Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hancock County - 1891

Hancock County - Moonshine, Feuds & Malungeons

ACTUAL MANNERS AND WAYS OF THE MEN AND WOMEN
From The New York Sun - November 29th 1891

Contrast Between the Facts and the Stories of Novelists -- Dwelling, Food, and Dress -- The Use and the Flavor of Mountain Dew -- The Law Breaking Malungeons.




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SNEEDVILLE, Nov. 26. -- It has been known that the great westward tide of civilization, setting from the seacoast for over a century, has split into many streams against the densest and most impassable part of the Appalachian system. The result has been that in the mountain fastnesses of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee primitive forms of civilization have remained in many places, while in other places there has been a long step backward toward barbarism. The railroads which opened up these parts to the world have gone far toward changing them. The former type of the mountaineer, with his hatred for strangers, his passionate love of the freedom of license and his disregard for human life, has disappeared from these lines of travel. Only in the far valleys and on the mountains overlooking the almost unbroken wilderness does the type still persist.

These mountaineers have of late years got much attention from writers of romances. And these writers of romances, being for the most part persons of surprising talent, have got much credit for realistic writing of fiction. Their use of the dialect, their portrayal of mountain life and character have been regarded as faithfully natural and lifelike. This esteem has, however not been shared by those who are familiar with the mountains and the mountaineers for many years. East Tennesseeans who have hunted through the mountains and have lived in mountain cabins for weeks and months say that the romancers have taken wide liberties with the dialect and with the people themselves to make a better story.
It may be said in the beginning that the mountaineers of whom this article speaks are not at all like the persons of the mountain romance. There are no beautiful women with wide eyes and minds full of idealizing. There are no men of especial comeliness. Love is passion pure and simple. Hatred is neither stagy nor poetic, but hard, fierce and sordid. The family relations are commonplace where they are not brutal. In fact, there are no materials for Sunday school romances. Hands are hard, calloused and freckled. Faces are dull, obstinate and generally marked by dissipation and toil. Feet, both male and female, are of generous proportions. In form the men are long and lean and poorly jointed, but full of muscles and sinews, while the women are big of calf and wide of hip and guiltless of corset bound waists - the proportions of mothers or hardy sons. Life is exceedingly matter of fact, as devoid of imagination as the splendid sunsets and the vast stretches of landscape are suggestive. The materials for the romancer, for the mooner of sentimentalities, and of false and unhuman sexual and social relations are not here.

This however, far from detracting from interest in these people, adds to it immeasurably. Human nature here is on the surface, acting and speaking, the former more out of all proportion than the latter as naturally and as frankly as the most ardent lover of plain speech could desire. The mountaineers are hospitable, or else they turn away the traveler at the point of a gun. They grasp the hand or they meet the outstretched hand with the knife blade. They have clear and strong ideas of right and wrong as the mountains reveal them. They detest the machinery of law and permit each man to be the arbiter and avenger of his own wrongs. Their women are as virtuous as could be expected, and often virtuous beyond expectation. Both men and women are rough, uncouth, brave, freedom loving, haters of innovation of government, good clothing, and the life of cities.

To a dweller upon Manhattan Island, the people of these mountain districts seem hardly real. It is not easy to understand, without experience, a region where all men go forth armed, where murders are of almost daily occurrence, and where the law never attempted to assert its authority. The man of the city goes forth to hunt once a year, and then takes a gun or so and handles it with a fair degree of skill at best. Yet, only a day and a night's journey from New York one will find men who carry a gun as a city man carries an umbrella or cane, who can use it an incredible distance with the skill and accuracy that a good billiard player shows with his cue. These men go forth to seek the beast and birds of the forests sometimes, but the real use of the gun or pistol is in attack upon or defense against the bearer's fellow-beings of the same community. Every man is prepared for war at an instant's notice, and no man hesitates to take a life if he believes it necessary.

When such a state of affairs is described, one would at once infer that such people would be exceedingly uncomfortable to visit. Yet the fact is that the life and property of a stranger are as safe in the wilds of the mountains as in Central Park. A milder, more hospitable set of people would be hard to find. their faces are gentle, their voices pleasant and ever cordial. If they see that the stranger comes in simplicity and good faith they will do anything for him. It is only where their rights are concerned and by rights must be understood most sensitive and delicate distinctions unknown in the jostling crowds of cities- that they show ferocity. Any one whose incredulity is aroused by the gentle and harmless exterior of the mountaineers has but to learn their past history or to see a mountain disturbance to believe all that has been said of these people and more than has been said of these people and more than is generally credited to them.

It is the purpose of this article to speak of one small county of East Tennessee which is a fair type of the wild mountain region. In this county no white man has ever been hanged. Yet, since the war no less than 150 men have been shot down in the most deliberate fashion. Within the past year 10 murders have been committed and no adequate punishment has been or ever will be given to the murderers. There is no man above 16 years of age who does not own one or more weapons- Winchesters, Spencers, Colts and the like.  Most of those men seldom go abroad without being well armed. The glistening barrel of the gun and the lump made by the pocket pistol are such common sights that they cease to attract attention. This county, though one of the smallest in the state, is about the worst. Its history would read like the history of an Italian principality in the Middle Ages.

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I

Toward the northeastern corner of Tennessee is Hancock County, a small triangle upon the map, and crossed by several high mountain ranges. It lies just over the border line from Virginia, with the Cumberland Mountains upon the northwest and the Great Smoky Mountains in full view to the east and south. There are no railroads in this county, and until the few last years there were rare arrivals or departures. The nearest railroad point even now is 20 miles away, across mountain roads that are difficult in rainy weather and impassible in winter. At all seasons of the year the scenery from the tops of Newman's Range, on Powell's Mountain is unsurpassed, even by the views in the heart of the Great Smoky Range. There are the Cumberland Mountains on one side and the towering and mist veiled Great Smoky Mountains on the other. Between lie smaller ranges covered by a sea of forests. In the spring, summer and autumn not a house is to be seen, only here and there thin and lazy columns of smoke to tell where the lonely cabins are hidden. The skies, the sunsets, the moonlight nights are serene, soft and beautiful.

The county-seat is a hamlet called Sneedville, a half-hearted scattering of little frame houses in a sort of basin formed by a curve in Newman's Ridge, which lies to the south and southwest. There are perhaps 150 people in Sneedville and its only brick building is a court-house, which looks extravagant, splendid and lonesome by contrast with the surroundings. Part of this court-house is given over to a jail, which is seldom inhabited. The floor of the cell room is bolted a chain. When they have an especially dangerous prisoner this chain is fastened about his leg and bolted so that it can be removed by filing only.

When a murder is committed in Hancock county the jailer or sheriff at once sets out to arrest the murderer. sometimes he has no difficulty. At other times he has to assemble an armed force. Pitched battles have been not infrequent. When the murderer is arrested peaceably he is released on bail, although murder is not a bailable offense. But the judge reasons that a bond will hold a man in Hancock county when a jail would not. This method of reasoning is the reslut of experience. Hardly one of the 30 or 40 houses in Sneedville is without a dozen or more bullets embedded in its log or board walls. And any inhabitant will tell you the history of each set of bullet marks - a bloody, ferocious history that sounds strange to a foreigner.

To the south of Newman's Range lies Powell's Mountain, which is really a range of about the same length as Newman's Range, to which it is parallel. Between Newman's Range and Powell's Mountain is the narrow valley of the Blackwater Creek, with bits of farming land, like market gardens in size, though not in fertility. On Newman's Range and Powell's Mountain and the rough lands thereabouts, live most of the people of Hancock county- mountaineers, who live partly by hunting, partly by the natural products of the bushes and trees, and partly by a rude and not very productive farming. There are many hogs, a few cattle, a few horse. In seed time ancient and exasperating plows tear up the ungracious soil in languid way. In harvest time the few straggling sheaves or ears are carefully got together. Pork, apple butter, blackberries in jam, preserves and jelly, apples buried and kept all winter, potatoes, beans and carrots and onions and beets in season, corn bread and sorghum at all times are the means of sustaining life. For pork they have a love that is almost veneration. They hold it to be the most nourishing, strengthening and pleasant kind of meat. every mountaineer has a small patch of sorghum, and also a machine for making it into the most abominable molasses that it has ever been the misfortune of the writer to taste. Sorghum is sugar, cream, milk, butter and seasoning. Then come corn bread, which they call “husky" thus admitting the apparent and unpleasant imperfections of home grinding.

