Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Political Melungeons

The term Melungeon has been spelled many different ways and has as many different meanings. The Malengin character in Spenser's Faerie Queene so named from his craftiness and trickery is one,or possibly the people from one of the towns named, Malungin, Malengin,etc. 

Malengin is trickery 'a trickster', to get something by deceit, and was used as early as the 1300s-- found in French dictionaries in the 1600s-- a favorite word of Thomas Mallory and his King Arthur --etc., it was a common word used for someone deceitful not only in France but England as well. 

Castle of Malengin

Malengin Islet  - Phillipines

This map of Mulungin,India [now Pakistan] is located near Gilgit which was a trading town on the old Southern Route of the Silk Road. 

The definition of 'mixture' attached to these people is not documented, it is anyone's guess, who was called Malungens and why they were called that. 

Wikipedia definition of Melungeon;
"Melungeons" as; "Melungeon (/məˈlʌndʒən/ mə-lun-jən) is a term traditionally applied to one of numerous "tri-racial isolate" groups of the Southeastern United States; historically, Melungeons were associated with the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia, which includes portions of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. Tri-racial describes populations thought to be of mixed European, sub-Saharan African and Native American ancestry. Melungeons were often referred to by other settlers as of Portuguese or Native American origin.

Then they (those all powerful,know it all editors) write;
"Scholars and commentators have not agreed on who should be included under the term Melungeon." (Scholar - a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it : an intelligent and well-educated person who knows a particular subject very well. -- Websters)

Apparently these Wikipedia 'authors' agree these people of intelligence who have studied this subject for a long time and know a lot about it cannot agree on who the Melungeons were, yet they KNOW they were tri-racial and lived in Tennessee.

Many people have placed the Melungeon origin on Newmans Ridge and a select group of families, but in fact, before the word was used, or used to refer to these people, the Editor of the WHIG, Parson William Brownlow, in Tennessee used the term to describe his Political Opponent of Washington 1840.

And while there is no proof, it is a strange coincidence, that these people on Newmans Ridge were visited by the journalist shortly after being charged with illegal voting, proving they were Portuguese, and this is, in fact, the very first time the word 'Melungen' appeared to describe these people. 

The bottom line is Scholars, intelligent researchers, etc., do not know where or why this term evolved to describe these people, not only in Eastern Tennessee but in Virginia and in other states as wekk. There are many different scenarios from where this word was first used, why it was used, etc. To mean a mixed race, tri-racial etc., was only one of them. 

Polictical Melungeons - Molungeons, Moulugens etc. 1856 - 1912 

Governor Henry Wise who spent 1828-1830 practicing law in Nashville, Tennessee before returning to Virginia was quoted in 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."
Political Melungeons 1856-1869 

  • 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.'' 
  • 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....
  • 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 "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."
  • 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.

By Will T. Hale

Alton Telegraph



I have heard since boyhood the word “Melungeon.” It is very common in Tennessee, and is often used as a sort of epithet. Also, as a bugbear to frighten children.

To illustrate, middle and western Tennessee is overwhelmingly Democratic politically, while the eastern portion is overwhelmingly Republican.
It used to be the case that a Democratic editor inclined to invective would refer to the East Tennessee Republicans as MELUNGEONS. It was an offensive appellation, but there was no way of preventing its use. Then, if a nurse or mother wanted to force a child to obedience, it was customary to say: “If you don’t behave, the MELUNGEONS will get you.”

I have been trying for some weeks to get some information as to who or what the MELUNGEONS were. This forced me to write to different parts of the State, and to examine old newspaper files. At last I learned that they are a queer race of people living in the mountains of East Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky – not one colony but several. No one knows their origin, and their reputation has generally been bad, like that of the Gypsies.


With this partial explanation of what Melungeon means, I’m going to tell how I perpetrated a miserable little joke. Before doing so, however I have to divulge to distant readers a little of the history of what is now known as the “Straight” or “Regular” Democracy of Tennessee.

