Sunday, November 17, 2013


The Literary digest
Volume 44


HASTY CHARACTERIZATION of the mountain people of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and adjacent States as a lawless and murdering lot is denounced as unjust by people who have known them and their ways for many years. We might just as well judge all New Yorkers by the "car-barn gang" and the "gas-house gang," as to judge' all the mountaineers of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies by the men who shot the judge and court officers at Hillsville, say the papers of that region, in reply to Northern critics. Some of the great men of our Republic have come from these sturdy and God-fearing people of the rock-ribbed mountain slopes, and, tho we may disapprove of then: irregular methods of distilling and their custom of taking the law into their own hands, we are reminded that they have their own justification for these things, which we may at least recognize as resembling the ideas of our own forefathers not many generations back. And it is declared unfair to blame them as'a class for what a few of the most reckless ones do, for every region has its ruffians. Many of them are descendants of the best English pioneer stock, and it is their isolation from advancing civilization that has made them what they are, we are told by the New York Evening Post anent the Hillsville tragedy. True, the ancestors of some of them were the riffraff of pioneer days, but there are many now who are the kindred of Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. Most of these mountain people started for the West years ago, and, instead of going on with the more persistent pioneers, they stopt in the Blue Ridge and Appalachians. Says The Post:" Those who are unfamiliar with the region may need to fix in their minds something of its geography. The mountains are interpenetrated by fertile valleys. The great valley of Virginia itself, the richest agricultural region in the State, lies between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, and there are many lesser valleys. These choicer lands were settled by people who are not mountaineers at all. Some of the oldest and most aristocratic towns in Virginia, towns like Abingdon, in Washington County, for instance, towns which have furnished the State with governors and senators and judges, stand in the very midst of the mountain region. These towns never did and do not now —remote as they are from larger centers—share the life of the mountaineers living among the ' knobs' just a few miles away. They are members of civilization in good standing, and have been so from the beginning, possessing rather more than the American average of education and prosperity and the social amenities, tho commerce with their primitive neighbors may have tinged their ideas upon questions like the morality of 'moonshining.'"As for the mountain people whose origin has been suggested, they lived apart. They stood still while their immediate neighbors and those who remained in the lower country to the east of them, and those who had pushed on to the west of them, moved on and became the nation that we know. Once only they were drawn into the main stream of the life of that nation. That was when the nation was torn by the Civil War. The war came to the mountaineers and the mountaineers fought. They fought on both sides. But most of them in the Virginias, in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Carolina fought on the Union side. They had little in common with the slaveholders, and of State pride they had little, also—since most of them knew of the State but vaguely- They were good fighting men. on whichever side they fought."

