Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Joanne Pezzullo & Dennis Maggard
OCCAM'S RAZOR  "The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better."
The KISS principle states "most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated.  Variations of KISS are "keep it short and simple" and "keep it simple and straightforward".
In 1848 a journalist from Kentucky with his accomplice  arrived in Vardy Valley where he was the guest of Vardy Collins, "Chief cook and bottle washer of the Melungens".  The story of his visit was published in dozens of newspapers across the country.

"The legend of their history, which they carefully preserve, is this. A great many years ago, these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese Adventurers, men and women.... These intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants (after the advances of the whites into this part of the state) with the negros and the whites, thus forming the present race of Melungens."
He wrote the "Legend" as it was told to him, possibly by Vardy, however it does not say who the Melungens were, he doesn't have names and we are not even sure if Vardy did tell the legend if it was Vardy's legend or if it belonged to another group of people, the Portuguese Indians who had come over the mountains after the War of 1812 from the Pee Dee River area of South Carolina.

Over the years it has been suggested the Melungeons forgot who they were, didn't know their history, were mysterious, and most importantly 'said they were Portuguese as a cover story to hide their African ancestry'.

Here we have in 1848 Vardy Collins, known as that wily Cherokee, "head and source' of the Melungens telling this journalist they were Portuguese Indians, and they mixed with the whites and the blacks.  No mystery, knew who they were and where they came from. If they said they had mixed with the blacks then why oh why would Portuguese be a made up story to hide their 'black ancestry'?

This is the same story told to Will Allen Dromgoole in 1890, 40 some years later.

In genealogy we start with ourselves and go back each generation collecting documents and proving our ancestry.  Melungeon research is no different.  At the time this article was written in 1848 there were people called Melungens living in Hamilton and Wilson County in Tennessee as well as a group in Dothan, Albama.  The former two known as people with Portuguese ancestry by their neighbors and many proven in the court system from North Carolina to Texas. One yet to be identified appears to be a political group living near Richmond, Virginia in the 1850s and 60s known as Moulungeons.

Why the idea there were NO Portuguese people in Colonial America just simply defies logic.  Numerous researchers, historians etc., people who were neighbors to these people, and knew them and their ancestors, testified as to their Portuguese ancestry for over 100 years. Yet still today we read of the 'Mysterious Melungeons' and their 'cover story'. There are early records of  the 'Spanish Plantation' mentioned by John Smith in 1608, Fernando the Portuguese, Nicholas the Portuguese, Manuel the Portuguese, and 'the Portuguese found at Saponi town in 1671.  George, known only as 'the Spaniard' was living near Jamestown in 1669.

Back to these 'Melungeon' people known as Portuguese Indians. The first thing we look for 'is their any proof of Portuguese mixing with the Indians in early records' and the answer is yes. From the time Lucas deAyllon, and the men and women he brought here in 1526, including the 100 slaves, these Spaniards/Portuguese have been mixing with the Indians. The kidnapping of numerous Indian women by Hernando deSoto and his Portuguese and Spanish soldiers. The documented story of the 'slave who ran away with the Queen of the Cofitchiqua in 1540 and again by Pardo.

Were these early explorers in Tennessee?  Maybe. We do know that most people who have studied them have deAyllon at the Winyah Bay in South Carolina, and deSoto and Pardo on the Pee Dee River in South Carolina where we find these people known as Melungeons living as early as 1735.

Red indicates town where both deSoto and
Pardo visited. Pee Dee drains into Winyah Bay where
 Lucas deAyllon was found in 1526

In 1848 the ancestry of the Melungeons were published in dozens of newspapers across the country. In 1890 Will Allen Dromgoole went to Newman's Ridge and wrote of the same ancestry.  Indians who had mixed with Portuguese, blacks and whites. Her articles were published not all over the county but also across the seas. How did they become mysterious? They did not forget who they were, they did not make up a story to hide any ancestry and there was nothing mysterious about them and there still isn't.