In 1909 the party became divided into two factions over the liquor question. The prohibition and fair election-law faction supported Ben W. Hooper for Governor, and elected him. The faction charged with being in favor of liquor and opposed to fair election laws with which ninety percent of the negroes voted, called itself the regular, straight, Simonpure Democracy, and voted for the so-called Democratic nominee. The negroes, with badges marked “Straight Democracy” as said, marched to the polls with those who had formerly been known as Democrats and a sprinkling of disaffected Republicans and cast their votes for a thing they called democracy. Of course such a mixture might well be called a mongrel political organization.


Now: I wrote a postmaster up in East Tennessee asking him to describe fully the MELUNGEONS for me – customs, costumes, way of maintaining themselves, and the like. Then I sat me down to wait the reply patiently, thinking it would be a week or ten days before I could receive one. At the end of about three
days I heard from that postmaster. He must have grabbed up his pen about the time he neared the last word in my letter! Doubtless his eyes were red, too, as he wrote. Here is what he jotted down;

“ Dear Sir: There are no such people in this county as MELUNGEONS. We are civilized folks, and better than those who would humble our pride. We want no historian to put anything in history about any MELUNGEONS, as we would consider it a disgrace.”

You understand, he had often heard the word used in derogation. He was sore. I wrote him this soothing letter, believing he is a Republican, and a Hooper man;

“Dear Sir: I am sorry if you took offense at my letter. I meant no reflection on the people of your county, who I feel sure, are in the main most excellent and useful citizens. You must have been in bad humor, and did not
treat me fairly. We, too, have some peculiar people here in Middle Tennessee, a whole lot of them. For instance, there is the political party calling itself Straight Democracy – while I am not proud of it any more than you are of the MELUNGEONS, had you asked me to describe it I should have mustered up courtesy to do it promptly and to the best of my ability.”


Seriously, a prominent citizen of east Tennessee wrote me a pretty lengthy description of the MELUNGEONS from which I take these salient facts;They are of unknown origin and call themselves Portuguese. Are short and stout; have straight hair and black or gray eyes – the Indians eye is always
black. They were in the mountains when the white men came, but during the long wars between the whites and Indians they took part with neither side. Indeed, they claim no affiliation with the red race.

For years they have been known as ‘counterfeiters,’ but strange to say, there was more of the precious metals in their coin than there was in that of the United States government.

As a body, they were as concrete as the Jews. They had no adherence to the Indian religion or rites, but have adhered to the Christian religion, and the cross is with them a sacred symbol. They are generally Baptists in belief. “At one time,” writes my informant, “their coins passed current, even in my recollection.” There is a legend that their silver came from Straight Creek, a tributary of the Cumberland river, which blows into that stream at Pineville, Ky. Ruins of ancient furnaces are still to be seen on the banks of Straight Creek, but have not been used within the memory of any now living. A family named Mullins were the makers of money in that section.


The “Beckler” gold dollars were made by the Melungeon in North Carolina, and some of these coins are still extant, preserved as curiosities. They were made from native gold by a family named Beckler, and were commonly known as “Becklers.”

They have always boasted of their kinship to the whites. Many years ago a decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Tennessee, holding that they were not negroes.

In the first census of Tennessee there were in the State more than 900 “free persons” other than the whites. There could not have been that early [1795] so many free negroes. No doubt the majority were MELUNGEONS.

At the close of the war between the States there were families of MELUNGEONS in Nashville, Lebanon and Livingston, Tenn. At Livingston a female had twelve children. One of these belonged to the Ku-klux Klan, and was hanged by the Klan because he violated one of its rules – not to commit murder.


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 & Dixon L. Merritt 1913 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

We Ask For Proof and We Get More Words

In the recent blogs by the people who brought you the third, and latest DNA project, they are making a few claims that "in my opinion" are just  a little outrageous. The numbered quotes in bold are from the latest blog of Roberta Estes. (Found Here)

1. "Many people expected to discover the Melungeons were primarily Native American."

Not so.  Most people who had done any research at all on the Melungeon history knew their legend told in 1848; they were Portuguese adventurers who had mixed with the Indians, whites and blacks. 

