Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cherokee Communities of the South - Robert K. Thomas


by the Cherokee anthropoligist Robert K. Thomas

There is a link at the bottome to read this article in full.  It is a must read if you are interested in the Melungeons or the many Indian tribes of the south.

It appears that when these people from Granville County first came into Appalachia, they were known to whites as Melungeons. In fact, some whites in southwest Virginia and east Tennessee still refer to these people as Melungeons. I would guess that this term was used by these Indians when whites asked their nationality. There is some evidence that his term was applied to early Indians in Robeson County, as well. It appears to have been a term that originiated around New Bern, North Carolina. It was coined by the French speaking settlers of that section. It connotes a population that is mixed, coming from the French word melange, "to mix"; thus, Melungeons. Melungeons are said, in east Tennessee, to be a mixture of Indian and Portuguese.

This westward movement tended to terminate at Newman’s Ridge. Within a generation this core community began to send out migrants north and south.However, a few families came to Newman’s Ridge, stayed a few years, and then continued on further west. Families like the Browns who appear to have come from Lincoln County, North Carolina to Newman’s Ridge, continued on west into southeastern Kentucky, particularly into Knox and Bell Counties. The Taylor family is another such family which scattered into McCreary County, Kentucky and Scott County, Tennessee. The Bell Family is found all over this same area.

However, the main migration of this group of Indians was not further west afterforming this core community on Newman’s Ridge, but north or south. The northern migration simply spread north from Newman’s Ridge into Lee, Scott, Wise, and Washington Counties, Virginia. There are little pockets of Indians all over this area. Once again, the names of Collins, Goings, Mullins, and Gibson are in the majority. However, there begins to be other family names which show up in this period in southwest Virginia, particularly Nash and Hall. These appear to be families that tarried in the northwestern counties of North Carolina until the 1830’s and then moved in and joined the general stream of Indian migration. The original seat of the Nash family appears to be Orange County in the early 1760’s. He was heavily involved in Indian affairs and had fought in many frontier military engagements. I would guess that an Indian family either took his name or else, more probable, he sired an Indian family. Hall however, shows up as a family name modernly among the Meherrin in northeastern North Carolina and I suspect that is its origin as well. Thomas is another early Meherrin family found in this region."


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