Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cherokee Melungeons Part II

The map below shows the Cherokee boundary line 
of 1785 as it appears to run smack dab 
down the middle of Sneedville.

On November 6, 1837, the Hawkins County Land Platt Book records the survey for James Livesay of 500 acres of land on an "Indian village on the waters of Painter/Panther Creek on the north side of Clinch River."  It would appear if there was an Indian village near Sneedville it would have been the Cherokee tribe.

The Gibsons, Sizemores, Collins, Bunch, etc., had came from Wilkes County, North Carolina before settling near the Cherokee boundary. Mulberry Fields in Wilkes County was identified as a Cherokee town as early as 1752 by the Moravians.

Christopher and Nathaniel Gist (Indian trader with a Cherokee wife] are on this 1751 tax list on the Dan River with Edward Nicks (son in law of Thomas Gibson) and  two John Gibsons.  One of these John Gibsons is no doubt the son of Thomas Gibson of St Martin's Parish ( and brother in law of Edward Nicks) who died 1734.

This Jefferson Frye map of 1749 below shows Gist/Gyst with land at Mulberry Fields. Benjamin Cleveland was at Mulberry Fields in 1774 and in his list of tithables is John Gibson, son of Gideon Gibson of Marrs Bluff, South Carolina and his wife Agnes,  daughter of the Cherokee Indian trader, James Adair.

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 immigration 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. They took their names from white people of that name with whom they came here. They were reliable, truthful and faithful to anything they promised. In the Civil War most of the Melungeons went into the Union army and made good soldiers. Their Indian blood has about run out. They are growing white... They have been misrepresented by many writers. In former writings I have given their stations  and stops on their way as they emigrated to this country with white people, one of which places was at the mouth of Stony Creek on Clinch river in Scott County, Virginia, where they built fort and called it Ft. Blackamore after Col. Blackamore who was with them... When Daniel Boone was here hunting 1763-1767, these Melungeons were not here."

......  Office Of .........
M. R. Buttery
Sheriff of Hancock County

Sneedville, Tenn
May 10, 1897
Mr. Mc Donald Furman
Ramsey, S. C.

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

Yours Respectfully,
M.R. Buttery

Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine -
Page 522   1911

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.... In my boyhood days they were called Portuguese. The word Mulangeon is comparatively modern as to its general use. As a rule they did not go into either army; did not wish to. They preferred agriculture; happy in their mountain cabins. The extract from McKinney's speech is garbled. He truly said the language of the disfranchising clause included these people because it embraced "all free persons of color" but notwithstanding that the majority of them always voted because their neighbors did not regard them as negroes or as having negro blood in their veins. I believe there was some mixture of these Portuguese with the Cherokee Indians, but not with negroes.

John Bell Brownlow

 American Notes and Queries - 
Edited by William Shepard Walsh, Henry Collins Walsh, 
William H. Garrison, Samuel R. Harris 


March 21, 1891 -- In The Arena for March 1891, there is an entertaining and valuable account, written by W. A. Dromgoole, about the Malungeons, an outcast race of people living in the mountains of East Tennessee.  In 1834, by the Act of the Constitutional Convention, the right of suffrage was denied them, but it has since been restored.  The Malungeons claim to have been originally Portuguese (in the Portuguese language, malandrim means an outcast, a vagabond). Their principal stronghold at present is on Newman's Ridge in Hancock county.  They are not negroes, for their hair is straight, their complexion is reddish brown. The pure Malungeons are sometimes called Ridgemanites; those who have white or negro blood are called Blackwaters.  Many persons believe, with some show of reason, that the Malungeons have an admixture of Cherokee blood.

Atlanta Constitution

July 21, 1901


North Carolina's Croatans, who claim to be descendants pf Raleigh's lost colony are not the only peculiar people among the red inhabitants of these United States. The claim is not new it has been more or less exploited these thirty years, along with that of the still more curious Melungeons of East Tennessee.  Their name, said to come from the French melange, a mixture, must be pre-eminently fit, since they show racial characteristics of the Cherokees, the negroes, the Portugese, and the plain, ordinary poor whites.