They also would have read Dromgoole's report that stated the Collins and Gibson were Indians, the 'head and the source of the Melungeons,' the Denhams were Portuguese, the Mullins were English and the Goins were African.  This was the same report that C. H. Humble heard in 1899; 
"The second settlers were from North Carolina; they were the Goans, Miners, and Bells; they were charged with having negro blood in them and, before the war, were prosecuted on this ground for illegal voting, but were acquitted. They explained their peculiarities by claiming a Portuguese origin."
This DNA simply backs up their legend. There was nothing in this project that proves the Collins and Gibson were not Indians, their DNA is European and since no one knows their parentage their mothers may very well have been Riddle, Sizemores or Freemans. 

Take a look at the Portuguese DNA project, (Here) it is similar to the Melungeon project, haplogroups E, I, R1a and R1b, and of course we have the Goins and Minor who are Sub Saharan.  None of this conflicts with what history has told us for 165 years, or the first Melungeon DNA project published ten years ago.

2. "all of the direct maternal lines tested were European"

"ALL" consists of six females and two of them had Cherokee fathers, which proves NOTHING.   Does Roberta Estes actually expect us to believe there were no Native American mothers after testing only SIX females?  

3. "What did the contemporary people who knew them during their lifetime think about their race?  Census takers, tax men and county clerks?"  

Let us start with the 'contemporary people' these authors used in their report found here;

Do you see a pattern yet?

  • John Bell Brownlow - Cherokee and Portuguese
  • Sheriff Buttery of Hancock County - Cherokee
  • The Judge and Jury in 1846 - Portuguese (Cherokee)
  • John Netherland  Portuguese (See also above link of John Bell Brownlow who got the story from John Netherland, same as Judge Lewis Shepherd)

The census takers were all screwed up, they didn't know whether to call them mulatto, fpc, white, black, or Indian.  If the census taker had came around in April and recorded Joe Blow he might have been marked as white since he hadn't been out in the fields yet, and when the census taker got around to Joe Blow's mother and father's house in June they were marked as mulatto.  This happened all the time, there is absolutely no uniformity in the census taker.

Let's take the Bryson Gibson family for an example. Bryson was in Lee Co, Va., in 1820 and was listed as "Total White Persons - 10, 1830 he had moved to Claiborne Co, Tenn and was listed as 14 Free People of Color, 1850 he is in Floyd Co., Ky., and he and his family are recorded as mulatto but in 1860 Morgan Co., Ky., he is black. Bryson has went from white to mulatto to black in 60 years.  

Bryson and Fanny Green Gibson had a large family and time and space does not allow me to cover them all but let's look at Alexander, son of Bryson, who married Mary Spencer;  Alexander obviously follows his father from 1820-1830 as white then FPC and is also recorded as fpc in Knox County, Ky., in 1840. He is a mulatto in 1850,  yet by 1860 he is now black and by some miracle in 1870 Henry Co., Indiana he and his wife have *turned* white but all his children are mulatto 

Perhaps the old folks were lounging around indoors and weren't as dark as their children toiling in the fields, and Roberta Estes asks us what the census taker thought of their race?

4. Estes asks; "Do the records indicate that these people were black, Native, European, mixed or something else like Portuguese?

Something else?  Isn't Portugal in Europe?  I think the answer to this one is simple; "All of the Above." She asks if the African admixture was recent or from long ago?   Perhaps one day we will be able to trace these people through their records back in time and locate where they have been for the last 3000 years but I don't think it is going to happen any time soon. Since no one has produced any freedom papers, manumissions, or one of the many other papers that described them as slaves, Africans, etc., I would suggest Estes would have to guess the admixture was from long ago. 

5. If these men were Native Americans, would they have likely fought against the Indians in the French and Indian War in 1754? 

Estes notes; 
"they (the Melungeons) are specifically noted as fighting "against the Shawnee."  
Maybe I am misreading this but didn't the Cherokee and British fight together against the French and Shawnee?  Weren't the Indians constantly fighting AGAINST each other?
"Only the presence of the Cherokee in North Carolina prevented more aggressive Shawnee attacks. In February 1756 Capt. Hugh Waddell helped secure a peace treaty with the Catawba and Cherokee. Under the treaties negotiated by the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the Cherokee would send their warriors north to fight the French and the Shawnee in exchange for supplies and forts (to be built by the English) to protect the Indian settlements."
6. Melungeon families and their ancestors were listed on tax records and other records as mulattoes; Moses Riddle is listed as an Indian  this is the only instance found in the hundreds of records searched. 

