Friday, November 21, 2014

Historical Melungeons of South Carolina


Who Were the Historical Melungeons from the Pee Dee River?

There seems to be no doubt from the records found to date the people 'called Melungeons' were living on the Pee Dee River as early as 1735. Some, but not all, of these families can be found in Charles City County, Virginia before spreading south and west.

In 1754 the Governor of North Carolina sent out the Militia to record the Indians in the state. They reported there were no Indians but 'there were fifty families, a 'mixt crew' residing on the Drowning Creek' (also known as the Lumber River). Who were these mixed families?

Spencer Bolton was born on the Pee Dee River in 1735, his family is documented as being known as Portuguese and Melungeon as early as the 1840-1850s. Also in Bladen/Robeson on the Pee Dee in 1754 we find the deeds of CHAVIS IVEY SWEAT OXENDINE SHOEMAKE GIBSON COLLINS PERKINS

  • Thomas Chavis purchased 1,100 acres of land at the head of Sunken Marsh near Chipoakes Creek in Surry County, Virginia, on 20 May 1659 
  • *Thomas Busby (born about 1674) was an “Indyan boy” servant to Mr. Robert Caufield of Surry Co. VA in July of 1684 when his age was adjudged at 10 years (Haun, Surry County Records 1682-91, 444) - 
  • Will of Capt. Robert Caufield,... to Samuel Newton and John Collins, wife Elizabeth. Dated Jan. 2, 1691;proved Jan. 19, 1691. [Capt. Robert Caufield was son of William Caufield, of the parish of Chippoakes, Surry county, and Doreas, his wife. 
  • Leiut. Robert Sheppard due 650 acres of land in James City Co., 26 July 16 38, for transporting 13 persons ... the list includes Robert Swett. The land granted to Robert Sheppard at this time was on the south bank of the James River at Chippokes Creek 
  • William Knott, 312 Acres, Surry Co 28 Mar 1666, p. 482 (land patents). 112 acres on south side of James River on south side of Upper Chipoake Creek, bounded NW on land of Edward Oliver, N upon Wm. Thomas, E on George Gibson & SE on Mr. Fisher; 200 acres on south side of said River, Wly. on Jeremiah Clements, NW on Edward Oliver, Nly on Wm. Thomas, George Gibson & Edward Minter, Ely. on Wm. Gapins land & **Mr. Thomas Busbie and SE on Mr. Richard Hill 
  • Phillis Goeing, was presented by the grand jury in Charles City in November 1739 for having a bastard child. She petitioned the court in July 1745 asking her children be bound to George Gibson. (Probably son or grandson of Gibby Gibson of Westover, Charles City County.) 
*This Thomas Busby 'may be' the Indian boy mentioned. The Ivey DNA has matches to the Busby family.  **This Thomas Busby on Chippoakes Creek 1666, neighbor of George Gibson, was a trader and Interpreter for the crown. In the 1684 tax list one Peter Gibson is found living in household of Thomas Busby.

The Quiyoughcohannock were one of the first Virginia Indian groups the English encountered ......the Quiyoughcohannocks had four villages in the region likely east of Upper Chippokes Creek.

From John Smith's map. Shows where these early families 
called Melungeon, Redbone, Lumbee, etc were living on 
Chippoakes Creek.

These families can be traced from Chippoakes Creek to New Kent/Louisa County, Virginia, to Orange County, North Carolina while some of the families went to the Pee Dee River.  The Gibson's DNA from Chippoakes Creek matches families in Louisa County, Va.; Gibsons from the Pee Dee River; a Gibson family from the 'Brass Ankles' ; as well as the Melungeon Gibsons.

The Goins DNA, according to Jack Goins matches the Rockingham Indians, the Melungeons, and Lumbee Indians. Although his Goins ancestor had Haplogroup E, indicating a Sub-Saharan DNA from hundreds and hundreds of years ago we find in his 'Defintion of Melungeon' found here the following statement;
After discovering some of my foreparents were labeled Melungeon by historians, I began a search to satisfy for my own curiosity and to discover the truth about my own family and the Melungeons. Which includes private DNA test and those test reveal my Goins foreparent who came to Hawkins County was probably 75% Native American and he did have a tradition of Portugese and Indian Heritage. Thanks, Jack Goins
According to the 2012 paper on the CORE Melungeon DNA Project by Goins, Crain, Estes, and Ferguson they write regarding the Goins DNA;
This match is particularly important because it shows that the designation Melungeon, the term used to identify this group of South Carolina people, seems to predate the Melungeon community in Hawkins Countybeing used in reference to Solomon Bolton who is living in the Spartanburg District of South Carolina prior to 1800.

Shepherd McMillan and Burnett

Judge Lewis Shepherd wrote in his memoirs of his client, the Bolton family;
About the time of our Revolutionary war, a considerable body of these people crossed the Atlantic and settled on the coast of South Carolina, near the North Carolina line, and they lived among the people of Carolina for a number of years. At length the people of Carolina began to suspect that they were mulattoes or free Negroes and denied them the privileges usually accorded to white people. They refused to associate with them on equal terms and would not allow them to send their children to school with white children, and would only admit them to join their churches on the footing of Negroes

South Carolina had a law taxing free Negroes so much per capita, and a determined effort was made to collect this of them. But it was shown in evidence on the trial of this case that they always successfully resisted the payment of this tax, as they proved that they were not Negroes. Because of their treatment, they left South Carolina at an early day and wandered across the mountains to Hancock county, East Tennessee; in fact, the majority of the people of that country are “Melungeons,:” or allied to them in some way. A few families of them drifted away from Hancock into the other counties of east Tennessee and now and then into the mountainous section of Middle Tennessee......the term “Melungeons” is an East Tennessee provincialism; it was coined by the people of that country to apply to these people.

