Friday, April 24, 2015

Will Allen Dromgoole

Yet again another article full of misinformation on Will Allen Dromgoole has hit the internet, and thus another article full of misinformation on the Melungeons goes along with it.

Instead of researching it seems these 'internet bloggers' are copy and pasting things they find on the internet instead of doing real research.

First it has been published repeatedly that Will Allen lost her clerkship because of her articles about the Melungeons.  That is false.

Her first two articles on the Melungeons were published August 31st and September 1st of  1890.  

Clearly this article published in February of 1889, almost 18 months before she went to Newmans Ridge or published her articles.  

Dromgoole has been called 'a crazy woman' who went to Newmans Ridge and wrote about the Melungeons to make a name for herself but early newspaper articles clearly show she was a recognized author long before she wrote of the Melungeons. Some people have written that she never even went to Newmans Ridge but again early newspaper accounts show that is false.

Her account of the Melungeons, it is said, is based on hearsay. That is false. Dromgoole arrived in Hancock County with her sketch artist and stayed a month, in the homes of Callaway Collins and the Goins family.  There is an extensive story on the Collins family written in TWO TALES, many of these articles can be found on my website and I will post links at the bottom, they have been there probably at least five years.  Why anyone can claim 'they have looked for this information' and not found it is a mystery in itself.

What Dromgoole wrote in her articles on the Melungeons can be backed up by others who followed her to the ridge and wrote much the same things as Dromgoole, it has also been backed up by records as well as DNA.

And here is the worst misrepresentation of Dromgoole's work on the internet. This photo has been published in the Melungeon article at Wikipedia, I have tried in vain to get someone to post the REAL picture.  Why has the identification of  a "Typical Melungeon" been altered to hide the fact it is Calloway Collins whose Cherokee ancestor was old Jordan Collins, son of Benjamin Collins?

This is the sketch that floats around the internet

This is the sketch as it originally appeared in the newspaper


Why do people want to erase the Indian heritage of the Melungeons?  Why do they insist on making mysteries where there are none?

Contrary to the research of some bloggers there is no mystery to this photo. It was published along with other sketches in the "Morning Oregonian, (Portland, OR) Tuesday, October 14, 1890; pg. 3" as well as several other newspapers. 

A recent blogger apparently trying to make a story where there is none wrote he was surprised there was no name to go with the picture (see above) and he didn't know who made the sketch.  This is sad.  

In Dromgoole's second article in 1890 A STRANGE LAND  she writes;  "Mr. Thomas Sharpe, of Nashville, made an excellent sketch of this teacher while he was busy with his class and unconcious that he was “being tuk fur a pictur.” 

This is the article as it was printed in 1890.  I apologize for it being a little choppy but it was a large article. 

There has been much written about Dromgoole over the years, most of it not very flattering, untrue, etc.  We owed a great debt of gratitude for her making her way up the ridge and telling us the little history we know of the Melungeons which can be found at the link

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Portuguese Connection


In 1830 Wilson County census  James and Permelia Nickens, John Brown, George and Elisha  Collins, Gideon Goins,  Jacob and Hezekiah Archy or Achy family appear as  Free Colored Persons.   Shadrack Goins and members of the Gibson family are also residing in Wilson County but their families are listed as white. Randall M. Ewing and Daniel Baird both reported a settlement near Lebanon, Tennessee in 1850 who were thought to be Portuguese and was called Malungeon Town. 

From Paul Heinegg;

William Nickens , born say 1750, died in Wilson County, Tennessee, in 1820 leaving ten children [Wilson County Quarterly Court Minutes 1830, 34]. In 1833 his sons Marcus, Andrew and Calvin presented a petition to the General Assembly of Tennessee stating that their parents were from Portugal, had settled in the United States many years since and that "their colour is rather of the mixed blood by appearance." They asked to have the same rights as other citizens of the state. One supporting statement said that their grandfather was from Portugal and another that their father bore the name "of a desent of the Portagee." (Tennessee Legislative Petition 77-1831)

 William Waters

The facts of the case as disclosed by the 
testimony were as follows: The defendant and one Zilpha Thompson were indicted in Ashe County Court in the year 1841for fornication and adultery. The defendants, on the trial, proved that they had been married. The State alleged that the defendant, Wm. P. Watters, was a man of color, and that his marriage, therefore, with a white woman was void. 

The defendant, William P. Watters, contended that he was descended from Portuguese, and not from Negro or Indian  ancestors. 

(Note: Ironically Zilpha Thompson was a descendant of the Cherokee Indian, Ned Sizemore.  - See Zilpha Thompso

Abraham Lincoln defends a Portuguese

In August 1851, William Dungey, a dark-skinned young man of Portuguese descent, married Joseph Spencer's sister. A family quarrel ensued, which became so bitter that in January 1855, Spencer claimed throughout the community that his brother-in-law, "Black Bill," was a Negro........

William Dungey faced losing not only his reputation, but his marriage, property, and right to remain in Illinois. Section 10 of the 1853 law statedthat, "Every person who shall have one-fourth negro blood shall be deemed a mulatto." William Dungey retained Abraham Lincoln to quash the possibility
that he might be judged a "negro" and therefore suffer the severe penalties under the 1853 act.......

On October 18, 1855, the jury returned a verdict of guilty and granted Dungey $600 in damages plus court costs of $137.50. Lincoln charged a $25 fee, which Lawrence Weldon considered minimal

 1667Lower Norfolk County 
Order Book, 1666-1675, fol. 17.

