Saturday, March 31, 2018

Molungeons Mulungeons & Others


Were the Melungeons really found first on Newmans Ridge in East Tennessee?  Were they really the only group of people called Melungeon, Melungin, Malungeon etc.,  or were they recognized in many places as Melungeons before the Tennessee group settled on Newmans Ridge?

There are dozens of references to the Molungeons in the newspapers in 
Virginia [particularly in Staunton] as early as 1856 into the 1900s. 

 Yet in 2014 I contacted the Library of Virginia Reference Desk and spoke to William C. Luebke, Reference Librarian, about the Molungeons.  He had never heard of them but said he would do a search, he found nothing, none of his colleagues had heard of the term either.  Nothing has been recorded of this group of people found throughout the newspapers.

Who Are These Molungeons of Virginia

Shortly after the birth of the Republican Party a Convention was held in Philadelphia.  It was a very important time in the history of our country. To read more on this see Republican Platform of 1856

--- The platform of Feb 1856 which expunged and ignored the 12th section and in a letter which goes expressly for restoring the Missouri Compromise. The Mulungeons of Richmond endorsed the 'late convention' at Philadelphia too; but will any southern man-- a Stuart or an Imobdin even -- endorse this letter for the restoration of the Missouri Compromise.'' 

These Articles listed below mention the Molungeons of Virginia.  Can there be any difference in the Melungeons of North Carolina or Tennessee?


 STAUNTON SPECTATOR dated February 25, 1868

Afternoon Session

That is the State of Virginia recognizing these Molungeons as neither white, mulatto or negro but in a class of their own. 


From the Richmond Whig. Letter from Hon. John M. Botts
Date: March 26, 1859
Location: Maryland
Paper: Easton Gazette
Article type: Letters

......when the Sheriff came to count up the votes at the close of the polls, they counted but five -- and if I had received the vote of one ''Molungeon,'' and he had been authorized by the Constitution to vote, and had 'had' a majority of only one--- it would have been difficult to tell, whether I was most indebted for my election to the "Molungeon" or to the Chief Justice of the U.S.; and if my competitor had received six "Molungeon" votes, or the votes of six worthless and degraded locofocos (supposing they could be any such) they would have more than balanced these five of the first men of the State could boast...........



Date: March 28, 1859 
Location: Alabama Paper: Daily Confederation

Thirteen congressional electors, fifty senatorial electors, and three hundred and sixty county electors have been notified to hold themselves in readiness to repel the Dragoon of Rockbridge. Botts too, will dash to the rescue at the head of a noble band of "Molungeons and Eboshins" as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently warm to render his odoriferous forces efficient.

The Slave Power; its Character, Career, and Probable Designs. By JE...

Continental monthly: devoted to... - Cornell University - Jan 1, 1863

"Whether their own children were sold may be imagined from an anecdote long current in Virginia, relative to ex-Governor Wise, who, in a certain law case where he was opposed by a Northern trader, decided of a certain slave, that the chattel, being a mulatto, was of more value than 'a molungeon.' And what, in the name of God, is a molungeon?' inquired the astonished 'Northern man." 'A mulatto' replied Wise, ' is the child of a female house-servant by 'young master' --a molungeon is the offspring of a field hand by a Yankee peddler."

Mr. Cairnes has, no doubt, not often heard of mulattoes--they constitute the great majority of Virginia slaves. But did he ever hear of a 'molungeon'?

From Our Own Correspondent Fredericksburg,
 January 10, 1864
"the "Government organ," however, announces that the observed of all observers were four negroes, "of genteel exteriour, and with the manners "of gentlemen, who joined in the throng that 'crowded the Executive Mansion, and were coridaly received by the President of the United State,'' The Molungeon Chronicle adds; -- We are not aware that anybody was hurt on the occasion, and we rejoice that we have a President who is a democrat in fact, as well as by nature."

