Eastern Cherokee

Eastern Cherokee
~Sherie Corbett 2014~

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Melungeons Redbones Croatans And Related Groups-Part One

This is the first part of a Series on the Melungeons and those groups known to be related to them, sometimes called 'Little Races.'

If you take the male Y DNA test or the female mtDNA test you can trace back thousands of years to where your ancestor originated.  This is ONE ancestor that lived thousands of years ago. In 10 generations we have some 1024 grandparents - in the grand scheme of things that one ancestor thousands of years ago is pretty insignificant in the search for your heritage. 

In a Council for Responsible Genetics article 'The Color of Our Genes' they write; "......in examining less than 1 percent of a person's genetic background, these companies often overstate their tests' ability to say anything significant about a person's heritage, giving the impression that social categories of race and ethnicity are somehow genetically verifiable."

What these tests can do is prove a relationship between two males or females who share the same DNA whether they share the same surname or not.  

They can also prove the Croatan/Lumbee, the Redbones, the Melungeons, Smiling Indians, Brass Ankles and other similar groups are related. Below are the works of anthropologists, ethnologists, historians, etc., many who worked with the Smithsonian in the late 1800s and early 1900s and later who seemed to have no doubt these "Little Races" were related.

"A hundred years ago a colony of Croatans settled in eastern Tennessee, on Newman's Ridge, in Hancock county.  They can't tell today where they came from, for tradition over 50 years isn't worth anything.  These are the people called Melungeons.  They are similar in racial characteristics to the Croatans, and Dr. Swan M. Burnett, a distinguished scholar and scientitst has traced by family names the connection between the Melungeons and the Croatans.  [1]

Red Springs, NC
Oct 12, 1889
Mr McDonald Furman

The name among them of Blanx or Blanc is French. The early Huguenot emigrants of that name came from the Department of the Mosell and those of the family who changed the Blanc to White, its English synonym, was designated as the 'Mosell" Whites and the name is now changed to Musslewhite. The French name of Bressi is now Bracy and Turbeville is now Troublefield. The Braceys and Troublefields live on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina and never intermarried with the Croatans or "Melange".

Henry Berry Lowrie takes his Christian name from Henry Berry one of the lost colonists of Roanoke as you will see by -------? to list in pamphlet. Many of the Lowrie's settled in Robeson - others went to the French Broad in Western N.C., and those in Robeson claim that David Lowrie Swain Ex Gov. and James Lowrie Robinson late Lt Gov of this State were of their stock. The tribe once stretched from Cape Fear to Pee Dee and the Redbones of your section are a part of the tribe as are the "Melungeons" of East Tennessee. The French immigrants callled the half breeds Melange or Mixed and the term evidently has been changed to "Melungeons".  [. [2]

Croatan Indians. The legal designation in North Carolina for a people evidently of mixed Indian and white blood, found in various e. sections of the state, but chiefly in Robeson co., and numbering approximately 5,000.  ...... Across the line in South Carolina are found a people, evidently of similar origin, designated "Red bones." In portions of w. N. C. and E. Temn. are found the so-called "Melungeons" (probably from French melangi', 'mixed') or "Portuguese," apparently an offshoot from the Croatan proper, and in Delaware are found the "Moors." All of these are local designations for peoples of mixed race with an Indian nucleus differing in no way from the present mixed-blood remnants known as Pamunkey, Chicka- hominy, and Nansemond Indians in Virginia, excepting in the more complete loss of their identity. In general, the physical features and complexion of the persons of this mixed stock incline more to the Indian than to the white or negro. See Mi-tis, Mixed bloods. [3]

The Croatan applied for recognition by the United States as Cherokee, but it was denied and the Cherokee acknowledge no relationship, having visited the Croatan country on a tour of inspection. There is a queer offshoot of the Croatan known as "Malungeons," in South Carolina, who went there from this state ; another the "Redbones," of Tennessee. Mr. Mooney has made a careful study of both of these branches also. [4]

Though these people principally reside in Robeson county there are settlements of them in both the Carolinas and in East Tennessee, where they are known as Melungeans, a corruption of the French Melange, or mixed, a  description of them given by the early French settlers.  [5]

There are some of these Croatoans on Newman’s ridge, in Tennessee.  [6] 

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. [7] 

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. [7] 

The Croatan tribe lives principaly in Robeson county, North Carolina, though there is quite a number of them settle in counties adjoining in North and South Carolina. In Sumter county, South Carolina, there is a branch of the tribe, and also in east Tennessee. In Macon county, North Carolina, there is another branch, settled there long ago. those living in east Tennessee are called "Melungeons", a name also retained by them here, which is corruption of 'Melange', a name given them by early settlers (French), which means mixed.''  [8] 

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." [9] 

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.    * *Read before the Society at its regular meeting, February 5, 1889.   [10] 

All these above families not only settled in Robeson County but also scattered further south and west through central South Carolina. In fact, in central South Carolina some names show up from that original northern center in Granville County which one does not find in Cumberland and Robeson Counties in that period. I presume that they came directly from Granville County into South Carolina. These are families like Taylor, Hicks, Bunch, and Strickland. Many of these northern migrants married into the Cheraw and Peedee and almost absorbed these native South Carolina tribes. Later in South Carolina other family names show up - Willis, Ware, Dial - who appear to be Indians of this same “northern” stock. However, we cannot find these family names in the north. These family names may have originated with blacks, whites, or native Indians who married into these scattered Indian Families.

is migration did not stop Georgia and Florida but continued west and in census records in the 1830’s in western Louisiana you begin to see names of Indian families from South Carolina.  As far as I can tell, most of these families moved on further west into east Texas. The Bass’, Dials, Wares, Willis’, etc., particularly, tarried awhile in western Louisiana and then moved on to east Texas. However, while they were in Louisiana they intermarried quite heavily with a group of Indians who were the remnants of small tribes from the Mobile, Alabama area - Chatot, Bayagoula, and others; that is to say, individuals from these South Carolina families married native Indians to form what is known by whites in that area as the “Redbones” of western Louisiana. This is quite a prolific group. I do not know how this group of people refers to themselves. I simply know that local nickname for them. I have heard that some of them identify as Choctaws and some as Spanish, but I cannot verify this. I do know that Indians coming in from South Carolina married into this local group and then moved on west leaving members of their families there in western Louisiana. Some of these same South Carolina Indians - Hicks, Strickland, Bunch, etc. – moved northwest into east Tennessee in the 1830’s and 1840’s. There they joined another stream of Indian pioneer of this same Granville County, North Carolina stock moving south from Newman’s Ridge on the Tennessee - Virginia border.   [11]


This case involved the Goins from Sumpter County - known as 'Smiling Indians' after James Smiling who were related to this  Goins family
who moved up to Robeson County. 