Whereas Fernando a Negro sued Capt. [John] Warner for his freedome pretending hee was a Christian and had been severall yeares in England and therefore ought to serve noe longer than any other servant that came out of England accordinge to the custome of the Country and alsoe Presented severall papers in *Portugell * or some other language which the Court could not understandwhich he alledged were papers From severall Governors where hee had lived a  freeman and where hee was home. Wherefore the Court could find noe Cause wherefore he should be free but Judge him a slave for his life time, From which Judgement thesaid Negro hath appealled to the fifth day of the next Generall Court. [It is not possible to follow this case further owing to the destruc-tion of the General Court records for this period.]

North Carolina State ArchivesGeneral Assembly Session RecordsApril-May, 1760 Box #2Committee of Claims

Cornelius Harnett Esqur was allowed his claim of one pound nine shillings eight pence for holding an inquest on the body of one Menasses, a Portugese.

  Littell's Living Age
March 1849

The legend of their history, which they carefully preserve, is this. A great many years ago, these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese Adventurers, men and women--who came from the long-shore parts of Virginia, that they might be freed from the restraints and drawbacks imposed on them by any form of government.


Before the Indians were taken to Indian Territory there was a large number of whites and Indians that fled to the mountain between Little Crow Creek and Little Coon. They built Shavis Town, cleared up about 100 or more acres and cultivated it, putting out an orchard. They raised winesap apples, peaches, corn and dug ginseng besides hunting for a living.

The older men were very religious. They were mixed with Portuguese. Willis Shavis named his four sons after the Apostles, Andrew, John, Peter and Nathaniel. The had two Preachers, John Pressley and Brother Forsythe, an Indian. They would preach and convert the young men and girls and bring them down to Little Crow Creek to Baptize them. They believed rightly they were to be buried in baptism in water. They knew the Bible. I don't know where 

1832 - Madison Co. TN
Free man of color, Richard Matthews, seeks permission to marry a white woman. Matthews says he is "of the Portuguese Blood.


"The Roark's are Portugese. They came from the Black Water country, Tennessee, so did the Sizemores and Collets also"
Dickey Diary ~1898


Port Gibson, Miss., May 17, 1878

Dear sir:

       There were three branches of the Gibson connexion which settled in Mississippi at an early day: The parents of Rev. Randall Gibson near Natchez about where the old town of Washington now stands; the family of Samuel Gibson - the founder of the Town of Port Gibson, in this vicinity; and that of Rev. Tobias Gibson in what is now Warren county in the vicinity of Warrenrtown. So far as I know these families all came from the valley of the Great Pee Dee river in South Carolina. Some time in the sixteenth century three ship loads of Portuguese Hugenots voluntarily exiled themselves from Portugal rather than renounce their Protestant faith, and settled in South Carolina, then the Colony of Carolina, in the very region of county where our Gibsons are first found, and, from their elevated intellectuality, morality, religion and enterprise, I have long believed that they were the descendants of those refugee Huguenots, though I do not remember ever to have heard but one of the connexion refer to this as a tradition of the family. I wish we now had the means of demonstrating this theory.

Excerpt From William Labach  - Read here
Reverend John G. Jones was Author of  A Complete Hisotry of Methodism - 1887


Title: Letters to the Secretary of State and others from the Governors, Alexander Spotswood, William Gooch, Robert Dinwiddle and Francis Fauquier, and Presidents Thomas Lee and Lewis Burwell, with enclosures and replies. Depository: Public Record Office / Class: C.O. 5/1344 SR Number: SR 00233 Reel Number: 48 Dates: 1726 - 1783 References: Lists & Indexes, Vol. XXXVI, 29. Andrews Guide 183, List 493. ff. 86-87 Lords of Trade to the Duke of Bedford,
10 Jan 1750/51. Spanish and Portuguese ships driven into ports of Virginia by bad weather. Encloses the four (only adding two) documents listed below: ff. 90-91 Enclosed in the above. Extract of a letter from Thomas Lee to the Board of Trade, 6 Nov. 1750The Spanish and Portuguese ships driven into Virginia ports have proven irrepairable. The masters have been given permission to hire other ships to carry their cargoes to Europe.  


The Expedition of Batts and Fallam:

A Journey from Virginia to beyond the Appalachian Mountains, September, 1671.
From Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800.

September 5th 1671
''The three gentlemen bore a commission from Major-general Wood "for the finding out tile ebbing and flowing of the Waters on the other side of the Mountains in order to the discovery of the South Sea."
They struck off due west along a trail that was evidently already familiar, and having five horses made rapid progress. On the fourth day 'they reached the Sapony villages, one of which Lederer had visited the year before. They were "very joyfully and kindly received with firing of guns and plenty of provisions." They picked up a Sapony guide to show them to the Totero village by "a nearer way than usual," and were about to leave when overtaken by a reinforcement of seven Appomattox Indians sent them by Wood. They sent back Mr. Thomas Wood's worn out horse by a Portuguese servant of General Wood's whom they had found in the village, and pushed on to the Hanahaskie "town," some twenty-five miles west by north, on an island in the Staunton River. Here Mr. Thomas Wood was left, dangerously ill.''

 On  page 35 of  the Order  Book, Volume I (April 24, 1855-January 30, 1869)  of the Clay County Records (Kentucky State  Archives, Frankfort)    "John Griffin was released from being placed on the Negro list, and hereafter he will be listed as a white man,   proof being made to the satisfaction  of the court that he was of Portuguese descent instead of African descent." 