Before these three staples come whisky. Without it mountain life would not be what it is. A lover of good whisky would object to the use of that name in connection with what these mountaineers drink. But the mountaineers themselves speak scornfully of the stuff they get when they make rare visits to the larger towns. They prefer this oily horror that smells like coal oil and tastes like a concentrated essence of brimstone. They drink it in great quantities, and before each meal a tin cup full of it is passed from father to son, daughter, grandson, child, and mother. They say that it opens the stomach up for food. To one not used to it, it seems to be opening the stomach to the winds of heaven. And in this frightful stuff lies the real secret of those mountain feuds that begin in sullen and morbid brooding, and end in corpses riddled with bullets.

The most respectable houses in Hancock county are in Sneedville. The mountain cabins are desolate and dreary and open to the weather. Not long ago the writer sat in a cabin on the side of Newman's Range. As the cabin was far up the mountain side a cold wind blew around and through it. There were two rooms and a loft. One room was used as a kitchen, the other room and loft for all other household purposes. Nineteen persons, 12 of whom were the children of the heads of the household, slept under that small, crazy roof. Men and women slept in the same room, not to speak of several wretched dogs which had fought with the human beings for food at the table an hour or so before.

There had been a general drunk and a dance after supper, for which the men and women had sunk exhausted or stupefied into bed. The door was wide open. The kitchen door not being upon hinges had been set aside when supper began. There were great clinks between the logs of the walls and a cold wind blew through the house. The writer could look out over the dark red embers of the back log and through the chimney wall to the great moon lit valley two miles away. He could look up through the floor of the loft, through the roof of cloudless mountain sky. Outside there was a profound stillness, broken by no sound, silent as though the world had suddenly paused breathless. Inside, there arose at intervals snorts and snores and moaning breaths from the sleepers, the mountaineer leading and the women joining in feebly but effectually. at times this sound of humanity at rest rose to a fearful loudness. Again there would be a pause which let the death like silence of the mountains penetrate the room. As this mountaineer had once read a book upon the diseases of the horse and had a library of one book - a school physiology - he bore the title of "Doc." He was a simple, foolish person, handy with a gun.

There are no saloons in this county. Each man keeps his jug or bottle and gets it refilled at the distillery. Moonshine whisky is scarce now, the government having at last convinced the mountaineers that the licensed still is the safest and best. But these licensed stills are wild and rough, and have the warlike appearance of the old moonshine stills. Just now there are perhaps a dozen of them in Hancock county. There was a time when a revenue collector could stand on Powell's Mountain and see in the valley and hollows below him the smoke of a score of illicit stills, safe from him because the trees made it impossible to mark the places whence the smoke came, and also because the guns of the mountaineers made the discovery almost assuredly fatal.
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II

From time to time the chief point for the producing of corn whisky has moved from one part of the country to another. It has been noticed that the riots, feuds and murders follow the stills. Wherever the most corn whisky is used, there the most violence occurs; and it is not strange that such whisky should put men into moods where life seems of trifling value. A feud generally starts from some trivial incident of a drunken brawl. The aggrieved person keeps drinking, falls to brooding, then tells his friends that he proposes to kill so and so. The threatened man hears of it, arms himself more carefully, and makes threats in return. The two men meet, and there is a fight or a murder. Friends and relatives take it up, and soon the whole mountain region is ringing with shots and the leaves are spotted with blood. The feud sometimes dies out for a while but soon begins to rage again, until wounds, deaths and funerals are distributed far and wide. Sometimes it is one branch of a family against another, more often one family against a rival family.

Aside from the feuds there are isolated murders which sometimes go no further than one or two deaths. Again they may be the foundation of quarrels and fights innumerable. Wherever a man has taken another man's life, he never leaves his home unprepared for an avenging relation of the murdered man. He is cautious about walking into no matter how friendly a crowd of the dead man's relations. He does not stand near a window unless he is sure that no one can draw a bead on him from its outlook. All the men in this region wear top pockets. They form convenient bolsters for short barreled pistols, and may lead to a false sense of security in the minds of foes. The knife is not so much in use as formerly. It gives an unfair advantage to strength and is less deadly. the pistol and the gun are the favorite weapons. The pistol may be carried in the top pocket. If too long in the barrel, it is slung in a holster suspended from a strap about the shoulders. Another favorite place for carrying it is in the waistband of the trousers just over the stomach and concealed by the waistcoat pulled down over it. the inside coat or waistcoat pocket has many friends. The gun is carried across the pommel of the saddle when riding, across the knees when driving or sitting, over the right forearm, barrel pointing forward and down when walking about. At home it stands in a corner near the chair of the owner or else just over the door on the inside. Some households in Hancock county can muster 10 guns, not to speak of knives, pistols and axes. The women often join in the fray, but the men never attack them, however great the provocation. Indeed, unless there is special distress the women take to the woods at the first attack upon the house and lie hidden there until the time comes for looking to the wounded.

Women learn to take death philosophically in this region. There are scores of widows and orphans. In the cities the father is the breadwinner, and his loss means hardships, sufferings and toil. Therefore, grief at death in cities is keen and pressing. In these mountain wilds one member of the family is as much a provider as another. A death means one less to help, and grief, therefore, is not so long enduring. Even where it is keen it does not express itself in shrieks and tears. It is silent and sullen. There are consoling thoughts that the death will be soon and properly avenged. The men do not avenge murder, however, so often through grief for the murdered as through the force of the mountain custom, which says that a murder is a stain until the murderer is killed.
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III

The first inhabitants of Hancock county, or, to be accurate, of what is now called Hancock county, were the strangest, most mysterious people that have ever settled any part of this country since its discovery. They are still there in greater numbers than ever before, and in as great mystery. These people are called Malungeons. They are a revengeful race, part white, part Indians, part negro. The negro strain is not spread thorough the whole race, as are the Indian and Caucasian strains, but is confined to a few families.  These Malungeons are tall, broad, powerful people, with straight black hair, swarthy complexions, small eyes, high cheek-bones, big noses, and wide, flat mouths. They look more like Indians than like white men. They are proud of their Indian blood, and will kill any man who comes calling them negroes. They came from North Carolina early in this century and could not then explain how they originated. Of course, there are many stories, but none seems to be satisfactory. In 1834 an attempt was made to bar them from voting, because of the alleged negro blood. They carried the matter into the courts, and the man who was the test plaintiff proved that he was Indian and Portuguese, and had no negro blood in his veins. After this the matter was dropped and the Malungeons were allowed to vote.

It is from these Malungeons that the feud spirit came. They were cunning, malicious, implacable, murderous. They were the original makers of illicit corn whisky. They taught the art and the hatred of government taxes to all the mountain people of this region. They were the first to fight the revenue officers and the last to give up open defiance. When they came they settled on the slope of Newman's Ridge, in the Blackwater Creek Valley, and on the opposite slope of Powell's Mountain. They kept to themselves for many years, and had no intermarriages with the other settlers until the last 20 or 25 years. they all had arms; they fought among themselves, and resisted to the death outside interference. A decade or so before the Civil War they were making moonshine whisky in the dark hollow of Powell's Mountain; they were carrying on bitter feuds, and were setting a most vicious example to the early white settlers, who by their very coming to such a shut-in part of the world rapidly lost touch with civilization.

Of these Malungeons there were originally three families- the Gibsons, the Mullens, and the Collinses. Early in the history of this race a great feud arose between the Gibsons and the Collinses. Old Buck Gibson and Old Vardy Collins put their heads together and made a great plot. Gibson fixed Vardy with soot or paint so that he looked like a genuine negro. Then they went up into Virginia, Gibson offering Vardy for sale. He soon found a purchaser. As Vardy was a finely-built, strong man, Gibson got $1,100 for him. Of this $500 was in cash and the balance in a team, a wagon and store goods.

