Thursday, June 21, 2012

Yes Virginia - The Native American History is Documented


The Melungeons and the Tennessee Indians

I don't mean to 'beat a dead horse' but I just can't help wondering why in this paper recently published by Estes, Crain, Goins and Ferguson did they not include the Native American haplogroup of FREEMAN.  

There are other associations with the surnames coming back with Q haplogroups such as Lawson, Strickland, Helton etc., but the omission of FREEMAN, which is listed on the CORE MELUNGEON page at ftDNA, and the other maternal connections to the Native Americans not mentioned, it almost seems like they are not wanting to admit to the Native heritage documented amongst the Melungeons. 

The very first page, very first paragraph of this paper states the Melungeons were found in Lee County, Virginia;
"Melungeon is a term applied historically to a group of persons, probably multiethnic, found primarily in Hawkins and Hancock Counties, Tennessee, and in adjoining southern Lee County, Virginia".

On page 22 we find; 
"The list of Core Melungeon families was taken from multiple historical sources, including the 1830 census,  Lewis Jarvis’ records, court records,  tax lists,  Plecker’s lists,  Droomgoole’s articles, the Shepherd Case, the 1880 census, the 1890 census report, voting records."
"Lee and Smyth:
Collins, Gibson, (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch, Freeman, Mise, Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins"
According to their own guidelines the FREEMAN'S Native American haplogroup should have been part of this study, yet it was omitted.

Upon the formation of the Core Melungeon project Jack Goins wrote;
"In order to have a legitimate Melungeon DNA program, core names must be established with written records from men who lived in the days of the first known Melungeons."
 The two names listed are  #1 Lewis Shepherd who represented the Hamilton County Melungeons and #2 Lewis Jarvis who represented the Hancock County Melungeons. (According to the recently published article by Jack Goins and fellow authors Lewis Jarvis  " was a respected local attorney in Hancock County" - "He knew these people personally and was speaking from his personal knowledge.)

What did Lewis Shepherd and Lewis Jarvis say these Melungeons were? Portugese and Indians.

In this latest article published by JoGG on the Melungeon DNA the authors used the 'historical documents' of Lewis Shepherd, Lewis Jarvis, C. H. Humble (Presbyterian Minister)  and Will Allen Dromgoole in which to build their list of Melungeon Core names.  

What ancestry, as an "eyewitness to history" did  Shepherd, Jarvis, Humble and Dromgoole they say these families were believed to be?

As I wrote in the previous blog there is much evidence the people on the Pee Dee River were Portuguese and brought the name Melungeon with them to Hancock County.  There is also much evidence the people in and around Hancock County were Indians.

C.H. Humble

A Visit To The Melungeons
"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. ............Indian blood mingled somewhat with Caucasian will account for all the peculiarities of color, feature, hair, carriage and character possessed by these people."
Lewis Jarvis

Capt. L. M. Jarvis, an old citizen of Sneedville wrote in his 82nd year:
"I have lived here at the base of Newman's Ridge, Blackwater, being on the opposite side, for the last 71 years and well know the history of these people on Newman's Ridge and Blackwater enquired about as Melungeons. These people were friendly to the Cherokees who came west with the white imigration from New River and Cumberland, Virginia, about the year 1790...The name Melungeon was given them on account of their color. I have seen the oldest and first settlers of this tribe who first occupied Newman's Ridge and Blackwater and I have owned much of the lands on which they settled.. They obtained their land grants from North Carolina. I personally knew Vardy Collins, Solomon D. Collins, Shepard Gibson, Paul Bunch and Benjamin Bunch and many of the Goodmans, Moores, Williams and Sullivans, all of the very first settlers and noted men of these friendly Indians
Hancock County Times1903
"Vardy Collins, Shepherd Gibson, Benjamin Collins, Solomon Collins, Paul Bunch and the Goodmans, chiefs and the rest of them settled here about the year 1804, possibly about the year 1795, but al these men above named, who are called Melungeons, obtained land grants and muniments of title to the land they settled on and they were the friendly Indians who came with the whites as they moved west. They came from the Cumberland County and New River, Va., stopping at various points west of the Blue Ridge. Some of them stopped on Stony Creek, Scott County, and Virginia, where Stoney Creek runs into Clinch River."  [ According to evidence found by the early settlers, an Indian village once stood on the south bank of the Clinch River near the mouth of Stony Creek.]  
"The white emigrants with the friendly Indians erected a fort on the bank of the river and called it Fort Blackmore and here yet many of these friendly “Indians” live in the mountains of Stony creek, but they have married among the whites until the race has almost become extinct. A few of the half bloods may be found-none darker- but they still retain the name of Collins and Gibson, &c. From here they came to Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater and many of them are here yet; but the amalgamations of the whites and Indians has about washed the red tawny from their appearance, the white faces predominating, so now you scarcely find one of the original Indians; a few half-bloods and quarter-bloods-balance white or past the third generation."
"The old pure blood were finer featured, straight and erect in form, more so than the whites and when mixed with whites made beautiful women and the men very fair looking men. These Indians came to Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater."

