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I was going to wait to start this thread until I had actually seen a few of the main sources on the Ben Ishmael, primary and otherwise, but having found what appear to be reliable quotes from a couple of these books on the net I thought I'd go ahead and at least start it.

My first replies below give a little background on who the Ben Ishmael were. This to me is one of the most fascinating topics that's come out this recent discussion.

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Hi Muhammed -- thanks for joining the discussion.

I don't suppose you happen to have any photos of these Mecca, IN tomb/headstones you might be willing to share?

Muhammed al-Ahari said:
The script is Ottoman and there are Slavic Muslim and Turkish names in the census records. They may be too late to have any connection to the Ben Ishmael Tribe. I still think there are connections between some mixed race members and the founding of the Moorish Science Temple. I wish I had all copies of the Ishamaelite to detrmine if it was written by members of the so-called tribe or was a literary devise since so many of them were in Indianapolis.
Hey Spence I need to get your book to you!

Within the book, Deutsch mentions his research uncovering people around Mecca saying that Middle Easterners were imported to work at a tile plant. For some reason I want to say 'at the turn of the century' but I'm unsure if that's my own brain making things up or something I read in the book. The story is presented as uncorroborated oral history around the source of the town's name. Itw as not clear to me from context if Deutsch was the collector or if he had located the report elsewhere - I did not check the footnotes regarding this citation.
Hi David --

Re: Jim Jones, no offense but the quote you cite doesn't mention or really even refer to the Ben Ishmael thing at all.

But Jones did make a lot of hay with his supposed Native American heritage, implying this was the source of some of his "magical powers." He also used it as a way for a white preacher to gain the sympathy and trust of the largely black community he preyed upon, by equating the genocides of the Native and African peoples, as he does in your quotation.

I suppose it could be suggested that he was capitalizing on a lingering cultural memory of the Ben Ishmael, actual or so-called. But in all my reading on Jones and the Peoples Temple, I'm not aware of his ever claiming any connection or harkening to the Ben Ishmael tribe per se. The only similarities I see are on the surface (i.e. a mixed-race drop-out community).

cheers


David Schlabach said re: Bryon C. Wells, "Church Filled To See 'Cures' By Self-Proclaimed 'Prophet of God'," Indianapolis Star (Oct. 13, 1971 [?]):
JIM JONES descended from Ben Ishmael:
...[Y]our black book [the Bible] was written by a white king, that was written by a racist king at that, who sent the first Good Ship Jesus to Africa to bring back slaves. ...In the name of Jesus, he brought your ancestors here. In the name of Jesus, he killed and crucified my ancestors, the Indians.

...this great spirit, this great spirit of socialism. That’s what the great Indian spirit was. They put the tribes, the collective above the individual competition… Well, I’m reviving it. My Indian spirit has certain acumen that you won’t be able to find anywhere.

...This is same problem we have with we who are black and Indian. There’s no solidarity. Your very best friend will do it and undercut, and until people realize the necessity of that kind of solidarity, we will never overcome.
http://al-ahari.com/mainpage.html
There is a picture with me beside one of the tombstones here. There are five altogether.
Muhammed al-Ahari said:
http://al-ahari.com/mainpage.html
There is a picture with me beside one of the tombstones here. There are five altogether.

Sweet, Muhammed! Hey, i noticed in the link from that pic your bit on going to Mecca, which i gather you have now done. Can you point us to the locale of al-Arabia cemetery you mentioned? It's a heck of a google trawl, as you must well know!

Also, I wanted to call your attention to David's new thread on the emergent use of punk as a means of self-expression by Muslim youth in the US, but i can't find it! Seems like something that might interest you as well, anyway. I have been seeing dibs and drabs on the current for a couple years; seems like an SF novel inspired it, which is pretty cool, i think.
You been by any of the Jonestown sites? I posited this several years ago: http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/AboutJonestown/JonestownReport/Volume8/ja... . I don't think that there's any solid evidence of this--at least none that I've found--but it's pregnant with possibility. Also, the idea that the Ishmaelites were Muslim is not supported factually and has always been speculative-at-best. Deutsch's book is coming to me in the mails, I'll read it shortly.

If you want to discover anything about them, there are two major locations for the primary data collected by
McCullough and J. Frank Wright in the 1880s and the studies that picked-up where they left-off by the Carnegie Institute until sometime around the 1930s.