With a few farewell words of praise for his fine negro, Gibson set out southward. In a day or two Vardy made his escape, washed himself, and fled fast and successfully on the trail of Gibson. There was pursuit, but Vardy was not recognized or else was not overtaken. When he got back to Powell's Mountain he found Gibson in the full enjoyment of the proceeds of the trick. Vardy called on him for a division of the spoils. Gibson flatly refused, after putting him off several times. This began a bushwhacking war between the two families, which kept up, with intervals of peace, until the breaking out of the Civil War. Sometimes the Collins tribe and the Gibson tribe joined hands against common foe, the revenue officers. But these breathing spells only gave further foment to a hatred which was kept alive at all times by the rivalry between moonshine stills. The Civil War put an end to feuds for so long that new causes had to spring up before a properly conducted feud could be again set on foot. But the Malungeons had laid the foundations with their illicit stills and their family hatreds. And the Civil War gave every one down that way a taste of fighting. The result of these things has been the 150 and more murders, each of which has something peculiarly tragic to distinguish it from the others.
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IV

Soon after the close of the Civil War the state of affairs in Hancock county attracted the attention of the Internal Revenue Department. There were about 1,500 voters in the county, representing a population of six or seven times that number of persons. Most of the people were law-abiding and quiet; but those who lived in and around the two mountain ranges which have been mentioned several times were disorderly, riotous and busily engaged in the distillation of moonshine whisky. These objectionable people were the Malungeons, the whites who had intermarried with them and the relatives of these whites. In all gorges, the hollows, the thickets, along Blackwater Creek were moonshine stills. Great rivalry existed between these stills, and sharp and often fatal encounters between proprietors and their henchmen were of daily occurrence. Before the revenue officers had time to do much more than count the columns of smoke rising from the green bosom of the mountain and valley, war had broken out and the moonshiners were at work destroying each other.

In that region there lived two desperate families of whites, the Rheas and the Rainses. There were Sam Rhea and his sons, Doll, Andy and Lee, and Big Bud Rains. They had become moonshiners and they set about driving the original moonshiners, the Malungeons out of the business. They first attacked the Mullens, who were soon reinforced by a good part of the tribe of Collins. The Rains-Rhea gang was armed with Spencer rifles of a heavy caliber, each rifle having eight shots. Each member of the gang also carried two big army pistols strapped to his waist. They not only carried on their feud against the Malungeons, but also successfully resisted the revenue officers.

Not a day passed without a battle and the people of Sneedville were soon accustomed to hearing the cracking of rifles and pistols, yells and curses up the mountainside or over in the Blackwater Valley. The Malungeons are said to have got much the worse of this feud. They lost so many in killed and disabled that for a time the Rains-Rhea gang had everything its own way. They took advantage of their success to make themselves feared and hated in all Hancock county. The end of this feud was a pitched battle in the streets of Sneedville. Nearly 100 men were killed and wounded. The houses were filled with bullet holes, and not until late in the afternoon did the Rains-Rhea gang withdraw, beaten and suppressed for the time.

A few years after that the Rheas and the Rains family had a quarrel over politics. Rhea had decided that he would carry an election that was to be held at Mulberry Gap. Big Bud Rains heard what he proposed to do and prepared to go and see that Rhea should get left. The Rheas were there in full force and outnumbered the Rains faction two to one. The Rheas fell upon the Malungeon contingent of the Rains faction and disarmed them. Big Bud Rains was in a grocery store some distance from the scene of the fight. He heard of it, and also that the Rheas were coming at the same time. When Andy Rhea, pistol in hand, stepped upon the porch of the store. Bud Rains drew a dragoon pistol, aimed it and fired full at him. The bullet ploughed across his chest and shattered the bone of his left arm and nearly tore it off. With a yell Rhea sprung at Rains, who caught him in his arms. Rhea threw his right hand, holding the pistol, over Rains's shoulder and fired it into his back. Rains dropped with a curse and died in a short time. Rhea was taken home and was not out for two months. When he did reappear his left arm was gone. Instead of being tamed by these happenings, he became more desperate than before. He and his brothers were reinforced by a certain William Fugate, known as "Bad Bill" He was nearly six feet and a half in height splendidly built and handsome, after a desperado fashion. His favorite pastime, after murder, was to ride at full tilt around a tree, with the reins in his teeth and a revolver in each hand, firing rapidly. He could put a belt around the tree every time. He had killed eight men when he joined the Rheas. With Bad Bill came Joe Epperson and Lum Coleman. They rode about killing or shooting down the friends of the Rains family. Some they whipped nearly to death. Others they invited out of their houses and shot down and riddled, shouting and cursing the while.

After this gang had terrorized Sneedville several times the Sheriff got together a force of twenty men. armed to the teeth, and went down to Rhea's house, seven miles below Sneedville. to arrest him and his brothers. When the offices arrived they found the Rheas all assembled and ready for a fight Their women and the little children had hid in the woods. There was a clearing all around the house. After some consultation the officers decided to cross this clearing on the run and storm the house. The first advance was met with a terrific volley which killed or wounded five of the attacking party. The officers started to retreat. The desperados were so elated that they leaped from the house into the clearing and again opened fire. The officers rallied and for three hours the fight raged, now in the clearing and again from behind trees and rocks. Andy Rhea was shot forty eight times before loss of blood forced him to drop to the ground. "Bad Bill" Fugate stood out after all the rest were down. He had a revolver in each hand and his aim was unpleasantly excellent, even though he was staggering about with red froth on his lips. A big ball from a Spencer rifle finally ended him. When the last shot had been fired both parties were absolutely disabled. The most desperate of the gang had fallen.

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V

For a good many years after this the murder were isolated cases, with no more than two or three in a family killed. Four years ago, however, another feud broke out, and is still going on, although a lack of able bodied males in the two families has caused a recent temporary cessation of hostilities. This is the Green-Jones feud, which, next to the Sutton-Barndard feud is the worst that has ever caused deaths in Hancock county. Richard Green and Asa Jones were neighbors and friends. One day, about four years ago, Green saw that his hogs were limping and bleeding. He went along the mountain to find out the cause and came upon Asa Jones' son Jim stoning and dogging his hogs. "Bill! stop that thar!" yelled Green. "That ain't now way to do my hawgs!" "Keep yer hawgs to hum" said young Jones.

Green fell to cursing and then to thrashing the boy, who yelled so loudly that old Asa came. Asa separated them and took up the quarrel. He ordered Green to go home. As Green was unarmed he went away sulkily, swearing that he would have revenge. A few days afterward Green and his wife were walking along the mountain road. Green had his three month's old baby in his arms. They met up with Jim Jones driving home in a wagon. As soon as Green got within range he drew a pistol from his pocket and holding the baby in his left arm opened fire upon Jones. Three of his five shots entered Jones' body, but he managed to keep his seat until he got home. He was carried into the house and died a few days afterward.

Old Asa Jones was furious at this, and, getting together his relatives, he declared war against Green and all his tribe. They lay in wait one afternoon behind some rocks at a point where they knew Green came by with his two brothers. The first shot from the rocks warned the three Greens, and they jumped for the trees. The two parties fired at each other until dark. Richard Green was shot through the clothing. His brother James was so badly wounded in the arm that it had to be cut off. Both sides were now prepared, and for a month or two there were ambuscades and bloodshed almost every day. One morning the Jones crowd, 18 strong, got about the house of Richard Green before daylight. They surrounded it on all sides and got ready to make a battle. At daylight the besiegers raised a great shout, and the battle began. The outsiders fired and charged, the garrison was not slow in answering and repelling. One of the bravest of the garrison was little Jimmie Green, 13 years old. He not only helped his mother and sisters load the guns, but shot once or twice himself.