Might I remind Estes that Moses Riddle and his wife are both listed as Mulatto on the 1755 Orange Co. NC TAX LIST?  So was Moses a Mulatto or an Indian? If he is categorized as an Indian then all the Collins, Gibsons etc., listed on the 1755 tax as Mulattos are no doubt Indians also... 

Africans and Native Americans: The Language  of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples - By Jack D. Forbes  Page 262  
"As already noted, the census records of  Virginia through 1830 uniformly place all  Indians in the 'free colored' category, while  those in 1840 and 1850 categorize virtually all  as "M" 
"Tennessee followed the pattern of North  Carolina, in general, although the precise  treatment of unmixed Indians is not clear from my data.  From 1794 'Negroes and persons of  mixed-blood to the third generation' were  prohibited from testifying in white cases and in  1822 punishment was provided for any white  person who 'shall presume to live with any  negro, mustee, or mulatto... as man and wife.'  The above groups were apparently regarded as  'colored'.
In 1834 the franchise was limited to 'free white  men' except that colored persons of less than  one-eighth non-white ancestry could vote.  Apparently the 'Malungeons' (Saponi- Powhatan) mixed people of northeastern  Tennessee were categorized as 'free persons of color' by the same constitutional convention.
Roberta Estes et al; (Found Here)
“Every free white man of the age of twenty- one years, being a citizen of the United States,  and a citizen of the county wherein he may  offer his vote, six months next preceding the  day of election, shall be entitled to vote for  members of the general Assembly, and other  civil officers, for the county or district in which  he resides: provided, that no person shall be  disqualified from voting in any election on  account of color, who is now by the laws of  this State, a competent witness in a court of  Justice against a white man. All free men of  color, shall be exempt from military duty in  time of peace, and also from paying a free poll  tax.”[26]
"What this doesn't say in so many words is that  negroes, Indians and mulattoes, in other  words, free persons of color, and slaves, were forbidden from testifying in a court of law  against a white person, voting and other civil  rights afforded to white people." 

Jack Goins (Found Here)
"Colonial Virginia issued instructions to the tax  collectors to list all Indians living among the  whites and all others not white enough  'mulatto', this was a judgement call. I don't  have the date of that order but I have seen the order." Jack
While Estes and Goins may not have found Jack Forbes work it is obvious they are both aware that  Indians were listed as mulatto and free persons of color, just a little disingenuous I would say.

7.  In earlier cases, in the 1700s in Virginia, these families were prosecuted for “concealing tithables” specifically for not listing their wives, “being mulattoes.”  

In the 2012 paper published by Roberta Estes et al they write; "they were summoned to appear in court for concealing tithables, probably their mixed race wives. 

In 2012 they were "probably" today they were "specifically their mulatto wives."

And this is the actual court record below; note it says nothing about 'specifically their wives.' 

Louisa County28 May 1745, "Ordered that William Hall, Samuel Collins, Thomas Collins, William Collins, Samuel Bunch, George Gibson, Benjamin Branham, Thomas Gibson, and William Donathan be summoned to appear at the next Court to answer the presentment of the Grandjury this day made against them for concealing tithables within twelve months past." They pled not guilty. On 27 August 1745 the jurors failed to agree on a verdict, and at the next court some of the jurors failed to appear. On 28 May 1746 the defendants argued that some of the jurors were from the same parish as they, so they would be gainers by a guilty verdict but the court rejected their argument. The jury brought in a special veridct which was referred for argument the next court, but the result was not recorded [Orders 1742-8, 152, 157, 166-7, 172, 175, 183, 193].
Absolutely nothing specific, nothing about their wives and nothing about mulattoes. 

The Quakers were found in Louisa and its parent counties as early as 1720-1730.  In 1744 the Camp Creek MM was established in Louisa County, Samuel Bunch, noted above was one of the founding members.  As the Quakers of Louisa County grew in number they also became more problematic as they refused refused to bear arms , pay tithes,  or support military actions, even against the Indians.  The early 1740s found the Quakers being jailed and their property confiscated, causing many of the Quaker families to disperse. 