Will Allen Dromgoole
"The Goins family may be easily recognized by their kinky hair, flat nose and foot, thick lips, and a complexion totally unlike the Collins and Mullins tribes.  They posses many Negro traits, too, which are wanting to the other tribes."
 "Many of the Malungeons claim to be Cherokee and Portuguese. Where they could have gotten their Portuguese blood is a mystery. The Cherokee is easily enough accounted for, as they claim to have come from North Carolina, and to be a remnant of the tribe that refused to go when the Indians were ordered to the reservation. They are certainly very Indian-like in appearance."
"The owner was a full-blooded Indian, with keen, black eyes, straight black hair, high cheeks, and a hook nose. He played upon his violin with his fingers instead of a bow, and entertained us with a history of his grandfather, who was a Cherokee chief, and by singing some of the songs of his tribe."
 "The people in this house slept on leaves with an old gray blanket for covering. Yet the master of the house, who claims to be an Indians, and who without doubt, possesses Indian blood, draws a pension of twenty-nine dollars per month. He can neither read nor write, is a lazy fellow, fond of apple brandy and bitter coffee, has a rollicking good time with an old fiddle which he plays with his thumb, and boasts largely of his Cherokee grandfather and his government pension." 
"The original Collins people were Indian, there is no doubt about that, and they lived as the Indians lived until sometime after the first white man appeared among them."
"They were the Collins, as I said; those who followed the first-comers accepting the name already provided them. There was no mixture of blood: they claimed to be Indians and no man disputed it. They were called the "Collins Tribe" until having multiplied to the extent it was necessary to divide, when the descendants of the several pioneers were separated, or divided into clans."
"So we have the four races or representatives among, as they then began to be called, the Melungeons; namely, the Indians, the English, the Portuguese, and the African. Each is clearly distinct and easily recognized even to the present."

"In appearance they bear a striking resemblance to the Cherokees, and they are believed by the people round about to be of a kind of half-breed Indian. Their complexion is reddish brown, totally unlike the mulatto. The men are very tall and straight, with small, sharp eyes, high cheek bones, and straight black hair, worn rather long. The women are small, below the average height, coal black hair and eyes, high cheek bones, and the same red brown complexion. The hands of the Melungeons women are quite shapely and pretty. Also their feet, despite the fact that they travel the sharp mountain trails barefoot, are short and shapely. Their features are wholly unlike those of the negro, except in cases where the two races have cohabited, as is sometimes the fact. These instances can readily be detected, as can those of cohabitation with the mountaineer, for the pure Melungeons present a characteristic and individual appearance. On the Ridge proper, one finds only the pure Melungeon!
"It is in the unsavory limits of Black Water Swamp and on Big Sycamore Creek, lying at the foot of the ridge between it and Powells mountain, that the mixed races dwell."
"So nearly complete has been the extinction of the race that in but few counties of eastern Tennessee is it known. In Hancock you may hear them, and see them, almost the minute you cross into the county line. There they are distinguished as the Ridgemanites or pure Melungeons. Those among whom the white or negro blood has entered are called the Blackwaters."
Supporting Witnesses

