The Story of the "Blue People" of Troublesome Creek

Fugates of Kentucky

I read from Yahoo! News articles about the Fugates of Kentucky and was greatly amazed that there really exist blue people. What I only knew and have seen in real life are those so-called "blue baby"[1], who are actually have cyanotic heart lesions, such as
  • Persistent Truncus Arteriosus
  • Transposition of the great vessels
  • Tricuspid atresia
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Tetralogy of Fallot.

Its other symptoms include Methemoglobinemia[2], a disorder characterized by the presence of a higher than normal level of methemoglobin (metHb) in the blood. Other insults in neonates, such as respiratory distress syndrome, can also produce a "blue baby syndrome," although like methemoglobinemia, these are not structural lesions and are not regarded by most doctors as true "cyanotic lesions."

Image source: Wikipedia

I am not into a medical profession or to any related fields but I just want to know how and why these blue people acquired their "blue" attributes".

Fugates of Kentucky: Skin Bluer than Lake Louise (ABC News)
The origin of these people afflicted with these odd skin color was traced back to Martin Fugate, a French orphan who settled in Eastern Kentucky together with his redheaded American bride[3]  circa 1800.

Martin's great-great-great great grandson, Benjamin "Benjy" Stacy, inherited his dark blue skin that frightened maternity doctors after the boy's birth in 1975. The boy was rushed to a medical clinic in Lexington. When the transfusion was being readied, Benjy's grandmother asked the doctors if they have heard about the "blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek". Benjy's father, Alva Stacy, comes form the bloodline of Martin Fugate and that made the doctors to conclude that the boy's unusual color was inherited from generations back.

The Fugates offspring had a genetic condition called Methemoglobinemia and was passed down from one generation to the next generation and through intermarriage. Martin Fugates' wife was a carrier of the recessive methemoglobinemia (met-H) gene, as was a nearby clan with whom the Fugates intermarried. As a result, many descendants of the Fugates were born with met-H.[4]

Benjy Stacy is one of the last of the blue Fugates. With Fugate blood on both his mother's and his father's side, the boy could have received genes for the enzyme deficiency from either direction. Because the boy was intensely blue at birth but then recovered his normal skin tones, Benjy is assumed to have inherlted only one gene for the condition. Such people tend to be very blue only at birth, probably because newborns normally have smaller amounts of diaphorase. The enzyme eventually builds to normal levels in most children and to almost normal levels in those like Benjy, who carry one gene.[3]

Image source: The Blue People of Troublesome Creek

  1. Blue Baby Syndrome
  2. Methemoglobinemia
  3. The Blue People of Troublesome Creek 
  4. Methemoglobinemia Carriers 

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About lamberto inquig, jr.

a simple and yet full of sense of humor guy who loves to travel and learn more knowledge in the ICT
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  1. Hi there! Not sure if you can point me in the right direction or if you know off-hand, but I'm doing some research for a genetics project on the Fugate family... every thing I can find online says Martin Fugate was blue, and he married the red-headed Elizabeth Smith and had 7 kids, 4 of which were blue. But on the pedigree provided by Mary Fugate above, the Martin Fugate that is blue married Mary Wells, not Elizabeth Smith. And the Martin Fugate that married Elizabeth Smith is not listed as blue or being a carrier. I am finding so much conflicting information on the web! Can you clarify/help? Thank you!

  2. Hi Vanessa, thanks for your comment here. I hope this link will help you understand why it happened that way.

    A paragraph in the above link states:

    "Martin Fugate was a French orphan who emigrated to Kentucky in 1820 to claim a land grant on the wilderness banks of Troublesome Creek. No mention of his skin color is made in the early histories of the area, but family lore has it that Martin himself was blue."

    So it simply means that the Martin Fugate who married Elizabeth Smith was not mentioned as a blue person, but family lore has it that he was blue.

  3. Thanks, I have to write a paper about my family and I think this is the interesting part about it. Luna and John were my great-great grandparents, and I never even heard of the Blue Fugate's until a year or so ago! But, my grandmother and her sister have talked to me about them since then. They even seen Luna (and I remember John, but not Luna) and they said she really was Blue.

  4. That's great and I'm hoping you'll be having a good time tracing your roots and as well as your relatives out there. Good luck!