"Pent up in their mountains," out of touch with their fellow countrymen, the mountaineers live to-day much as they did a generation ago. Even now, they are "only to a very small extent reached by schools." But they are, in general, a religious people, and for the most part moral and honest. Altho:"There were, and are, low and brutish types among them. There are families of degenerates, 'clay-eaters' whose miserable state is variously charged to underfeeding and to inbreeding and original bad blood. There are traces among them of the less formal morals of that seventeenth century to which they properly belong, as there is plenty of that same century's indifference to the practise of sleeping, many and mingled, in a hut, of its lack of squeamishness about dirt, and a number of the niceties associated with life in cities. There are scattered among them, tooqueer tribes of mixt-breed creatures like the gipsy-like 'Melungians' (the spelling is uncertain), who are to be found in the region of Virginia and North Carolina adjoining this very county of Carroll in which the outrage occurred. This particular tribe, for instance, is reputed to have Portuguese blood, and it has morals of its own. Incidentally, it is utterly looked down upon by the mountaineers. The point it is important to make is that the average mountaineer is, according to his lights, a very fair sample of decent manhood and womanhood." As we have been told by other reliable authorities, these people do not think they are violating any moral law when they make whisky of the corn they raise on their poor little farms. The mountaineer lives out of touch with Federal laws, and thinks that internal-revenue officers ought to stay away and not bother him in his efforts to earn a living. Moreover, we read on: "Such as he was, the end of the war found him following his immemorial custom of making a part of his poor corn-crop into whisky. If one mountaineer in a dozen miles of rocky and remote and difficult country had a pot-still and a copper worm, he enabled a score of mountaineers besides himself to get more profit out of those little patches of corn. If the corn were made into meal, it might serve with the help of a little pork to give him and his family a slender daily ration. If part of the corn were made into whisky, one could sell it to buy more and better food and clothing as well. ... As soon as things settled down after the war, the activities of the Government toward the collecting of the whisky-tax and the hunting down of illicit stills were redoubled. The revenue-officer began to pervade the mountains, 'ruining trade,' and destroying the mountaineer's property in the way of liquor and pots and copper-coils, besides arresting the mountaineer and locking him up in a jail, or even killing him when he attempted to defend his home and his factory. "Observe that the mountaineer had no consciousness of wrongdoing, no conviction of sin. He had made whisky of his corn. He had as much right to do that, according to his lights, as he had to make meal of it or hominy of it. The Government meant nothing to him. He owed it nothing. The law gave him no protection. He did not need it. He protected himself when he had an enemy. Otherwise, there was no protecting to do. The revenue-officer was to him a mere invader—he was no better than a pirate, and fit to be shot on sight as so much human vermin. The situation was precisely—from the mountaineer's point of view—as if, say, a United States ship-of-war should drop into the harbor of Hamilton and send an officer and armed men ashore to confiscate the Bermudians' crop of spring onions. The Bermudian would, naturally, resist, and afterward he would not feel kindly toward the visitors who, by force, destroyed or carried off the crop and perhaps burned his house and killed some of its occupants. "It is the collection of the Federal internal revenue which has created, in the minds of a primitive community which had always been a law unto itself, an attitude of hostility to the agents of a law coming from outside and made by and for those outsiders. A warlike people by nature—tho they are gentle enough except when aroused by what they regard as aggression —they have made war on the revenue-officers and the United States marshals for decades. They have slain and been slain, and when their friends and brothers and fathers and sons have been carried off to jail in the civilized settlements in the valleys, they have come down and rescued them, as their ancestors might have rescued clansmen of theirs held in a robber baron's hold."
Samuel Cecil Graham, a lawyer of Tazewell, Va., writes that the three million people of the Southern mountain districts should not be blamed for the murder of the Hillsville court officials by "a half-dozen savages." We quote this paragraph from his letter: "Take your map, if you please, and for a few moments study it. Adjoining Carroll is the country of Patrick, where the cavalier Gen. J. E. B. Stuart was born; adjoining it also is the county of Floyd, where Admiral Robley D. Evans was born; hard by is the county of Franklin, where Gen. Jubal A. Early was born. Maybe you will say that it was the savage in them that made them great chieftains by land and sea. Was it the storms of the mountains and the floods that called them to the shock of battle and the roar of the ocean? Over yonder among the mountains of Harrison County, now West Virginia, taken from Virginia by a revolutionary rape, Stonewall Jackson was born. True he prayed, but maybe you would call him the greatest savage war-god since Napoleon. These are but a few brilliant examples of the product of the Virginia mountains. The. plain people—the bone and sinew of our country—are intelligent, energetic, educated, brave, and, in many instances, wealthy."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Does accuracy in the history of the Melungeons matter?

 Melissa Scrift in the latest book published on the Melungeons 
titled BECOMING MELUNGEON  writes;  

"The Melungeons constructed by the media are illusory, an amalgamation of ancedote, imagination, and creative license."

From the East Tennessee State University

"In her book, Schrift “examines the ways in which the Melungeon ethnic identity has been socially constructed over time by various regional and national media, plays, and other forms of popular culture” and “explores how the social construction of this legend evolved into a fervent movement of self-identified ethnicity in the 1990s.” 

It would appear Melissa Schrift and the East Tennessee State University would like the  readers to believe the Melugneons, were not real? They were somehow constructed by the media and/or local color writers. 

The fact is the Kentucky journalist who wrote of his stay at the Vardy Hotel and mineral springs was not writing about some imaginary people. He wrote of their 'Legend,' their religion, marital customs and farming. At the same time, in the 1850s, living near Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee was a similar group who were known by the locals as Portuguese and lived in the little hamlet called 'Malungeon Town.' 

Over in Hamilton County we find another group who came from the Pee Dee River in South Carolina with names like Bolton, Shoemake, Perkins, Goins, etc.  Court transcripts in the 1870s show these people were known as Portuguese and were also called Malungeons as early as the 1850s. These people were real, 
they have histories dating back to the 1600s and while the word 'Melungeon'
 may have been made up to describe this group of remant Indians, 
there is no doubt they were real. 

Does accuracy in the history of the Melungeons matter?  

In the second part of this series I will go over some of these articles that were supposedly used in socially constructing these 'Imaginary Melungeons.' These articles below were written by the Rev. Christopher Humble M.D. and one only needs to read the Tribute published in the New York Observer 
to find he was no 'local color writer.' 