Member of the Philanthropic Society University of North Carolina -Graduate 1849 Senator from Robeson County 1862
Born 1827

New York Herald
Saturday, March 09, 1872

Wilmington, N.C.
February 29, 1872


........."Giles Leitch  the Judge previously referred to in these letter, gave before Pool's Ku Klux Committee these figures:-

The county of Robeson had about one thousand five hundred white voting population before the close of the war; since the colored population has been
enfranchised there are about three thousand voters in the county; of that 1,5000 additional voting population about half were formerly slaves, and the other half are composed of a population that existed there and were never slaves, and are not white, but who, since 1835 have had no right of suffrage; I think that about one-half of that additional 1,500 voters were this old free and non white population: half the colored population of Robeson county were never slaves at all; in 1835 there was a State Convention which disfranchised
them; up to that time they had exercised the elective franchise; the free negroes had exercised the elective franchise up to 1835; but Robeson county contained a larger number of them than most of the other counties; but really I do not know what these mulattoes of Scuffletown are.

I think they are a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, and Indian; about half of them have straight black hair, and many of the characteristics of the
Cherokee Indians in our State; then, as they amalgamate and mix, the hair becomes curly and kinky, and from that down to real woollen hair; I think they are mixed Portuguese, Spaniard and Indians; I mean to class the Spaniards and
Portuguese as one class, and the Indians as another class; I do not think that in class of population there is much negro blood at all; of that half of the colored population that I have attempted to describe all have been always
free; I was born among them, and I reckon that I know them perfectly well."

Excerpt from the 1871 North Carolina Joint Senate and House Committee as they interviewed Robeson County Judge Giles Leitch about the ‘free persons of color’ living within his county:
Senate: Half of the colored population?
Leitch: Yes Sir; half of the colored population of Robeson County were never slaves at all…
Senate: What are they; are they Negroes?
Leitch: Well sir, I desire to tell you the truth as near as I can; but I really do not know what they are; I think they are a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and Indian… 
Senate: You think they are mixed Negroes and Indians?
Leitch: I do not think that in that class of population there is much Negro blood at all; of that half of the colored population that I have attempted to describe all have always been free…They are called ‘mulattoes’ that is the name they are known by, as contradistinguished from Negroes…I think they are of Indian origin.
Senate: I understand you to say that these seven or eight hundred persons that you designate as mulattoes are not Negroes but are a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, white blood and Indian blood, you think they are not generally Negroes?
Leitch: I do not think the Negro blood predominates.
Senate: the word ‘mulatto’ means a cross between the white and the Negro?
Leitch: Yes sir.
Senate: You do not mean the word to be understood in that sense when applied to these people?
Leitch: I really do not know how to describe those people. 


Such, for example, are the Pamunkeys of Virginia, the Croatan Indians of the Carolinas, the Malungeons of Tennessee, and numerous other
peoples who in the days of slavery were regarded as free negroes and were frequently hunted down and enslaved. Since the war they have tried hard by act of legislature and other wise to establish their Indian ancestry.

Wherever these people are found there also will the traveler or investigator passing through their region encounter the tradition of Portuguese blood or descent.

Very interesting article -- Read here

''James Mooney main interest of study was of the Cherokee people. Many say that Mooney wrote the most accurate accounts of the Cherokee culture and history. James spent years living with the Cherokee people in North Carolina. He was able to gain their acceptance and trust, which allowed him to write more first hand accounts. This made his work more reliable and very accurate. This was also very beneficial to others who have not and will not ever experience tribal life.''Swimmer and, in time, the other shamans and populace of the Eastern Band, concluded that the courteous white man who came to visit and talk with them each year was “u-da-nu-ti;” that is he was “a man of soul” who had the correct “emotional attitude.”

 Mooney on Melungeons;

Charles James McDonald Furman papers, 1804-1903.
''The manuscripts record Furman's investigations of common Redbone family names like Goins, Chavis, and Oxendine, and his correspondence with authorities on similar and possibly related ethnic groups. Hamilton McMillan of Red Springs, N.C., sent material concerning the Croatan (Lumbee) Indians, and Dr. Swan Burnett (husband of the children's writer Frances Hodgson Burnett) sent an article from American Anthropologist dealing with the Melungeons of East Tennessee. One of Furman's clippings recounted James Mooney's theory of possible Portuguese ancestry for the Pamunkeys, Croatans, Melungeons, and other groups.''

Getting to Know Your Dead Bell's Bend Neighbors

''Let's consider the poor census-taker who went out to Bull Run in 1910 (which is in Scottsboro, which I know we're supposed to pretend is so far away from Bell's Bend, but for the sake of this post, let's be honest about it all being right together there).  Here he found William and Mary Collins (with their daughter Hazel) and Thomas and Mary Barnes (with their eight children), who he at first classified as "w" for white and then we see the "w" traced over and replaced with a cursive "b" for black.

Right below them is Sarah Thompson (and forgive me here, because I can't read the handwriting very well), but she appears to have at first been classified as "mul" (for mulatto) and that is smeared away and replaced with "w" and her daughter, Vinia, is firmly a "w" without seeming question.  And who knows what to make of Curtis Pentecost's wife Ida or daughter Molly? He is a "w," but they are both "d"s.

To help clarify the mess for whoever tried after him to make sense of it all, written elegantly in the margins by each of these families is "Portuguese."


Depositions in an 1812 court case strongly suggest that, having disposed of his patent sometime before 1769, Thomas Ivey moved south into what became Marion District, South Carolina and died there some years later. Thomas Hagans, born about 1765 and identified as a grandson of Thomas Ivey and his wife Elizabeth, refused to pay his assessed tax as a free non-white in Marion District, South Carolina in 1809. At his trial in 1812, two white men testified on his behalf. The testimony of John Regan, a longtime neighbor of Thomas Ivey Jr., suggests that Thomas Ivey Sr. left Bladen County sometime in the late 1760s and removed to South Carolina. The testimony of Robert Coleman, a longtime resident of Marion District, suggests that Thomas and Elizabeth Ivey lived in Marion District for several years before their deaths.  Both men testified that Thomas Ivey was “understood” and “generally reputed” to be of Portuguese descent and that his wife Elizabeth was a free white woman.