From the above record the defendants (Gibson, Collins, Bunch, etc.) "argued that some of the jurors were from the same parish as they, so they would be gainers by a guilty verdict." Did these defendants fear the court was going to confiscate 'their wives'?  What would the  'jurors from the same parish' gain? 

Does this prove these defendants were Quakers refusing to 'pay tithes' - no - is there anything in this record that states the tithes were 'specifically their mulatto wives' - the answer is no. Why the need to change the records?

8. " By this time, so many generations had passed that they may not have known the whole truth, and there is indeed evidence of two Indian lines within the Melungeon community."

In 1848 when the journalist visited Newmans Ridge he was told the legend of who these people were. They had not forgotten who they were, they were very explicit as a matter of fact. This same story was repeated in 1890 to Dromgoole and 10 years later to Humble. Vardy Collins was born in 1765 and surely knew his father born at least in 1740-1745 and would have at least known of his grandfather born early 1700s. They knew the truth, the whole truth, and that is what they told, it was no cover story.  They said they were Portuguese who had mixed with the Indians, whites and blacks, what else was there to tell? Why would they have made up they were Portuguese and in the same sentence say they had mixed with the blacks? This makes no sense. 

There is only evidence of two Indian lines in the Melungeon Community?

"This modified form of Schedule No 1 is to be used in making the enumeration of Indians, both those on the reservations and those living in family groups outside of reservations.
Detached Indians living either in white or negro families outside of reservations should be enumerated on the general population schedule (Form 7-224) as members of the families in which they are found:  but detached whites or negroes living in Indian families should be enumerated on this schedule as members of the Indian families in which they are found.  In other words, every family composed mainly of Indians should be reported entirely on this schedule and every family composed mainly of person not Indian should be reported entirely on the general population schedule."
Note on this Special Census (Found Here) these Cole families descend from Obediah 'Biddy' Collins daughter of Valentine Collins, the Gibsons descend from Bryson Gibson, both of these families are found not only in the Melungeon Project but ALSO in the Lumbee Indian project (Found Here) which Estes also oversees.  If you check this Lumbee Indian Project you will find many more families listed both as Melungeons and Lumbee Indians.

Also absent is the Q haplogroup, Native American Lawson family, from Hawkins County, Tennessee. Roark Lawson is listed in this *Core* Melungeons project and they include the Sub Saharan haplogroup of Roark Lawson but leave out the Native American Lawson? I suppose they have a magic formula for differentiating between these families. A Melungeon, I would think, is a Melungeon. If Lawson is listed on one of their 'lists' they use how do they know it only refers to ROARK LAWSON?

Again I find it rather disingenuous to state their is only evidence of two Indian lines, especially as they are still refusing to acknowledge the Native American Freeman family listed as a *Core name* and it is in their project.

9. "In light of these records, the DNA results should not have been as surprising as they were.  However, this body of research had never been analyzed as a whole before."

I don't believe anyone was surprised that Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, or the Denhams, Mullins, Bolen, Bolling, Nichols, Goodmans, etc.,  DNA was European.  Or why anyone would be surprised the Goins and Minor were Sub Saharan as it was written in the 1890s they were at least 'suspected to have African blood'.

I believe that most seasoned, as well as many of the newcomers to Melungeon research, were only surprised this report was so poorly written, not even fact checked, and contained so many misrepresentations, as I have pointed out in previous blogs.  

And lastly I have to say I am flabbergasted by the last sentence above that "this body of research has never been analyzed as a whole before."

First they publish a report on a half finished DNA project based on 'cherry picked' names from the project, (omission of Q Freemans, etc.) SIX females supposedly to represent all the Melungeon mothers, then write the project is ongoing and they are still studying it, then announce it has never been analyzed as a whole before?  

Let me quote Roberta Estes; "There may indeed be Native American lines yet undiscovered within the female or ancestral lines, and we are actively seeking people descended from the wives of these Melungeon families through all women"

I'd call this 'a half ass analysis. Are they going to change their first analysis after the analyze the rest of their project - someday?

And parting let me quote Jack Goins;
"DNA is really worthless without family genealogy." (Found Here
Where is the genealogy that goes with this CORE PROJECT? 