Hamilton McMillan managed to have the Lumbee (known also as Croatan, Cherokee and Indians of Robeson County) recognized by the State of North Carolina. In the paper written in 2012 by Crain, Estes, Goins and Ferguson they write;
In his (McMillan) testimony at the 1915 trial, Hamilton McMillan stated:
 "The Croatan tribe lives principaly in Robeson County, North Carolina, though there is quite a number of them settled in counties adjoining in North and South Carolina. In Sumter County, South Carolina, there is a branch of the tribe, and also in east Tennessee. In Macon county, North Carolina, there is another branch, settled there long ago. Those living in east Tennessee are called "Melungeons", a name also retained by them here, which is corruption of 'Melange', a name given them by early settlers (French), which means mixed.''
They go on to write;
Given the known migration patterns of some of the Melungeon families to North and South Carolina, in particular, the Bertie County (NC) Tuscarora area (Gibson and Bunch) and the Pee Dee River area (Gibson, Collins, Bunch, Sizemore, Goins and Bolton) where other known Natives were living, it certainly would not be surprising to discover that some of the Lumbee and the Melungeon families share a common heritage. It's particularly intriguing because the Lumbee also have an oral history of identifying themselves as Melungeons, but in their case, it did not seem to be applied by outsiders, but by the Lumbee themselves. McMillan's records in the 1880s tell us that the older Lumbee considered themselves Melungeon. The 1874 Shepherd trial expands the area where this occurred to South Carolina adjacent the Lumbee area in North Carolina.
Clearly the authors of this 2012 paper recognize the importance of the families on the Pee Dee River; they acknowledge 'the term used to identify this group of South Carolina people, seems to predate the Melungeon community in Hawkins County'.

The SURNAMES listed in the CORE project are; Bolin, Bolling, Boltons, Bunch, Collins, Denham, Gibson, Goins, Goodman, Hopkins, Mallett, Melungeon, Menleys, Minor, Moore, Mornings, Mullins, Perkins, Shumake, Williams. Not one result from Bolton Menley, Morning, Perkins or Shoemake are presented in the this 2012 paper in which they declare they have 'solved the mystery' of the Melungeons.

These families of the Pee Dee River who 'pre-date the Hawkins County families while being mentioned are not represented. The Oxendine-Shoemake, Ivey, Linegar families are found on Newmans Ridge, along with possibly the Collins and Gibsons found in this 1794 petition of the Melungeons of South Carolina found here.

The Core Melungeon DNA Project is ongoing, they are still collecting kits, will there be a revision of this 2012 paper?  An autosomal study has also been in the works since 2010, will these HISTORICAL MELUNGEONS, CORE MELUNGEONS from the Pee Dee River be included in future reports?


  1. My husband is descended from Chavis, Ivey and Shoemake ancestors, who we believe moved to Campbell, TN, then down into Jackson, AL and Franklin, TN by the 1830s. We were recently in Campbell and found next to nothing in terms of records for these people. It's been really frustrating trying to piece together their lives prior to moving to Alabama.

  2. do you have the information on the Shoemake - who had land on Crow Creek?

  3. Do you know if the surnames of Ball, Nicken are of the Melungeon ancestry.

  4. Hello, found this very fascinating. I descend from two lines that may connect.

    First I descend from Jacob Busby b. abt 1760 in Orangeburg SC. This is the line that you mention that Y DNA matches the Iveys and comes up with a Sub-Saharan African haplogroup.

    It seems probable that the racial mixing happened around that point when Ivey and Busby lived in the same region and of course that Thomas Busby "Indyan boy" is a very interesting candidate.

    My grandmother, who descends from this line comes up with a couple of small Sub-Sahran African DNA segments (though the y DNA evidence is far more conclusive).

    Another line might connect in SC somehow. My grandmother also comes up with two Native American DNA segments. I've matched people on that same stretch of DNA that contains both segments (and the European DNA in-between) to people who descend from Russells, either my direct line or related.

    My line is an Andrew M Russell b. in the 1780s and is first found in Jackson Co., GA where he married Polly Stewart in 1816. He likely came from SC. He went from GA to Perry Co., AL. At least two others who shares the NA segment descend from Andrew Russell. What's interesting is another match on that same segment descends from a Gisbon Russell b. 1808 or so who is found living next to Andrew in Perry Co., AL before going to MI to get married near other Russells.

    What's interesting is the other Russells that are possibly related come through the same areas, from SC -> GA -> AL. They seem to originate in Darlington Co., SC. Which I notice is right around the Pee Dee area you reference. The Gibson Russell sharing a first name as a common surname you mention from that region I find interesting too.

    Not sure how these connect but interesting.

  5. Dear Joanne, thank you for your research, I will have to find the 1754 land deeds for the Shoemakes in Robeson Co. I see they have Blakely Shoemake son of Sampson Shoemake, son of James Shoemake born 1740 with wife Mary in Granville next door to William Chavis Jr as a Lumbee/ Robeson Co American Indian ancestor, Id be interested to learn about that, but so far I've learned zip.
    As for John Shoemake who was awarded land by the 1817 Reservation Treaty to give up Cherokee lands with his Cherokee wife Anna daughter of Parch Corn Flower, is thought to be the son of the James Shoemake I mentioned above. I've seen different information say he was the son of another John Shoemake, so it's all twisted, like most of Shoemake genealogy.


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