Friday, June 8, 2018

Melungeons - A Branch of the Lumbee Tribe


At the turn of the century Historians, Ethnologist, the Smithsonian and even Congress recognized the Melungeons as a branch of the Croatan/Lumbee Indians.  Perhaps this is why they appear to have been dubbed 'Mysterious' people who had forgotten their ancestry. 

Our GOVERNMENT being forced to recognize and support another tribe of Indians certainly would have tried to detach the Melungeon and Redbones from the Croatans. 

63D CONGRESS 3d Session 
SENATE DOCUMENT No. 677
INDIANS OF NORTH CAROLINA


LETTER FROM  THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TRANSMITTING, IN RESPONSE TO A SENATE RESOLUTION 
OF JUNE 30, 1914, A REPORT ON THE CONDITION 
AND TRIBAL RIGHTS OF THE INDIANS 
OF ROBESON AND ADJOINING COUNTIES OF NORTH CAROLINA
JANUARY 5, 1915.--Referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs and ordered to be printed 

Exhibit B7


LETTER OF HAMILTON MCMILLAN TO INDIAN OFFICE, JULY 17, 1890.

RED SPRINGS, N. C., July 17, 1890.T. J. MORGAN, Esq., Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington.
        MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of July 14 ultimo just to hand. The communication and report from the Bureau of Ethnology to which you refer were never received, and your letter just received conveys the first intimation of their having been sent. Had they been received I would have responded with pleasure.
        I inclose to you to-day a copy of a pamphlet containing much of interest in this connection. The pamphlet was written very hastily nearly two years ago in order to give the North Carolina Legislature some information, as the Croatans were asking some legislation in their behalf.
        The Croatan Tribe lives principally in Robeson County, N. C., though there are quite a number of them settled in counties adjoining in North and South Carolina. In Sumter County, S. C., there is a branch of the tribe and also in East Tennessee. In Lincoln County, N. C., there is another branch, settled there long ago. Those living in East Tennessee are called "Melungeans," a name also retained  by them here, which is a corruption of Melange, a name given them by early settlers (French), which means mixed. The pamphlet sent you will outline their history as far as it can be discovered from their traditions. In regard to their exodus from Roanoke Islandtheir traditions are confirmed by maps recently discovered in Europe by Prof. Alexander Brown, member of the Royal Historical Society of England. These maps are dated in 1608 and 1610, and give the reports of the Croatans to Raleigh's ships, which visited our coast in those years. These maps will be lithographed and published in a book, now being prepared by Prof. Brown. The particulars of the exodus preserved by tradition here are strangely and strongly corroborated by these maps. There can be little doubt of the fact that the Croatans in Robeson County and elsewhere are the descendants of the Croatans of Raleigh's day. In 1885 I got the North Carolina Legislature to recognize them as Croatans and give them separate public schools. In 1887 I got $500 a year from the State for a normal school for them for two years. In 1889 the appropriation was extended two years longer.
        Their normal school needs help--at least $500 more is needed. The appropriation to the public schools amounts to less than a dollar a head per annum.
        If you can aid them in the way desired we would be glad. They are citizens of the United States and entitled to the educational privileges enjoyed by other citizens, but those advanatges are not much.
Respectfully,Hamilton McMillan


  • "A hundred years ago a colony of Croatans settled in eastern Tennessee, on Newman's Ridge, in Hancock county.  They can't tell today where they came from, for tradition over 50 years isn't worth anything.  These are the people called Melungeons.  They are similar in racial characteristics to the Croatans, and Dr. Swan M. Burnett, a distinguished scholar and scientitst has traced by family names the connection between the Melungeons and the Croatans.




  • Red Springs, NC  Oct 12, 1889
        Mr McDonald Furman

  • The name among them of Blanx or Blanc is French. The early Huguenot emigrants of that name came from the Department of the Mosell and those of the family who changed the Blanc to White, its English synonym, was designated as the 'Mosell" Whites and the name is now changed to Musslewhite. The French name of Bressi is now Bracy and Turbeville is now Troublefield. The Braceys and Troublefields live on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina and never intermarried with the Croatans or "Melange".


  • Henry Berry Lowrie takes his Christian name from Henry Berry one of the lost colonists of Roanoke as you will see by -------? to list in pamphlet. Many of the Lowrie's settled in Robeson - others went to the French Broad in Western N.C., and those in Robeson claim that David Lowrie Swain Ex Gov. and James Lowrie Robinson late Lt Gov of this State were of their stock. The tribe once stretched from Cape Fear to Pee Dee and the Redbones of your section are a part of the tribe as are the "Melungeons" of East Tennessee. The French immigrants callled the half breeds Melange or Mixed and the term evidently has been changed to "Melungeons".  [. [2]


