Date: Sun, 14 Apr 1996 11:29:04 -0500
From: Natalie Maynor maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]RA.MSSTATE.EDU
Subject: Perhaps of Interest
I wrote him back asking if it was ok for me to forward this note to
ADS-L. He said yes.
Date: Sat, 13 Apr 96 20:45:12 PDT
From: Duane Campbell dcamp[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]epix.net
Subject: Pool talk
To: maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ra.msstate.edu
Thank God for the Internet and Alta Vista. Where else could one find a group
of people interested in dialect.
I live in a small town (Towanda, population 4,000) in a rural county
(population 60,000) in the hill country of Northeastern Pennsylvania. In this
area lives an extended family, perhaps 3,000 in number, with an ancient and
well documented history. Excepting modern emigration, most have lived within a
five mile radius for over two hundred years.
Although they were among the very first settlers in this area, because of
their strange history they were socially isolated. They developed their own
dialect. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been either studied or
I have seen documentaries of the much studied Gullah dialect. I have no
difficulty understanding it. But though I grew up here and attended school
with Pools from kindergarten through high school, I cannot understand "Pool
talk" in its pure form.
I would guess there are no more than a score of elderly people who speak Pool
talk as a primary language. There may be a hundred who can speak it if
pressed. Though many Pools still have a recognizable accent, the dialect is
I have tried to interest folklorists at Mansfield University (Mansfield PA) in
making field recordings at least, but there has not been a whole lot of
excitement. Don't they have any idle grad students?
This is a small language pocket, but it is unique. Within a very few
years the last speaker will die and the dialect will pass. Is there anyone in
your organization who might be interested?
If you are still reading, let me briefly tell you something about the Pools
and the genesis of their language.
After over two hundred years, there are still only two major family names:
Johnson and Vanderpool, hence Pool. (This is a derogative term, but I use it
because there is no PC equivalent.) There are half a dozen minor septs,
but if your name is Strope or Chilson, you can get along in this county. If
you are a Vanderpoole or Johnson, your life is considerably more difficult.
This clan was an under class before the term became popular.
Both families certainly started well. The progenitors of the clan were Sir
William Johnson and Anthony Vanderpool.
Johnson lived in upstate New York, where he befriended the local Indians. In
fact, he befriended a lot of them, mostly female. He fathered several children
with the sister of Joseph Brandt, the famous Iroquois chief during the
Revolutionary war, and many more with other native wives. Johnson was a Major
General during the French and Indian War and was knighted for his performance.
Anthony Vanderpool was the scion of a well established Hudson River valley
family. (President Van Buren was married to his niece.) He married a daughter
of Sir William.
Eventually both were ostracized by their families and wandered, with their
extensive tribe, into the post-Revolutionary wildnerness of Bradford County.
Here they met with royalist French, who had purchased several thousand acres
and were establishing an asylum for the monarchy (a story of some repute
locally) and with their minimal contingent of slaves.
So the Pools are mostly English, Dutch, and Indian (Iroquois and Mohawk) with
a smattering of French and Black. An interesting linguistic mix. And that
linguistic mix, because of their social isolation, has persisted into the
present times. But not much longer.
This is worthy of study. Or at least of recording, so that someone might study
I tried to access the ADS home page, but, whether my system or yours, I got
nothing. If you would like more information, I would be happy to supply it.
I really do hope that someone would be interested in this. I do not have the
credentials to do it myself.