"I, LI Parrott, clerk of the court for Sumter County, said state, do hereby
certify that the families of Smilings and Goins of this county have been
known as "Red Bones"
ever since I have been acquainted with the people
. Mr. McDonald Furman, now deceased, took a great deal of trouble several years ago to establish the fact that they were...of the Indian race...they are looked upon as a separate race, neither white nor negro."

"I know William Goins, father of these parties. I visited them in South Carolina once about 6 years ago. The general reputation I got down there was  that they were Indian people. They were supposed to be Indians. I have lived in Robeson county all my life and I am perfectly familiar with the Indian people up here. From my association, being in the home of old man Goins and his family and from the investigation I have made of the people there, my opinion is that on the mother's side plaintiffs are Indians and on the father's side Malungeans. The Rev William Goins is not a typical Indian by feature, he is a mixture between white and Indian."

Hamilton McMillan, witness for the defendants: 
"I am a resident of Robeson County; I am now 78 years of age. I represented Robeson County in the state legislature in 1885 and 1887. I am familiar with the Act of 1885 designating certain indians of Robeson as Croatan Indians; I introduced the bill myself. I was acquainted with the Indians of Robeson County at the time the Act of 1885 was passsed designating them as croatan indians. I had been investigating their history for several years before that. I have them the designation of croatan indians in the Act. I wanted to give them some designation. There was a tribe known as croatan tribe on croatan island, it was an honorable name and it was a complete designation...The indians designated as croatan indians were living in Robeson County...none of them lived in sumter sc as far as i know. I had the Act of 1887 passed to establish a normal school for the croatan indians of Robeson County..."Question by the court to McMillan: Do these people here call themselves Croatans?Answer: No sir, they call themselves malungeans. [12]

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." [13] 

The Brass Ankles appear to have been a name given to these people near Hell Hole Swamp and Monck's Corners in South Carolina, much later than Redbone, Croatan, Melungeon and others. The Broadway play by Dubose Heyward; BRASS ANKLE in 1930  seems to be the first times it is found in print. 

Book Review 

Findlay Morning Republican July 13, 1931
"Many witnessed and were thrilled at the presentation of "Brass Ankle" a drama by Dubose Heyward on the New York stage last winter. Alice Brady headed the cast for this drama, which was a tragedy, which is a different treatment of the race problem.  "Brass Ankle" has been published by Farrar & Rinehart, and those not fortunate in traveling to New York to witness it may read it as they sit by their firesides. One understands the "Brass Ankle" a little better after reading what Dr. Wainwright, one of the characters of the drama says: "I suppose there is no more tragic, no more complex social problem in America today than that of the Brass Ankle."

"No one really know exactly what they are except that there is no doubt but that they have Negro blood. They won't let them in the white schools; they are too proud to go to the Negro, so they gave them a little school of their own. .....My father was on the board and helped arrange it. When the children registered, he brought their cards home to show us. In the space for race, they had all written 'Indian'.  "Tragic wasn't it?  Some of them have Indian blood and the copper cast gave the tribe their name, but we've poured white and black in on top of it.  We've made the mongrels -- and denied them even a race."

American Speech      Vol. 18, No. 2, Apr., 1943     Miscellaneous Notes ...

"Of Professor Farr's list of Tennessee expressions (American Speech, 15; 446-448 )several are quite common in South Carolina.  Brass ankle, for 'mulatto,' is very often used by the older generation, though less often by younger speakers.  My father thinks that the term originated in the neighborhood of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, where the descendants of a Portuguese colony who had intermarried with Negroes and afterwards married largely within their own group were noted for their brass bracelets and anklets.  To this group the white and Negro settlers in the neighborhood applied the name brass ankle, which was later extended to any mulatto.

Bennettsville May 17, 1893
Mr. McDonald Furman (Excerpted)

My Dear Sir

Yours of 13th inst is before me and in reply let me say that I not only appreciate your laudable desire to rescue the traditions of an obscure race, sometimes wronged, from oblivion, but to call the public mind to a number of important facts of our brief history, both secular and religious, which in the eager haste of this fast age, our people are liable to forget......

....The question now upon your mind, of which you write me is not unworthy your research. And I wish that I were able to give you more information than I can. Of course the people of "mixed breed," that we have among us in Marlborough are not known as "Redbones," and not until recently have they been called "Croatans," a name which some of them are now adopting. 

For generations, they have claimed to have been of "Portuguese" extraction, while commonly the white people have thought them mulattos.
J.A.W. Thomas

[1] Secret of the Croatan Tribe-- St. Louis Dispatch

[2] Red Springs, NC Oct 12, 1889   Hamilton McMillan

[3] Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology - Ethnology - 1907  page 365   [Also Published: Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico - by Frederick Webb Hodge - Indians of North America - 1911]

[4]  The North Carolina Booklet: Great Events in North Carolina History  General Society of the Daughters of the Revolution North Carolina Society. 1916

[5]  The Denver Evening Post, (Denver, CO) Tuesday, October 10, 1899  -- The Croatans A Class of People about Whom Even the Dictionary Knows Nothing 

[6]  Atlanta Constitution November 7, 1897  - Bill Arp

[7]  HE 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.

[8] July 17, 1890  --Red Springs, North Carolina Hamilton McMillan

[9]   James Mooney, The Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institute 1897

[10]  A NOTE ON THE MELUNGEONS   By Swan M. Burnett, M. D., Washington   October 1889

[11] Cherokee Communities of the South  - Robert K. Thomas 

[12] Smiling Indians

[13] The lost colony of Roanoke : its fate and survival

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Portuguese - Not a Cover Story

Over the years many researchers, authors, speakers, etc., have reported the Portuguese ancestry of the Melungeons was a cover story made up by these people called Melungeons to hide their African ancestry.  Recently I received a comment to this blog by one of these author/speakers regarding the 1848 publication of their 'Legend" - he wrote;
“The article was published shortly after the illegal voting trials in Tennessee…” That fact alone provides ample reason for the Melungeons to “hide their identity” or to claim an ancestry other than their own. "   
While he went on to say he wasn't saying they did but -- "they had reason to deny African ancestry,....  for fear of being enslaved." 

What did the Melungeons tell the reporter of the "Present race of Melungeons"? 

