Saturday, April 20, 2013

The First Use of the Word Melungeon .....


Early in my research when I just accepted what someone transcribed, I found the 'transcription' of a marriage permit for my x great grandfather Oliver Staton.  It said his father was John Staton but I could not find one John Staton who could be his father.  After a couple of years of brick walls I finally ordered the original document.  John was actually Solm [Solomon] Staton. It wasn't long before I had added several generations to the tree.

Another bad transcription was another permission to marry for the daughter of Hannah McCarty.  The permission slip was transcribed as Thos and Hannah McCarty. Well.... I found a couple of records for Augustine and Hannah but not a one for a Thomas McCarty. Ordered the original record and what it actually said was; This day [not Thos and] Hannah McCarty, Augustine was deceased.

Moral of this story is; if it is a transcription look for the original. 

The First Use of the Word Melungeon 

The earliest reference to the word Melungeon being found in the Stony Creek Church records in 1813 is in the 2000 copy of MELUNGEONS AND OTHER PIONEER FAMILIES - by Jack Goins.  Page 9 states;

"The word Melungin first appeared on a written record in the minutes of Stony Creek Church in 1813."
This has been copied over and over again and is found in numerous books, articles, blogs, etc. I think most researchers would agree it is a very important part of the history of these Melungeon families to know when the word was first used. But what if it was transcribed wrong?  What if the first use of this word in print was not at the Stony Creek Chuch in 1813? We do not have the original, but merely a transcription of the original record by Emory L. Hamilton which was then transcribed by Bobbie M. Baldwin and then transcribed by Jack Goins. 

Jack Goins posted this to the Melungeon List at Rootsweb;

Emory L. Hamilton Copied the Stony Creek Church minutes from theoriginals, the copy in the Palmer Room, kingsport, TN. Library was copied by Bobbie M. Baldwin from Emory L. Hamilton's copy.  Jack Goins [Source]

And then it was printed in;
Walking Toward The Sunset: The Melungeons Of Appalachia Wayne Winkler page 57
"The minutes for September 26, 1813, long after many of the Melungeon-surname families had moved away, provide one last reference to these families- and the first written record of the word "Melungeon," or at least a variant spelling."
Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
The earliest documented use of the term "Melungeon" found to date is in the Stoney Creek Baptist Church (Scott County, Virginia) minutes for September 26, 1813
The earliest known written use of the word Melungeon is in an 1813 Scott County, Virginia Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church record:
Melungeon Historical Society
The earliest known written use of the word "Melungeon" is in an 1813 Scott County, Virginia Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church record:
It has been copied and printed so many times it has become  a 'matter of record' so to speak. It appears in the controversial paper published last year and copied around the world and it would appear they have used this undocumented transcription to determine which families were first called Melungeons. 

MelungeonsA Multiethnic Population Roberta J. Estes, Jack H. Goins, Penny Ferguson, Janet Lewis Crain
"The next written record of Melungeons is found in Russell County, Virginia in the Stony Creek church minutes in 1813 when a reference was made to “harboring them Melungins.” From that point forward in time, we access historical documents to determine which families were originally considered to be Melungeon. "

Note they write this is the "second" use, the "first" they suggest was in Arkansas.
First Records of Melungeon The first recorded instance of any word resembling Melungeon is found surrounding an 1810 event in Arkansas.  In 1972, Baxter County, Arkansas published a Centennial edition of its history. In it they describe a Tennessean, Jacob Mooney, along with Jacob Wolf, reportedly of Hawkins County, Tn., who made numerous incursions into Arkansas for the purpose of trading livestock, etc.  The following passage describes Mooney's first trek to Baxter County in 1810.   
"The four men who had come with Mooney were men of Mystery, referred to by oldtimers who knew of them as "Lungeons." They were neither Negro or Indian and in later years Jacob Mooney was ostracized for living with these "foreigners" the time he moved to Arkansas for good, his former slaves and the "lungeon" men had died and most of their families had moved west with the Indians."
This quote was written by Mary Ann Messick, great great granddaughter of Jacob Mooney,  in 1973. No where is it recorded before 1973. 

Both of these supposed 'first time it was used' instances sound good, they are not evidence, they have not been documented, and both instances are very questionable, in my opinion.

It is possible there were Melungeons at the Stony Creek Church and it is possible the word was found in the records.  It is also possible they were 'harboring them Mcclungs. Hugh and Charles McClung were surveyors and large landowners in the area around the Stony Creek Church, neither lived in the area, one lived in Pennsylvania, the other in Tennessee. This seems more likely as a transcription of Melungin, these dark skinned families were members of this church as early as 1800 and not once were they ever referred to as 'Melungins' from that time til 1813 or after. There were also Millikens there, and a James Melungin from Halifax Co., NC had moved to Tennessee around this time also.

In January 2004 Nancy Morrison posted to the Melungeon list at Rotsweb; 

I think there IS proof of the word Melungeon found in the Stony Creek Minutes!! That is as close to primary source as you can get. It was written WHILE it was happening from a person who had been listening to it as it was SAID.

