Saturday, September 23, 2017

Will Allen Dromgoole

One of the most discussed, and less researched, of the Melungeon's history are the articles and observations of Will Allen Dromgoole's stay on Newmans Ridge in 1890. 
Her trip was preceded by an article read before the Anthropology Society in February of 1889, "Notes On The Melungeons" by Swan Burnett and published in the American Anthropologist in October of that year. Burnett was the husband of Frances Hodgson (author of Little Lord Fauntleroy) and happened to be Editor of the Boston Globe in March of 1890, a few months before Dromgoole left for Newman's Ridge.

29  Mar 1890

Coincidence?  Perhaps?

Many people were, and are, offended by what Dromgoole wrote.  The one thing she was adamant about was they were Indians. Cherokee Indians. She wrote; "Buck Gibson and Vardy Collins, the 'Head and Source' of the Melungeons... with the cunning of their Cherokee Ancestor" or describing Calloway Collins:
  • "he was very tall and straight, with hawk-like eye, and long, coarse hair that fell about his well-shapen shoulders with that careless abandon which characterizes the free child of the forest. He wore neither shoes nor stockings, and his trousers were rolled back above the strong, well formed knee, showing the dusky skin which marked him of a race other than white or black. Indian: the grandson of a chief, and the son of a full-blooded Cherokee. Such he claimed, and the most dubious would have yielded the point "
  • "his grandfather, old Jordan Collins, had been a healer too, — a healer and a chief; a full-blooded Cherokee chief. No doubt about that: it was on the records"........."Old Jordan was an Indian, "Soft Soul" they called him, and he had been respected by the whites. No man had ever dared call old Jordan a negro: he was a Cherokee, feared and respected as a Cherokee.

She described the way they lived
  • They are very like the Indians in many respects–their fleetness of foot, stupidity, cruelty as practiced during the days of their illicit distilling, their love for the forest, their custom of living without doors, one might almost say. For truly the little hovels...."
  • Their homes are miserable hovels, set here and there in the very heart of the wilderness. Very few of their cabins have windows, and some have only an opening cut through the wall for a door. In winter an old quilt is hung before it to shut out the cold. 

In 1890 Indians did not live in tepees nor did they live in two story brick homes.   

From the website:  Cherokee Indian Heritage and History: An Introduction to Cherokee History and Culture - this is a Cherokee house from the 1800s

Eastern Cherokee Home 

Soco School House

Check out the photos at Condition of the North Carolina Indians in 1890 found HERE

I don't think there is much difference in the Melungeons homes. 

This is the sketch of Calloway Collins that accompanied Dromgoole's article found HERE

  Calloway himself is a king, a royal good fellow, who, seated upon a great stump that marks the fate of a giant beech that grew precisely in the center of the site selected by the Indian for his shed, or hallway,  would entertain me by the hour with his songs and banjo-picking and stories of his grandfather"...."The man's very instincts are Indian.  He sleeps in leaves, inside or out, as he feels inclined.  

The Beech tree is one of the seven sacred trees of the Cherokee. 
Coincidence?  Perhaps?

Anigilohi (Twister Clan or "Long Hair" representing day and night)

Members of the Twister Clan are also known as Long Hair (Anigilohi), Hanging Down Clan or Wind Clan. The word Gilahi is short for an ancient Gitlvgvnahita, meaning "something that grows from the back of the neck". They rest in the south on the Chickamaugan Stomp Ground. Members of this clan wore their hair in elaborate hair styles, walked in a proud and vain manner, twisting their shoulders. (Hence, Twister Clan). Peace Chiefs wore a white feather robe. This clan's responsibility is to teach tradition, spiritual knowledge and intuition. Many old spiritual priests came from this clan. It is sometimes referred to as the Stranger Clan because prisoners of war, orphans from other tribes and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan. Their color is yellow, their wood is beech and their flag is black with white stars. (Seven Clans)

Will Allen Dromgoole's work is extremely valuable to the history of the Melungeons. Some of it may be exaggerated, some may be wrong, but all in all it prompted ethnologist, anthropologists, historians etc.,  of that era to look further into their history.  

On the subject of Dromgoole, Jacks Goins wrote;

From: "Jack Goins" 
Subject: Re: [Melungeon] The Malungeons 1891 pt III 
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003 21:14:17 

Joanne I fully agree Dromgoole work is priceless. I would love to have her notes of that trip to Newman. Her discription of that shool house setting and the ole school teacher fits, Walnut Grove and George Washington Goins. Jack 

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