His account of the Melungeons and their history varies little as the 'Legend' first told in 1848 and related again to Will Allen Dromgoole in 1890.




A Visit To The Melungeons

C.H. Humble


On Friday forenoon, July 2, the writer and Rev. Joseph Hamilton, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, started in a hack from Cumberland Gap, Tenn., for Beatty Collins’, chief of the Melungeons, in Blackwater Valley, Hancock County, Tenn.

The distance is thirty-five miles, but over such rough rocky mountain roads, that sundown found us still five miles away from our destination, without, however, any dislocated or broken bones, for which we were thankful. From either Lone Mountain or Rogersville, the road is shorter, being about thirty miles and not so rough. But by taking the longer route we passed a rare mountain cemetery, the sight of which paid us for our journey. The mountaineer has a tender heart and devotedly loves his own. 

No appeal comes more frequently or forcefully from his preacher than the one to meet loved ones in heaven, and the same sentiment finds constant expression in the hymns sung, therefore it is not strange that he buries his dead out of his sight, he erects a shelter over the grave. Though it may be quite rude or more finished in construction, as shown in the illustrations, yet it affords comfort to the bereaved because it shelters his loved ones from the storm, as many a cultured mother would fain do when the blasts beat on the grave of her babe. It should be added that this custom is peculiar to certain localities and does not commonly prevail. 

In Mulberry Valley, where we stopped for the night, we were served with two excellent meals and a restful bed for which the only compensation receivable was our “thank you.” 

In the morning we crossed Mullberry Ridge at the Gap, and three miles down the valley were landed at Beatty Collins’ house. 

He received us cordially and gave us full possession of “Hotel Varday,” a frame building 12x14 feet, in which were three beds. The walls were decorated with a variety of McKinley and Hobart pictures, one of which having been torn was carefully stitched. 

In front was a neat little porch in which hung the stars and stripes, the only hint we had of the glorious Fourth. 

In this valley are the famous Varday Springs of health-giving sulphur water, around which before the war, were many cabins for visitors. Now crowds come every Sunday to drink the water and to picnic. It was supposed that our object was to “tend the springs.” 

The Blackwater Valley lies between Mulberry and Newman’s Ridges, and is from half a mile to mile wide. Twenty years ago it was still a wilderness, but is now under good cultivation, and divided into small farms upon which are rather poor dwellings and outbuildings. In this valley and along Newman’s Ridge, reaching into Lee County, Virginia, are settled the people called Melungeons. Some have gone into Kentucky, chiefly into Pike County, others are scattered in adjacent territory. 

The name Melungeons is of obscure origin supposed to be derived from Melange, (French) meaning a mixed people. When I privately asked the son of Beatty Collins, a school teacher, about this name, he strongly resented its application to his people, saying, “We are a pure blood people,” meaning at least that they had no negro blood in their veins. 

They feel that oursiders look down on them and this is stimulating them to a better life. 

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. 

In the picture given is seen the typical family of Beatty Collins, chief of the clan, who stands with uncovered head to the right; before him sits his wife. The youngest daughter, about eighteen, a blonde with light wavy hair, can walk, ride, plough or hoe with the best of them. The young man–the school teacher and store keeper----is swarthy like his father. Altogether they are an intelligent, agreeable, and hospitable family. The man in the slouch hat is not of them, but would seem to be looking that way, as through the night till break of day he talked or sang to the daughter who stands beside him. 

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. 

Later Came Jim Mullens, an Englishman, who married a Collins, and whose son John married Mehala Collins, to be referred to again. Jim Moore, a British sailor, also settled here, and married a daughter of old Charley Gibson, so that while in one sense, they are a mixed people, their names indicate an origin on one side not differing from their neighbors. Their isolation may be due to the seclusion preferred by the Indians and the exclusion on account of suspected negro blood. 

The most noted person now among them is Mrs. Mehala Mullens, widow of John Mullens. About twenty children were born to this couple, three of whom met violent deaths, ons son being shot in the streets of Sneedville, another in her door yard, and a third lynched in Texas. 

She is over seventy years old; weighs, it is judged, about 400 pounds; cannot walk, stand, or lie down; but sits on her bed day and night. 

Beside her is a cask of whiskey on which stand tin cups and measures. The faucet is at her hand that she may conveniently dispense liquor to all who want it. 

She seems to enjoy the notoriety, and when the officers came with a writ for her arrest, she laughingly said “Execute it!" Her size, ill health, and steep rocky roads leading to her house on Newman’s Ridge, rendered her transportation dangerous if not impossible; so she sits and sells in defiance of law. 