And Jack commenting on the Second Melungeon DNA Project by Hirschman and Yates;
"As the old indian would say concerning another broken treaty, "we ask for proof and they only give us more words. Jack  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Melungeons 1910-1911 Part II

The Nashville American of  June 26, 1910


By Judge Lewis Shepherd
"The word "Melungeon" belongs to the vernacular of East Tennessee. It was coined by the people of that section of the State many years ago, as a name for a peculiar tribe of people which settled in Hancock County, on Newmans Ridge, shortly after the Revolutionary War.. These people are about the same color as mulattoes, and from their color it was generally supposed that they were mixed blooded. Hence the name "Melungeons.
The term is derived from the French word 'melange," which means a mixture, a medley." Once when I was a young lawyer I represented a Melungeon girl in a very important Chancery litigation in Hamilton County, in which I recovered for her an estate worth about $100,000....
.....In that case it became necessary to ascertain and prove the race and nationality of these people, and I went into that question very fully, and established satisfactorily to the courts - the Chancery and Supreme Courts - the origin of my client's ancestors..... The battle was to determine whether or not the Melungeons had Negro blood in their veins.
...  A colony of these Moors crossed the Atlantic before the Revolutionary war, and settled on the coast in the northern part of South Carolina. They multiplied rapidly and by their industry and energy they accumulated considerable property. The South Carolina people, however, would not receive them on terms of equality; they refused to recognize them socially, and would not allow their children to go to school with them. In fact they believed they were free negroes and treated them as such. By the laws of South Carolina a per capita tax was levied against free negroes and the tax authorities continually harassed them by efforts to collect the tax. Under this rigid proscription of the proud people of Carolina, their condition became intolerable and so they emigrated as a body and settled, after a long and wandering journey, through the wilderness, in Hancock County, Tennessee....
... From the parent colony in Hancock County many of them moved to other counties of East Tennessee.  They are fond of living on the Cumberland table lands. There are several families of them in Bledsoe, Marion, White, Van Buren, and Franklin Counties."

The rest of what Judge Lewis wrote in the article is basically the same thing written in "the Romance of the Melungeons" which you can read here. 

In this letter below written in 1910-1911 by John Bell Brownlow, son of the Parson Brownlow who was first to use the term Melungeon in 1840, Brownlow tells Mr. Watson that he received the same information from John Netherland as published by Judge Lewis Shepherd (above), which also is pretty much the same account given of the trials by J. H. Newman.

I'm sure if you're family is Turkish, Jewish, African, or whatever, and you want to convince the Melungeon Community that all Melungeons have the same ancestry as "your ancestor" then you will find a way to spin the above. But facts are facts, and these people writing about the Melungeons a hundred years ago were eyewitnesses to history, they were acquainted with people born in the early 1800s, people who knew who their parents were, who their grandparents were.

DNA does not tell a story, it is one ancestor out of thousands that made up the ethnicity of these people called Melungeons. DNA can NOT prove a nationality or ethnicity, and anyone who suggests that it can is blowing smoke.   It is not to say that some Melungeon families may have had an African ancestor -- but when?  Three hundred years ago -- three thousand years ago? By implying these Indian families may have had an African ancestor and therefore could never be considered Indians for all eternity is one of the most racist arguments I have seen.

This is the response from John Bell Brownlow to the article above by Judge Lewis Shepherd.

Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine -
Page 522   1911


Dear Sir:

Your letter of yesterday received. I happen to have the information you seek. The Nashville American of  June 26, 1910 (since consolidated with the Nashville Tennessean) published a paper of about 10 pages in celebration of its 98th anniversary and in this paper is the true story of a small number of people to be found in a few counties of East Tennessee, as in other sections of the Appalachian region, called Melungeons or Malungeons. 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 satisfied 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 practiced law in all the East Tennessee counties, which these people live. (John Netherland was the attorney who defended the Melungeons families in the illegal voting trials related here by J. H. Newman.)

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. As to whether they voted or not, in the few counties where they were up to the Civil War, depended upon the disposition of the election officers and the closeness of the contest. But I will add that the election officers were very rarely unfair and their right to vote rarely challenged. Sometimes, in a very close contest, some fellow would challenge it and the man would forego exercising his rights rather than fight about it. They have not been of a lawless or turbulent disposition. They realized the prejudice against them because of their dark complexion. Some of them served in the Confederate, and some in the Federal East Tennessee Regiment, but neither side would have accepted them had they believed they had negro blood in their veins.