He was just handing his father a reloaded Spencer when a great ball from a Winchester crashed between the logs of the house and passed through his heart. The ball went clear through the body and flattened against the chimney stones. "Hurry up that gun, Jimmy!" said his father, looking around. The boy's eyes were wide open and glassy. His mouth opened and shut, his little brown hand was held hard against his breast. He fell with a crash, the gun sliding across his body. "Mother!" called Green, "they've killed your Jimmy!" and he caught up the gun to speed his grief against his enemies.

After four hours' fighting the Jones crowd was so badly crippled that it was forced to withdraw. The slightly wounded carried those who could not move. This feud is still on, and will be raging as soon as enough Greens and Joneses can be got together to make a fight. But the Sutton-Barnard feud is the most exciting and also the most brutal of any in the history of this county. Henry Sutton was formerly a revenue officer, but settled down a few years ago to the manufacture of whisky. He had three pretty daughters, who formed a sort of inside set in Sneedville society. Christmas, 1889, these girls got permission of their father to give a dance at the distillery. The result was a combination dance and spree such as Hancock county society had not had the pleasure of attending in years. The men got exceedingly drunk. Some of them amused themselves with a boar hunt, in which half a dozen of Henry Sutton's hogs were stabbed.

The morning after the dance Sutton found the bodies strewn about the yard of his distillery. He at once decided that Big John Barnard and his brothers had done the work. He was led to this belief by the fact that the Barnards, although outwardly friendly, were known to be ready at any time to open a feud. Henry Sutton's father had got drunk one day, and, quarreling with Capt. Hence Barnard, had killed him with the pole of an axe. When an officer tried to arrest the elder Sutton he had resisted so threateningly that the officer had been compelled to kill him. But the Barnards felt that unless one of them killed a Sutton the grudge would not be wiped out.

So Henry Sutton decided that Big John Barnard and his four brothers were the slayers of his hogs. He sent the Barnards word that there was going to be trouble, and a day or two later ran out into the road with a pistol, which he aimed at a man whom he mistook in the dusk for Big John. A few days after New Year's 1889, Big John and his four brothers hid themselves behind some felled trees about a mile from Sutton's distillery. They had not waited more than an hour before they espied Henry Sutton and his gauger at the distillery coming up the road. Sutton had a Winchester across the pommel of his saddle. As the two riders got opposite the logs five shots rang out. Sutton's horse jumped; Sutton rolled from the saddle to the road. As he lay there the five Barnards leaped forth and riddled the body with bullets.

The gauger clapped spurs to his horse and fled. The Barnards were arrested, and, Sutton's family being influential, a conviction and sentence of death were got against the five. After haggling about the matter for over a year all five were pardoned by Governor Taylor. They returned home and began to make trouble. Henry Sutton had left a widow, two grown sons, Tilman and Hence, and the three pretty daughters mentioned before. Tilman Sutton had married a daughter of Big Bud Rains, and had one child. Sutton was disposed to let the matter of his father's death pass for the time. But Big John Barnard said that he intended to wipe the male line of Suttons from the face of the earth. And every time he met Tilman Sutton he would stare at him in a fixed, threatening and annoying way. Tilman Sutton stood this silently for over a year, nor did he pay any attention to the threats of Big John and his brothers.

One Sunday last September there was a meeting in the Baptist Church, eight miles from Sneedville. All the mountain people went, the young men riding horseback beside their sweethearts. Tilman Sutton, his brother Hence and his brother in law Mac Rains were riding along together. Big John Barnard and his best girl came up behind them. Big John burst into a loud, jeering laugh, and made some remark about Tilman Sutton. As Big John rode by, Tilman Sutton turned in his saddle and stared him fiercely in the face. "By G----," said he, "this has got to stop!" Big John continued his laughter and rode on. Sutton's face flushed. He drew his pistol, spurred his horse and, when he was close enough to fire without endangering the girl, he put three shots into Big John's back.

This was near the meeting house and many people were soon close at hand. Big John's head fell forward upon his horse's head for a moment. Then he recovered himself and drew his pistol, jumped to the ground and braced himself for a fight. His sweetheart reined up her frightened horse and remained to 'see the fun.' Meanwhile Big John's cousin, Shad Barnard, who was behind the Suttons, spurred forward, and, drawing his pistol, shot Tilman Sutton in the back before he had lowered his revolver from shooting Big John. Tilman Sutton rolled from his horse to the road, lifted himself, staggered, tried to lift his pistol to an aim, then fell against a tree, his head rolling from side to side. Big John aimed at him and fired four times.
"Look out, John!" said his sweetheart "Here comes Mac Rains!" But she spoke to late. Before John could turn Rains had avenged his brother in law. He fired into Big John four times. John was just standing over Sutton, who had fallen, and was firing into his head. When Rains shot he fell upon Sutton's body. By this time other men rushed in, the women got around the two dead bodies, and the feud was suspended.

There is in Sneedville a little girl whose ancestors for three generations one side and for two generations on the other had died by feud violence. She is the little daughter of Tilman Sutton, who married a daughter of Big Bud Rains. Her father, Tilman Sutton; her grandfather, Henry Sutton, and his father, Sam Sutton, her mother's father, Bud Rains, and his father before him, all died violent deaths. This is only one instance in a score of Hancock county families a similar state of affair may be found, while there is hardly a family of note that has not lost one or more of its members by violence.

Then, aside from these feuds, are the murders which follow the stills about the country—the murders which arise from long years of disregard for human life. For instance, a lot of men were waylaying an enemy of one of them. They got tired of waiting for him. An inoffensive person came jogging by the old church where they were concealed. One of the waiters fired at the man and killed him. As he rolled from his horse and lay writhing upon the ground, one of the party said to the murderer: "What fur did ye do that?" "Jes to see him drop," laughed the murderer. The sentence of death was commuted to imprisonment for life, and his friends have hope of his pardon.

A short time ago Jep Wolf, his little boy and Wiley Carpenter were riding along astride of one horse. Mack Bray, who had quarreled with Wolf a few hours before in Sneedville, came up behind, aimed his gun and fired. The first bullet killed Wolf, the second went through the little boy's body and killed Carpenter. The little boy got well. Bray is not as yet punished, and as he is of the Rhea family, may get off altogether.

They say that the peaceful part of Hancock county's people - and they now include the formerly boisterous Malungeons - are getting tired of this everlasting murdering, and that there will be some lynching before long. But the feud spirit is so strong and the corn whisky so bad that those who talk peace now may be in the thick of a feud tomorrow.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Last Stand