''These Portuguese people intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants (after the advances of the whites into this part of the state) with the negroes and the whites..."
So are we to believe that Vardy Collins, or perhaps his wife, made up a story about their ancestry because they were afraid they would be enslaved? Yet in the next breath said 'our children did intermix with the Africans'  -- we must presume Vardy Collins, his wife, or whoever 'made up this cover story' didn't give two hoots whether someone came along and enslaved their children?  SMH  ---Seriously?

They do not take into account these people who were charged with illegal voting had the charges dropped, convincing their accusers they were of Portuguese ancestry and not African. Why would they be afraid of being enslaved a few months later?

There are court records spread over the 19th century in many counties and states across the nation that questioned the ancestry of these people who were called Melungeons. In early 1800 the Hagan who married into the Ivey family proved by neighbors they were called Portuguese since the time of the Revolution. 

In 1871 Judge Giles Leitch testified before  1871 North Carolina Joint Senate and House Committee on the ancestry of the people of Robeson County  (known as a branch of the South Carolina and East Tennessee families) and what did he say?  

"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 thecolored 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."
The researchers, authors, speakers, etc.,  of today are not claiming this 'cover story' to 'hide their real ancestry' for a lack of evidence of the Portuguese/Spanish people inhabiting Virginia and the Carolinas in the early days of this country, there are numerous documents.   They are apparently making this claim to further their own *theories* as to the origin of the Melungeons for personal reasons. 

I've not found one article from the late 1800s to early 1900s who claim the Melungeons were nothing but a group of African men and white women, quite the contrary -- almost all of the published reports stated they showed, Portuguese, Indian, and sometimes African ancestry.

Virginia Easley DeMarce

Looking at Legends-Lumbee and Melungeon: Applied genealogy and the Origins of Tri-racial Isolate Settlements, National Genealogical Society Quarterly 81 (March 1993): 24-45.   Excerpt;  page 37

"The fact that the Portuguese were noted seafarers for centuries. Portuguese laborers--particularly sailors, fisherman, and tradesmen such as net menders and sail menders--were common in towns and harbors throughout the western world, including England and her colonies; and English ships used some Portuguese sailors. In early America, references to them appear in colonial records from New France [Canada] to New England, to the Gulf. There is no reason to doubt that they also sailed into Virginia's ports, and their extensive contact with the English shipping trade might well explain their apparently rapid acquisiton of the English language and their quick acculturaton in Virginia."

Washington Post  1902     PHASE IN ETHNOLOGY

Mr. James Mooney Investigates Early Portuguese Settlements.

Mr. James Mooney, who has just returned from Indian Territory, where he has been making a study of the Kiowa tribe for the Bureau of Ethnology, has also during his career as an anthropologist done considerable work in the way of investigating the Portuguese settlements along the Atlantic coast of the United States, a subject about which less is known than most any other phase of the modern ethnology of America. All along the southern coast there are scattered here and there bands of curious people, whose appearance, color, and hair seem to indicate a cross or mixture of the Indian, the white, and the negro. 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, and many have often wondered how these people came to have such a tradition or, in view of their ignorance, how they came to even know of the name of Portugal or the Portuguese. The explanation is, however, far simpler than one might imagine. In the first place, the Portuguese have always been a seagoing people, and according to Mr. Mooney, who has looked up the subject, the early records of Virginia and the Carolinas contain notices of Portuguese ships having gone to wreck on the coasts of these States and of the crews settling down and marrying in with Indians and mulattoes.

Moreover, there are records of Portuguese ships having sailed into Jamestown Bay as early as 1655, and since then there has been more or less settlement of Portuguese fishermen and sailors from Maine to Florida. Now it has been the history of the Portuguese race that wherever they settled they mixed in with the darker peoples forming the aboriginal populations of the countries  occupied by Portuguese settlers, and this is the reason and cause of the Portuguese admixture among the tribes along the coast of the United States.

In further proof of this he calls attention to the case of a colony of
Portuguese fishermen who settled on the coast of Massachusetts a few years ago. These settlers have nothing whatever to do with the white or Yankee population around them, but are intermarrying and intermixing among and with the small remnant of the Narragansett Indians who have survived down to the present day. In short, it has been the history of the Portuguese that wherever they settled along the Atlantic coast they have intermixed and intermarried among the remnants of the Indian tribes that were once the sole
proprietors of that region.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Indians of Newmans Ridge


Sneedville, Aug. 16, 1878.
To the Editor of the Morristown Gazette :
Yesterday I took l. M. Jarvis horse and rode out to Joshua Davis', ten miles from here. Arriving at his residence "he was three miles off on a farm he owns in Claiborne county, so I took one of his horses and went to see him.  I found him engaged in the laudable business of building a school house on the lower part of his farm. He is a grandfather, yet, he said, he was taking right hold, hewing logs and doing' full days' work right along beside younger men, though he had not performed much out-door labor for a dozen 'years, having , .worked in his.,
blacksmith shop. He has several mineral springs near where he is working, the  water from one of which he freely drinks, which he thinks helps him. These springs are of little note a great ways from where they are situated, yet they are of local importance, and are resorted to by the people in the vicinity to their great benefit. While I was there, Mr. Hord, of New Canton, Hawkins - county, was visiting these springs, and, as he thinks, to his benefit. Mr. Hord is an old man between 70 and 80 years of age. If the great public knew of these springs they would be considerably resorted to -- as it is, it will be some years before they will be visited by invalids from great  distances, Mr. Davis thinks of pntting them in good condition, building houses and inviting patronage.- They are pleasantly situated and may, in ; time, be made objects of great interest. They are not at the bottom of hills, but come up from beneath the surface of the earth, which seems to rest upon a rock foundation,"

Returning to town called upon Sampson Williams. He is a man of some note in these parts, While he owns a large farm he has met with adversity, and like many who have been kinder to their neighbors than to themselves, have met with heavy losses. However, in his old age be has been taught by that expensive teacher, experience, and will hereafter avoid troubles which have, in times ' past, beset him. He has, for many years, held offices, such as post-master, deputy-sheriff, magistrate, &c but has passed ambition for office and taken out license as a lawyer. Mr. Jarvis has been initiating me into the history of the past, concerning Sneedville and vicinity. I was over on Blackwater creek, a famous section of Hancock county, on Thursday last. He has a farm there, on which he says is a most excellent chalybeate spring. It is resorted to for its efficacious waters.