Note;  Adam IVEY lived south of the James River in the neck of land bounded by Upper Chippoakes Creek and Wards Creek. This neck included what was later the parish of Martins Brandon, in which Adam Ivey apparently lived at his death, in what would later become Prince George County. It was quite close to Surry County, Upper Chippoakes Creek being the later boundary between Prince George and Surry  --  John Utie, Jr.  born about 1619 London repatented his fathers 1250 acres in 1638. In 1639 he assigned 100 acres of land to Thomas Gibson, land which Utie acquired in 1624 and named "Utopia" located at the head of Chippoakes Creek   - the Chavis family- George Gibson also lived on Chippoakes Creek...and the Poythress family associtated with Hubbard Gibson lived not far from Wards Creek.

 More Here


Statesville, North Carolina
November 28, 1905

An Interesting and Important Case in Buncombe Court

Ashville Dispatch

The mandamus proceeding instituted by Robert Gilliland against the Buncombe county board of education to compel the reinstatement of his children in the white schools of county was this afternoon decided  in behalf of the plaintiffs, the Gilliland girls.

The issue submitted by the court to the jury was, "Are the  infant plaintiffs entitled to admission into the white schools of Buncombe county?" After fifteen minutes deliberation the jury answered "yes"

Although the issue was not so stated it necessarily results that the jury found that the plaintiff Gillilands and Grahams, and their connections, numbering probably 500, are of untainted white blood, and that the defendants failed to make out a case of negro ancestry to the satisfaction of the jury.

The children were forbidden the white shcools on the ground that a remote ancestor on their mother's side was a negro, it being admitted that they were otherwise entitled to admission into the white schools. the defense endeavored to show that the Gillilands have in their neighborhood borne of the reputation of being part negro and that the Grahams, Mrs. Gilliland's family, two or three generations ago, had enough of the physical characteristics of the negro to warrant this belief.

The plaintiff on the other hand endeavored to show, and did show, to the satisfaction of this jury, that hose reports are groundless and are based upon the fact that Jeffrey Graham, the great-grandfather of the plaintiff was a Portuguese.

It seems that for some reason these children had never attended the public schools and when an effort was made to send them they were refused on the ground of negro blood.  Action was then brought to force their admission.  The case was very important because it affected a large number of respectable and well-to-do-people.


Randolph County, NC Deed Book 63 Page 227 as follows: "Cumberland County, NC. Personally appeared before me, Archibald A. Johnson, an acting Justice of the Peace in and for said county in the state aforesaid, Flora McDonald and Catherine McBryde, both of whom are well-known to me to be respectable and truth-telling women and after being duly sworn according to law doth say that they are acquainted with DANIEL GOINS, late of the county and state aforesaid, that they know his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, that his great-grandfather (JOHN HARMON) was a native of Portugal, and was always called a Portugan, and he was of the color of the natives of that place, and that he and his sons and grandsons always exercised the right of and passed as white in every respect." Signed Flora McDonald, aged 88 years and Catharine McBride, aged 83 years. Dated 16 July 1884. 



Beore the Indians were taken to Indian Territory there was a large number of whites and Indians that fled to the mountain between Little Crow Creek and Little Coon. They built Shavis Town, cleared up about 100 or more acres and cultivated it, putting out an orchard. They raised winesap apples, peaches, corn and dug ginseng besides hunting for a living.

The older men were very religious. They were mixed with Portuguese. Willis Shavis named his four sons after the Apostles, Andrew, John, Peter and Nathaniel. The had two Preachers, John Pressley and Brother Forsythe, an Indian. They would preach and convert the young men and girls and bring them down to Little Crow Creek to Baptize them. They believed rightly they were to be buried in baptism in water. They knew the Bible. I don't know where they knew the Bible very few could read or write.

Note;  Wilis Chavis/Shavis apparently came from Marion Dist, SC., same settlement as Bolton, Perkins, and John Shumake/Shumate who had land on an Indian Reservation not far from there, possibly from the same settlement.

Thomas Hall

MAURY COUNTY, TN - COURT - Thomas Hall, Proof of Race Affidavits

Contributor's Notes:  I would like to share these two Tennessee documents.
Document number one is a Proof of Race affidavit document acquired by my Great Great Grandfather Thomas Hall, on September 19, 1835, in Maury County, Tennessee when he appeared before Justice of the Peace, James L. Crawford.

The second document seems to be a certification by William E. Erwin, Clerk of the Court of Pleas and quarter session for Maury County, that James L.
Crawford had full authority to issue the Proof of Race document. This
document was dated October 13, 1835.

On June 26, 1843, these documents were filed in Marion County at Yelleville,

In 1850 he moved to Oregon County, Missouri and they were recorded there and filed on February 13, 1850, by J. R. Woodside, Clerk of that county. The
documents were recorded again in Howell County, Missouri on May 5, 1890. at 9: o'clock A.M. by T.B. Carmical, Recorder.
This was recorded after Thomas Hall's death on December 30, in 1888, in
Howell County, Missouri.  This was filed after his death because his
children's children were expelled from school because they were dark and
caused of being Negroes.  There were several trials in Missouri and Oklahoma.  The trials proved that they were of Portuguese descent and not Negroes.


1835 Proof of Race affidavits from MAURY County, Tennessee

Recorded in Oregon County, Missouri 1850   
Recorded in Howell County, Missouri 1890

State of Tennessee Maury County
I William E. Erwin Clerk of the Court of please and quarter sessions for said County  do hereby certify that James L Crawford  is an acting justice of the peace in and for said County of Murry in the State of Tennessee  duly commission and qualified according to law and that all his official acts are intitled  to full faith and credit given under my hand and the seal of my
office at office this 13 day of October 1835  and 60th year of American Independence Wm  E  Erwin clk.