I asked what she was going to do with all the fruit in the large orchard? She replied, “The boys know how to work that up.” I presumed into apple brandy, and she will do the rest. 

She was quite willing to have her picture taken, but wanted a copy of it. When Mr. Hamilton asked for her address her daughter interposed. “You did not tell him how many yards it takes,” and turning, said: “ It takes twelve yards to make her a dress.” The old lady saw her daughter’s mistake and corrected it, otherwise Mr. H. might have taken the order. 

Privately, I said, “Why do you, so near the grave, go on selling this destructive stuff to the young men?” She replied, “It’s the only way I can make a livin’.” 

She would only half promise to think of the evil of it. The old sentiment of the people makes it innocent, the notoriety makes it pleasant, and the money makes it profitable, and habit blinds her to the curse it has brought to her own door. 

These people, however, do little drinking and are not noted as in former days for shooting, cutting and stealing. They are peaceable and progressive, have good natural abilities, and are very eager to rise. They have schools and church buildings, and are strongly religious and very hospitable. 

During the Civil War many of them were in the Union army and helped to make the record of Hancock County, which sent more soldiers into the Federal service than it had voters. 

In 1862, Captain J. H. Trent, of Morristown, Tenn., formed a company largely composed of these people. Enlisted as infantry they were shortly made Company A First Tennessee Cavalry. They were noted for their bravery and were generally called upon in emergencies and for difficult service. 

The captain tells of two of Beatty Collins’ brothers who died in the army, of broken hearts, due to prolonged absence from home. 

Recently there were 500 person at the funeral, 150 of whom out of respect remained for dinner. 

During the Saturday and Sunday we spent in the valley we were with the people in five meetings. On Saturday morning their preacher did not come, but they wished us to preach if we were not Mormons, these they did not allow to preach in their church. As a neighboring preacher came in we begged to be excused. 

The sermon we heard was good in thought, arrangement and delivery, although accompanied at frequent intervals by some very straight spitting through a convenient crack in the floor. 

For future meetings they appealed to us, and by rising vote the strange preachers were unanimously invited to preach in the afternoon, when we had a good audience. 

Sunday morning service was to begin at 10 o’clock,, so all the preacher, four in number, could have a turn. The singing was led by a young, man aided by all, including the woman with the high falsetto voice, who for the time took her snuff stick out of her mouth. 

The first verse was the line:” “We have mothers who have gone on before,” repeated four times. Succeeding verses were the same line with father, brother, or other relative substituted for mother. The chorus was the line “ We will lean on the Bible and go home,” repeated four times, and more weird enchanting harmony I never heard. 

Their preacher came Sunday morning and treated us with the utmost courtesy. He is a perfect gentleman and an earnest Christian. He led in a devout prayer only one sentence of which seemed to be for the special edification of the strange brethren. It was: “O Lord reach into the recessities of our hearts and bring out everything inimicable to they will, divest us of the principles of religion, and ratify all our wrongs.” <><> Many old people gave their hands to the preacher in token of their faith in Christ and about twenty, mostly young people, in the same way expressed their desire to be Christians; a splendid field for some personal work. 

In the afternoon, I organized a Sunday school and told them of the work done by our Bible Teachers. Mr. B. H. Williams, the Secretary of the Sunday School, Postmaster and Justice of the Peace, said; “Send the ladies right to my house, I’ll take care of them.” Mr. Beatty Collins will give us a house and a piece of land, and all seemed anxious for these ladies to come. 

We have a competent lady, a native Tennesseean, for whom $150 is pledged, who is very anxious to enter this field. For her salary, we need another $150. 

Friends in Kansas are raising money to send another worker there, for two should go together. We will need at least $100 to repair and remodel the house, $100 more for a stable, horse, etc., sums which we trust the Lord will shortly send us. 

The door is open, the call is in our ears, the response will surely come. C.H. Humble 

 Church at Home and Abroad‎ - Page 403
by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. General Assembly - Presbyterian Church - 1897



On July 3, 4 and 5, I was in Blackwater valley, between Mulberry and Newman's ridges, Hancock county, Tenn., where dwell a peculiar people called the Melungeons.

On August 26, I again started for this region, this time from Lone Mountain, on horseback, the distance being twenty-six miles, over a fair road with no considerable hills.

At least a dozen schoolhouses and churches were passed, in only one of which was there a Sunday- school.

About nine miles out I rode into a crowd of school-children, sixty in number, enjoying recess. The teacher said there were eighty scholars in the district, but they had no Sunday-school. He cheerfully agreed to give me an hour on the morrow at 2 P.M., and to "norate" the appointment. At that time the house was crowded, nearly a hundred persons being present. After an address, a Sabbath-school was organized, which we will be able to visit at short intervals.

