice is enchanting. New Orleans and all it has to offer is another dream vacation spot. And last, but by no means least…give some of us the white sands of the Gulf side of Florida. Our dream vacation spot is the beach!
Last month, Marilyn Fischer’s program was an account of The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. The historical fiction book, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is written by Kim Michelle Richardson. Marge Foor’s program is a continuation of this novel. One of the characters in this book is 19-year-old Cussy Carter. Cussy joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky. What makes her an unusual character is the fact that she’s blue-skinned. Cussy is the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. Here is where fact and fiction meet. The characters are made up, but blue-skinned people are truly factual. To learn more about Cussy, Marge would say RTB…read the book!
What follows is some factual information about the “Blue Fugates” or “The Blue People of Kentucky.” Martin Fugate originally from France, and Elizabeth Smith settled near Hazard Kentucky around 1820. They were both carriers a rare genetic trait, known methemoglobinemia (met-H), that caused their skin to be blue. As a result, four of their seven children exhibited blue skin. Descendants of the Fugates were born with met-H. The descendants continued to live in the areas around Troublesome Creek into the 20th century. They were simply known as “the blue people.” The family members came to the attention of the hematologist Madison Cawein III who made a detailed study of their condition and ancestry.
A deficiency of the enzyme diaphorase is the cause of the oxygen deficiency in the red blood cells, causing the blood to appear brown, which in turn made the skin of those affected appear blue. Cawein treated the family with methylene blue, which eased their symptoms and reduces the blue coloring of their skin.
He eventually published his research in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1964.
Benjamin Stacy, born in 1975, is the last known descendant of the Fugates to have been born with the characteristic blue color disorder. I would encourage you to read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and witness fiction and fact providing both entertainment and the history about the “blue-skinned people of the Fugate family” that lived for almost two centuries in the area of Troublesome Creek and Ball Creek in the hills of eastern Kentucky.