Filed February 13, 1850    J. R. Woodside    Typed exactly as written:
State of Tennessee Maury County  this day personally appeared before me James L: Crawford one of the Justices of the peace in and for said county THOMAS HALL and made proof by private testimony that the said THOMAS HALL is intitled to all of the privileges of a private citizen  THOMAS HALL great grand father on his fathers sid was a poutagee and his great grand father on his mothers sid was a inglish - man, and THOMAS HALL grand on his fathers sid was of the poutagee desent, and his grand father on Mothers sid was an Irishman and his own father was of the poutugee  decent and his mother was a white american born woman.  sworn to and executed before me this the 19th dayof september
James L. Crawford  J.P.               his               
                            PRESCOTT   X   NUPANS   (seal)
                              LONNEY   X    HALLS   (seal)

Aug. 23, 1906   West Plains, Missouri

Are They Negroes?

Questions About Henderson Halls  Descendants.

In the Indian Territory Wesley Hall -- His Children Were Excluded from the White School..

 In the taking of depositions here Saturday all these facts were brought out. In addition it was shown that Jeff Hall has photographs and locks of hair of a number of his ancestors and he even introduced land titles which were given members of his family in Tennessee before the war showing conclusively that they were not negroes, for blacks could not own land in those days.

 Wherever they have gone the Halls have had difficulty with the school boards for refusing to permit their children to attend the white schools. In every instance they have won their case for they are able to prove that they are of Portuguese origin instead of having negro blood course through their veins, as many might believe from their appearances.

See Thomas Hall 

The Bedford Connection  - Patricia Monroe

See Also  A Stranger And a Sojourner - Peter Caulder

David Collins and family is also found in the West Plains, Howell County, Missiouri 


Abstracts of Depostions for Plaintiff

Joshua F. PERKINS vs John R. WHITEDavid R. KENNICK, age 77

Has known the PERKINS family 49 years. Knew Johnson HAMPTON, Wm. LINDSY & Jacob PERKINS on Roan Creek. I taught school at Perkin’s school house. Johnson HAMPTON said they were Portugese & he had seen Jacob’s father & his mother a scotch woman. Jacob’s color and
features described of little darker than Joshua. Jacob and his family associated white peoples, clerked at elections & voted & had all privileges. I lived in 2 ½ miles, never heard them called anything else
than Portuguese.

Thomas COOK, aged 75

I knew old Joshua PERKINS. He was a dark skinned man, darker than Joshua. Tall and spare. He resembled an Indian more than a negro. Was generally called a Portugese

Nancy YOUNG, aged 66

I knew George PERKINS. My father and mother knew the PERKINS in South Carolina and always said they were Portuguese & the mother a white woman.


I was well acquainted with Joc PERKINS, father of Joshua. A yellow man _ said to be Portuguese. They did not look like negros. I have been about his house a great deal and nursed for his wife. She was a little yellow & called of the same race. Had blue eyes and black hair.

Samuel VANCE, age 54

Hannah PERKINS, a daughter of Joseph, examined as a witness in the Circuit Superior Court at Burnsmith (?), after a contest & the examination of witnesses. Wm. DUGGER said he had seen old Jock & his hair curly not kinky like WOODFIN’s, & said they were Portuguese & Old Jac had been sworn before his father. My Father-in-Law Johnson Hampton said they were not Negros,but Portuguese.
Bedent BEARD, aged 88

I knew the paternal grandfather of plaintiff. A little darker than Joshua. He was not a negro. Form and features different. Hair resembled Moran not negro. By common report Jacob was a Portuguese. Lived not far above the mouth of Roane's Creek. Have known them 40, and by reputation, 60 years. Privileges. His wife a white woman.

Sarah STOUT p.21,
aged 70--Lee County Va. I have seen old Jock, the father of Joshua, who said they came from Peedee S.C. He was a dark skinned man with slim face, slim nose and dark colored hair. He was dark skinned as the blackest of the family. All the PERKINS had white wives and were reputed
Portuguese. John GRAVES a white man and the main school teacher.
These are just a few of the depositions from this trial.  


The Celebrated Melungeon Case
A. B. Beeson
Page 174Q. were you well acquainted with Solomon Bolton, the grandfather of Martha, complainant in the Cross Bill, and, if so, state what race of people he was or appeared to be. also give a description of his person and complexion and appearance.A. I was. He was called a Malungeon. He was a small spare made man, with low, flat head, had a dark complexion, rather a flat nose, turned up at the end. He wore his hair short, and it was always inclined to curl or kink.

Q. In the neighborhood in which he lived did he associate with white men or free negroes as his equals?A. His general association was with the Malungeons-his own people. I never saw him associate with whites except when he had business.Q. How many different families in this County or adjoining Counties did you know of the same race or character of people -name them?A. I don't now how many- several. but the Perkins- the Goins, Mornings, Shumakes, Menleys &others.
William McGill (Justice of the Peace, Hamilton County TN)

Was this character that of a white person or negro, or of what race did he have the character of being?A. He was a mixed blooded man in some way, that was his character. We generally called them Malungeons when we talked about the Goins and them—the Goins that were mixed blooded.

Page 51 -55
June 9, 1874
Lucinda Bolton Davis [Daughter of Solomon Bolton- Solomon son of Spencer Bolton born 1735 on the Pee Dee River]

Q. From what race or nationality of people was your and Jemima Simmerman's father descended? What was the nationality and race of your mother?
A. My father was a Spaniard and his mother a blue eyed German.