Frank [Collins?]  Responded;

Howdy; Nancy if this IS your source we may be in a world of HURT. Has anyone seen this original book , or page of the Stony Creek Church minutes? This is book two and here is what Emory L. Hamiliton wrote about book two;  "Book 1, ends with July 1811. Book Number 2, is a few faded pages with no covers. Book 2 starts with what seems to be part of the Minutes of the November meeting 1811. These minutes between July 1811 and November 1811 have apparently been torn off and lost. Book 2, is in a very faded condition and very difficult to read.
Sept 26, 1813 skip to "for saying she harbored them Melungins (Melungeons)."
I think it is very odd that no one has come forward with a copy from this original page, I am not sure someone who had never heard about the Melungeons would have come up with Melungins, Maybe housing those "mulattoes". or Mullikins. How about it folks. Have any of you seen this original Stony Creek book, or page. I will lay odds you haven't and will never see it. Frank 

That was nine years ago Frank wrote that and to this day I still have not heard of anyone who has seen this record.  It has been used to trace "Melungeon families" from Louisa Co., Va., to Orange Co., and Wilkes Co., North Carolina to Newman's Ridge.  It has now been used to perpetuate a surname list which they have based a DNA project on and written a history of the Melungeons. But what if this transcription was wrong and the word was not used in 1813 at the Stony Creek Church?


The first use of the word was found in the WHIG October of 1840. This impudent Malungeon was from Washington DC - not Newmans Ridge.

Oct., 7, 1840
NEGRO SPEAKING! (Click Here for original scan - this is another instance of bad transcription - for years this article posted to the internet indicated this Melungeon was from Washington COUNTY rather than Washington CITY)
We have just learned, upon undoubtedle authority, that Gen. Combs, in his attempt to address the citizens of Sullivan County, on yesterday, was insulted, contradicted repeatedly, limited to one hour and a half, and most shamefully treated, and withall an effort was made, to get an impudent Malungeon from Washington City, a scoundrel who is half Negro and half Indian, and who has actually been speaking in Sullivan, in reply to Combs!  Gen. Combs, however, declined the honor of contending with Negroes and Indians - said he had fought against the latter, but never met them in debate! 
Brownlow's Whig October 28 Reprinted from the Tennessee Mirror
With astonishment we have understood that a half Negro, and half Indian has been speaking to the citizens of Sullivan on the subject of politics! This surely is  a great insult, and ought not to be tolerated, by any honest man in the Union.  Surely this is exaggeration, and cannot be!  What!  A NEGRO lecture on enlightened community!  It cannot be!

Brownlow's Whig
We can assure the editor of the "Mirror," that an infamous Negro has been speaking in Sullivan County -- no mistake, for we have seen and conversed with several gentlemen who seen and heard the vile scamp.  And he was put up by the DEMOCRATIC party, and by that party sustained, and now apologized for, on the ground of his having some Indian blood in him, and having been raised by JACKSON!
So was the first use actually used in POLITICS? 

The first man tried in the illegal voting trials was Wyatt Collins which took place in January of 1848 in Rogersville, Tennessee. Is it merely coincidental that a journalist from Kentucky found his way up the the remote section of Vardy Valley to spend the night at Vardy's Spa, owned by Vardy Collins who was also charged in the illegal voting trials in 1848. It was then this journalist wrote his famous 'Legends of the Melungeons.'

Here we have  documented the first  use of Melungeon in 1840 as a political term and very likely the second in 1848. From 1856 into the early 1900s we find numerous uses of the word used politically.  Here are a few excerpts;

- The platform of Feb 1856 which expunged and ignored the 12th section and in a letter which goes expressly for restoring the Missouri Compromise. The Mulungeons of Richmond endorsed the 'late convention' at Philadelphia too; but will any southern man-- a Stuart or an Imobdin even -- endorse this letter for the restoration of the Missouri Compromise.''


From the Richmond Whig. Letter from Hon. John M. Botts
Date: March 26, 1859
Location: Maryland
Paper: Easton Gazette
Article type: Letters

......when the Sheriff came to count up the votes at the close of the polls, they counted but five -- and if I had received the vote of one ''Molungeon,'' and he had been authorized by the Constitution to vote, and had 'had' a majority of only one--- it would have been difficult to tell, whether I was most indebted for my election to the "Molungeon" or to the Chief Justice of the U.S.; and if my competitor had received six "Molungeon" votes, or the votes of six worthless and degraded locofocos (supposing they could be any such) they would have more than balanced these five of the first men of the State could boast...........


Date: March 28, 1859 
Location: Alabama Paper: Daily Confederation

Thirteen congressional electors, fifty senatorial electors, and three hundred and sixty county electors have been notified to hold themselves in readiness to repel the Dragoon of Rockbridge. Botts too, will dash to the rescue at the head of a noble band of"Molungeons and Eboshins" as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently warm to render his odoriferous forces efficient.
The Slave Power; its Character, Career, and Probable Designs. By JE...