Utica Weekly Herald [New York]
March 29, 1864
The "Richmond Whig" makes the following comments on the last call for men.
It is certain, therefore, that the "rebels" will now back down.  Twenty millions of mongrels have undertaken to whip them.  The Yankees soon got sick of the fight, and levied on the Dutch and Irish. The resident Irish and Dutch began to flag and 75,000 Paddies were recruited in Ireland, with the approval and assistance of Earl Russel.  Then 100,000 n****** were enlisted.  And now 200,000 n******, Yankees, and other molungeons, half breeds, mestizoes, and Yaboes [Yaboes—a Davis coinage for the 70,000 Yank hoboes in the armed services] are to be drafted.  What wonder that the "rebels" are completely broken hearted?  Who blames the European by-standers for advising the "rebels" to give the cause up?
For ourselves, we are free to say that we are for peace.  We want peace. We will have it.  We must have it, on any terms?  Yes, on any terms -- which General Lee, standing in Faneuil HHall, may choose to dictate to the base born wretches who have sought to enslave us.  The game is a very pretty one as it stands.  Our enemies must be conquered by us, or conquered by Lincoln. They must make terms with gentlemen or they must make terms with a blackguard and a baboon.  Take your choice, O Yankees.

Staunton Spectator
May 25, 1869
The Duties of Election Day(Column 01)
Summary: Declared that all eligible voters have the duty to vote on election day to ensure the defeat of certain sections of the Underwood constitution and to elect Walker as Governor. Wanted to ensure at least some form of control for white Virginians in the state.
Full Text of Article:The election which will take place on the 6th day of July next, by appointment of the President, will decide whether the people of this State are to be cursed with the Underwood abomination, called a Constitution, as it came from the hands of the Molungeon Convention, or whether it will be modified by having the test-oath and disfranchising clauses stricken out -- whether Walker or Wells will be our Governor, and whether proper men will be elected to represent the State in the Legislature.

And Tennessee & Kentucky & Alabama & South Carolina

December 1864
-- Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee - Page 511
It soon became noised that these men were to be shot as bushwhackers General Forest informed General Rousseau, by flag of truce, that those men were his regular soldiers, and that if he shot them it would be at his peril.
The names of his soldiers were sent in, but the scout and Bose Rouss (some called him Malungeon), who had killed a Federal detective, were not mentioned in the list.

-Thursday 2d July 1863
--Bluegrass Confederate: The Headquarters Diary of Edward O. Guerrant By Edward O. Guerrant

Came on to Mr Hortons for dinner—found him in a tornado furiosus-against Virginians, who fed his grass &c. and in ecstatic panegyrics of all Kentuckians—”all of whom were “interesting” gentlemen”—& no “malungens”. ...


On July 8, 1864 under WAR NEWS the DAILY SOUTH CAROLINIAN  writing on the battle that had taken place at Sapponi Church and Reams Station said;
"The poor negroes was the most notable feature of this great capture.  They comprised every conceivable class of the race, and as the vast throng crowded to the office of Provost Marshall Hawes yesterday afternoon, marching in open and rather promiscous order, they occupied nearly the whole of Bank Street. We notice among them the old and the young; the robust and the infirm; the quick footed and the halt; the bright mulatto clad in tawdry finery, and the ebo-shin and the "molungeon," dressed in homespun"  -----  (The quotes are in the original clipping and are not mine jp)
The question is how did this man writing in the South Carolina paper determine they were ''molungeons'' caputured that day -- and how did he determine the difference between the ''molungeon'' and the bright mulatto?  Was it the difference in their clothing -- skin color -- facial features or what?  Were these Virginia Molungeons different from the Tennessee Melungeons?  Or were they kin? 