Deposition of Arch Brown
Q. State whether or not the father of Solomon Bolton was regarded and treated as a citizen of South Carolina, or as a colored man?  You will also state his church relations-to what church he belonged and how he was received by society, so far as you were able to determine.
A. They told me there that he was a very respectable citizen there.  I asked if he was not a colored man and they told me he was not, but was a Portagese

August 29th 1874
John Boydston
Q. State how they were treated and recognized by their neighbors and acquaintances as to their pedigree, and how they held themselves out, as white people, or otherwise? Stat how that was?
A. Solomon Bolton never claimed to be a white person. He claimed to be a Portugese himself, but his neighbors considered him to be a part negro.

Jno E. Godsey
Page 128-132
April 10th 1875

Q. Of what race of people did Solomon Bolton claim to be?  How was he treated and recognized in the community where he lived?
A. Spanish. He was treated as any other white man, when he was sober. He was always admitted to the table with white families of people whenever he was as far as I know, and recognized as a white man.

Jno L. Divine
Page 133-137
Q. Of what race of people was Solomon Bolton?  What did he and his family claim as to be his nationality?  How was he treated and recognized in the community where he lived?
A. I don't know of my own knowledge what race of people he belonged to. I often heard Bolton say that he was Portugese. I have often heard his wife say the same thing. He was treated and recognized in the community in which he lived as such.

For more go here


T. J. Russell

Clark Ashworth

January 26, 1910
To the Journal:

The Ashworth family had a peculiar history that to a certain extent, militated against them. The grandfather of Clark Ashworth was a native of South Carolina, and the family originally came from Portugal, and were of the Moorish race. A very dark complexion, but had hair on their head, instead of wool, like that of African negro; though, the complexion was about as dark. This fact often caused them to be taken for negroes. An effort was made to disfranchise the family at one time during the days of the Republic. And their friends took the matter up in the Congress and had a law passed, declaring that the law relating to free negroes in the Republic of Texas, did not apply to the Ashworth family. See Act of Congress, date Dec. 12, 1840. H.D. Art. 2571.

 Clipping Here

These are but a few of the documented mention of Portuguese families in  early records.  To Be Continued

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Making the Blog More Interactive

 Making the Blog More Interactive

Joanne Pezzullo has long authored her excellent Melungeon blog and web site, and lately I've joined her blog as a co-author with a few modest contributions of my own. But we are not receiving nearly enough input from the person whose opinion matters to us the most. Which would be you!

If you have any requests for future articles, questions you'd like answered, suggestions for new blog features, or any other comments, please let us us know! The two best ways to do this are:

One; Write to us at:

Two: Comment on our Facebook page:  ThePeopleCalledMelungeons

 Of course you can always simply comment on this or any other blog post!

Thank you!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Best of - Will Allen Dromgoole

The Mysterious Tribe Known as Melungeons

On the Ridge, the real stronghold of this peculiar people, life is a great deal harder than in the swamp or on Blackwater creek.  They live more like Indians than the dwellers in the valley, and are entirely content with their life.  I visited several huts, spending a month among them, living on corn bread, honey and black, sugarless coffee.  They were as utter strangers the day I left as on the day I arrived among them.

 The Saponi village was a musket shot from Fort Christiana (which taught 77 children), the village cabins were all joined making a circle with
3 passages 6 feet wide each, the doors all faced inside the circle
 while the center of the circle was a tree stump which the 12 head men spoke on.

 Calloway Collins in an Indian if ever one set foot on Tennessee soil.  He is very fond of his red skin, high cheek-bones and Indian like appearance.  His cabin has two rooms, connected by a kind of shed.  There are dirt floors in one room and the shed, but the other room has a floor of oak logs with the bark still on them and laid side by side, just as they came from the forest.  A bed of dry, last year's leaves was the only furnishing the room could boast.

The cooking and eating were done in the connecting shed, and a large coffee-pot always occupied a low shelf just above the table, for Calloway, like most of the Malungeons, is a slave to coffee and drinks it instead of water throughout the day and night.  Calloway himself is a king, a royal good fellow, who, seated upon a great stump that marks the fate of a giant beech that grew precisely in the center of the site selected by the Indian for his shed, or hallway,  would entertain me by the hour with his songs and banjo-picking and stories of his grandfather.

The man's very instincts are Indian.  He sleeps in leaves, inside or out, as he feels inclined.  He smokes almost unceasingly; so often, in fact, that his wife, Ann Calloway, finds it necessary to cultivate a 'torbacy spot'' for her ''ole man ter smoke up.''


The records show that by act of the Constitutional Convention of 1834, when the “Race Question” played such a conspicuous part in the deliberations of that body, the Malungeons, as a “free person of color,” was denied the right of suffrage. Right there he dropped from the public mind and interest. Of no values as a slave, with no voice as a citizen, what use could the public make of the Malungeon?

In appearance they bear a striking resemblance to the Cherokees, and they are believed by the people round about to be a kind of half-breed Indian.
In Western and Middle Tennessee the Malungeons are forgotten long ago. And indeed, so nearly complete has been the extinction of the race that in but few counties of Eastern Tennessee is it known. In Hancock you may hear them and see them almost the instant your cross into the county line. There they are distinguished as the Ridgemanites or “pure Malungeons.” There among whom the white or negro blood has entered are called the Black Waters.”