The caravel ship introduced in the mid-15th century
which aided Portuguese exploration
Photo by Brazilian Navy

Portuguese discoveries is the name given to the intensive maritime exploration by the Portuguese during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration, discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Asia and Brazil, in what became known as the Age of Discovery. Methodical expeditions started in 1419 along West Africa's coast under the sponsorship of prince Henry the Navigator, with Bartolomeu Dias reaching the Cape of Good Hope and entering the Indian Ocean in 1488. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama led the first fleet around Africa to India, arriving in Calicutand starting a maritime route from Portugal to India. Soon, after reaching Brazil, explorations proceed to southeast Asia, having reached Japan in 1542.  (Wikipedia)
By the time Jamestown was founded, the Portuguese had been running an Atlantic -- and worldwide -- empire for a century.  Portugal had colonies and outposts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and on islands in between and traveled the Atlantic freely.

Beside the Portuguese there are records of Armenians, East Indians, Spanish, Turks, and others in Colonial America. Boatloads of French, Germans, and Swiss. Yet these researchers today sitting in front of their monitors with all of these facts available with a click of the mouse and still they want to make the Melungeons 'mysterious' and make their Portugeuse ancestry a cover story. The Portuguese and their Portuguese Atlantic Creole offspring were sailing all over the Atlantic Ocean and the world but couldn't find their way to America?  Really?

Do these researchers, authors, bloggers have proof these people were something other than Portuguese? No.  They have tested the male DNA of a small sampling of people found in Hancock County which represents ONE ancestor out of thousands and have limited their study to Hancock County families when it is well documented there were pockets of these tawny people living elsewhere.  Furthermore, that DNA was found to be a mix of European and Sub-Saharan haplogroups which could easily have originated with people calling themselves Portuguese.

To put this in perspective we have the Portuguese and Portuguese Atlantic Creoles sailing all over the Atlantic, and we at least three expeditions in the 1500s on the Pee Dee River in South Carolina of Spanish, Portuguese and their slaves who interacted with the Natives in that area.

We have documentation these people who eyewitnesses said were Portuguese Indians were living on the Pee Dee River as early as 1725. These are the same people who went over the mountains in early 1800 to Hancock County and spread out from there.

We have no proof they were anything other than what they said they were.  Some of these researchers will scoff at the above evidence.  They laugh at old court records and testimony of the eyewitness' to history and at the same time cannot produce court records or eyewitness' to history to say they were anything else.

This is not about denying African ancestry. It is there, they themselves said it was there in 1848. One family that shows a male with African DNA does not tell you the history of that family, nor does it mean that all other lines, including the direct female lines could not have been Portuguese/Spanish, Indian or anything else.  Male DNA testing proves nothing but who is related to who and where their one ancestor came from thousands of years ago. 

It would appear the 'one drop rule' is alive and well today.  When Paul Heinegg was told William Chavis was a Saponi Indian his reply was;  he couldn't be an Indian, he was black, thus resorting to a false dichotomy.

Occam's Razor - "The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."  We do not have to assume anything when we look at the 1500 expeditions of Spanish and Portuguese explorers -- they were there.  We do not have to assume they were on the Pee Dee River, there are records.  We do not have to assume the Melungeons 'might have' been on the Pee Dee River, there are records. And we do not have to assume they were Portuguese, they said they were and the records say they were. We do not have to assume these are the same people that came over the mountains and were called Melungeons, there are records. 

The KISS principle states "most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated". So why do these researchers want to keep complicating things?  Why do they insist this was a cover story when they said they were Portuguese and in the same breath they had mixed with the blacks and whites?  

Why do they want to make the Melungeons all of anything?  These families were mixed from the beginning and mixed as time went on.  Mixed with Africans, other tribes, Swiss, French, Germans, etc. Every family has a different make up.  DNA is never going to prove anything except who is related to who and that these families were mixed. Why the insistence on assuming they were anything but what they freely said there were:  Portuguese Indians who mixed with the black and whites forming the 'present race' in 1848?

There are many interesting articles at the Melungeon Indian Website 

These are some links from the website and the blog referenced in this article.