Saturday, February 27, 1926 
Richmond Times Dispatch

The Last Stand

The necessity for race integrity legislation in Virginia as shown by an ethnological survey of the State by congressional districts
By John Powell [writing circa 1923 in support of the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924]
Ninth Congressional District
This district consists of the city of Bristol and thirteen counties.  The character of the region is wild and mountainous, peopled by the most characteristic type  of the pure South Appalachian mountaineer.  In the hills, illiteracy and poverty are the rule although incalculable mineral wealth, for the most part as yet undeveloped is concealed in the earth.  In Tazewell we have the great Pocahontas coal fields but in the other counties, with few exceptions, the resources remained unexploited.  A wonderful future lies before this section.   Here too, are to be found the rich blue grass lands, but owing to the conformation of the terrain, farming on  a large scale is impracticable. Hence the institution of slavery was never widely extended in this district.  Consequently its negro population is at a minimum.  Several of the counties make the proud boast of being 100 per cent white.  Here, if anywhere, we should expect to find freedom from racial amalgamation.
Pregnant With Danger
And yet, despite the apparent security - or rather, because of it - the situation is pregnant with grave danger.  These counties suffered little during the reconstruction period.  Negro domination was unknown” there were not enough negroes to dominate.  Union sentiment was strong.  This accounts for the strength of the republican party in this region.  All these circumstances have deflected the mind of the population from the racial problem, both in its political and its biological aspects.  Although no district in the State excells the Ninth in zeal for racial integrity the infrequency of the danger has resulted in a proportionate relaxation of watchfulness in guarding the color line.  Hence negroid near-whites from West Virginia and Kentucky and negroid mixed Indians from Tennessee and North Carolina, seeking an outlet for social ambitions.  Thwarted in their native localities have found in this district easy access to the status of whites and have mixed almost unhindered with the unsuspecting population. 
“Melungeons” from Tennessee. “Redbones” and self-styled “Cherokees” from North Carolina have easily succeeded in “passing.”  A similar situation exists along practically the whole southern border of the State: but, although the invasions of the Second, Fourth and Fifth districts have been more numerous, they have met with correspondingly greater opposition.  We have seen already how rapidly mix-breed descendants of one individual can multiply and how easily and widely they may be distributed.  These phenomena are again met within the Ninth District, where their potentiality of danger is magnified by a false sense of security.
In Russell and Tazewell
Case No..1. Russell and Tazewell counties.  (On file in the State records)
A.O. moved to Russell County shortly after the Civil War and settled on Orchard Ridge.  He came from North Carolina.  His wife had had an illegitimate child before her marriage by a negro.  This girl grew up and was married to E. R. a white man.  They had seven children of whom six married white people  The seventh, Perlita, was not married but bore four or five  illegitimate children. Another daughter, D., married C. G. and bore him eight children, all of whom married into white families.  One of these children, R., marries K. S. under circumstances which will be related below.  Forty-three of the descendants of E. R. and his mulatto wife are listed in the State records.  The total number is far greater.  These people are treated was white, attend white churches and their children go to white schools.  Some of them live in Russell County, but many have crossed into Tazewell, where the majority now reside.  Exclusion of these negroid children from the white schools would incur great, difficulty and even greater danger.  Human  life is  lightly held in these counties and the mix breeds would not balk at any extreme in wreaking vengeance on any who opposed their pretensions, as the following quotation will show;  “If they should learn that I am the informant, I would have to leave the community or live in fear and dread as I know my life would be in danger.”
Case No. 2. Tazewell County (On file in the State records)
The clerk of Tazewell refused to issue a license for the marriage of the above-mentioned  R. G. to K. S.  The couple went over into Tennessee, where they obtained a license and were married, returning immediately to Tazewell County where they now reside. The facts were presented to the grand jury by the Commonwealth’ Attorney, but the witnesses who were summoned were afraid to give evidence and no indictment was found.
Lee County Case
Case No. 3. Lee County (On file in the State records).
A birth certificate from this county has the father listed as white, the mother as questionable.  She is a member of a negroid family which moved into Patrick County from North Carolina whence she removed to Lee.
Case No. IV.  Lee County (on file in the State records).
This case was also brought to the attention of the Vital Statistics Bureau through a birth certificate on which both mother and father were recorded as doubtful: Both were from Tennessee.  This case shows the difficulties in determining the proper racial status of the above-mentioned “Melungeons” and other mixed groups, claiming Indian extraction.
Case No V. Lee County (on file in the State records). Lee County (on file in the State records)
On another birth certificate sent in to Richmond the father, a native Virginian is recorded as white: the mother born in Tennessee, as doubtful: another “Melungeon” case.
Case No. VI  Scott County (on file in the State Records)
This case will be presented by quoting from a letter from a local registrar:  “There is here in Scott County a considerable number of people who go by various names such as “Melungeons,” “Gawhans,”  “Malingoes.” They are a mixed race, not looked upon as Caucasian, although to my knowledge several have married whites.  They object to being called negroes, but some of them claim to be part Indian.  They have Indian traits, keep dogs and hunt and love wild meat. I have no way of knowing what race they belong to  except by general appearance. Some of them are fairly white, while others of the same family are dark with kinky hair.  I do not believe that they should be allowed to pose as white.”
Case No. VII. City of Bristol (on file in the State records)
The State Registrar received the following letter: “Will you kindly send me right away a copy of the birth certificate of F------ W------- as per enclosed card.  The reason for asking is that he is attending the public school here, and there is some question as to whether he is white or colored.”  The birth certificate of this child was examined. Both parents were white; both were natives of Tennessee Melungeons?
Washington County
Case No VIII Washington County (on file in the State records)
In this county there is an extended group of dubious race being the same family names whose racial derivation seems well nigh indeterminable.  Investigation of the records shows that of eighteen marriages of people bearing this name nine were performed on white and nine on colored licenses.  Some of the members of the group claim to be of Indian extraction, but some of their neighbors insist they are colored. The difficulties of a definitive investigation seems insuperable.  Meanwhile their dubious blood continues to be disseminated among whites.  One of those families migrated to Goochland County where they entered their children in a white school.  The negroid appearance of these children aroused protest against their attendance.  The superintendent of the school wrote to the father requesting that he establish the right of his children to attend the school.  The superintendent reported to the State registrar:  “I never received a reply from the letter. But the children have never come back to school except to get their books.”
The cases in this district do not show the sordid degradation found in the other districts. However, the situation is none the less critical.  The tide of amalgamation has risen even to the mountain tops, and the very isolation of the population has only made them the more helpless against the incursion.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Strange People





A STRANGE PEOPLE OF TENNESSEE
 
The Malungeons and Their Curious Customs
 
There is a Mystery as to Their Origin
 
Claims of Indian-Portuguese Descent Discussed
 
Their Chief Occupations Are Farming, Milling, Hunting
and Digging Medicinal Roots
September 20, 1897
Times Picayune (Louisiana)
 
The Manchester correspondent of the New York Evening Post writes; A party of London writers and artists are now in the Tennessee mountains studying the peculiar race of people known as the Malungeons.  The Malungeons are probably the most mysterious race in America, and less is known of them than of any other people.  Whence they came to America or how they obtained their peculiar name is unknown.
 
Those who assert that the Malungeons are of mixed negro or Indians and white blood do so utterly  upon hearsay. There is no proof to show that the Malungeon is of Indian, African or Portuguese descent, nor any reliable history of his origin.  The Malungeons are themselves ignorant of their ancestry.  Some of them claim to be of Portuguese blood, but they can give no intelligent reason for this claim.  They say that their ancestors emigrated to America about 150 years ago from the interior of Portugal and first settled in South Carolina, whence they came to Hancock County, Tenn., settling in a beautiful mountain cove on Blackwater creek.  The records of Hancock county show that they were first known there in 1780.  In that year they were granted public lands on Blackwater creek.  They refused to hold any intercourse with the settlers, except in trade skins and furs for arms and ammunition.  It was many years after the revolutionary war before they could speak broken English.
 
The Malungeons at first sight seem to be a cross between white and Indians.  They are of a copper color with prominent cheek bones, coal black hair, straight noses, black eyes and an air of intelligence.  Some say that they are of Moorish descent.  Their color and foreign appearance weighed heavily against them in the pioneer days of Tennessee.  The mountain whites ostracized them severely in school and church matters and refused them the right of citizenship and it was not until 1852 they were allowed to vote. This right was only obtained by them after a long struggle in the courts. The courts of Tennessee had looked upon them as of negro origin and therefore the slave laws were applied to them.  All of them made oath that there was not a drop of negro blood in their veins and when this fact was thoroughly established they were allowed to vote and send their children to the public schools of Hancock county.  There were about sixty heads of families who came to Hancock county in 1798 and they now number upwards of 400.
 
The customs of the Malungeons are in some respect peculiar.  Every year they hold two fairs, spring and autumn on Blackwater.  Every family attends these fairs and buys such goods and provisions as will supply them for the ensuing six months.  Their chief occupations are farming, milling, hunting, fishing and digging medicinal herbs.  By reason of the last named occupation they are sometimes called "Diggers" for in spring and autumn they wander through out the Tennessee mountains gathering roots, barks, leaves and plants for the medicinal laboratories of northern and eastern cities, and they make more money at this business than any other.  They live very plainly and frugally.
 