Their complexion is a reddish brown, totally unlike the mulatto. The men are very tall and straight, with small sharp eyes, high cheek bones, and straight black hair, worn rather long. The women are small, below the average height, coal black hair and eyes, high cheek bones, and the same red-brown complexion. The hands of the Malungeon women are quite shapely and pretty. Also their feet, despite the fact that they travel the sharp mountain trails barefoot, are short and shapely. Their features are wholly unlike those of the negro, except in cases where the two races have cohabited, as is sometimes the fact. These instances can be readily detected, as can those of cohabitation with the mountaineer; for the pure Malungeons present a characteristic and individual appearance. On the Ridge proper, one finds only the Pure Malungeons; it is in the unsavory limits of Black Water swamp and on Big Sycamore Creek, lying at the foot of the Ridge between it and Powell’s Mountain, that the mixed races dwell.


Many of the Malungeons claim to be Cherokee and Portuguese. Where they could have gotten their Portuguese blood is a mystery. The Cherokee is easily enough accounted for, as they claim to have come from North Carolina, and to be a remnant of the tribe that refused to go when the Indians were ordered to the reservation. They are certainly very Indian-like in appearance. The men are tall, straight, clean-shaven, with small, sharp eyes, hooked noses, and high cheek bones. They wear their hair long ( a great many of them) and evidently enjoy their resemblance to the red man. This is doubtless due to the fact that a great many are disposed to believe them mulattos, and they are strongly opposed to being so classed. The women are small, graceful, dark and ugly. They go barefooted, but their feet are small and well shaped. So, too, are their hands, and they have the merriest, most musical laugh I ever heard. They are exceedingly inquisitive, and will ask you a dozen questions before you can answer two.


The ridge proper is the home of the Malungeons. I visited one house where the floors were of trees, the bark still on them, and the beds of leaves.  The owner was a full-blooded Indian, with keen, black eyes, straight black hair, high cheeks, and a hook nose. He played upon his violin with his fingers instead of a bow, and entertained us with a history of his grandfather, who was a Cherokee chief, and by singing some of the songs of his tribe. He also described the Malungeon custom of amusements.

I also visited the cabin of a charmer, for you must know these people have many superstitions. This charmer can remove warts, moles, birth-marks, and all ugly protuberances by a kind of magic known only to herself. She offered to remove the mole from my face for 10 cents, and became quite angry when I declined to part with my lifetime companion. “Tairsn’t purty, nohers,” she said; “an ‘t air ner sarvice, nurther.” I cannot spell their dialect as they speak it. It is not the dialect of the mountaineers, and the last syllable of almost every word is omitted. The “R” is missing entirely from their vocabulary.

There is also a witch among them who heals sores, rheumatism, “conjures,” etc. They come from ten miles afoot to consult her.  They possess many Indian traits, that of vengeance being strongly characteristic of them. They, likewise, resemble the negro in many things.


Somewhere in the eighteenth century, before the year 1797, there appeared in the eastern portion of Tennessee, at that time the Territory of North Carolina, two strange-looking men calling themselves "Collins" and "Gibson". They had a reddish brown complexion, long , straight , black hair, keen, black eyes, and sharp, clear-cut features. They spoke in broken English, a dialect distinct from anything ever heard in that section of the country.

They claimed to have come from Virginia and many years after emigrating, themselves told the story of their past. These two, Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, were the head and source of the Melungeons in Tennessee. With the cunning of their Cherokee Ancestor, they planned and executed a scheme by which they were enabled to "set up for themselves" in the almost unbroken Territory of North Carolina.  This story I know is true. There are reliable parties still living who received it from old Vardy himself, who came here as young men and lived, as the Melungeons generally did to a ripe old age.

The original Collins people were Indian, there is no doubt about that, and they lived as the Indians lived until sometime after the first white man appeared among them. All would huddle together in one room, sleep in one common bed of leaves, make themselves such necessary clothing as nature demanded, smoke, and dream away the good long days that were so dreamily delightful nowhere as they were on Newman's Ridge.

The Collins, as I said; those who followed the first-comers accepting the name already provided them. There was no mixture of blood: they claimed to be Indians and no man disputed it. They were called the "Collins Tribe" until having multiplied to the extent it was necessary to divide, when the descendants of the several pioneers were separated, or divided into clans.

Then came the Ben clan, the Sol clan, the Mitch clan, and indeed every prominent head of a large relationship was recognized as the leader of his clan, which always bore his name. There was, to be sure, no set form or time at which this division was made. It was only one of those natural splits, gradual and necessary, which is the sure result of increasing strength.

They were still, however, we must observe, all COLLINSES, The main tree had not been disturbed by foreign grafting, and while all were not blood descendants of old Vary they, at all events, had all fallen under his banner and appropriated his name.

The tree at last began to put forth branches, or rather three foreign shoots were grafted into the body of it; the English...or whites....Portuguese....and African.
The English branch began with the MULLINS tribe, a very powerful tribe, next indeed for a long time to the Collins tribe, and at present the strongest of all the several branches, as well as the most daring and obstinate.

Old Jim Mullins, the father of the branch, was an Englishman, a trader, it is supposed, with Indians. He was of a roving, daring disposition, and rather fond of the free abandon which characterized the Indian. He was much given to sports, and was always "cheek to fowl" with the Cherokees and other Indian tribes he like to mingle. What brought him to Newman's Ridge must have been, as it is said, his love for freedom and sport, and that careless existence known only to the Indians.

He stumbled upon the Ridge settlement, fell in with the Ridgemanites, and never left them. He took for a wife one of their women, a descendant of old Sol Collins, and reared a family known as the MULLINS tribe. This is said to be the first white blood that mingled with the blood of the dusky Ridgemanites.
The Mullins tribe became exceedingly strong, and remains today the head of the Ridge people. The African branch was introduced by one Goins who emigrated from North Carolina after the formation of the state of Tenn. Goins was a Negro, and did not settle upon the Ridge, but lower down the Big Sycamore Creek in Powell's Valley.