But as the approach to Blackwater was made the inquiry arose, " What is my Fourth of July Sabbath-school doing?" and on my arrival I was rejoiced to learn that it was in a flourishing condition and was truly the "Pride of the Valley."

A meeting that night at the schoolhouse two miles down the creek opened the way for another Sunday-school as soon as our Bible teachers get on the ground. Another point up the creek was also spoken for. The fields are white already to harvest, and while the region is little known, Presbyterians have not in times past wholly neglected it.

A writer says: "One night in June, many years ago, Dr. Frederick A. Ross, a noted Presbyterian minister, of Eastern Tennessee, was traveling through the Blackwater country. He accidentally came upon "Uncle" Vard's house and asked if he could stay all night.  [Newspaper Article on this story - A Peculiar People]

"The old mountaineer told him he could, and after he had fed his horse and the guest had eaten supper the old man asked him his business. He told him he was a preacher. The old man told him he would like to hear him preach. ' Where is your congregation?" asked the minister. 'I'll get one in a few minutes,' replied 'Uncle' Vard. He took a long dinner horn from its rack over the door and going outdoors blew several shrill blasts. Within an hour fifty people had assembled, and Dr. Ross said that he never preached to an audience which showed greater appreciation and deeper religious feeling than did that little band of copper- colored mountaineers on Black water."

"Uncle" Yard is Varday Collins, the chief of the first settlers who came to this valley as early as 1789. He lived to be 101 years old, and the springs, post-office and hotel are called by his name.In 1890, Mr. W. M. Elliott was in this valley, under the auspices of the Holston Presbytery, South. He found them very destitute of religious literature, many homes being without Bibles. Some of them thought our Bibles to be different from that of the Baptists or Methodists—not an illogical deduction.

They suspected him of being an internal revenue officer and tried to run him out by threatening to kill him. However, scared as he was, he stayed, preached and placed Bibles in almost every home.

In 1893, Mr. W. W. Baxter, our Sabbath-school missionary at Booneville, Ky., spent several months in this section and is remembered with affection and respect.

Presbyterians, therefore, are not unknown or unwelcome; indeed, although these people are chiefly Baptists, one of their number, Caney Collins, a brother of Beatty, being a Baptist preacher, they are very eager to have us come.

They have been despised and in a measure ostracised by outsiders, and their self-respect impels them to seize every chance of improvement.

They are delighted at the prospect of having two cultured, consecrated ladies locate in the valley, who will carry on their Sabbath-schools the year round in the best manner, teaching the truth as it is in Jesus, showing them how to get hold of it and work it out in their home life and in all their affairs. The people offer them a house and garden. They will help remodel the house, which will cost us about $100, a sum which we hope some reader will send us. The friends in Greeneville and Jonesboro, Tenn., are endeavoring to provide the furniture needed ; others in Knoxville are getting funds for a horse.

The ladies are Miss Annie Brian Miller, of Limestone, Tenn., an excellent teacher, who has fitted herself for mission work by two years' attendance on Moody's Bible Institute, Chicago; and Miss Maggie B. Axtell, Topeka, Kans., a graduate of Washburn College, who has had much experience in Bible teaching, especially in the Y. W. C. A.

Miss Axtell's salary is promised by friends in Kansas. One-half of Miss Miller's is furnished by a gentleman and his wife in Indiana. The other $150 we trust the Lord soon to send us.

" Hotel Varday " will be their home until their house is ready for occupancy.  This building is frame, 12 z 14 feet in size ; has on the first floor three beds, a bureau, fireplace and staircase; on the second floor is one bed.

Since my first visit groups of Westminster picture cards have been hung on the walls.  Many of these people were in the Union army during the war and were noted for their bravery. They love their own people and their homes, and their captain, J. H. Trent, tells of two Collins brothers who died in the army from homesickness.

In their burials they march single file to the grave, which is always on a mountain.  Should you .ask any of these people concerning their origin, all they can say is that they were told that their ancestors came from North Carolina and had Indian blood in their veins. And at this limit of their knowledge I rest until those who hold to the Portuguese, Aztec or Negro theory establish the connection. Before the war the charge of Negro mixture could not be proved, and those of them arrested for illegal voting on this ground were discharged. The slightest suspicion of Negro blood in a person is sufficient to call into active exercise the intense repugnance of some people to associate with him or his, so that it is not surprising that even now children of these people are denied admission to the public schools in districts where they are in the minority. It is said that they are very averse to their men marrying white women, and in such a case recently the man was obliged to cut his finger and the woman to suck his blood before their minister would perform the ceremony. Indian blood mingled somewhat with Caucasian will account for all the peculiarities of color, feature, hair, carriage and character possessed by these people.

