Who really were the Core Melungeons?
From my research I determined years ago the people who were originally called Melungeons were the people living on the Pee Dee River as early as 1754. And they were, as they said, Portuguese adventurers who had mixed with the Carolina Indians.
On page 59 of the recently published report authored by Estes, Crain, Goins and Ferguson they write;
"This match is particularly important because it shows that the designation Melungeon, the term used to identify this group of South Carolina people, seems to predate the Melungeon community in Hawkins County, being used in reference to Solomon Bolton who is living in the Spartanburg District of South Carolina prior to 1800. "Judge Lewis Shepherd who defended the Melungeon Bolton family in Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1874 was clear in his telling of who these people were;
South Carolina had a law taxing free Negroes so much per capita, and a determined effort was made to collect this of them. But it was shown in evidence on the trial of this case that they always successfully resisted the payment of this tax, as they proved that they were not Negroes.
Because of their treatment, they left South Carolina at an early day and wandered across the mountains to Hancock county, East Tennessee; in fact, the majority of the people of that country are “Melungeons,” or allied to them in some way.Judge Lewis Shepherd is describing his “client”, the daughter of Solomon Bolton, and the people that came from the Pee Dee River in South Carolina with them. (listed in the petition)
These people proved to judges and juries over almost 100 years in their court battles they were Portuguese. The Ivey, Perkins, Bolton, Graham, Reed, Collins, Hall, Griffen, Dungey, and Ashworth were sworn, under oath, to be Portuguese by their neighbors. The Chavis who went from the Pee Dee River to Crow Creek Alabama were known by their neighbors as Portuguese. The Roarks of Tennessee and Kentucky are also in historical documents as having Portuguese ancestry.
In 1872 Judge Giles Leitch of Robeson County was called upon to testify;
Excerpt from the 1871 North Carolina Joint Senate and House Committee as they interviewed Robeson County Judge Giles Leitch about the ‘free persons of color’ living within his county:
Senate: Half of the colored population?
Leitch: Yes Sir; half of the colored population of Robeson County were never slaves at all…
Senate: What are they; are they Negroes?
Leitch: Well sir, I desire to tell you the truth as near as I can; but I really do not know what they are; I think they are a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and Indian… Senate: You think they are mixed Negroes and Indians?
Leitch: I do not think that in that class of population there is much Negro blood at all; of that half of the colored population that I have attempted to describe all have always been free…They are called ‘mulattoes’ that is the name they are known by, as contradistinguished from Negroes…I think they are of Indian origin.
Senate: I understand you to say that these seven or eight hundred persons that you designate as mulattoes are not Negroes but are a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, white blood and Indian blood, you think they are not generally Negroes? Leitch: I do not think the Negro blood predominates.
The Gibsons of the Pee Dee River and Hanover/Louisa County, Virginia have been genetically linked by DNA. Tobias Gibson, one of the first traveling Methodist Ministers in his day, was said to have been proud of his ‘Portuguese ancestry’.
“His circuit embraced all the settlements on Watauga, Nollichucky, and Holston Rivers, including those in what is now Greene, Washington, Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, and Hawkins Counties, Tenn., and Washington, Smyth, Russell, and perhaps Scott and Lee Counties, Va., with one or two appointments on the head waters of New River, in Grayson County, Va., and Ashe County, N. C.” (Holston Methodism from 1783 to 1788, p. 94.)
Jones went on to write;
“……..from memory and a few scraps of memoranda, what little I know of these three leading Gibson families. First; the parents of Rev. Randall Gibson came to the Natchez county (as it was then called), about 1781. In order to avoid the hostile Indians in what is now Western Georgia and Eastern Alabama, immigrants from the Carolinas traveled over land to the Holston River in East Tennessee, where they built family boats and descended the Holston and Tennessee Rivers, etc. Randall Gibson was then about fifteen years old, and I have heard him relate this fact in connection with an attack made on their boat by hostile Cherokee Indians. (Note: John Sevier while organizing the ‘State of Franklin’ was said to have encountered this colony of dark skinned people on the Holston. Three of the Gibson men from the Pee Dee River Gibson family were on John Sevier’s Franklin Petition.)Judge Lewis Shepherd says these people from the Pee Dee River came over the mountains to Hancock [Hawkins County] and dispersed from there.
There is evidence that some of these Gibsons at the Stoney Creek Church may have came from the Pee Dee River settlement. John Gibson of the Pee Dee River had land in what was later Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1774. It is likely some of these Gibsons, Collins etc., came from the Pee Dee River to Wlikes County and then to the Stoney Creek Church.
The Quillen family are found in the Stoney Creek Church records, Francis Quillen married Delilah Gibson who was reportedly born 1797 in South Carolina. A Delilah/Delily Gibson is found on the 1794 petition as one of the widows with a large family. She is found in 1850 census with her son George in Vineyard, Washington Co., Arkansas along with the Shoemake, Bolton and Oxendine families.
The Oxendine, Ivey, and Linegar families found on this petition settled in or near Hancock County, Tennessee. Oral histories and historical documents show the Oxendine, Linegar and Gibson families to have been part of the ‘Trail of Tears’ who dropped off in Missouri and returned to Tennessee.
In August of 2011 Janet Crain wrote to the Melungeon Rootsweb list that the Core Melungeon project was not finished, this was one month after submitting it to JoGG for 'peer review.' She wrote;
"It is regretful that no Boltons, Shumakes, etc. have joined but perhaps they will someday".
It is regretful they did not wait for DNA results for these people who they admit probably brought the name with them from South Carolina and who were the 'real' Core Melungeons. Why the rush to publish?
To Be Con't
The Melungeons and the Tennesee Indians