Where the village of Sneedville is situated was once an Indian town. There are any quantity of flints half finished, scattered about over a wide extent in and around the village, showing that this was a place where they manufactured darts for their arrows, with which they killed their game. Many battle-axes, tomahawks, pestles, and remnants of Instruments and vessels of pottery used by the aborigines have been picked up in years gone by, so that now they are seldom found. Within a quarter of a mile of the court-house there is still visible a round-shaped knoll which may be a mound. It was once much sharper than it now is, so sharp that cattle never resorted to it for rest. It has been ploughed over and cultivated; and is now very much flattened.. I have seen many mounds, and am inclined to express it as my opinion that this - is a regular mound.

It could soon be determined, however, by digging into the middle of it down near to the level of the land around it. In size it was probably aboutt 30 feet wide in its extreme width and 60 feet long. It was built, if built at all, egg-shaped, or nearly so, and was very regular in its outline.

On a hill, not far from here, there is any amount of petrifcations. Mr Jarvis has furnished me with many specimens. They are vegetables turned to stone by some process not well understood by the unscientific. The curious thing about them to me is, because they are upon a hill, in limestone and gravelly soil. Most petrifactions are found in the earth in low and wet places. The bodies of human beings are sometimes turned to stone, but they are always, so far as I am  aware, found in low places, where silver or mineral waters are  found. Possibly some of the specimens found near here are animal petrifactions. Certainly, whole snakes are petrified, on Newman's ridge, and perhaps elsewhere hereabouts. But I have not time to stop to examine those curiosities in their several localities. I have some of them in my possession, which I will show you when I return home.

Right here, allow me to say that I am in correspondence with the officers of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D. C, who request me to collect all evidences of these singular formations, and transmit information and specimens to them. which I am doing, and respectfully request those who have any Indian battle-axes, tomahawks, arrow heads pottery, or other implements or trinkets once in posession of the Indians who formerly roamed over this country as "lords of creation," to send them to me at Morristown.

It is particularly requested that information shall be sent to me where the specimens were found and by whom they were sent. I am not authorized to pay anything for them. I have already some specimens collected, and want many more. Curious petrifactions are also invited. If left with John H. Tate & Co., they will find me. I am greatly under obligations to L. M. Jarvis, Esq., for hospitalities favors, information and other benefits for which I return him thanks on your behalf. Sine I was in this county last winter a great change for the better has taken place.

Berry has nearly, if not quite, broken up moonshining, and there is no ''grocery" kept in this place. Hence, peace and quiet prevail,  which proves that the shooting and cutting, so frequent for a short time last winter were sporadic rather than chronic.

Several new buildings have been built in this village. The Methodists have erected a very neat meet house, and William Y. Campbell has just finished a substantial and neat dwelling house. I hear the sound of the plane and other tools which speak well for Sneedville.
Powell House, Rogersville, )
August 20. 1878.

To the Editor of the Morristown Gazette

My last letter to you was written at Sneedville. One or two items were omitted, You will see by the returns of the election in Hancock county, that the majority in favor of W. H. Smith for County Court was only four over R. D. Green, his Republican competitor, It was said, when I left Sneedville,  on the 17th, that Mr. Green intends to contest, on the ground that several of the ballots on which the name Green appeared without any prefix or given name were thrown out uncounted.

James Green received 33 votes and R. D. contests that part of the rejected votes were wrongfully rejected, because he can find more than four persons who voted on their ticket the name of Green, intended their vote for the contestant X . The Democrats claim that any name without a prefix or given name should in all cases be thrown out but, to say the least, here is a case for lawyers to disagree.

I am told that a beech stump standing in the village of Sneedville is petrified. George Mitchell, who lives some miles out from Sneedville, just on the edge of Hawkins county, showed me a piece of bark which he said he took from it, and which seems to be partially petrified if not wholly.

Lewis M. Jarvis also told me that there was a mine of red lead 'and another' of yellow ochre, both of which a painter here had ground and made into excellent paint. These are valuable minerals.

The bar of Hancock county consists of six members, - viz ;" L  M.Jarvis, Sampson Williams; William B. Davis, H. K. Herd and Messrs. Doughty, and Coleman. . three reside in town and  three on their farms, 'eight  and nine miles from town, in different directions becauset hey cannot support themselves by their practice alone.

Leaving Sneedville on Saturday, I took a seat with  Joseph Brooks who was going out to his farm five miles away, behind two horses, and accompanied him four miles, when he turned away to go to his farm and then I called upon the venerable Dr. Mitchell, who had spent a long life as physician in Sneedville, but who has retired from practice and resides on his farm situated on Clinch river.

The old gentleman was pleased to meet with some one who understood the art of budding fruit trees, and had me teach his son and grandson the art, for, old as he his 72 years of- age he desired to improve the quality of his orchards. And I will here observe. that the people in Claiborne and Hancock counties are way behind the times in this respect, taken as a whole, and need to be taught how to improve their orchards.  As a general thing, the Horse apple prevails, though the Limber Twig has been shown a  reference. In some in stances a very few have purchased new kinds of trees, to the number of 100 or more. The peaches are generally the kind - which were grown 75 years ago, though there is beginning to be an improvement in the purchase and planting of the new kinds. Both apples and peaches, as a rule, are of the late kinds. There are plenty of both apples and peaches along the whole distance I have traveled the past thirteen days, and men, women, and boys and girls are busily engaged in drying large quantities of them.

Saturday, just at night, found me at the hospitable door of William B. Davis, who heartily bid me welcome to his bed and- board. For traveling over rough roads under the influence of a scorching sun, I was tired and ready to accept of a good harbor for the night. Mr. Davis resides on a farm on Blackwater creek, consisting of the very moderate number of nine hundred and sixty acres. He is and has been a man of considerable importance, both at home and abroad, and besides being one of the six lawyers of his county, is  P. M. of Blackwater P. O.

Sunday morning the family started off for meeting, as there was to be baptizing in the Clinch river. Elders George Davis, John Davis and Click had been holding a two weeks meeting in the Davis meeting house, and a number of persons had been converted, and were that day to be buried in baptism with Christ, according to the practice of the Baptists. The place for baptizing was a mile or more from the meeting house, and on the way Mr. Davis showed me his father's farm, which is situated immediately on Clinch river, was settled 70 or 80 years ago, and stated that a bunch of asparagus is still growing which was planted the same time,

This led him to point out the place where was once an Indian village.  Specimens of the rude pottery of the aborigines are still found scattered about, and then he gave me a piece of Indian history, which is new to me, which he learned some years ago, in Arkansas, when he was Indian agent among the Cherokees at Fort Gibson. He learned it from old Jim , who was then sub-Chief. Jim told him that many, many years ago, a band of some 200 young men of this tribe left and went west to explore the country and find new and better hunting grounds, because, I suppose, they were encroached upon by the greedy whites.