We know that the Mullens and Moores received their names from white husbands and fathers, and we do no violence to the probabilities by assuming that the prevalent names, Collins, Gibson, Williams, Goans, Bell, came in the same way.

It is certainly a cause for gratitude that our beloved Church has an agency, the Sabbath-school missionary, that penetrates the darkest mountain recesses to plant Sabbath-schools which shed forth the light of the glorious gospel of the Son of God, and that it provides to "keep the lighta-bumin'," sending the blessed sunshine into every home and every heart, through the labors of trained consecrated women on the "Settlement Plan," projected by the Board of Publication and Sabbath-school Work.

The Church at Home and Abroad - Page 507

by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. General Assembly - Presbyterian Church - 1898

Dr. C. Humble writes of successes in Tennessee. " At Vardy twenty or more conversions have come out of Bible teachers' work and the good work of 'heart-picking' goes onNot being ready for a church organization, the converts go into the Baptist church; but they want us to organize." (See Sulphur Springs Baptist Church -

Home Mission Monthly‎ - Page 112
by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Woman's Executive Committee for Home Missions, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Woman's Board of Home Missions - Home missions - 1899

July, 1897, Rev. C. Humble started from Cumberland Gap, Tenn., to visit Blackwater Valley. The drive was a long one, over rough and rocky roads, and Dr. Humble p.nd his companion were glad, as night came on, to find hospitable entertainment in "Mulberry" Valley. In the morning, resuming their journey, they crossed over Mulberry Ridge and a drive of a few miles brought them to the little community in Blackwater Valley, known as the Melungeons, a name whose origin is variously defined, but it is supposed the people are partly of Portuguese origin. This community has been greatly isolated, and in consequence deprived of a stimulus to progress. Dr. Humble found that they were desirous of a better life and of advantages which they had not hitherto known.

In a very fully illustrated article, giving among other views the picture of the head of the clan and his family, which appeared in the September Home Mission Monthly, for 1897, very interesting particulars of this first visit of Dr. Humble's are given. Dr. Humble closes his article by saying that land was pledged for a building if Bible teachers could be sent to labor in the region and adds, "The door is open, the call is in our ears, the response will surely come."

In a short time Dr. Humble's labors and faith were rewarded; he succeeded in securing the teachers and sufficient money for their support. The people welcomed the missionaries gladly, and their initiatory efforts were crowned with much success. The Arch Enemy, ever watchful to throw hindrances in the way of Christian work, was not long idle, however. The following communication, just received from Dr. Humble, will explain the condition of affairs at present:


The work of Misses Miller and Axtell at Vardy, Hancock Co., Tenn., among the Melungeons, grows in interest. From the first these people made our teachers their own, and when sectarian opposition was aroused by a new preacher not of the Melungeon blood, who turned our Sunday school out of the building where it had met, a friendly home was opened and the people who had been led into the Light by our workers, stood by them and now call earnestly for the organization of a Presbyterian church.

This conflict has been thrust upon us, for our teachers have appreciated and reciprocated the hospitality of the people, and in all their teachings and labors have exercised the utmost consideration and Catholicism, that no sectarian opposition should be aroused, for nothing is more antagonistic to true Christianity than a little religion in the hands of a zealot. In spite of this opposition from outside, the Son of Righteousness has arisen in Blackwater Valley with healing in his wings, and these despised people who, for a hundred or more years back sat in comparative darkness, have seen a Great Light and are rejoicing in it.

Eight weekly religious meetings and one day school are conducted by two workers. To these should be added another Sunday school just organized—the third conducted by these devoted missionaries — together with another Bible class which they supervise. One of the Hible classes meets every Friday evening on Newman's Ridge. Previous to the advent in the valley of the opposing element this class had been held in the house of a local minister, and had two other native preachers as students. After the onslaught this house was closed against us. A number of the best men of the class—the leading men on the Ridge—arose and said they would fix up a vacant house for the meeting. On the next Friday evening this house was opened, a bright fire burning in the fireplace, and benches ready for the class. Thus again was the " wrath of man made to praise the Lord."

Wider the interest spreads. A man on the far side of the Ridge — six or seven miles distant—came to invite our Bible Readers to start a school in his neighborhood. This has been done, and now still another community calls for similar work. Two more Bible Readers could enter at once into most needy fields. The people of the county seat are calling loudly for a Presbyterian teacher, the field is white, the grain is ripe. A Presbyterian minister should be located in that county at once.

