There are at least four versions of this story and all of them vary slightly. There are several 'clues' found in these articles.
~One story has them going to Richmond or possibly lived near Richmond before their move to Wilkes Co., NC. Were they related to the people called Molungeons, a political party in Richmond?
~Were Vardy and Buck Cousins?
~Did Vardy sell Buck or did Buck sell Vardy?
~Buck Gibson settled on Newmans Ridge. George Gibson was apparently a neighbor of Vardy Collins and removed to Putnam Co., Indiana, could George have been called 'Buck' also? Why does one story say 'Gibson' settled out west?
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A Peculiar Race of People Living Hancock County
The Knoxville Journal
Special Correspondence of The Journal
Rogersville, Tenn., September 25
...The Melungeons know the value of money. They are excellent hands at driving a bargain and with all their ignorance and illiteracy they live moderately well. "An instance of their thrift is shown in the case of Varney Gibson, who lived in Hancock in ante bellum days. His skin was whiter than the ordinary and his head was bald so that he could easily pass for a white man. He had a 'cousin' however who was very dark-skinned, a strong handsome fellow with a flat nose and kinky hair. Varney and his cousin therefore entered into a scheme, not uncommon in those days by which the latter was to black up just a little and assume the role of a poor ignorant slave while Varney was to dispose of the handsome slave, who should make his escape as soon as possible and share the spoils. They had not gone far into Lee county before a sale was concluded. Varney receiving in exchange a lot of merchandise, a pair of horses and a new wagon. The young slave bided his time, washed the lampblack from his face and hastening to an appointed place in Hancock county where he was to receive his share of their booty. But Varney never came. He had loaded the merchandise into the new wagon an disappeared forever from Hancock, going to one of the western states. W.D.P.
THE MELUNGEON TREE AND IT'S FOUR BRANCHES
By Will Allen Dromgoole
The Arena ; v. 3 (May, 1891), p. 749-751.
These two, Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, were the head and source of the Melungeons in Tennessee. With the cunning of their Cherokee Ancestor, they planned and executed a scheme by which they were enabled to "set up for themselves" in the almost unbroken Territory of North Carolina.
Old Buck, as he was called, was disguised by a wash of some dark description, and taken to Virginia by Vardy where he was sold as a slave. He was a magnificent specimen of physical strength, and brought a fine price, a wagon and mules, a lot of goods, and three hundred dollars in money being paid to old Vardy for his "likely n-----". Once out of Richmond, Vardy turned his mules shoes and stuck out for the wilderness of North Carolina, as previously planned. Buck lost little time ridding himself of his Negro disguise, swore he was not the man bought of Collins , and followed in the wake of his fellow thief to the Territory.
The proceeds of the sale were divided and each chose his habitation; old Vardy choosing Newman's Ridge, where he was soon joined by others of his race, and so the Melungeons became a part of the inhabitants of Tennessee.
This story I know is true. There are reliable parties still living who received it from old Vardy himself, who came here as young men and lived, as the Melungeons generally did to a ripe old age.
American Notes and Queries -
Edited by William Shepard Walsh, Henry Collins Walsh, William H. Garrison, Samuel R. Harris
"Of these Malungeons there were originally three families-- the Gibsons, the Mullins, and the Collinses. Early in the history of this race a great feud arose between the Gibsons and the Collinses. Old Buck Gibson and Vardy Collins put their heads together and made a great plot. Gibson fixed Vardy with soot or paint so that he looked like a genuine negro. Then they went up into Virginia, Gibson offering Vardy for sale. He soon found a purchaser. As Vardy was a finely built, strong man, Gibson got $1100 for him. Of this $500 was in cash and the balance in a team, a wagon and store goods.
"With a few farewell words of praise for his fine negro, Gibson set out southward. In a day or two Vardy made his escape, washed himself, and fled fast and successfully on the trail of Gibson. There was pursuit, but Vardy was not recognized or else was not overtaken. When he got back to Powell's Mountain he found Gibson in the full enjoyment of the proceeds of the trick. Vardy called on him for a division of the spoils. Gibson flatly refused, after putting him off several times.
"This began a bushwhacking war between the two families, which kept up, with intervals of peace, until the breaking out of the civil war. Sometimes the Collins tribe and the Gibson tribe joined hands against the common foe, the revenue officers. But these breathing spells only gave further foment to a hatred which was kept alive at stills. the civil war put an end to feuds for so long that new causes had to spring up before a properly conducted feud could be again set on foot.
October 16 1949
"Sam Mullins, (nephew of Mahala Mullins), a Malungeon who has left the ridge and settled in Rogersville, laughed as he told the story of Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson. It seems these two had worked up a profitable enterprise in the Negro slave trade before the Civil War. Vardy would cover Buck with dark stain and take him to the nearest plantation and sell him as a Negro slave Vardy would make off into the forest and Buck would wash the stain off at his first chance and walk off the plantation without making explanations to anyone.