They were never more beard of. But it seems when the Cherokees were transported to their new home in Arkansas that they found traces of an old Indian village, and specimens of pottery similar to those used by the Cherokees and made only by them. On Inquiry, the Cherokees found that their lost band went out to the head waters of the Arkansas river and settled there, and coming in contact with the Indians of the plains were annihilated.

Soon we came to the place of baptizing.  The services were conducted by Elder Click. Six persons were baptized. First, an old man who had already entered upon "the sear and yellow leaf of life,'  Brother Rogers, who had attained the age of sixty-six years; then a young man, followed by three youths fifteen to sixteen years of age, and a young woman. The company was orderly and the scene impressive. The crowd returned to the meeting-house where were to be held other, services and I passed over the river and on towards Lee Valley P. O.

A few miles ahead I found the road flocked by a union, basket meeting. Passing through, it I took a seat under the shade of a tree, supposing myself to be an entire stranger, but soon your correspondent, "Clinch." came along and made me feel quite at home.'

The forenoon meeting over, a recess of an hour and a half was had when preaching  recommenced. These meetings were conducted by local preachers ------preachers to the manner born, I mean-  a  Brown,  a Davis and others whose names I did not learn. It was an  occasion of considerable interest.

The name of --Trent is mouthed about as often in that section as Noe is in Hamblen county.  Clinch put me on his horse, whether I would or not, and walked himself three miles to bis father s residence, where I stopped over Sunday night.

On the the way we stopped and called upon George, son of Dr. Mitchell. George gave me some small specimens of petrifactions which are rare. . . .., Among them a bora of some animal I know not of. It is some two inches long with the rings around it in regular order, showing that it was an old animal. - The petrifaction is perfect. He has an Indian pipe eight or nine inches long, made in the form of a duck, which I would like for the Smithsonian Institute, Washington.

I was well entertained by Clinch and his father, William Berry, and on  Monday morning, pursued my weary way. The sun shown out clear, warm and oppressive, and at about one o'clock I reached the neat and attractive residence of John Starnes, where I found Dr. B. B, Owens and family, of your place. His wife is a daughter of Mr. Starnes, and she has a sick sister, on whom the Doctor is specially waiting. The issue of life and death is still uncertain, but if an attentive physician and the unremitting care of a mother and sister can restore her to health she will survive. Everything that can add to her comfort is provided by a devoted father. Oh what little heaven is there in such a house.

The doctor told me of a fool-hardy performance of a young man, in District No. 2 in Hawkins county, which resulted in his death. Tivis Cook was, on July 21, at a neighbor's house. His neighbor had a sweet apple tree. The apples were hardly medium sized. He bantered the owner to eat as many apples as be would, but the contest was not accepted. Cook then said he would see how many apples he could eat, and after cramming into his stomach 20, or, possibly, a few more, took a recess and went to the spring to drink, with the intention of returning to his task. But after drinking he was taken sick and vomited, but threw up only cider. He continued to grow worse and worse, and Dr. Owens was called to attend him.

He attempted to relieve the young man by vomiting and purging, but could get no operation, because, the excessive and inordinate stuffing had forced the pumice of the apples out of his stomach undigested, and they lodged in the small intestines in a compact mass. Cook died on the 24th of July.  Moral young men, never try to jump as far, run as far, or lift as much as you can, for fear of being ruptured do not cram your stomachs, beyond their capacity to digest food. Remember, always, that enough is as good as a feast,  and be content, for fear that a like death, will overtake you.

Coming over Clinch Mountain I found myself at the house of Andrew, he is a very old man of whom everybody speaks well.  He has a chalybeate spring on his farm to which invalids resort. Stopped over Monday night with Dr. Gillenwaters. He told me that there is a fatal disease among cattle in his neighborhood he lives five miles from this town which the people know nothing about. The cattle are taking with swelling in the thighs, suffer intensely and die, I have heard of it elsewhere, but know no remedy for it.

Arrived here .this morning, but have  not time, nor have you roomfor more, this time. You mixed up my Mulberry Gap and Sneedville letters curiously. You left off the Sneedville date and placed the last paragraph 'of the Mulberry Gap letter at the bottom of the Sneedville one.

We had a tremendous rain in this region last night, and more today. - J. S. W. ;

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Newmans Ridge - The Old Days

Herald and Tribune (Jonesborough Tennessee)


Mr. Editor In obedience to a promise made when I left Jonesboro I will give you a few items of my trip to Sneedville.  I reached that somewhat famous town about dark on the l6th inst. The roads were extremely muddy, but being mounted on Col. Irenius White's famous saddle-horse, "David" I feared no evil. Sneedville is situated not far from Clinch River, in a beautiful valley at the foot of Newmans Ridge.  It contains a population of about one hundred and fifty souls, one log church, one Academy, a Court House and Jail. The original name of the place was "Greasy Rock," so called because on a certain ledge of flat rocks near the town, the Indians are said to have skinned their bears.  

Hancock county was organized from a part of Hawkins County in 1848. It contains some very good farming lands, though most of the county is very rough and mountainous. It is by nature well adapted to the growing of the grasses, and could be made one of the beet counties  for raising sheep and cattle in the State. But the people grow mostly corn, oats and wheat and boat their surplus down the Clinch River to Chattanooga in flat-boats.

The county has a varied population, a great many of the people are industrious, enterprising and intelligent while some are groveling, vicious,  and indigent.  A race of people mostly by the name of Collins and Mullins live on the top and along the spurs of Newmans Ridge, and some of them in a fertile valley called  "Blackwater," history tells not of their origin," but as far as I can learn from the oldest ones among them, their ancestors came there from "Reed Island" about the beginning of the present century. They claim to be of Welsh extraction, some of them are quite dark in complexion, all have straight hair,  generally dark eyes, sharp noses, thin lips, and some of them very peculiar physiognomies. They have none of the peculiar marks of the African about them, and I have no idea that they have any African blood in them. The lands cleared out and cultivated by them on Newman's Ridge are said to be rich and productive. These people were all loyal to the United States Government in the  war and many of them served in the Union army aud made good soldiers. ( There are around three dozen old timers in Hancock County census in 1880 born from 1795-1820)

Circuit Court passed off quietly, a good deal of drinking, but no fighting that I heard of, it was too muddy to "form a line" on the Street of Sneedville. The famous Lowder case went off after a fashion.  He was indicted in January 1872, four years ago, on a charge of shooting his wife, which he claimed to have done accidentally. On the first trial the jury failed to agree, at a subsequent term several days were spent in an effort to obtain a jury, and hundreds of men were sworn but almost all seemed to have formed an opinion and the court had to adjourn without completing a panel.  He was again put upon his trial add convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment in the penitentiary.   