The Ohio Synodical Sunday School Association are hoping to raise the salary of a Sabbath School Missionary to take charge of this county, whose arms are outstretched to welcome him. May the Lord grant the needed additional Bible teachers and the missionaries at a very early day. C. Humble, M. D.

Home Mission Monthly‎ - Page 19
by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Woman's Executive Committee for Home Missions, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Woman's Board of Home Missions - Home missions - 1900



About two years ago we began work among a people called Melungeons (see this magazine for Sept., '97, page 243, for history of this people) living on Black water River, Hancock Co., Tenn. Last spring we organized the Vardy Presbyterian Church with thirty-five members, to which a number of additions have since been made. This spring one of our Sunday schools was turned out of its meeting place and found shelter in a neighbor's house.

The log school house in which the other Sunday school meets, and in which all our preaching services are held, is so open and cold that while preaching there last winter I was compelled to wear my overcoat, and the people, in companies of twenty or more, gathered in turn around the little stove in the center of the room in order that they might with the least discomfort remain through the service.

The need and desire for a church building are great. The people are very poor, but have agreed to furnish the logs for the lumber at the saw mill and do some work besides. The building needed is 30x40, with two rooms and a vestibule, which is to be surmounted with a tower. There is not a decent church building in the county. This one will cost beyond what the people can do, about $800 finished and furnished—when the property will be worth $1000.

Should the Board of Church Erection aid us, the least additional sum with which we could get along would be $500. The lumber is now being sawed, and we would like to have the building ready for occupancy by the New Year. Here is a unique opportunity of gaining Christ's commendation for helping some of the least of his brethren. Our elder's conversion runs thus: "I could not read a word in the book. I heard the minister preach and wanted to be a Christian. I went out into the mountain to pray, but I didn't know how to pray: so I just began to talk to the Lord and I told Him I could only remember part of the verse, He that believeth shall have everlasting life,' and I believed and right there the Lord blessed me."

Now Mr. Ordeal Collins can read and is a living epistle known and read of all men.

One of our deacons is a son of the massive moonshiner, Aunt Mehala Mullens, and was once himself a notorious moonshiner, but now a new man in Christ Jesus. Another deacon is a son of one of Aunt Mehala's daughters, who herself is perhaps our most zealous member.

Should there be some individual who would crown the work of our Church among these poor and condemned brethren by erecting for them a house of worship—possibly a memorial of some loved one "gone before"—or who would share in the erection of this Presbyterian church, the first of its kind in the country, communicate with Miss S. F. Lincoln, 15(1 Fifth Ave., New York, or with the writer, C. Humble, Parkersburg, W. Va.

Home Mission Monthly

Vol. XVI. No. 5.
MARCH, 1902.

Quick returns, these, all will say who recall the " Visit to the Melungeons" in the September number of this magazine, some four years ago. In that article Dr. Humble told of his visit to these interesting people at Vardy, Tenn., and of the effort then inaugurated to sustain Bible Readers among them. We have since made frequent mention of this work. A year or so ago a church was organized. Miss McBride now sends word of another rich blessing, resulting from a week of preaching services by the Rev. Mr. Wallins. Rain was pouring clown in torrents when the appointed time for the meetings drew near, the streams were swollen, footlogs were swept away (there arc no bridges). Added to the discomfort of the storm, the homes of the people are scattered on the top of a steep ridjre on one side and a mountain on the
other, while most of them live at a distance of two or three miles or more from the church. But as soon as the rain was stayed the people came—twice each day— through the mud, down steep, narrow paths, over slippery rocks—where one misstep might lead to a dangerous fall many feet below, theattendancegrowing— thein- terest deepening. Christians were revived, those who had fallen were reclaimed, and seventeen were added to the church, with more to follow.