He took a Melungeon woman for his wife (took up with her),and reared a family or tribe. The Goins family may be easily recognized by their kinky hair ,flat nose and foot, thick lips, and a complexion totally unlike the Collins and Mullins tribes. They possess many Negro traits, too, which are wanting to the other tribes.

The Portuguese branch was for a long time a riddle, the existence of it being stoutly denied. It has at last, however, been traced to one "Denham", a Portuguese who married a Collins woman.

It seems that every runaway or straggler of any kind whatever, passing through the country took up with abode temporarily or permanently, with the Melungeons, or as they were then called the Ridgemanites. They were harmless, social, and good-natured when well acquainted with one--although at first suspicious, distant, and morose. While they have never encouraged emigration to the Ridge they have sometimes been unable to prevent it.

Denham, it is supposed, came from one of the Spanish settlements lying further to the south. He settled on Mulberry Creek, and married a sister of Old Sol Collins.

There is another story, however, about Denham. It is said that the first Denham came as did the first Collins from North Carolina, and that he (or his ancestors) had been left upon the Carolina coast by some Portuguese pirate vessel plying along the shore.

So we have the four races or representatives among, as they then began to be called, the Melungeons; namely, the Indians, the English, the Portuguese, and the African. Each is clearly distinct and easily recognized even to the present day.
This , then, is the account of the Melungeons from their first appearance in that part of the country where they are still found .......

And this is the Melungeons according to Will Allen Dromgoole - 1890.  Her research has been accepted as early as 1890 when the U.S. Census Bureau wrote her account into the "Indians Taxed and Not Taxed" report, until the recent 2012 Melungeon paper publshed by Estes, Crain, Goins and Ferguson.

The "Legend of the Melungeons" as pubished in 1848 gave their history.  They were, they said, Portuguese Adventurers who mixed with the Indians and upon migrating to Tennessee had mixed with the whtes and blacks to form their present race.  They didn't lie, didn't leave out the 'black' and didn't try to 'hide their ancestry'.  They gave the 'Four Branches' just as they told this to William Allen Dromgoole forty some years later.

Their story has yet to be written, stalled by books, papers, etc., researchers  rewriting their history, providing 'mysterious ancestries' and connections and ignoring who these people said they were for more than fifty years.

DNA is now proving their story to be true. The Goins do, in fact, carry the Sub Saharan ancestry. Vardy Collins (R1a)  and Buck Gibson (R1b) DNA has came back European.  "Varieties of R1b, a common Y-DNA haplogroup in western Europe, are found in abundance among Portuguese men. About 60 percent of Southern Portuguese and about 83 percent of Northern Portuguese belong to the subclade of R1b known as the Atlantic Modal Haplotype (AMH). There are even some areas in Portugal where the AMH is found in about 90% of men." [Portuguese Genetics]

Records have been uncovered proving the Indian ancestry of the Gibsons as well as the Native DNA of the Sizemore, Helton, Hooker, Riddle, Freeman and others. Many of these descendants of Collins, Gibson, etc., are indeed showing the Native American blood in their autosomal DNA results.

Records found recently have uncovered little pockets of these Portuguese people lving in regions other than Newmans Ridge.  Melungeon research has came a long way in the last 15 years shredding just about everything that has been written about them since the 1940s, making earlier research outdated.
Perhaps the next 15 years will provide us with more answers, perhaps I will have to once again shift my research to a new area but that's alright, as long as their real story gets told.

Will Allen Dromgoole - Articles 

Historical Articles

Monday, February 9, 2015

Will Allen Dromgoole

Boro Poet Dromgoole Helped Bridge Generations 
By Mike West
Murfreesboro Post
February 9, 2009

During her life, Will Allen Dromgoole was a prolific writer and poet.

While she wrote more than 7,500 poems, 5,000 essays and published 13 books, her most famous poem was “The Bridge Builder.”

Written around 1900, “The Bridge Builder” is often reprinted and quoted by motivational speakers, pastors and even the Boys Scouts. Its words grace a number of real bridges like the Bellows Fall bridge in Connecticut.

Dromgoole, 1860-1934, was born in Murfreesboro, the last child of John Easter and Rebecca Blanche Dromgoole. Her father was mayor during the Civil War and often found himself negotiating between locals and the Federal troops occupying the town.

Dromgoole changed her middle name to Allen when she was 6, and throughout her life was known as Will Allen or "Miss Will." In 1876 Dromgoole graduated from the Clarksville Female Academy and studied at the New England School of Expression in Boston.           

She began her writing career after the death of her mother and will caring for her aging father.

She published her first novel, “The Sunny Side of the Cumberland,” under the name Will Allen in 1886. Her first short story was published that same year and awarded a cash prize by Youth's Companion in 1886.

Her life then took an unusual twist for the day. She studied law with her father and won terms as engrossing clerk for the Tennessee State Senate. But an unflattering series of articles she wrote about the Melungeons of East Tennessee caused her defeat in 1889 and 1891 and she relocated to Texas where she wrote for newspapers.

She returned to Tennessee in 1897 and was hired in 1902 as a staff writer for the Nashville Banner, where she wrote a popular column, “Song and Story” for 31 years.

With the outbreak of World War I, Dromgoole became one of the first (if not the first) women to join the U.S. Navy where she served as a yeoman warrant officer at Norfolk, Va.

She returned to the staff of the Banner in 1918 where she worked until her death in 1934.

Dromgoole is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesbor.

Her poem still often quoted:

The Bridge Builder
By Will Allen Dromgoogle

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You've crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

And she wrote about Melungeons.  Quite a lot, in fact.  More on that to follow!