Continental monthly: devoted to... - Cornell University - Jan 1, 1863

"Whether their own children were sold may be imagined from an anecdote long current in Virginia, relative to ex-Governor Wise, who, in a certain law case where he was opposed by a Northern trader, decided of a certain slave, that the chattel, being a mulatto, was of more value than 'a molungeon.' And what, in the name of God, is a molungeon?' inquired the astonished 'Northern man." 'A mulatto' replied Wise, ' is the child of a female house-servant by 'young master' --a molungeon is the offspring of a field hand by a Yankee peddler."

Mr. Cairnes has, no doubt, not often heard of mulattoes--they constitute the great majority of Virginia slaves. But did he ever hear of a 'molungeons'?
 From Our Own Correspondent Fredericksburg, January 10, 1864"the "Government organ," however, announces that the observed of all observers were four negroes, "of genteel exteriour, and with the manners "of gentlemen, who joined in the throng that 'crowded the Executive Mansion, and were coridaly received by the President of the Untied State,'' The Molungeon Chronicle adds; -- We are not aware that anybody was hurt on the occasion, and we rejoice that we have a President who is a democrat in fact, as well as by nature."
Staunton SpectatorMay 25, 1869
The Duties of Election Day(Column 01)
Summary: Declared that all eligible voters have the duty to vote on election day to ensure the defeat of certain sections of the Underwood constitution and to elect Walker as Governor. Wanted to ensure at least some form of control for white Virginians in the state.
Full Text of Article:The election which will take place on the 6th day of July next, by appointment of the President, will decide whether the people of this State are to be cursed with the Underwood abomination, called a Constitution, as it came from the hands of the Molungeon Convention, or whether it will be modified by having the test-oath and disfranchising clauses stricken out -- whether Walker or Wells will be our Governor, and whether proper men will be elected to represent the State in the Legislature.
February 17th 1868

By Lewis Lindsey"knee deep" -- To make all whites, moulungeons, mulattoes and negroes, between eighteen and forty five, militia men, the officers to be appointed by the Governor, with the approval of the Legislature. They are to do desperate duty in time of insurrection or invasion, and rally round the flag, provided, they do nothing which conflicts with the laws of the United States. It was referred to the committee on Military Affairs.

Staunton Spectator., March 23, 1869
The Carpet Bag Scalawag N***** Ticket!  The labors of the Molungeon mob in Petersburg, were brought to a happy termination Wednesday night, by the nomination of Wells, carpet bagger, for Governor; Harris, N*****, for Lieutenant Governor; Bowden, scalawag, for Attorney General and Crane, Carpet bagger for Congressman at Large -- a sweet set truly! .... Lynchburg News

Staunton spectator., June 01, 1880, Image 1
But when it comes to a formal alliance with Radicals and negroes, asociation in meetings -- a new basis with promises of mixed jurien-- aboliton of poll tax and all the promises of the Radical party, the visions of the days of the carpet bagger and the scalawag, and the Molungeon convention revive, and the hard working honest non political farmer snd mechanics call a halt.

The Daily Dispatch., May 15, 1883, Image 2 [Richmond]....."From every part of the country we hear the endorsation of the farmers and planters that we can no longer be burdened and crippled by this Molungeon constitution." 

Staunton sSpectator., June 05, 1883, 
"The people are rising.  They see that the old Molungeon party has come back under the new name of coalition that the locusts of Radicalism, like their predeccessors - the carpetbaggers and scalawags - are on the make again to plunder the State -- they were this spring diligently searching for aplaces to plunder the people and pay their followers. They tried to get the Supervisor's places to tax counties, create places and increase salaries. They tried to get all the treasurers to control the oney of the counties and State. ......

Staunton spectator., May 20, 1884WHAT A FARCE
The Molungeon Convention, recently convened in Richmond for the purpose of letting the country know what a set of hypocrites and political dead-beats they have been for four years, set forth in great swelling words, their devotion to the material interests in the State, and their great desire to develop its resources, build up its manufactories and protect the labor and industries of the country.  Now it is not remarkable that not one of these loud mouthed leaders ever invested a dollar in these industries, nor did they represent in the  whole State five hundred men who ever did.
They did not even represent the better class of labor; not a tithe of the skilled labor, the mechanics of the State, nor did they represent its trade, nor its property. And yet, representing it ignorance and its poverty they undertake to tell the country that they are to protect and preserve the great industrial and materila interests of the State -- What is this party - that proclaims that it is the Republican party of Virginia? A number of provessional politicians - Arthur's officers and office seekers lenading the ignorant negroes of the State, and a few white men in each county........

Staunton spectator and vindicator., October 06, 1905,

Did Judge Lewis rejoice over the efforts of the Molungeon convention, and counsel its members as to their actions and expressed desires with reference to the ballot, the honesty of their proposed government, and their enslavery of the white people who had been Southern sympathizers? Certainly no man can accuse him now of having been a Union man, a Northern sympathazier, and original Republican, and in the same breath say he was insincere in anything which was then regarded as an evidence of loyalty. 

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