historyof this monumentwas told to meby my grandmother, and even frommy mother. The sculptorwished torepresent
themoment whenthe son foundhis motherdead. Believingit was justasleepandkept calling herto
touch her,hopingto wake up...
in the oldcemetery inCagliari,
Sardinia, and the sculptorof this work, andmany othersis GiuseppeSartorio.
I heard about these people today and found it fascinating! Genealogy sites provide this story:
Not myth or legend; The Blue People of Kentucky were an isolated enclave
of Appalachian people who lived with an embarrassing skin discoloration
until a young hematologist took notice and found a solution. As the
story goes, Martin Fugate, a French orphan, settled on the banks of
eastern Kentucky's Troublesome Creek around 1820 to claim a land grant.
He married a red-haired American named Elizabeth Smith with a very pale
complexion. Little did they know that their union would create shades
of blue people!
Generations later, a descendant of Martin Fugate, Benjy Stacy, would
be born "blue". '"He was almost purple,"' his father, Alva Stacy,
recalls." Benjy was born in a maternity ward near Hazard, Kentucky and
was rushed by ambulance to a medical clinic in Lexington to find help
for his blue problem. Days of testing provided no answers; but then
Benjy's grandmother told the doctor a story about the "blue" Fugates.
Incredibly, Benjy had inherited a gene dating back over 162 years!
Thankfully, Benjy lost his blue shade after a few weeks and the only
lingering effects were blue fingernails and lips when he was cold or
angry. In the early 1960's, this blue malady caught the attention of Madison
Cawein, an inquisitive hematologist from the University of Kentucky.
Curiosity drove him to Hazard where he was introduced to a nurse, Ruth
Pendergrass, who had met a "dark blue" woman. She was one of the "blue"
Combses who lived up on Ball Creek and was a sister to one of the
Fugate women; her brother, Luke, was also blue. The search for blue
people ensued. Patrick and Rachel Ritchie, who lived in Hardburly, were
also blue. Cawein eventually found a small population of people in the
back woods of Appalachia, many with a blue skin disorder. The
afflicted were embarrassed about their condition and adamant about
talking to Cawein. Eventually, Cawein gained their trust and began
taking blood samples. Tests for abnormal hemoglobin were negative. Then
he began to construct the family genealogy and traced their roots back
to Martin and Elizabeth Fugate.
Cawein was determined to find a cause and possibly a solution to help
this small group of isolated Appalachian people. In his research, he
found a 1960 article by E. M. Scott that was reported in the Journal of
Clinical Investigation. Scott's research had found hereditary
methemoglobinemia among Alaskan Eskimos and Indians caused by an absence
of the enzyme diaphorase from their red blood cells. Methemoglobinemia
is a rare hereditary blood disorder that results from excess levels of
methomoglobin (metHb) in the blood. "Methomoglobin is an oxidized form
of hemoglobin that has a decreased affinity for oxygen, resulting in a
reduced ability to release oxygen to tissues." This results in brown
blood giving Caucasian patients a bluish hue to their skin.
The blood disorder is inherited as a simple recessive trait - meaning
that to get the disorder, a person would have to inherit two genes, one
from each parent. One could inherit the gene, not get the blood
disorder, but pass the gene on to a child. The gene would most likely
appear in an inbred line. Martin Fugate carried the recessive gene and
the odds that he could have married a woman with the same recessive gene
were overwhelming - but that is exactly what happened. Fortunately, Cawein was able to find an antidote for the blood
disorder - methylene blue which acted as an electron donor. The
antidote worked quickly but patients were required to take daily doses
as it passed quickly through the urine. At last they were free of their
"blue" shade and were no longer embarrassed.
Cawein, in researching the family lines in Perry County, Kentucky and
with the help of Fugate Family Bibles, found in fact, that the Fugates
had married Fugates, had married first cousins, and had intermarried
with families whose surnames were: Combs, Smith, Ritchie, and Stacy.
They lived in isolation and married the girl next door, even if they had
the same last name, and consequently passed the gene on to many
generations. Martin and Elizabeth had seven children, four being born
blue; Zachariah, who was blue, married his mother's sister. Written
family records do not indicate Martin's skin color, but family legend
says he was blue. Eventually, the recessive gene began to disappear
once coal mining and the railroad opened the community to outsiders.
This small enclave was no longer isolated and they began to disperse and
marry outside of their little clan diminishing the effect of the "blue"
In online research, there was no mention made of "blue" people as
recorded in the genealogy book, The Fugate Family of Russell County
Virginia, published in 1986, but it has been confirmed in the Fugate
discussions on the Genforum. It is almost certain that Martin was a
descendant of the Fugate family of Russell County, Virginia and probably
of French origin. It is documented that Fugates were born in the
colonies in the mid 1600's but the original progenitor has not been
confirmed. Different spellings of the surname sometimes include
"Fugett" and "Fugitt". Mary (Dawley) Fugate, who answers quite a few
queries and also helped compile the genealogy book, indicates that the
siblings of Martin Fugate were not blue but he must have been a
carrier. She also states that the union of Martin and Elizabeth were
probably not the originators of the gene as their marriage took place
too late. There was a Zachariah Fugate who was married to a Mary Smith;
both carried the gene which resulted in blue children. Mary Fugate
said that the gene is very dominant in the Smith line but there is still
no concrete answers as to what couple started the shades of blue
You can read about the condition that causes these unique folks to be blue HERE
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