THE EMASSEEES AND MALUNJINSOne tribe of Indians and a community of mixed breed Indians were unmolested by
the whites. These were the Uchees or Emassees, kinsman of the Seminoles or
Creeks, who lived at the mouth of the Emassee or O'Mussee or Mercer creek near
Columbia, and the Malunjins, a mixed breed community residing some three to six
miles northeast of Dothan toward Webb even as late as 1865. Where the Malunjins
came from nobody knows; where they were dispersed to is the limbo of forgotten
men. B. P. Poyner, Sr., father of Houston County Probate Judge, S.P.Poyner, was
born in the Malunjins' community. Some of these mixed breed Indians brought milk to Mr. Poyner's mother while he was an infant. The Emassees were allied by
affinity with the Creeks and Seminoles yet during all of Alabama's territorial
and state days were friendly to the whites. Only a squatter white family settled
here and there and lived in old Henry County prior to 1817. Save for these
squatters there were no  white settlers in Henry County at the time of the Creek War of 1812-13.
 The Alabama Lawyer: Official Organ State Bar of Alabama
By Alabama State Bar
Published by The Bar, 1942

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Poor Will Allen

Poor Will Allen.  Over the years I have been vilified for defending, publishing, and even mentioning the work of Will Allen Dromgoole.  Swan Burnett kicked it off with his research into the Melungeons in February 1889, followed by Hamilton McMillan, James Mooney, McDonald Furman and others from the Bureau of Ethnology. 

These men contributed greatly to what we know of the Melungeon history, but none of these men visited Newman's Ridge. Will Allen did.  While the rest of the country was suggesting the Melungeons were a mixture of 'white, Indian and Negro' Will Allen told the world they were wrong .... the Melungeons were Indians, looked like Indians, and lived like Indians.

When Will Allen's first article on the Malungeons appeared in 1890 it set off a firestorm.  

Hon. J. A. Cartwright, later circuit judge, wrote of a settlement in the Twenty-fourth district of Davidson County, as follows; "These people have black hair, dark brown complexion, are readily distinguishable from the mulatto, being evidently of different origin, and have distinct features, quite similar to those described by Will Allen. 
In the American of Sept.7,    "Twenty-fourth district" insisted that the Malungeons were an admixture of the white, Indian, and Negro races. He protested against "coining a new name for these amalgamationists." (If the Malungeons had heard of this last word they would have thought a new word had been coined for them.) "Will Allen" need not have gone to East Tennessee to find these people, observed this correspondent. "They are here under the very dome of the capitol. We recognize them as mulattoes on account of the fusion of Negro blood in their veins. When the fusion is slight they set up a claim of superiority and call themselves Portegee, ....

 THE TENNESSEAN (Nashville Tennessee)
Sept 09, 1890
 Will Allen Comes Back at Her Critics in Gallant Style
To the Editor of the American.
Referring to the anonymous correspondence in Sunday's AMERICAN, I wish to say a word concerning the peculiar race of people occupying an isolated ridge in eastern Tennessee.  The writer seems to think  because he cannot see the Malungeons they cannot exist.  I take it he has never seen Jesus Christ, yet we are reliably informed that he did and does exist.  As to the coinage of the name, it is not mine, and in an article sent to THE AMERICAN last Friday, and which has not yet appeared, I made mention of this fact. They do not exist, however, "under the shadow of the capitol" in spite of the emphatic ignorance which 'pardon the slang' sits so crushingly down upon everybody else's opinion.  
If the writer will take the cars to Chattanooga, Knoxville, Lone Mountain, then get a horse to Mulberry Gap, then Sneedville and sit on the courthouse step half an hour, he will soon discover whether or not the Malungeons are mulattos.  In case he should decide affirmatively I should advise him not to make the announcement until he is well out of Hancock county.  If, as he says, the Malungeons are mulattos it is a blot upon the name of Tennessee: a disgrace so black that morality would hide her face, and, leave the world forever, for these people have children of white settlers, fathers of white blood, and would silence forever the .... that dared call them mulattos.
I send with this a picture of one of them, Calloway Collins, who declares his father was a full-blooded Cherokee.  Calloway is an Indian if ever one lived on Tennessee soil.  The picture was drawn by Mr. Thos. M. Sharpe, of Nashville, and is exceedingly well done.  Calloway was a soldier belonging to the First Tennessee under Brownlow and Johnson, and today draws a pensioner for three bullet wounds.  His daughter Dorcas (one of Mr. Sharpe's drawings) speaks for herself.  The family group is from life. 
We visited this family with John Tyler, the brother of Hon. H. S. Tyler of Sneedville.  I send the pictures along with this, and my anonymous critic can see them by calling at THE AMERICAN office.
The Malungeons need no defense from me.  They can speak for themselves and all Hancock county can speak for them.  I first saw the name in the New York World, and many old gentlemen of Hancock county have corroborated the existence of the people and the correctness of the name.  And the fact that one croaker rises to dispute their existence because he has not seen them does not in the least alter the fact of their existence.
I know nothing of the people referred to as living the the 'twenty-fourth district.  I had intended visiting Mr. Cartright and asking him something of them, but work and business have prevented.  And now since an anonymous critic has entered his 'protest' I presume I had best be quiet concerning them.  The people in East Tennessee,  however, I shall insist upon their existence and for them deny the mulatto theory.  They live alone, mixing with none, and asking little.  If my critic will go and see, or will kindly sign his name, I will be very glad for any information he can give concerning them.
Will Allen 