The case was taken to the Supreme Court and reversed on the ground that the jury was incompetent by reason of having formed an  opinion from rumor and otherwise. The State could not change the venue and thus the matter stood. At the last the defendant through his counsel proposed to submit for voluntary man slaughter and take the shortest term (two years) in the penitentiary. The Attorney General after consulting with the court and many of the best citizens of the county, accepted the proposition, believing it the best that could be done under all the circumstances.

Two others came forward and submitted and took one year each in the penitentiary, one for aiding prisoners to break jail, and the other for killing a horse. I am now in the staid and quiet old town Rogersville, having arrived here yesterday all muddy, weary and worn. I am very well satisfied with the election of C. A. Mathes, as sheriff of your county, and the Deputies appointed under him are good selections. Calvin was a good and faithful soldier and I believe will do his duty as an officer.


Rogersville, Tenn. January 1876.

Rogersville Press and Times:  The Morristown Gazette., July 20, 1881, 

On last Friday, in Hancock county, on Newman's Ridge, a man by- the name of Mullins shot and killed Larkin Gibson. It seems that our informant knew but little of the particulars, but. according to the best information he had gathered, the facts are about as follows : Mullins is a revenue officer and Gibson a violator of the revenue law. It is supposed that Mullins tried to arrest Gibson, and that a fight ensued, resulting in the killing of Gibson, who, it is said, fired the first shot. Our informant, although he did not know, thought there had been quite a feud existing between the parties for some time.


They Meet the Blackwater Moonshiners.
Battle on Newman's Ridge.
Burt Goins said to be Killed

Capt. H. H. Dotson with fourteen men made a raid into Lee county on Friday the 9th, reaching Blackwater at midnight, Saturday the 10th, when they struck Burt Goins' Distillery.- Finding no one there they destroyed it and passed on to Newman's Ridge, on top of which, in a dense forest, they struck Long & Maxey's Distillery, the most complete and unique moonshine outfit ever found in S. W. Va. A fine spring broke out of the ground and ran some 60 yards when it disappeared from view by running into a cavern, leaving no stream by which it could be traced or suspected.

The distillery was a large one, but all the refuse from it passed into the Cavern to be seen, smelled and heard of no more. Here the firm seemed to have had a splendid business, and doubtless felt secure from discovery, until Goins, as is supposed darted in to their seclusion and told them the raiders were coming. The 120 gallon still was at once emptied, and when the raiders arrived at dawn on Sunday its smoking contents were quite warm on the grounds. Some 30 yards distant they found the still which was then warm, so closely were the  moonshiners pressed that they had very quickly abandoned it. The Beer destroyed at these two distilleries was enormous. At Goins there were 1440 gallons and also 50 gallons Low wines. At Long & Maxey's there were 1728 gallons beer, and 100 gallons low wines. In all over 3,000 gallons beer, 150 gallons low wines, or singlings. Everything was destroyed, and then the party commenced descending the Ridge. Some distance below the summit they were passing through a field, when they were fired on by the moonshiners from a wooded spur of the ridge, directly above them. Then came

                                         THE BATTLE

Five or 6 shots were fired at them, most of which came from muskets, there being one squirrel rifle in the lot, judging by the sound. The fire was returned at once, and the battle continued for some 30 minutes, when the moonshiners ceased firing and, the raiders pressed on towards home, going up the valley some 7 miles for breakfast. During the battle, one of the Revenue party saw one of the Shiners step beside a tree and fire at them. He laid down and taking aim returned the fire, when he was seen to fall.

On their way home they were in formed by several citizens , that Burt Goins had been wounded in the the shoulder and died the afternoon of the same day. Goins is said to be the one who two years ago, In the Blackwater attack on the Revenue Raiders, shot and killed citizen Vandeventer, who was aiding the Revenue parly. . If the story of Goins death be true, (and we think there Is reason to doubt it,) this will make a total three deaths in the last two years, from these Revenue raids on the moonshiners of Lee and Scott. Vandevanter was killed in May 1877, Cox, of Scott, in April 1879, and Goins in May 1879. Over 100 shots were exchanged in the battle. We get these particulars from Capt. Dotson and Capt. Ballard.

The Morristown Gazette., July 04, 1877

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Did You Know ......

The 'First Part' of this article was printed from August of 1848 through October of that year in at least two dozen newspapers across the United States, to date I have not found one single newspaper that carried the 'Second Part' of the article. Why was the 'Second Part' not printed in any newspaper before Littell published 'his version' in March of 1849?  Is the 'Second Part' hidden away somewhere in a newspaper or magazine yet to be found?  Or is it the part of Littell's Living Age that falls under 'fiction'? 

Littell's Living Age
March 1849
Unknown Journalist

It was reprinted from the Knoxville Register September 6, 1848 quoting from the Louisville Examiner. (We are sorry to have lost the name of the southern paper from which this is taken.)

We give to-day another amusing and characteristic sketch from a letter of our intelligent and sprightly correspondent, sojourning at present in one of the seldom-visited nooks hid away in our mountains.

You must know that within ten miles of this owl's nest, there is a watering-place, known hereabouts as 'black-water Springs.' It is situated in a narrow gorge, scarcely half a mile wide, between Powell's Mountain and the Copper Ridge, and is, as you may suppose, almost inaccessible. A hundred men could defend the pass against even a Xerxian army. Now this gorge and the tops and sides of the adjoining mountains are inhabited by a singular species of the human animal called MELUNGENS.

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. These people made themselves friendly with the Indians and freed, as they were from every kind of social government, they uprooted all conventional forms of society and lived in a delightful Utopia of their own creation, trampling on the marriage relation, despising all forms of religion, and subsisting upon corn (the only possible product of the soil) and wild game of the woods.

These intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants (after the advances of the whites into this part of the state) with the negros and the whites, thus forming the present race of Melungens.

They are tall, straight, well- formed people, of a dark copper color, with Circassian features, but wooly heads and other similar appendages of our negro. They are privileged voters in the state in which they live and thus, you will perceive, are accredited citizens of the commonwealth. They are brave, but quarrelsome; and are hospitable and generous to strangers. They have no preachers among them and are almost without any knowledge of a Supreme Being. They are married by the established forms, but husband and wife separate at pleasure, without meeting any reproach or disgrace from their friends. They are remarkably unchaste, and want of chastity on the part of females is no bar to their marrying. They have but little association with their neighbors, carefully preserving their race, or class, or whatever you may call it: and are in every respect, save they are under the state government, a separate and distinct people. Now this is no traveller's story.