Each man and his family sit down to a rough wooden table at meals.  A tablecloth is unheard of and dishes or plated, knives, forks or spoons are luxuries for which they have no use.  Before sitting down to a meal every man, woman and child bows and returns thanks in concert.  When the meal is finished thanks are again returned.  They drink neither coffee nor tea, and do not use tobacco.  Bread is the principal food eaten, summer and winter.  One Malungeon  will eat enough of their heavy bread to last an American workman three or four days.  Other articles of food used are onions at every meal, cucumbers, mushrooms, dred fish, melons, buckwheat and fruit.  Before the war the Malungeons were the most desperate and notorious moonshiners in the mountains.  Whiskeymaking was then their chief occupation, and the early marshals and revenue collectors did not dare go among them to capture their illicit distilleries.  When the officers persisted in their efforts to arrest them, a half-dozen deputy marshal were killed before the government succeeded in interfering with their stills.  When the war came the Malungeons enlisted on the union side and were good soldiers.  About twenty of the old men are now drawing quarterly pensions from the government for wounds received.
 
They are a very religious people, and commune with God many hours every day.  It is not an uncommon sight to meet a Malungeon walking or idling along blackwater devoutly engaged in prayer and the appearance of a stranger neither disturbs him nor his devotions.  Until a few years ago they held their meetings in some neighbor's home but now they have a capacious church, though in the summer the meeting are held in groves.  No bell calls them to worship on the Sabbath or their children to school on week days, but a long dinner horn is used, and its shrill piercing call reaches far beyond Blackwater cove.  Every man is a lay preacher, though there are half a dozen Malungeons set apart for that special work.  The mountain missionaries who have gone among them from time to time were hospitably received, but made no impression upon them.  Two Mormon elders were tarred and feather some years ago for daring to preach their doctrines among them.
 
The women do almost as much work as the Indian squaws.  While the plowing is done by the men, the plantings is the part of the women. Drawing water, cooking and care of children is also their labor.  The men build the framework of the cabins and fences, milk and take care of the cows, and watch the gardens.  The make the best peach brandy in the mountains and drink it as freely as water.  Strangers are welcomed and generally invited to the brandy still.
 
While the Malungeons have finally fallen into American ways and legal ceremonies, until about 1848 their marriage customs were unique.  Courtship was carried on as far as possible between the parties favorably disposed to each other without the knowledge of the parents.  When the matter was finally settled between them the girl ran away from her own cabin to that of the young man.  The next day the father and brothers of the young man, driving several head of cattle in front of them, walked to the cabin from which the girl came to negotiate, if agreeable, the proposed union. In case no objection was made more cattle were exchanged and the two families met at their pastor, and a short ceremony was followed by  a great festival.  The marriages generally took place in August (which is still the favorite month) after the harvests had been gathered and all had plenty of leisure.  Both parties had new songs and dances, and it was a matter of emulation as to which should excel. 
 
Before the war the Malungeons were whigs, and when the party died they became Republicans, to which party they still cling.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Early Melungeon Researchers

Recently someone posted to one of the many Melungeon boards;

 "As it is, the whole community was hijacked by yellow journalists seeking personal fame and glory for such a long time, we may never get a truly clear and untainted history of them. In much of the material related to Appalachian areas in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, the more outlandish, bombastic, and fantastic, the better, and no one cared about the truth."
This simply is not true.  The earliest research into the Melungeon History was not written by 'yellow journalist' but by anthropologists, ethnologists, and historians such as the noted ethnologist James Mooney, Croatan/Lumbee historian Hamilton McMillan, and Tennessee born Dr. Swan Burnett who working with Doctor Pierce of Newmans Ridge and Dr. Gurley of the Smithsonian was the first to publish his findings in 1889, before Will Allen Dromgoole even thought of visiting the Melungeons.

The Rev. C.H. Humble, Professor Stephen B. Weeks, John B. Brownlow, Daniel Baird, Robert E. Ewing, Judge John Lea, etc., were not 'yellow journalists' and their contributions were printed in reputable magazines and in 'letters to the editors' - not to sell papers.

One thing is clear from the early research of the late 1800s and early 1900s was many, if not all, agreed the Melungeons were Indians who mixed with the Portuguese, Whites and Blacks.  This is the same story told in their "legend" in 1848 and published in dozens of Newspapers across the country and none of these articles contained the story of 'the dance' which appeared in LITTEL'S LIVING AGE.  This 'story' seems to have only been added by Eliakim Littel, perhaps to sell more magazines.

While it is true there were many articles published to sell newspapers,such as Mahala Mullins giving birth to quintuplets in her 60s, or that she was murdered by rival moonshiners, etc., many of the early newspaper articles were at least based on the research of the early anthropologists, ethnologists, and historians.   Here are a some examples of Melungeon History that was NOT written by 'yellow journalists.

...........................................................

In 1886 on the history of Hancock County it was published in GOODSPEED'S HISTORY;
"In the neighborhood three of four miles south of Sneedville was Alexander Treat, Solomon Mitchell, John and Lincoln Amis, the Bouldens, Andersons, Bryants and Collinses. A settlement was also made at an early date at Mulberry Gap, where a little village sprang up. Newmans' Ridge, which runs through the county to the north of Sneedville, and parallel with Clinch river, is said to have taken its name from one of the first settlers upon it. It has since been occupied mainly by a people presenting a peculiar admixture of white and Indian blood."


In February of 1889 Swan Burnett spoke on the Melungeons before the Anthropological Society of Washington D. C  - This is the first published account [found to date] of the Melungeons since 1848.
"It should be stated, however, that there is a disposition on the part of the more thoughtful of those among whom these people live to give some credence to their claim of being a distinct race, a few inclining to the Portuguese theory, some thinking that they may possibly be gypsies, while yet others think that they may have entered the country as Portuguese or gypsies and afterward some families may have intermingled with negroes or Indians or with both. So far as I have been able to learn, however, there was not at any time a settlement of Portuguese in or near North Carolina of which these people could have been an offshoot. [See EARLY CONTACTS for the possible Portuguese Connections] Those that I have seen had physical peculiarities which would lend plausibility to any one of the foregoing theories. 
 They are dark, but of a different hue to the ordinary mulatto, with either straight or wavy hair, and some have cheek bones almost as high as the Indians. The men are usually straight, large, and find looking, while one old woman I saw was sufficiently hag-like to have sat for the original Meg Merriles. As a rule, they do not stand very high in the community, and their reputation for honesty and truthfulness is not to be envied. In this, however, there are said to be individual exceptions. "
In October of that same year it was published in the American Anthropologist with a footnote;
"Since the above communications was read before the Society I have received from several sources valuable information in regard to the Melungeons; but the most important contribution bearing on the subject, as I believe, is the little pamphlet published by Hamilton Mc Millan, A. M., on “Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony” (Wilson, N.C., 1888). Mc Millan claims that the Croatan Indians are the direct descendant of this colony. What connection I consider to exist between the Melungeons and the Croatan Indians, as well as other material I have accumulated in regard to the Melungeons, will be made the subject of another communication which is now in preparation. "
This was picked up and published by numerous newspapers but was this research on the Melungeons by Burnett produced to sell newspapers? I think not. Burnett was a noted opthamologist in Washington D.C. and was researching eye diseases of people of Caucasians and of African Americans.