Reports of the Boards - Page 133
by Presbyterian Church in the
U.S.A. General Assembly - 1919

Community Work

As the Board is still conducting a number of community stations
in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, it is pertinent
to note in general some of the features of these enterprises in the
light of the new conditions. One community worker reports that
during the past year the people gave over $800 toward the Red
Cross and the Government drives, and the members of the local
church contributed nearly $70 for the support of the pastor, the
largest amount given in five years. She further states that many
of the people now realize that they should have an education if
they expect to work outside of the mountains. They now realize
as never before what an education means. She further testifies
that the greatest work in her community, according to her judgment,
is to take the children out of the homes and place them
in boarding schools. Along this same line another writes that 
one of the most inspiring things that has happened in Vardy 
has been the return from the school of some of our Farm School 
boys and our Pease House and Dorland-Bell children. The parents
look forward eagerly to the homecoming of their children,
and when they find them improved so much physically and mentally
they begin to plan to send them back another year, and add a
few more to the number. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Families of America

Chief Cook's Pleas Fall on Deaf Ears
Richmond Times Dispatch




Chief Cook Denies Kin With Heathen Race -- No Action Taken

By William G. Southall

Chief Cook of the Pamunkey Indians last night literally fell on the field of battle in a verbal clash with his paleface neighbors.

The aged man took the floor to protest before the House Committee and General Laws against the provision of the Norris racial integrity bill which classified as colored all Virginians who are not pure white.  

“I am a sick man,” he said.  “I left a sick-bed,” he said to come here for the speech I shall make.  It may be that I shall go down in the effort. It makes no difference. I told my people that I would be in Richmond for this hearing if it meant that I should be carried back home in a baggage.  I would die for the Pamunkey tribe.

A Natural Orator

The chief is a natural orator. His is an inherited gift.  Indians have been noted for their picturesqueness of speech since they took over the language of the white man,  The leader of the Pamunkeys last night was impressive as he stood in the Virginia Capitol and pleaded for the preservation of his tribe.  His voice broke at time but always he recovered it and continued his impassioned address.

After he had concluded he went slowly back to his seat in the rear of the hall.  An advocate on the other side of the question propounded an inquiry.  The Chief did not answer.  Two or three men came to his side discovered that he was exhausted and assisted him to a long seat upon which he might lie.  Aromatic spirits of ammonia were administered, and the Pamunkey leader finally regained his lost strength.

At times the chief’s speech was tinged with bitterness.

“You talk of granting us land” he cried.  “Do you bring with you from across the sea one foot of soil?  Was not all Virginia ours when you came here?  Some of you boast of being F. F. V’s. I do not. I say that I come from the First Families of America.

God Fearing Folk

“Tell me, would you blot out a nation? God forbid! The charge has been made that we were from the heathen race.  I deny it from the bottom of my soul. We come from  God-fearing folk.  Long before we new the palefaces the Great Spirit brooded over us and died in the belief that we should join our brothers in the Happy Hunting Grounds.”

“Who would have thought.” he concluded dramatically, “that the heart of Captain John Smith, who would “have destroyed all the Pamunkeys, beat in the breasts of the palefaces of this day.?”

Defines White Person

At 12:30 o’clock this morning the committee rose without taking any definite action.

The bill under consideration last night differs from the law enacted at the 1924 session of the Assembly principally in that it defines a white person as one who has not one drop of other blood in his veins, except that persons who trace themselves back to a marriage union between a white person and an Indian contracted prior to 1619, or who have in them an admixture of the blood of Indians belonging to the civilized tribes of Oklahoma or Texas, shall be regarded as white.  All others are to be classified as colored.

This is the objection raised to the bill by the Pamunkey, the Chickahominy, the Mataponi and the Rappahannock tribes.  They would consent, they said, to a law forbidding any intermarriage among the races and providing the severe punishment for violation of the statue.

Opponents of the measure before the House Committee proposed an amendment which would define white, Indian and colored persons.  This suggestion met determined opposition from Dr. W. A. Plecker, Registrar of Vital Statistics, and John Powell; who has labored indefatigably for several years in the cause of racial integrity.  They made the point that thousands of persons whom they regard as mulattos would come forward with the claim of Indian descent, all of whom must be investigated.  Such a burden, they said, would be too much for the department to carry and function efficiently the while.

Recognition of also three races would be out of line with the policy obtaining elsewhere, and would serve no other purpose than to throw out of joint all the machinery of classification.

Dr. Plecker Opens Discussion

Dr. Plecker who holds that there is no Indian in Virginia who does not carry in his veins some negro blood, opened the discussion with a brief explanation of the bill.  Speakers on his side of the question included Delegate Warren, of Portsmouth: Mrs. Fothergill, who was presented as a genealogist; John Powell and Major E. S. Cox.

Representing the opponents of the measure where Senator Douglas Mitchell, who appeared in behalf of the Pamunkeys; Manley H. Barnes, for the Chickahominies George Haw, also for the Chickahominies; Judge Fleet for the Rappahonnocks; M.D. Hart, Roger Gregory, Rev. Mr. Sudduth, Chief George Nelson of the Rappahannocks, and James H. Johnson, a member of that tribe.

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 ...