Will Allen Dromgoole Articles

Will Allen's work mentioned in US1890 Census Bureau Article

Report on Indians Taxed and Indians Not Taxed in the United States (except. Alaska) at the Eleventh Census: 1890. 
Washington, DC: US Census Printing Office

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Portuguese Melungeons

The Melungeons

From South Carolina 1526-To Eastern Tennessee 1800



Monday, October 2, 2017

Bonnie Ball


The Melungeons (Notes on the Origin of a Race) by Bonnie Ball was the first book I read back in the mid 1990s when I first started researching these families. Bonnie was born December 1901 on Wallen’s Ridge near Stickleyville, Lee County, Virginia. More on her life can be read here; Tribute to Bonnie Sage Ball by Gladys Julian Stallard.

Many articles and books have been published on the Melungeons over the years but Bonnie Ball's insight into their history, customs, etc, is invaluable as her father had grown up with them in the late 1800s and she not only knew them as a child but taught their children. Here are some excerpts from her letters in the 1990s and also from her book which can found here online The Melungeons by Bonnie S. Ball, or purchase here.

February 24, 1990
I've just read your letter which had gotten misplaced in my big pile of mail... Not that I am 88 I have had to give up most research , but I still write letters and reply to those of others, even though I cannot do much active research.

As to the Melungeons, I had known them since childhood, since my father had them living as tenants on our farm when I was 8 or 9 years old. He had grown up in the Blackwater, Va., area and known them all his life.

When the Goins family came to live on our farm their children attended our school, and after I grew up and began teaching I had them as pupils, and had even played with their children. However it never occurred to me t write about them until a Norton, Va., editor began publishing articles about them, even though he knew little about them. Then it occurred to me "why not write about them myself?" So, I wrote a brief article for the Read Magazine, which sent me $75. I began receiving letters from all over the U.S.A. I had no idea that so many people were interested. A few years later I wrote one for a magazine in Ky., then the head of the ? paid me to write one for it. And in the early 1960s I decided to put it into a booklet and I had more than 2,000 copies published.

We had the Goins family for only a year or so, but we had Gibson, and Collins families living on our [land] for several years. My mother had a Collins family there long after I grew up and married.

Other Melungeon names that I remember were; Freeman, Moore, Sexton, Minor, and Sheets. Some of the Gibsons intermarried with other families like Phillips, Fanning, and Clark. [The Fannins, known as "Fanon," were slightly related to me and one of the Collins families who educated their children in Hancock Co., Tenn. [the man was a banker] had a daughter who married my father's step sister. They had only daughters. One took over the bank after he died and another became a high school principle in Bristol, Tenn.