In my boyhood days they were called Portugese. 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 Portugese with the Cherokee Indians, but not with negroes. Lying, sensational newspaper correspondents, from the North, originally started this racket to show that Southern whites were given to miscegenating with negroes, and to have something to write about. Some Southern writers have imitated them, magnifying fifty or one hundred fold the number of these people.

Gen. Wm. T. Sherman did some things I disapproved as much as you do, but he hit the nail on the head when he said that "there were some newspaper correspondents who, to create a sensation and for pay, would slander their grandmothers." Of course, some of the people were shiftless and degraded, as are some of all races, but I remember a notable exception by the name of Wm. Lyle. He was a prosperous country merchant who came to Knoxville every year to buy goods of our wholesale dealers and was treated by every one, with the utmost respect. He was spoken of as a Portugese, and bore no more resemblance to a negro than any Spaniard or Portugese. He dressed elegantly, was well informed and as polished and refined as half the members of Congress, and more so than many of them. In the early history of the country, there were many Spanish and Portugese sailors, who settled on the South Carolina and North Carolina coast. One of these was a Spanish ship carpenter by name of Farragut. In North Calorina, he married a poor girl and drifted to this city (then a town of about 1,200 people) where he followed the trade of house-carpenter, and here was born his subsequently famous son, Admiral David G. Farragut. His Spanish father was a dark-skinned man.

Finally, the decision of the Supreme Court of Tennessee in 1872, referred to by Judge Shepherd, should be conclusive on this subject. Every one of the five members of that Court was a Confederate and Democrat. The Chief Justice, A. Q. P. Nicholson, was the Colleague of Andrew Johnson in the U. S. Senate in 1861. Jas. W. Deaderick, after this decision and after the death of Nicholson, also of the bench at the time, succeeded Nicholson as Chief Justice. He was not himself in the army but every one of his seven sons were at the front in the Confederate Army, some of whom were badly wounded and the other three Judges had honorable records as Confederate soldiers. Judge Shepherd himself was a Confederate soldier.

P. S. Lyle is not a Portugese name, neither is that of the American Darbey's French, as was that of their ancestor D.Aublgney.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Melungeons 1910-1911 Part I

The Nashville American of  June 26, 1910  published a paper of about 10 pages in celebration of its 98th anniversary. One of these pages contained articles and photos of the "Mysterious Melungeons" with articles from Judge Lewis Shepherd and Lucy C.V. King, 
early authors of the Melungeons. 

This article by R.O Amer appeared along with Shepherd and 
Kings and discusses other "Mysterious People of the Ozarks' 
as well as other groups in Tennessee. 

This is Part I of the page taken from the Nashville American
Part II Tomorrow


Are They Also Part of the Mysterious Early 

Immigrant Race.

By R. O. Amer

"It would appear that the Melungeons really arouse more attention among students of ethnology in other parts of the country than among the people immediately surrounding them. 

It is no unusual experience for a visitor from Tennessee in Boston to have many questions asked concerning this strange, mysterious people. And as a rule, the visitor from Tennessee is force to express a large degree of ignorance. This writing is not the result of personal investigation among the Melungeons themselves -- merely the outcome of reading practically everything obtainable on the subject and many interviews with persons living in the sections of mountain country more or less inhabited by these people. 

Among the comparatively few instructive articles on the subject, the writings of Miss Will Allen Dromgoole of Nashville, have been given careful study.  That well known writer presents a very different picture of the characteristics of the Melungeons from that given by most persons who have come in contact with them and by other writers.  She makes them appear, practically, a set of brigands, too cowardly to engage in brigandage.  Other investigators represent them as a peaceful, long-suffering, patient people - not disposed in any greater degree than the whites by whom they are surrounded to be lawbreakers.

Possibly an explanation of these differences in description may be found in the supposition  that the Melungeons may differ widely in different localities.  The section of country visited by Miss Dromgoole does not contain, by any means, all the Melungeons.  And, while she may have found them the lawless set of rascals she describes, it is a fact that in other places they are represented to be exactly the reverse.