They are really what I tell you, without abating or setting down in aught in malice. They are behind their neighbors in the arts. They use oxen instead of horses in their agricultural attempts, and their implements of husbandry are chiefly made by themselves of wood. They are, without exception, poor and ignorant, but apparently happy. 


Having thus given you a correct geographical and scientific history of the people, I will proceed with my own adventures.

The doctor was, as usual my compagnon de voyage, and we stopped at 'Old Vardy's', the hostelrie of the vicinage. Old Vardy is the 'chief cook and bottle-washer' of the Melungens, and is really a very clever fellow: but his hotel savors strongly of that peculiar perfume that one may find in the sleeping-rooms of our negro servants, especially on a close, warm, summer evening.

We arrived at Vardy's in time for supper, and thus despatched, we went to the spring, where were assembled several rude log huts, and a small sprinkling of 'the natives, together with a fiddle and other preparations for a dance. Shoes, stockings, and coats were unknown luxuries among them--at least we saw them not. The dance was engaged in with right hearty good will, and would have put to the blush the tame steppings of our beaux.

Among the participants was a very tall, raw-boned damsel, with her two garments fluttering readily in the amorous night breeze, who's black eyes were lit up with an unusual fire, either from the repeated visits to the nearest hut, behind the door of which was placed an open-mouthed stone jar of new-made corn whiskey, and in which was a gourd, with a 'deuce a bit' of sugar at all, and no water near than the spring.

Nearest here on the right was s a lank lantern-jawed, high cheekbone, long-legged fellow who seemed similarly elevated. Now these two, Jord Bilson (that was he,) and Syl Varmin, (that was she,)were destined to afford the amusement of the evening: for Jord, in cutting the pigeon-wing, chanced to light from one of his aerial flights right upon the ponderous pedal appendage of Syl, a compliment which this amiable lady seemed in no way to accept kindly.

'Jord Bilson,' said the tender Syl, 'I'll thank you to keep your darned hoofs off my feet.'

'Oh, Jord's feet are so tarnel big he can't manage 'em all by hisself.' suggested some pasificator near by.

'He'll have to keep 'em off me,' suggested Syl, 'or I'll shorten 'em for him.'

'Now look ye here, Syl Varmin, ' answered Jord, somewhat nettled at both remarks, 'I didn't go to tread on your feet but I don't want you to be cutting up any rusties about. You're nothing but a cross-grained critter, anyhow.'

'And you're a darned Melungen.'

'Well, if I am, I ain't n*****-Melungen, anyhow--I'm Indian-Melungen, and that's more 'an you is.'

'See here, Jord,' said Syl, now highly nettled, 'I'll give you a dollar ef you'll go out on the grass and right it out.'

 Jord smiled faintly and demurred, adding--

'Go home Syl, and look under your puncheons and see if you can't fill a bed outen the hair of them hogs you stole from Vardy.'

'And you go to Sow's cave, Jord Bilson, ef it comes to that, and see how many shucks you got offen that corn you took from Pete Joemen. Will you take the dollar?'

Jord now seemed about to consent, and Syl reduced the premium by one half, and finally came down to a quarter, and then Jord began to offer a quarter, a half, and finally a dollar: but Syl's prudence equalled his, and seeing that neither was likely to accept, we returned to our hotel, and were informed by old Vardy that the sight we had witnessed was no 'onusual one. The boys and gals was jist having a little fun.'

And so it proved, for about midnight we were wakened by a loud noise of contending parties in fierce combat, and, rising and looking out from the chinks of our hut, we saw the whole party engaged in a grand me lee; rising above the din of all which, was the harsh voice of Syl Varmin, calling--

'Stand back here, Sal Frazar, and let me do the rest of the beaten of Jord Bilson; I haint forgot his hoofs yit.'

The mele closed, and we retired again, and by breakfast next morning all hands were reconciled, and the stone jar replenished out of the mutual pocket, and peace ruled where so lately all had been recriminations and blows. After breakfast, just as the supper had been at old Jack's, save only that we had a table, we started for Clinch river for a day's fishing where other and yet more amusing incidents awaited us. But as I have dwelt upon this early part of the journey longer than I intended, you must wait till the next letter for the concluding incidents."

The LEGEND of the Melungens printed apparently sometime in the 1840s [though it may have been printed much earlier as the original article has not been found] is an important piece of Melungeon History, ignored by most researchers and authors.  The article was published shortly after the illegal voting trials in Tennessee of Solomon Bolton and the men in Hawkins County, both claimed Portuguese ancestry. 

I believe it is also important to note the 'Legend' tells they were Portuguese who mixed with the Indians and when they came to Tennessee they then mixed with the 'whites and the blacks.'  Why is it widely reported they "hid their ancestry" or the Portuguese "was a cover story" to hide their African ancestry. 

They clearly state in 1848 they were Portuguese who later mixed with the blacks, so what were they hiding, and why do seemingly intelligent researchers and authors insist they didn't know who they were, or were trying to hide their ancestry?

This is the same story Dromgoole heard FORTY years later when she wrote; 'the Denham were Portuguese, the Collins and Gibson were Cherokee, the Mullins were white and the Goins were African' and in 2014 this is being backed up by DNA testing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bonnie Ball Sage

Correspondence of Bonnie Sage Ball

The Melungeons (Notes on the Origin of a Race) by Bonnie Ball was the first book I read back in the mid 1990s when I first started researching these families. Bonnie was born December 1901 on Wallen’s Ridge near Stickleyville, Lee County, Virginia. More on her life can be read here; Tribute to Bonnie Sage Ball By Gladys Julian Stallard. Many articles and books have been published on the Melungeons over the years but Bonnie Ball insight into their history, customs, etc, is invaluable as her father had grown up with them in the late 1800s and she not only knew them as a child but taught their children. Here are some excerpts from her letters in the 1990s and also from her book which can be purchased here online The Melungeons by Bonnie S. Ball

February 24, 1990I've just read your letter which had gotten misplaced in my big pile of mail... Now that I am 88 I have had to give up most research , but I still write letters and reply to those of others, even though I cannot do much active research.

As to the Melungeons, I had known them since childhood, since my father had them living as tenants on our farm when I was 8 or 9 years old. He had grown up in the Blackwater, Va., area and known them all his life.