  • Croatan Indians. The legal designation in North Carolina for a people evidently of mixed Indian and white blood, found in various e. sections of the state, but chiefly in Robeson co., and numbering approximately 5,000.  ...... Across the line in South Carolina are found a people, evidently of similar origin, designated "Red bones." In portions of w. N. C. and E. Temn. are found the so-called "Melungeons" (probably from French melangi', 'mixed') or "Portuguese," apparently an offshoot from the Croatan proper, and in Delaware are found the "Moors." All of these are local designations for peoples of mixed race with an Indian nucleus differing in no way from the present mixed-blood remnants known as Pamunkey, Chicka- hominy, and Nansemond Indians in Virginia, excepting in the more complete loss of their identity. In general, the physical features and complexion of the persons of this mixed stock incline more to the Indian than to the white or negro. See Mi-tis, Mixed bloods. [3]


  • The Croatan applied for recognition by the United States as Cherokee, but it was denied and the Cherokee acknowledge no relationship, having visited the Croatan country on a tour of inspection. There is a queer offshoot of the Croatan known as "Malungeons," in South Carolina, who went there from this state ; another the "Redbones," of Tennessee. Mr. Mooney has made a careful study of both of these branches also. [4]


  • Though these people principally reside in Robeson county there are settlements of them in both the Carolinas and in East Tennessee, where they are known as Melungeans, a corruption of the French Melange, or mixed, a  description of them given by the early French settlers.  [5]


  • There are some of these Croatoans on Newman’s ridge, in Tennessee.  [6] 


  • At one time the Croatans were known as 'Redbones,' and there is a street in Fayetteville so called because some of them once lived on it. They are known by this name in Sumpter County, S. C., where they are quiet and peaceable, and have a church of their own. They are proud and high-spirited, and caste is very strong among them. [7] 


  • There is in Hancock county, Tennessee, a tribe of people known by the local name of Malungeons or Melungeons. Some say they are a branch of the Croatan tribe, others that they are of Portuguese stock. [7] 


  • The Croatan tribe lives principaly in Robeson county, North Carolina, though there is quite a number of them settle 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 herewhich is corruption of 'Melange', a name given them by early settlers (French), which means mixed.''  [8] 


  • In 1897, Mr. Mooney wrote to Charles McDonald Furman that, "He felt that the Croatans, Redbones, Melungeons, Moors, and Portuguese were all local names for mixed Indian races along the Atlantic seaboard, with westward drift into the mountains." And stated, "It would be worth while of local investigators to go into the subject systematically. I think possibly the Indian remnants may have married with the convict apprentice importation of early colony days as well as with the free Negro element." [9] 


  • Since the above communications was read before the Society I have received from several sources valuable information in regard to the Melungeons; but the most important contribution bearing on the subject, as I believe, is the little pamphlet published by Hamilton Mc Millan, A. M., on “Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony” (Wilson, N.C., 1888). Mc Millan claims that the Croatan Indians are the direct descendant of this colony. What connection I consider to exist between the Melungeons and the Croatan Indians, as well as other material I have accumulated in regard to the Melungeons, will be made the subject of another communication which is now in preparation.    * *Read before the Society at its regular meeting, February 5, 1889.   [10] 


  • All these above families not only settled in Robeson County but also scattered further south and west through central South Carolina. In fact, in central South Carolina some names show up from that original northern center in Granville County which one does not find in Cumberland and Robeson Counties in that period. I presume that they came directly from Granville County into South Carolina. These are families like Taylor, Hicks, Bunch, and Strickland. Many of these northern migrants married into the Cheraw and Peedee and almost absorbed these native South Carolina tribes. Later in South Carolina other family names show up - Willis, Ware, Dial - who appear to be Indians of this same “northern” stock. However, we cannot find these family names in the north. These family names may have originated with blacks, whites, or native Indians who married into these scattered Indian Families.

  • ...this migration did not stop Georgia and Florida but continued west and in census records in the 1830’s in western Louisiana you begin to see names of Indian families from South Carolina.  As far as I can tell, most of these families moved on further west into east Texas. The Bass’, Dials, Wares, Willis’, etc., particularly, tarried awhile in western Louisiana and then moved on to east Texas. However, while they were in Louisiana they intermarried quite heavily with a group of Indians who were the remnants of small tribes from the Mobile, Alabama area - Chatot, Bayagoula, and others; that is to say, individuals from these South Carolina families married native Indians to form what is known by whites in that area as the “Redbones” of western Louisiana. This is quite a prolific group. I do not know how this group of people refers to themselves. I simply know that local nickname for them. I have heard that some of them identify as Choctaws and some as Spanish, but I cannot verify this. I do know that Indians coming in from South Carolina married into this local group and then moved on west leaving members of their families there in western Louisiana. Some of these same South Carolina Indians - Hicks, Strickland, Bunch, etc. – moved northwest into east Tennessee in the 1830’s and 1840’s. There they joined another stream of Indian pioneer of this same Granville County, North Carolina stock moving south from Newman’s Ridge on the Tennessee - Virginia border.   [11]

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