The Unexplained: Who were the blue people of Kentucky?

The Fugates Family’s skin may have turned blue because of exposure to toxic chemicals. The condition was also inherited.  Photo: History of Yesterday

Outsiders were frightened and puzzled by the Blue People, who became objects of ridicule and shame, withdrawing farther into the landscape.

Blue People are not always a tall tale.  Blue People can and have been very real.

One example of this anomaly is The Blue Fugates of Kentucky—also known as The Blue People of Kentucky.

The first known Blue Fugate was a young orphan that came to Troublesome Creek from England in 1822.  His name was Martin Fugate.  It is not known if his skin showed up as blue when he arrived there.  There are differing reports.  Some say he was blue, some say he wasn’t, but the ability to be eventually blue was inside of him.

Martin got settled in in the backcountry and when he came of age, he chose a bride.  Her name was Elizabeth Smith.  She was a pale redhead.

Sara Marie Hogg

Eventually, they had seven children.  Of the seven, four had blue skin.  The Fugates lived in an isolated part of the land and it was very easy for the people of that isolated tract of real estate to end up having common ancestors.  This has come to be known as consanguinity—descent from a common blood ancestor.  This was not all that uncommon with clans, and Elizabeth may have had this type of genetic abnormality in addition to Martin having an unknown genetic abnormality—since he was an orphan transplant to the area from England, no one knows his background.

It is most probable that Martin and Elizabeth had the same genetic abnormality.  How could this even be possible?  It is so far-fetched.

One of their children, Zachary, ended up marrying one of Elizabeth’s female relatives and the strange condition expanded in the area.  They had many children and some of these children ended up marrying another of Elizabeth’s clan members.  There were more Blue People running about and one was actually purple.

Outsiders were frightened and puzzled by the Blue People.  The Blue People became objects of ridicule and shame.  They withdrew farther into the landscape.

The Blue People tried to eke out an existence near Troublesome Creek and Ball Creek, there in Kentucky, but they had a hard existence.  They were able to thrive, well into the 20th Century.  Then something happened.

Old country doctors are often something to joke about.  They learn to take it good-naturedly. It comes with the territory, they said.  Sometimes it is beneficial to know one of these old doctors, though.  A Dr. Madison Cawein got wind of the Blue People and he decided to make a study and an investigation of their unusual condition.

A nurse joined him in documenting his research.  She had always been curious when one of the Blue People had come into a doctor’s waiting room.  The nurse was Ruth Pendergrass.  When she saw the Blue Lady, Nurse Pendergrass thought she was suffering from hypothermia, because of the extremely cold temperatures outside—extreme weather that the Blue Lady had just been in.  She thought it was a medical emergency and started working on the woman.  The lady explained that that was her normal skin color, and not to be alarmed.

The doctor and nurse studied the woman and more of the kin and clan members of The Blue Fugates and the branches of their family tree.  They made a diagnosis:

Methemoglobinemia.  Methemoglobinemia is caused by exposure to toxic chemicals – or it can be inherited.  The condition can be cured with daily doses of Methylene Blue.  He gave the Blue People a supply of tablets and the condition was eradicated.

The last known Blue Person was seen in 1975, as a youngster, and his skin color faded with age.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Dark Continent Continental. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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