When the Goins family came to live on our farm their children attended our school, and after I grew up and began teaching I had them as pupils, and had even played with their children. However it never occurred to me t write about them until a Norton, Va., editor began publishing articles about them, even though he knew little about them. Then it occurred to me "why not write about them myself?" So, I wrote a brief article for the Read Magazine, which sent me $75. I began receiving letters from all over the U.S.A. I had no idea that so many people were interested. A few years later I wrote one for a magazine in Ky., then the head of the ? paid me to write one for it. And in the early 1960s I decided to put it into a booklet and I had more than 2,000 copies published.We had the Goins family for only a year or so, but we had Gibson, and Collins families living on our [land] for several years. My mother had a Collins family there long after I grew up and married.

Other Melungeon names that I remember were; Freeman, Moore, Sexton, Minor, and Sheets. Some of the Gibsons intermarried with other families like Phillips, Fanning, and Clark. [The Fannins, known as "Fanon," were slightly related to me and one of the Collins families who educated their children in Hancock Co., Tenn. [the man was a banker] had a daughter who married my father's step sister. They had only daughters. One took over the bank after he died and another became a high school principle in Bristol, Tenn.So this has been a fascinating subject for me and I still feel convinced that they are a mixture of Moorish, Portuguese, Croatan Indians, and a small portion of Anglo-Saxon blood that was left from the final massacre of the Roanoke Island colony in North Carolina. If not, how can we explain why they use old Elizabethan English expressions and all the older ones said they were "Porty-gee." The Portuguese who were often shipwrecked off the stormy N.C coast and chose to stay there and marry Indian women. The small segment that escaped from the final massacre by the Va., Indians evidently retained the old English words that the Melungeons used, like "Hit" [for it] "ferninst'[?] for opposite, etc. Please excuse my rambling and crooked lines.Bonnie S. Ball

Jan 1990I have your material but am now 88 years old and not carrying on any further research on the Melungeons. However, I grew up with them living and working on my father farm in Lee Co, Va, and he knew them well during his youth, and I have never doubted their real origin. I have sold over 2000 copies of my booklet. A step-sister of my father married a man of that group. He attended a mission school for that group, and was president of the local bank, which was later managed by a daughter. Some of them are still in this area and have become worthwhile citizens.

A Goins man once lived on our farm with his family, a large and strong man but was married to a woman that was probably not a Melungeon Others whom I knew in childhood were named Gibson, Freeman, Collins, and Sexton, which appear to be Anglo-Saxon names. However there is no doubt that they have a Portuguese ancestry a few generations back, but they also have some Anglo-Saxon names and speech.Bonnie S. Ball

August 1992I have just taken the time to read all your data on the Melungeons. I guess that the mail that I have received re this subject would weigh several pounds. And truly, most of it presents new or different ideas.

In fact I grew up in Lee County, Va, when my father and mother had decided to move off the little ridge top farm, and move down into the valley among the blue grass hills and limestone springs, where we would be near a public school. There were woodland along the side and top of Powell Mountain, and he realized that if we were to continue raising cattle and sheep the wooded area along the mountain side would have to be cleared.

He had been born and reared as a boy in the 'West Blackwater section of Lee County," which adjoins Hancock County, Tenn, and was familiar as a young man with Mahala Mullins and other Melungeons. And he admitted that he had bought some of Mahala's product.

By that time he had lost his father during his childhood and his mother had remarried. So he went to live with an uncle in another valley in Lee Co, Va. Later around 1900 he bought a small farm along Wallen's Ridge where I and 3 or 4 others were born. However we were over a mile from school and attendance was difficult in winter so the bought the bluegrass land along the creek and mountainside which was rapidly growing up into a forest So dad knew some of the Melungeons he hand known as a boy on Blackwater, but they had then scattered and some were living in a remote area of Wise County known as the High Knob area Some of them had even ventured to work in a nearby coal mine, but that life apparently did not suit them very well. So he sent a man with teams of horses and wagons to move them over into Lee county to clear the mountain land of forests, and take care of his livestock. that was about 1909, and they lived in the 'shanties' on our farm for 8 or 10 years.

As they moved back into the remote areas of Wise County, Va., the forest along the mountain top began to grow and grow and by now it extends all the way down to our once vegetable garden where a brother lives.
Occasionally we read of one of their cousins who, like most Melungeon men there, did some hunting and fishing. For extra spending money and chewin tobacco "they dug and sold the dried roots of gensing to sell (it grows in wooded areas and is claimed to have medicinal value.)

You may get tired before you read all these details. Even though several people have "stolen details" from my book, from which I have 'leased' to a Tenn. firm, I don't mind others using my material but they should, at least, ask for permission.Bonnie S. Ball

Some interesting excerpts from the book;

The older Melungeons insisted that they were Portuguese. I have known the Melungeons from childhood, when three families lived as tenants on my father's farm in Southwestern Virginia. Their children have been my pupils, and I have done first-hand research on their traits, customs, and past, but can give here only the proposed theories of their origin.

There is a doubtful theory that the Melungeon was a product of frontier warfare when white blood was fused with the Indian captor's and that of the Negro slave.

There also persist stories (that are recorded in history) that DeSoto visited Southwestern Virginia in the sixteenth century by way of a long chain of mountain leading into Tennessee. One ridge known as "Newman's Ridge" (which could have been "New Man's Ridge") was once the home of a teeming colony of Melungeons who were strongly believed to have descended from members of DeSoto's party lost or captured there.

In both Carolinas Melungeons were denied privileges usually granted to white people. For that reason many migrated to Tennessee where the courts ruled that they were not Negroes.

In weighing this last statement it is interesting to note that the Moors of Tennessee called themselves Portuguese, that the Moors of North Carolina came from Portugal, and that a generation ago the Melungeons called themselves Portuguese.The Portuguese tradition seems to persist in connection with the Melungeons much more than even that of the Lost Colony.She (Will Allen Dromgoole) gives no authority whatsoever for this tale, and further states that; "A Collins came to Newman's Ridge and reared a family by a wife whose ancestry was more vague than that of Cain's wife."

In a column called "The Southwest Conrner" published in the Roanoke News, Roanoke, Virginia, on February 25, 1934, Dr. Gooridge Wilson wrote the following ..............."Mr. Robert Gray, one of the last survivors of those who drove the great herds of cattle, horses, and mules from the mountains to the sea, says that the Melungeons were in much demand for this work, being expert handlers of the stock on long treks...... ... when he was a boy some of the oldest of the clan told him that they were "Croatans," survivors of the Indians tribe supposed to have destroyed or absorbed Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony on Roanoke Island."
A TRIBUTE to Bonnie Ball 

Every Melungeon Researcher should have a copy of THE MELUNGEONS by Bonnie Ball    Amazon