Early  Contacts

Early Melungeon Researchers

Africans - Portuguese Mixt Crew & Melungeons

Melungeons and The Smithsonian Institute

The Portuguese, DeSoto, The Indians & The Mixed Bloods

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Brownlows

Another eyewitness to history was John Bell Brownlow, son of the Parson Brownlow who first wrote in 1840 of the "Melungen" a political opponent from Washington D.C.  (Found Here)

Biographical/Historical Note (Found Here)

John Bell Brownlow was born to William Gannaway "Parson" Brownlow, an ardent East Tennessee Unionist and editor of the Knoxville Whig, and Eliza O'Brien Brownlow in Elizabethton, Tennessee on October 19, 1839. He graduated from Emory and Henry College in Virginia and then served a long internship at his father's newspaper. During the Civil War, Brownlow commanded the Union's 9th Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry. After the war, he served as a special agent for the United States Treasury Department (1865-1866) and then worked for the United States Post Office. In 1904, Brownlow and his son, William G. Brownlow II, started Knoxville's first real estate firm, J. B. & W. G. Brownlow Co. John Bell Brownlow died in 1922.

I don't think anyone could argue that of all the people in Tennessee John B. Brownlow, should have known the history of the Melungeons.  He was personally acquainted with John Netherland who defended the Melungeons in Hancock County (proved they were Portuguese)  and Judge Lewis Shepherd who defended the Hamilton County Melungeons (proved they were Portuguese). 

The Hancock County Trial -John Netherland
The Hamilton County Trial-Judge Lewis Shepherd

And what does this eyewitness to history believe -  were the Melungeons simply "African men and white women"?   John Bell Brownlow writes; "I believe there was some mixture of these Portugese with the Cherokee Indians".....

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 satisfled 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.
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 Jshnson 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, January 14, 2015

Eyewitness' To History

While waiting for my arm to heal from surgery for frozen shoulder  ( Adhesive Capsulitis) I thought I would copy and paste some of the articles I think are really important to Melungeon History.

Lawrence Clement Johnson was born August 21, 1821 in Chester County, South Carolina.   He died Ausust 14, 1909 at the Confederate home  (Beauvoir) in Gulfport, Mississippi.  He was the son of Dr. Benjamin Brown Johnson and Jane Milling Young Johnson.  He was the grandson of William Johnson, Revolutionary War soldier of Charleston, South Carolina .

After Swan Burnett  read his piece  "Notes on the Melungeons"  (found here)in February of 1889 Mr. Johnson wrote to the editor of the Atlanta Constitution

the following month.

Atlanta Constitution
March 11, 1889
The Melungeons

Meridian, Miss.,
March 11– Editors Constitution

Near a month ago an article appeared in The CONSTITUTION named Melungeons. I laid it aside in order to correspond with the writer, but the paper got destroyed and the name and address had not been noticed with care, and are forgotten. Excuse me then for addressing him through the same medium.

His name Melungeons is a local designation for this small peculiar race. Their own claim to be Portuguese is more generally known. Their original site is on the Pedee river in South and North Carolina . They were once especially strong in Georgetown and Darlington districts of the latter. Though called Portuguese – this does not indicate their true origin. I have no doubt local traditions, and the records still to be found in the Charleston library will give the true account. As dimly recollected, for I never made search with a purpose in view, it was thus in the primary colonial times of the Carolinas, Winyaw Bay was the best and most frequented harbor on the coast, and Georgetown more accessible, was more of a commercial town than old Charlestown., to that port British cruisers sometimes brought prizes. 

Among these once was a Salee Rover, (*See Below) which was sold for the distribution of the proceeds as prize money. The crew consisting mostly of Moors, with a sprinkling of Arabs and negroes, were turned ashore free. Their complexion and religion prevented immediate absorption by the white race, and they found wives among Indians, negroes and cast off white women at a time when many of these last were sold by immigrant ships for their passage money. They became a peculiar people. They were the free people of color of the Pedee region so true to Marion during our revolutionary struggle and no other race in America retained such traditionary hatred of the British.