I believe that they were a real tribe of settlers or why would Tarkington and Cooper write about them? It suggests that they were well known even as early as the mid-1820s and had quite a reputation, mainly for lawlessness and non-conformity. That later generations of the poor in Indy were labeled with the name "Ishmaelite" isn't my concern beyond the fact that you had a group of prominent citizens in the city at the time who wanted to exterminate the urban poor. THAT is far-and-away more significant than whether they were Muslims or not.

As for the city names throughout the Midwest with Middle Eastern connections--c'mon, haven't we ever heard of Freemasonry and people naming their kids and families after Biblical figures. "Ben Ishmael" just means "son of Ishmael, it's Judaic and not Muslim in origin, and the name of the group probably came about because some of them engaged in miscegnation and were poor and uneducated. Many of their descendants are probably still living similar lifestyles today and are called "white trash" and "mixed," even now.

What you have here, sadly, isn't some romantic maroon group, but just more victims of eugenics and class-based racism in the Ishmaelites. But they are enigmatic, and therefore, are of interest. More study should be put to their earliest-beginnings, if it is even still possible.

The Muslim names, however, strike me as having a connection to the Orientalism of the 19th century, coming mainly from Freemasonry. The Moorish Science Temples definitely owe a lot to Freemasonry (http://www.princehall.org/), but then, so does voudon. I've been to Prince Hall Lodge meetings (I'm white), they are different from standard ones, but not much.

Spencer (Shecky) Sundell said:
Hi David --

Re: Jim Jones, no offense but the quote you cite doesn't mention or really even refer to the Ben Ishmael thing at all.

But Jones did make a lot of hay with his supposed Native American heritage, implying this was the source of some of his "magical powers." He also used it as a way for a white preacher to gain the sympathy and trust of the largely black community he preyed upon, by equating the genocides of the Native and African peoples, as he does in your quotation.

I suppose it could be suggested that he was capitalizing on a lingering cultural memory of the Ben Ishmael, actual or so-called. But in all my reading on Jones and the Peoples Temple, I'm not aware of his ever claiming any connection or harkening to the Ben Ishmael tribe per se. The only similarities I see are on the surface (i.e. a mixed-race drop-out community).

cheers


David Schlabach said re: Bryon C. Wells, "Church Filled To See 'Cures' By Self-Proclaimed 'Prophet of God'," Indianapolis Star (Oct. 13, 1971 [?]):
JIM JONES descended from Ben Ishmael:
...[Y]our black book [the Bible] was written by a white king, that was written by a racist king at that, who sent the first Good Ship Jesus to Africa to bring back slaves. ...In the name of Jesus, he brought your ancestors here. In the name of Jesus, he killed and crucified my ancestors, the Indians.

...this great spirit, this great spirit of socialism. That’s what the great Indian spirit was. They put the tribes, the collective above the individual competition… Well, I’m reviving it. My Indian spirit has certain acumen that you won’t be able to find anywhere.

...This is same problem we have with we who are black and Indian. There’s no solidarity. Your very best friend will do it and undercut, and until people realize the necessity of that kind of solidarity, we will never overcome.
PS: the two main collections are at the Indiana State Library in Indy, and at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Deutsch spent at least 7 years on his book, probably part of his dissertation.
Ben Ishmael, father of the John W. Ishmael and grandfather of Tom Ishmael, was a brother to my gggg-grandfather, Thomas Ishmael. Ben Ishmael, Thomas Ishmael, and their brother, Robert Ishmael, were patriotic Americans from Pennsylvania who served bravely in the American Revolution, Robert was at Valley Forge with George Washington and eventually gave his life for our freedom. Their descendants were loyal Americans, members of the family serving in the War of 1812, the Civil War, and are still good citizens today.
Our Ishmael family was never Muslim, but Christians from Wales, Great Britain. While the Ben Ishmael Tribe myth fairly accurately traces the westward movement of Ben Ishmael's family - no tribe - the rest is a pack of lies for profit and to feed the pre-Nazi fabrication of a master race. Ben Ishmael's second wife, Jennie, never considered herself a queen, but was a hard-working dutifuly wife who helped raise eight children from Ben's first marriage and two of her own. Ben's son by his first wife, John W. Ishmael, was not the first-born and was not a leader of any kind of Ben Ishmael tribal movement, but was a hard-working family man who served in the War of 1812 - Johnson's Rgt, Mounted, Kentucky Volunteers Military Service. He and his wife, Elizabeth Harbet, raised a large family on their farm - from Indiana records: Sale-Cash Entry for 40 acres Land Records 20 Aug 1838 , Blackford, Indiana.
One of their sons, Thomas "Tom" Ishmael, who was lied about as a leader of the fictious Ben Ishmael Tribe, was also a family man and farmer who served in the Civil War from Indiana - 58th Regiment, Indiana Infantry Military Service Civil War.
I was doing a little reading on so called tri racial isolate groups in my state of birth, New Jersey. I came across this book:

http://books.google.com/books?id=8OwBd_8TY-UC&lpg=PP13&dq=t...