NOVEMBER 24, 1900

The Malungeons number about 150.  They are the last of a once numerous and powerful race older than Tennessee itself.  A tradition among them is that they are descendants of a colony of Portuguese who amalgamated with the Cherokee Indians hundreds of years ago.  Another legend is that they are descendants of the lost colony of Roanoke and the redskins.  The lost colony of Roanoke was composed of English settlers, who made their home on the eastern shore of Virginia.  The Malungeons are thrifty farmers and honest and upright as a rule.  They are brown-skinned and black-haired and have regular features.

Paper: Dallas Morning News
Peculiar Peoples In America
By Frederic J. Haskins

Date: June 23, 1907
On Newman's ridge in Hancock County, Tennessee, overlooking the beautiful Clinch River Valley, lives one of the most mysterious people in America.  Through their Anglo-Saxon neighbors or through writers of romance the name "Malungeon" has been given them, a name that the better element resents.  They resemble in feature the Cherokee Indians, and yet have a strong, Caucasian cast of countenance that makes their claim to Portuguese descent seem probable.  They came, so a legend runs, of a bard of Portuguese pirates, who long yeas ago were wrecked on an unknown coast, became adopted into an Indian tribe and were part of the Cherokees who two or three centuries later refused to go West and live on the reservation that a kindly Government offered when it needed their Eastern lands.

Report on Indians Taxed and Indians 
Not Taxed in the United States
(except. Alaska) at the Eleventh Census: 1890. 
Washington, DC: 
US Census Printing Office

Page 594
the civilized [self-supporting] Indians of Tennessee, counted in the general census, number 146 [71 males and 75 female] and are distributed as follows. Hawkins county, 31; Monroe county, 12' Polk county 10; other counties [8 or less n each]. 93

In a number of states small groups of people, preferring the freedom of the woods or the seashore to the confinement of regular labor in civilization, have become in some degree distinct from their neighbors, perpetuating their qualities and absorbing into their number those of like disposition, without preserving very clear racial lines. Such are the remnants called Indians in some states where a pure-blooded Indian can hardly longer be found. In Tennessee such a group, popularly known as Melungeans, in addition to those still known as Cherokee.

The names seems to have been given them by early French settlers, who recognized their mixed origin and applied to them the name Melangeans or Melungeans, a corruption of the French word "melange" which means mixed. [See letter of Hamilton McMillan, under North Carolina.]

The Melungeans or Malungeans, in Hawkins county, claim to be Cherokees of mixed blood {white, Indian, and negro], their white blood being derived, as they assert, from English and Portuguese stock. They trace their descent primarily to 2 Indians [Cherokees] known, one of them as COLLINS, the other as GIBSON, who settled in the mountains of Tennessee, where their descendants are now to be found, about the time of the admission of that state into the Union [1796]. One of the sources of their white blood is said to have been an Indian trader names Mullins [Jim Mullins], the other was a Portuguese named Denham, who is supposed to have been put ashore o the coast of North Carolina from a pirate vessel for being troublesome to his captain, or insubordinate. Their negro blood they trace to a negro named Goins, perhaps a runaway slave, who joined Collins and Gibson soon after they accomplished their purpose of settlement. The descent of the Melungeans from such ancestors is readily observable, even those of supposed Portuguese mixture being distinguishable from those of negro mixture, thought it is not impossible that Denham was himself of mixed blood, as the Portuguese pirates sometimes recruited their crews from the ‘maroons’, or negroes, who had taken to the mountains of the West India island as slave n rebellion against their masters. Some of these were mixed Carib, or white blood [English, Spanish or Portuguese], the former being the natives [Indians] of these islands.

__In the general census these Melungeans were enumerated as of the races which they most resembled._

1 comment:

  1. I Need Help On Solomon Collins 5 Great Grandfather I Do Not Have A Lot Of Real Info On Him I No He Like A Indian Like Chief And Son Name Solomon Collins But I Dont Fine Him With The Indians Is Son Live In North Carolina And Tennessee I Need To Fine A Lot More Info On Solomon And Indians Like Rolls Numbers Can You Help Me My Name Is Marshall Maddox Email Is


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