Your correspondent [whose name I am sorry to have forgotten] having a taste for ethnological studies will confer a favor upon that branch of early post-colonial record and legislative proceedings of South Carolina. He will find it sustained by the appearance of these people if he can find a few pure specimens–their physical structure, their hair, their teeth, and general features, though every trace of their Moslem religion and north African dialect may have long been lost.

Very respectfully,

Laurence C. Johnson 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Spanish - Portuguese & the Indians in Colonial Virginia

Anyone who has researched the people called Melungeon, Redbone, Lumbee, etc., has found the argument they could not have been Portuguese/Spanish because they didn't have last names or because there were no Portuguese listed on the early passenger's list.  These records below show a few of the documented Portuguese and Spaniards who was in Colonial Virginia.  The Spanish and Portuguese like the other 'foreigners' and Native Americans had no last names.

The Portuguese and Spaniards, like the Englishmen, who chose to take up with the Natives would not have left any records, just their DNA. 

"And even this Summer Cole and Kitchins plot with three more, bending their courst to Ocanahowan, five daies journey from us, where they report are Spaniards inhabiting."

Ocanahowan?  Occaneechi maybe?  A Spanish Plantation in 1614? Who were these Spaniards living 5 days from Jamestown?  Were they the Spanish/Portuguese explorers left behind by deAyllon, deSoto or Pardo?  Were these the ancestors of the people who would later be called Melungeons, Redbones, Lumbee, etc.?

Lower Norfolk County, Virginia Court Records: Book "A", 1637-1646 & Book B --  By Alice Granbery Walter  (HERE)

Jacob Bradshaw, age 29 years or thereabouts Sworn and examined, sayeth? that he the said deponent, went to Capt. John Sibsey's about November last past, to buy the time out which one Tawney, a Portingall, had then to serve the said Capt. Sibsey and, demanding of Capt. Sibsey how long the said Tawney had to serve him, he told this deponent that the said Tawney had a year and as much as until March next to serve him, whereupon this deponent would not meddle with him but Tawney said that though he came into the country for four years, yet Mr. Page promised him that, in respect he had coasted up and down for him, that he should be servant but for three years, and farther deponent sayeth not. 

Sergeant William Edwards, age 36 years or thereabouts, sworn &  examined, sayeth that there came a man from Linnhaven to the house of Capt. John Sibsey about November last, and demanded of the said Capt. Sibsey whether he would part from a servant of his, being a Portingall, called by the name of Tawney, whereupon the said Capt. Sibsey told him that the said servant had a year
longer to serve him, wherein the said Tawney being then present, said, that he came into the country for four years but Mr. Page, who brought him in, told him that he should serve but three years, and further this deponent sayeth not.

(The beginning of this record is torn)...... good weare..... taken away from MR: THO: WILLOUGHBY by Manuell ye Portuguesse... ordered that ye goods so found be returned unto ye sd Willoubhby & that ye sd Manuell shall not come to or neare the house of ye sd Willoughbys by a mile or have any communicacon with ANN WATKINS his Mayd without ye consent of ye sd WILLOUBHBY & if he shall bee found.... to receive 20 lashes on ye bare back....


The Expedition of Batts and Fallam:
A Journey from Virginia to beyond the Appalachian Mountains, September, 1671.
From Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800. 

September 5th 1671''The three gentlemen bore a commission from Major-general Wood "for the finding out tile ebbing and flowing of the Waters on the other side of the Mountains in order to the discovery of the South Sea." They struck off due west along a trail that was evidently already familiar, and having five horses made rapid progress. On the fourth day 'they reached the Sapony villages, one of which Lederer had visited the year before. They were "very joyfully and kindly received with firing of guns and plenty of provisions." They picked up a Sapony guide to show them to the Totero village by "a nearer way than usual," and were about to leave when overtaken by a reinforcement of seven Appomattox Indians sent them by Wood. They sent back Mr. Thomas Wood's worn out horse by a Portuguese servant of General Wood's whom they had found in the village, and pushed on to the Hanahaskie "town," some twenty-five miles west by north, on an island in the Staunton River. Here Mr. Thomas Wood was left, dangerously ill.'