His research would have naturally taken him to Newman's Ridge where he had heard of the Melungeons at his father's knee.  He was aided by Dr. J. M. Pierce, of Hawkins county, Tennessee, and to Dr. Gurley, of the Smithsonian Institution.
You can read the rest of his report here;
http://www.historical-melungeons.com/swan.html

Shortly after this article appeared in the Atlanta Journal Mr. Lawrence Johnson wrote to the editor;
"His name Melungeons is a local designation for this small peculiar race. Their own claim to be Portuguese is more generally known. Their original site is on the Pedee river in South and North Carolina . They were once especially strong in Georgetown and Darlington districts of the latter. Though called Portuguese – this does not indicate their true origin. I have no doubt local traditions, and the records still to be found in the Charleston library will give the true account. As dimly recollected, for I never made search with a purpose in view, it was thus in the primary colonial times of the Carolinas, Winyaw Bay was the best and most frequented harbor on the coast, and Georgetown more accessible, was more of a commercial town than old Charlestown., to that port British cruisers sometimes brought prizes. "
Mr. Johnson recognized the families on the Pee Dee River as the same people Swan Burnett mentioned in his research.  It is unclear if he recognized the word 'Melungeon' or the 'Portuguese' people but his letter was in no way meant to sell newspapers.
You can read the rest of his letter here;
http://www.historical-melungeons.com/ac1899.html

A year after Burnett's article appeared in newspapers he had exchanged research with Hamilton McMillan and McDonald Furman, both of whom has been working closely with the Smithsonian on the remnant Indian tribes and the mixed race people.  This letter is known as EXHIBIT B7  Senate Documents regarding the Croatan Indians.
LETTER OF HAMILTON MCMILLAN TO INDIAN OFFICE, JULY 17, 1890.
RED SPRINGS, N. C., July 17, 1890.T. J. MORGAN, Esq., Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington.
MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of July 14 ultimo just to hand. The communication and report from the Bureau of Ethnology to which you refer were never received, and your letter just received conveys the first intimation of their having been sent. Had they been received I would have responded with pleasure.
I enclose to you to-day a copy of a pamphlet containing much of interest in this connection. The pamphlet was written very hastily nearly two years ago in order to give the North Carolina Legislature some information, as the Croatans were asking some legislation in their behalf.
The Croatan Tribe lives principally in Robeson County, N. C., though there are quite a number of them settled in counties adjoining in North and South Carolina. In Sumter County, S. C., there is a branch of the tribe and also in East Tennessee. In Lincoln County, N. C., there is another branch, settled there long ago. Those living in East Tennessee are called "Melungeans," a name also retained  by them here, which is a corruption of Melange, a name given them by early settlers (French), which means mixed.

While it might be argued that Dromgoole's article was meant to sell newspapers there is no doubt she did visit and live among these people called Melungeons in the summer of 1890.  Her descriptions of the families; Portuguese, white, Indian and African is the same story told in their 'Legend' to the journalist in 1848, almost 50 years earlier and almost identical to the story told to the Rev. C. H. Humble [who will be discussed later.]  These articles reported by Dromgoole and the letter by McMillan  would be used by the United States Census Bureau and published as a Government document.

http://www.historical-melungeons.com/wad.html
http://www.historical-melungeons.com/taxed.html

After Dromgoole's articles appeared the newspapers there were numerous exchanges in the LETTERS TO THE EDITORS -- these letters, while appearing in the newspaper were not meant to 'sell' the newspaper.

Tennessee historian Daniel Baird  wrote to the AMERICAN of Sept. 15, 1890
"Several families are still to be found in Smith, Wilson, Rutherford, and Davidson Counties. There is nothing in their family names to give the student of ethnology a clue to their origin. In a locality in Wilson County known forty years ago as 'Malungeon Town', the most common names were Richardson, Nickens, and Collins. In Rutherford County not far from Lavergne, the principal Malungeons were Archers, Lanterns, and Blackmans. One of the latter family has sold fish in the north end of the market house in this city (Nashville) for many years, and some of the same family reside a few miles out on the Nolensville Turnpike. "A pretty fair speciman of the Malungeon tribe is a young fellow named Bernice Richardson, now serving a life sentence in the state prison for self-confessed complicity in the murder of M.T. Bennet of Lebanon. 
Randall M. Ewing, attorney and another  Tennessee historian wrote on September 21, 1890;
''When he attended law school at Lebanon Tennessee, in 1851: " there was a colony of people residing within a few miles of Lebanon who were locally, and so far as I know generally, called Malungeons. They seemed to be a hard working, harmless, inoffensive people, a dark red or copper color, and jet black, straight hair... these people claimed to be of Portuguese descent.''
Dromgoole's articles were also reviewed in  American Notes and Queries -  Edited by William Shepard Walsh, Henry Collins Walsh, William H. Garrison, Samuel R. Harris. While the story of Vardy and Buck, the two Cherokees, adventures in Richmond is credited to Will Allen Dromgoole's article The Melungeon Tree and Four Branches  she apparently read the LETTER TO THE EDITOR of American Notes and Queries in March of 1891.
December 5, 1891
 Malungeons (Vol Vi, p. 273) -- The lateness of these details (sent to tthe New York Sun from Sneedville, November 20) may make them acceptable to you in the above connection:
 " The first inhabitants of Hancock county, or, to be accurate, of what is now called Hancock county, were the strangest, most mysterious people that have ever settled any part of this country since its discovery.  They are still there in greater numbers than ever before, and in as great mystery.  These people are called Malungeons.  They are a revengeful race, part white, part Indian, part negro.  The negro strain is not spread through the whole race, as are the Indian and Caucasian strains, but is confined to a few families.
 "These Malungeons are tall, broad, powerful people, with straight black hair, swarthy complexions, small eyes, high cheek bones, big noses and wide flat mouths.  They look more like Indians than like white men. They are proud of their Indian blood and will kill any man who come calling them negroes.
 "They came from North Carolina early in this century, and could not then explain how they originated.  Of course there are many stories, but none seems to be satisfactory.  In 1834 an attempt was made to bar them from voting because of the alleged negro blood.  They carried the matter into the courts, and the man who was the test plaintiff proved that he was Indian and Portuguese and had no negro blood in his veins.  After this the matter was dropped and the Malungeons were allowed to vote.
 "It is from these Malungeons that the feud spirit came.  They were cunning, malicious, implacable, murderous.  They were the original makers of illicit corn whisky.  They taught the art and the hatred of Government taxes to all the mountain peoples of this region.  They were the first to fight the revenue officers and the last to give up open defiance.
 "When they came they settled on the slope of Newman's ridge, in the Blackwater Creek Valley, and on the opposite slope of Powell's Mountain.  they kept to themselves for many years, and had no intermarriages with the other settlers until the last twenty or twenty five years.  They all had arms; they fought among themselves and resisted to the death outside interference.  A decade or so before the civil war they were making moonshine whisky in the dark hollows of Powell's Mountain;  they were carrying on bitter feuds and were setting a most vicious example to the early white settlers, who, by their very coming to such a shut-in part of the world, rapidly lost touch with civilization.
 "Of these Malungeons there were originally three families-- the Gibsons, the Mullins, and the Collinses.  Early in the history of this race a great feud arose between the Gibsons and the Collinses.  Old Buck Gibson and Vardy Collins put their heads together and made a great plot.  Gibson fixed Vardy with soot or paint so that he looked like a genuine negro.  Then they went up into Virginia, Gibson offering Vardy for sale.  He soon found a purchaser.  As Vardy was a finely built, strong man, Gibson got $1100 for him.  Of this $500 was in cash and the balance in a team, a wagon and store goods.
 "With a few farewell words of praise for his fine negro, Gibson set out southward.  In a day or two Vardy made his escape, washed himself, and fled fast and successfully on the trail of Gibson.  There was pursuit, but Vardy was not recognized or else was not overtaken.  When he got back to Powell's Mountain he found Gibson in the full enjoyment of the proceeds of the trick.  Vardy called on him for a division of the spoils.  Gibson flatly refused, after putting him off several times.
 "This began a bushwhacking war between the two families, which kept up, with intervals of peace, until the breaking out of the civil war. Sometimes the Collins tribe and the Gibson tribe joined hands against the common foe, the revenue officers.  But these breathing spells only gave further foment to a hatred which was kept alive at stills.  the civil war put an end to feuds for so long that new causes had to spring up before a properly conducted feud could be again set on foot.
 "But the Malungeons had laid the foundations with their illicit stills and their family hatreds.  And the civil war gave every one down that way a taste of fighting.  The result of these things has been the 150 and more murders, each of which has something peculiarly tragic to distinguish it from the others."  W.H.

http://www.historical-melungeons.com/notes_queries.html
http://www.historical-melungeons.com/meltree.html


December of 1890 the Historical Society met.  This was just a few months after Dromgoole's article appeared in the newspapers, yet the information published here is not found in Dromgoole's works.  Judge John M. Lea was known as the most knowledgeable historian in Tennessee.