John B. Brownlow
"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.  Netherland was the Whig candidate for Governor of Tennessee in 1859, against Isham G. Harris. He died in the 80's. He was a slave-owner and practised law in all the East Tennessee counties, which these people live." Prior to 1824 free negroes voted in Tennessee, and when in that year the State Constitution was so amended as to disfranchise "all free persons of color", it was sometimes made the pretext of refusing the franchise to these people of perfectly straight hair, small hands and shapely feet who bore no more resemblance to a negro than do members of the Spanish or Portugese embassies of Washington.
"In my boyhood days they were called Portugese.    I believe there was some mixture of these Portugese with the Cherokee Indians, but not with negroes."
Eliza N. Heiskell   (Daughter of Hon. John Netherland who represented the Melungeons.)
"The Melungeons have a tradition of a Portuguese ship mutiny, with the successful mutineer beaching the vessel on the North Carolina coast, then their retreat towards the mountains, farther and farther away from the avenging law of man, going on where nature’s barriers were their protection from a relentless foe-swept into heaven by the hand of fate.”
Special Correspondence of The Journal
Rogersville, Tenn., September 25
"As to their origin--- well that is where the mystery comes in.  While they have the appearance of Mulatto, Portuguese, and Indian all mixed in different and various proportions, they bear names evident of English origin, such as Gibson, Collins, Singleton, Goins, and Mallett."  
"In Magoffin county, Kentucky, one of the wildest of the eastern subdivisions of the commonwealth there is a community or settlement of people, who claim to be descendants of Portuguese, and the resemblance is said to be striking and complete....."
Will T. Hale
"A good many years ago there came to my native village a family named Goin, from East Tennessee. They were thought to be half-breed Indians. They were friendly, honest, and industrious. Every second Sunday, in single file, dressed in cheap but clean clothing, they made their way to the Baptist church. I feel sure now that they belonged to one of the two families of Malungeons - The family called “Goin” as I have since learned, designating it from the ones that had no mixed blood in it."
(Will T. Hale was the son of Charles Warren Lafayette and Malissa (Overall) Hale. He studied law in a private office, and, according to one source practiced law for about 8 yrs. at Liberty and Lebanon, Tennessee)  See Malungeon Town - Lebanon, Tennessee
American Notes and Queries
December 5, 1891 Malungeons (Vol Vi, p. 273) -- The lateness of these details (sent to The 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. 
Office Of M. R. Buttery
Sheriff of Hancock County
Sneedville, TennMay 10, 1897

Mr. Mc Donald FurmanRamsey, S. C.
 "Dear Sir:  I would have written you sooner but got your letter mislaid.  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."
Yes Virginia, there is documentation, both historical and genetic, the Melungeons had Native Ancestry!


  1. I have just recently found that I am descended from Mary Polly Bunch and Blackstone Gentry. I would like to know more about this Bunch line. It seems to me that if you have several family lines that go back to the 1600s and 1700s, you will surely find families that were Indian, or who married Indians.

  2. more than a few family names here are in my lines and proud of it

  3. 2/3/2014: I am stuck trying to find the paternal parents (prior to 1800) of my gr. gr. grandpa, HEZEKIAH STOUT DENHAM, 1802 TN--1886 IA, PRIOR TO 1800, IN KNOX COUNTY,
    TN, IN KNOXVILLE. I saw that there are Turners, and Phelps, that are in my line, that married into the DENHAMS/DUNHAMS. HE SUPPOSEDLY HAD A BROTHER THAT HE
    WILLIAM JASPER DENHAM; HUGH LITTLE DENHAM1835, IN; REUBEN M. DENHAM, 1837 IA.; OBEDIAH EMMITT DENHAM, 1839; I once saw a Mulatto under census race,
    however, our family claims Caucasian. We are English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, French, Danish, Swedish, and possibly Ma/elungeon race? My dad's family look Native American.

    1. There were Denhams in Claiborne Co, TN, in the earlier half if the 19th century. Claiborne Co is where the Cumberland Gap is located

  4. 2/3/2014: I forgot to mention that my Littles/Littells came from Wilkes(Rowan) county, North Carolina, through Jones Little, ca. 1740, who was married to Margaret (Davis);

  5. I am looking to find out about my family, the Winegar's and the Begley's. I know that I had a grandfather that started a mission in Fort Blackmore. My grandfather, was James Arron Begley and he married Annie Winegar on 8-15-1921, but that is all that I can find out. My dad once mentioned the melungeons but I was to young to remember much about it!

  6. I know my family's from Lee county Virginia, and there's only one of us out of about 70 in our family that the truth about our melungeon ancestry makes him mad and doesn't believe it. What's even worse is the fact that he was the only one of us that got a double dose of melungeon blood lines...


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