A considerable colony of these Melungeons exists in the neighborhood of Graysville.  There, as elsewhere, they are more frequently known by some family name than by that given to them as a people.  Around Graysville most of them are known as "Noels." there the members of the "Noel" family predominate.  For untold years they have married and intermarried, replenishing the earth with new Noels - until, as stated, they have come to be known by their family name better than by that given to their race.

In and around Graysville these "Noels" have the reputation of being very peaceable, very ignorant, and very little concerned with the affairs of the outside world. In no case does there appear to be any romance about these people.  The most careful and even most imaginative investigators and writers have found themselves unable to associate anything of the hero type with the Melungeon character. 

Some of the young girls are described as beautiful specimens of physical womanhood.  But the men are, are anything but beautiful. And the girls, when older grown, develop late features who would not be prize-winners in beauty contests.

It is interesting in this connection, to note that occasional travelers in some sections of the Ozark Mountains have given descriptions of a mysterious people there.  These descriptions are by no means specific in detail. The "strange people of the Ozarks" are mentioned merely as a sort of curiosity in the human race.  So far as is known they never venture far from their mountain fastness; seldom, if ever, go down among the abiding places of the white man.  They are represented as having a sort of language of their own which some have imagined might be a conglomeration of Portuguese or Spanish with some Indian dialect and suggestions of origin in the English language.

These Ozark habitues, like the Melungeons, are represented as being uneducated, and having no special  manifested fondness for or devotion to any form of religion. They live, or exist, on the fruits of the soil, contented, seemingly, with the bare necessities of life.  So far as any information on the subject has been given, they do not call upon physicians from the outside world, are described as seldom ill, and living to an old age.

Now, the writer makes no pretense of any scientific investigation in relation to either of these people.  Most of his information comes from hearsay and from reading.  At the same time, the thought has suggested itself that there may be some relationship, dating from a remote past between these respective tribes of mountain dwellers.

One of the most able and interesting contributions to the speculations concerning the Melungeons is a ___ ___ article from the pen of Judge Lewis Shepherd, of Chattanooga, published int he Times of that city several years ago. Judge Shepherd sets up the theory, and to his own satisfaction substantiates it, that the Melungeons are descendants of the Phoenicians. He may be right.  It is not the province of the mere observing and speculating mind to take issue with this learned Judge.

At the same time, it may be that the Chattanooga writer, or some other equally earnest and learned investigator some time may trace the Ozark Mountain refugees to a similar origin.  It does not appear that any origin of the Melungeons or of the Ozark queer folks will be of any special value in calculating the result of earliest immigration upon the present development of the people and 
institutions of the country.  

The Melungeons, from all accounts, appear to hold their own in point of numbers.  Probably the same is true concerning the Ozark tribe.  But nothing of what is seen of their present can have any special influence or bearing on the destiny of the nation or the fortunes of those directly surrounding them.  

End of Article

Note in this map below of the sub regions of the Ozarks is the town of West Plains in Howell County, Missouri. There are a number of families living here that while not 'called Melungeons' are related to, or at least from the same geographical area, as the Melungeons in Tennessee.  

David Collins whose DNA matches that of the 'Head and Source" of the Melungeons, Vardy Collins, and probably his first cousin, 
had descendants who settled in West Plains.

The Caulders who name appears on this  1794 South Carolina petition with the 
Melungeon families of Shoemake, Perkins, and Boltons,  also settled in West Plains. 
The Caulders first settled in Arkansas in the Ozark Mountain county, called "Izard" 
at the time, with the Turner families after leaving South Carolina. 

Thomas Hall, whose ancestors were Portuguese,  obtained from the Maury County court a "Proof of Race" affidavit which was filed in Arkansas as well as Missouri. His descendants also settled in West Plains and used this "Proof of Race" to win their case in several courts. Peter Caulder married into this Hall family in Arkansas and the families then settled in West Plains.

Melungeons at Fort Blackmore

    THE MELUNGEONS  & FORT BLACKMORE SOME NOTES Attorney Lewis Jarvis was born 1829 in Scott County, Virginia and lived in the area and ...