The TENNESSEE HISTORICAL SOCIETY held an interesting meeting in  December of 1890  at Nashville, Judge John M. Lea presided.
" Judge Lea addressed the society on the subject of the Melungeons. He outlined the early history of the settlement of North Carolina. A party under the protection of a friendly Indian chief had gone into the interior when the first settlers came to that coast and had been lost. No other settlers came till a century afterward, and they were told of a tribe who claimed a white ancestry, and among whom gray eyes were frequent. This people were traced to Buncomb and Robeson counties, where the same family and personal names were found as in the lost colonies.
 They are now called Croatans, on account of a sign they made on the trees to keep their way. The Basques of the Spanish coast have been said to have settled in that country, but this theory was not thought to be trustworthy. It would be impossible for negroes to form a distinct race, because the number necessary for a colony would not have been allowed to run at large. The race has several old English words which are used as they were in England two hundred years ago, and a case of civil rights has been won in court by a Melungeon displaying his person and proving to the court that he was of Caucasian blood. North Carolina gives the Croatians $1,000 a year for a normal school, and they have excellent roads. This colony, whose early history is thus so clearly traced, lies within forty miles of the Tennessee Melungeons. "

In 1897 the sheriff of Hancock County responded to a letter from McDonald Furman, noted historian, in South Carolina.

.....  Office Of .........
M. R. Buttery Sheriff of Hancock County
Sneedville, Tenn
May 10, 1897
Mr. Mc Donald Furman Ramsey, S. C.
 Dear Sir:  I would have written you sooner but got your letter mislaid.
 The man Hatfield you inquire about is no relation to the notorious Hatfield of Kentucky. As to the Melungeons I know of no book containing any history of them. They are a peculiar set of people, most of them are very dark, straight hair and high cheek bones resemble a Cherokee Indian.  Since the war they have become civilized and a great many of them are good citizens and good livers.  I knew old Sol Collins when I was a little boy and was well acquainted with two of his boys and one his girls.  I guess she is the largest woman in the State.  She ways about five hundred pounds.  If you will write Capt L. M. Jarvis of Sneedville he will write you a good history of the Melungeons.
 Yours Respectfully,
M.R. Buttery

In the summer of 1897 the Reverend Christopher Humble came to Vardy on Newman's Ridge where he stayed at the Varday Hotel, a guest of Batey Collins.   Rev C. H. Humble wrote of his experience with the people known as Melungeons, it varied little from the Legend as told in 1848 and again reported by Dromgoole.
"The first settlers here were the great grand parents, Varday Collins, Shephard Gibson, and Charley Williams, who came from Virginia it is said, though other say from North Carolina. They have marked Indians resemblances in color, feature, hair, carriage, and disposition. 
The second settlers were from North Carolina; they were the Goans, Miners, and Bells; they were charged with having negro blood in them and, before the war, were prosecuted on this ground for illegal voting, but were acquitted. They explained their peculiarities by claiming a Portuguese origin. 
Later Came Jim Mullens, an Englishman, who married a Collins, and whose son John married Mehala Collins, to be referred to again. Jim Moore, a British sailor, also settled here, and married a daughter of old Charley Gibson, so that while in one sense, they are a mixed people, their names indicate an origin on one side not differing from their neighbors. Their isolation may be due to the seclusion preferred by the Indians and the exclusion on account of suspected negro blood."
http://www.historical-melungeons.com/humble.html
John Bell Brownlow, son of the Parson Brownlow, who first used the word Melungeon in his 1840 newspaper also wrote a letter to the editor.  In his letter he tells of his early days of riding horseback through the mountains and knowing of the Melungeons during the Civil War.
''Your letter of yesterday received. I happen to have the information you seek. The Nashville American of  June 26, 1910 (since consolidated with the Nashville Tennessean) published a paper of about 10 pages in celebration of its 98th anniversary and in this paper is the true story of a small number of people to be found in a few counties of East Tennessee, as in other sections of the Appalachian region, called Melungeons or Malungeons. I have traveled horse-back before, during and since the Civil War, in the counties where these people live, and have seen them in their cabin homes and from information received independently of what Judge Shepherd says, I am satisfled his statement is to be relied upon.
The foremost jury lawyer of East Tenn. of his generation was the late Hon. John Netherland, the son-in-law of the John A. McKinney, referred to by Lucy S. V. King, and he gave me the same account, substantially, of the origin of these people that Judge Shepherd does.''  ....In my boyhood days they were called Portugese. The word Mulangeon is comparatively modern as to its general use.''
http://www.historical-melungeons.com/remnantindians.html 

James Mooney, with the Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institute, wrote in, "The Handy Book of American Indians North of Mexico;
"... he thought the Indians of Robeson County ,NorthCarolina, (Croatan/Lumbees) combine in themselves the blood of the wasted tribes, the early colonists of forest rivers, runaway slaves, or other Negroes, and probably stray seaman of Latin races from coasting vessels from the West Indies or Brazilian trade.” In 1897, Mr. Mooney wrote to Charles McDonald Furman that, "He felt that the Croatans, Redbones, Melungeons, Moors, and Portuguese were all local names for mixed Indian races along the Atlantic seaboard, with westward drift into the mountains." And stated, "It would be worth while of local investigators to go into the subject systematically. I think possibly the Indian remnants may have married with the convict apprentice importation of early colony days as well as with the free Negro element." Mr. Furman was considered by Mooney and other officials as the most informed person on the Redbones and Catawba Indians in Privateer Township, Sumter County, South Carolina. He had tried in vain to get the state of South Carolina to study the Redbones, and chastised state officials for being interested in exotic peoples in other countries, but ignoring a most unusual people right here at home. Furman could not define the Redbones and he believed them a separate race of their own.

Stephen B. Weeks was the first professionally trained historian in North Carolina and one of the many men associated with the Smithsonian who studied the people called Melungeons.

THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE: ITS FATE AND SURVIVAL.
(Reprinted from Papers Am. Hist. Asso., Vol. iv., No. 4., 1891.)
By Professor Stephen B. Weeks, Ph.D., Trinity College, North Carolina.
Page 28-29
At one time the Croatans were known as 'Redbones,' and there is a street in Fayetteville so called because some of them once lived on it. They are known by this name in Sumpter County, S. C., where they are quiet and peaceable, and have a church of their own. They are proud and high-spirited, and caste is very strong among them.
There is in Hancock county, Tennessee, a tribe of people known by the local name of Malungeons or Melungeons. Some say they are a branch of the Croatan tribe, others that they are of Portuguese stock. They differ radically, however, in manners and customs from the accounts which we have received of the Croatans. Four articles in The Arena for the current year, by Miss Will Allen Domgoole on "The Malungeons, a Forgotten People," "The Malungeon Family Tree," "The Disfranchisement of the Malungeons," and "Malungeon Music."
''Mr. McMillan favors the view that they are a part of the colony of Roanoke, and on this question Mr. John M. Bishop, a native of east Tennessee, now living in Washington, writes to the author: "My theory is that they are a part of the lost colony of Roanoke. Your utterances at the recent meeting in this city on the subject of the Lost Colony of Roanoke [meeting of Amer. Hist. Ass'n., Dec. 31, 1890] were so nearly in line with my ideas in this matter that I now write to call your attention to the subject. . . . You will mark the fact that the Malungeons are located on Newmans Ridge and Black Water creek in Hancock county, Tenn., directly in the path of ancient westward emigration. Dan Boone tramped all over this immediate section. . . . The Malungeons, drifting with the tide of early emigration, stranded on the borderland of the wilderness and remained there."
http://ncpedia.org/biography/weeks-stephen-beauregard


The above articles gives us somewhat of a history of these people called Melungeons, they are not found in 'newspaper articles' and not written to sell newspapers, the authors are not 'yellow journalist.'   An in depth look at the genealogies of these people called Melungeons, from the earliest settlements in Virginia to the Pee Dee River, along with the DNA shows how these families were related, where they lived, how they came together and why they stayed together.