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY MARY GALE (Living 1673) had an illegitimate child by Portuguese servant Nicholas Silvedo who was convicted on 12/7/1674 as being the father. Silvedo was committed to the custody of Sheriff John Culpeper but later escaped. Meanwhile, the child was kept by William Harman, a Negro, for 13 months and in September of 1673 it was noted that one Jane Harmon was the wet nurse for the child. (Northampton County, Virginia Court Orders and Minutes (1654 - 1795; Orders, Wills, Etc. 1674 - 1679, microfilm No. 27) 

Mary Gale appears again on 9/28/1694. Whereas a male child of Mary Gale, servt. to Mr. John Kendall, of which Nicholas Silvedo was convicted of being the reputed father, was the seventh of December 1674 placed to Charles Guildon of the County until 24 years of age, said child known by the name of Jephtah, now attains to 21 which also appeared by this County's records, set free. [A Mary Gale was brought to Northampton County on 10/3/1678 with seven others by Thomas Kendall, who was granted 400 acres of land.]

 1667Lower Norfolk County 
Order Book, 1666-1675, fol. 17.

Whereas Fernando a Negro sued Capt. [John] Warner for his freedome pretending hee was a Christian and had been severall yeares in England and therefore ought to serve noe longer than any other servant that came out of England accordinge to the custome of the Country and alsoe Presented severall papers in *Portugell * or some other language which the Court could not understand which he alledged were papers From severall Governors where hee had lived a  freeman and where hee was home. Wherefore the Court could find noe Cause wherefore he should be free but Judge him a slave for his lifetime, From which Judgement thesaid Negro hath appealled to the fifth day of the next Generall Court. [It is not possible to follow this case further owing to the destruc-tion of the General Court records for this period.]

Surry County Tax
#379  George -no last name- living at Lawnes Creek  June 1669  Note; he is a Spaniard
(#947 - living with Edward Warren in 1674 is "welsh" Harry - no last name)


[Source] Title: Letters to the Secretary of State and others from the Governors, Alexander Spotswood, William Gooch, Robert Dinwiddle and Francis Fauquier, and Presidents Thomas Lee and Lewis Burwell, with enclosures and replies. Depository: Public Record Office / Class: C.O. 5/1344 SR Number: SR 00233 Reel Number: 48 Dates: 1726 - 1783 References: Lists & Indexes, Vol. XXXVI, 29. Andrews Guide 183, List 493. ff. 86-87 Lords of Trade to the Duke of Bedford, 

10 Jan 1750/51. Spanish and Portuguese ships driven into ports of Virginia by bad weather. 
Encloses the four (only adding two) documents listed below: ff. 90-91 Enclosed in the above. Extract of a letter from Thomas Lee to the Board of Trade, 6 Nov. 1750. The Spanish and Portuguese ships driven into Virginia ports have proven irrepairable. The masters have been given permission to hire other ships to carry their cargoes to Europe. 

North Carolina State Archives
General Assembly Session Records
April-May, 1760 Box #2
Committee of Claims

Cornelius Harnett Esqur was allowed his claim of one pound nine shillings eight pence for holding an inquest on the body of one Menasses, a Portugese.

Page 225
A German visiting western Virginia in 1750 was shocked by people of the frontier who culturally were more Indian than white. Such folk seemed to be "a kind of white people...who live like the savages, having a half-Indian appearance" and "nearly allied in disposition and manners to Indians."

Observations gathered out of a Discourse of the Plantation of the Southerne Colonie in Virginia by the English, 1606. Written by the Honorable Gentleman, Master George Percy. 

"At Port Cotage in our Voyage up the River, we saw a Savage Boy about the age of ten yeere, which had a head of haire of a perfect yellow and a reasonable white skinne, which is a miracle amongst all Savages."

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 ...