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


THE REMNANT OF AN INDIAN RACE

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.

JOHN B. BROWNLOW.
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. 

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