Chapter four would seem to indicate that the Tribe of Ben Ishmael along with New Jersey's Pineys and Ramapough were largely the creation of upper class eugenicists. Not to say these communities didn't exist. Obviously there was an Ishmael family and there were several families of poor and dark skinned people living in New Jersey's Pine Barrens and in the Ramapo Mountains of New York and New Jersey.

Kenneth Rorie said:
Ben Ishmael, father of the John W. Ishmael and grandfather of Tom Ishmael, was a brother to my gggg-grandfather, Thomas Ishmael. Ben Ishmael, Thomas Ishmael, and their brother, Robert Ishmael, were patriotic Americans from Pennsylvania who served bravely in the American Revolution, Robert was at Valley Forge with George Washington and eventually gave his life for our freedom. Their descendants were loyal Americans, members of the family serving in the War of 1812, the Civil War, and are still good citizens today.
Our Ishmael family was never Muslim, but Christians from Wales, Great Britain. While the Ben Ishmael Tribe myth fairly accurately traces the westward movement of Ben Ishmael's family - no tribe - the rest is a pack of lies for profit and to feed the pre-Nazi fabrication of a master race. Ben Ishmael's second wife, Jennie, never considered herself a queen, but was a hard-working dutifuly wife who helped raise eight children from Ben's first marriage and two of her own. Ben's son by his first wife, John W. Ishmael, was not the first-born and was not a leader of any kind of Ben Ishmael tribal movement, but was a hard-working family man who served in the War of 1812 - Johnson's Rgt, Mounted, Kentucky Volunteers Military Service. He and his wife, Elizabeth Harbet, raised a large family on their farm - from Indiana records: Sale-Cash Entry for 40 acres Land Records 20 Aug 1838 , Blackford, Indiana. One of their sons, Thomas "Tom" Ishmael, who was lied about as a leader of the fictious Ben Ishmael Tribe, was also a family man and farmer who served in the Civil War from Indiana - 58th Regiment, Indiana Infantry Military Service Civil War.
UPDATE:

There are some ongoing dribs and drabs of research, discussion, and strangeness in the other thread. Here's a link to the most recent stuff:

http://www.musicalfamilytree.net/xn/detail/2000984:Comment:162940
Sorry I am just now finding this group. Maybe you can find some answers in my research on the Tribe published in 2008:

Kramer, Elsa F. Recasting the Tribe of Ishmael: The Role of Indianapolis's Nineteenth-Century Poor in Twentieth-Century Eugenics. Indiana Magazine of History 104:1 (March 2008): 36–64.

https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/handle/1805/1932 (downloadable PDF)

Like Nathaniel Deutsch, I do not find any evidence of Muslim affiliation among the Tribe members -- nor even any particular Tribe orientation among the people called Ishmaelites. But there is abundant evidence in the study notes that many were biracial or triracial. Arthur Estabrook, who revised Oscar McCullough's Ishmael notes decades after McCullough's death, was a pro-eugenics researcher whose specialty was triracial isolate groups. His work on the Tribe of Ishmael is indexed to "American Indian--Negro" in the files of the Eugenics Record Office of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Those Ishmaelites with white ancestry no doubt had Christianity in their backgrounds, but unlike Deutsch I found no evidence of strong religious affiliation among them. In fact, that was one of the chief complaints about them in their day: that they flouted society's conventions, including various Sunday laws.
Fascinating, Elsa. You seem to have published just weeks before we started talking about this in detail here. I'm not sure you'll want to plow though our archives, but it's pretty interesting - we more-or-less got to consensus on the Ishmaelites as an imposed identity without too much fuss.

However, there have been a few countervailing posters, notably a guy who appears to have trekked to a graveyard near Mecca, Indiana, and photographed 19th century graves with what he characterized as Arabic inscriptions. We also made the acquaintance of a musician, not from Indiana, who became so interested in the mythology of the Ishmaelites that he performs and records as "Ishii the Ishmaelite."

All in all, these threads are extremely interesting and full of quirks, of mad scholars and earnest ones. Hope you enjoy them.

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