So this has been a fascinating subject for me and I still feel convinced that they are a mixture of Moorish, Portuguese, Croatan Indians, and a small portion of Anglo-Saxon blood that was left from the final massacre of the Roanoke Island colony in North Carolina. If not, how can we explain why they use old Elizabethan English expressions and all the older ones said they were "Porty-gee." The Portuguese who were often shipwrecked off the stormy N.C coast and chose to stay there and marry Indian women. The small segment that escaped from the final massacre by the Va., Indians evidently retained the old English words that the Melungeons used, like "Hit" [for it] "ferninst'[?] for opposite, etc. Please excuse my rambling and crooked lines.
Bonnie S. Ball

 Jan 1990

I have your material but am now 88 years old and not carrying on any further research on the Melungeons. However, I grew up with them living and working on my father farm in Lee Co, Va, and he knew them well during his youth, and I have never doubted their real origin. I have sold over 2000 copies of my booklet. A step-sister of my father married a man of that group. He attended a mission school for that group, and was president of the local bank, which was later managed by a daughter. Some of them are still in this area and have become worthwhile citizens.

A Goins man once lived on our farm with his family, a large and strong man but was married to a woman that was probably not a Melungeon Others whom I knew in childhood were named Gibson, Freeman, Collins, and Sexton, which appear to be Anglo-Saxon names. However there is no doubt that they have a Portuguese ancestry a few generations back, but they also have some Anglo-Saxon names and speech.
Bonnie S. Ball

August 1992
I have just taken the time to read all your data on the Melungeons. I guess that the mail that I have received re this subject would weigh several pounds. And truly, most of it presents new or different ideas.
In fact I grew up in Lee County, Va, when my father and mother had decided to move off the little ridge top farm, and move down into the valley among the blue grass hills and limestone springs, where we would be near a public school. There were woodland along the side and top of Powell Mountain, and he realized that if we were to continue raising cattle and sheep the wooded area along the mountain side would have to be cleared.

He had been born and reared as a boy in the 'West Blackwater section of Lee County," which adjoins Hancock County, Tenn, and was familiar as a young man with Mahala Mullins and other Melungeons. And he admitted that he had bought some of Mahala's product.

By that time he had lost his father during his childhood and his mother had remarried. So he went to live with an uncle in another valley in Lee Co, Va. Later around 1900 he bought a small farm along Wallen's Ridge where I and 3 or 4 others were born. However we were over a mile from school and attendance was difficult in winter so the bought the bluegrass land along the creek and mountainside which was rapidly growing up into a forest So dad knew some of the Melungeons he hand known as a boy on Blackwater, but they had then scattered and some were living in a remote area of Wise County known as the High Knob area Some of them had even ventured to work in a nearby coal mine, but that life apparently did not suit them very well. So he sent a man with teams of horses and wagons to move them over into Lee county to clear the mountain land of forests, and take care of his livestock. that was about 1909, and they lived in the 'shanties' on our farm for 8 or 10 years.

As they moved back into the remote areas of Wise County, Va., the forest along the mountain top began to grow and grow and by now it extends all the way down to our once vegetable garden where a brother lives.

Occasionally we read of one of their cousins who, like most Melungeon men there, did some hunting and fishing. For extra spending money and chewing tobacco "they dug and sold the dried roots of ginseng to sell (it grows in wooded areas and is claimed to have medicinal value.)

You may get tired before you read all these details. Even though several people have "stolen details" from my book, from which I have 'leased' to a Tenn. firm, I don't mind others using my material but they should, at least, ask for permission.
Bonnie S. Ball

Some interesting excerpts from the book;

The older Melungeons insisted that they were Portuguese. I have known the Melungeons from childhood, when three families lived as tenants on my father's farm in Southwestern Virginia. Their children have been my pupils, and I have done first-hand research on their traits, customs, and past, but can give here only the proposed theories of their origin.

There is a doubtful theory that the Melungeon was a product of frontier warfare when white blood was fused with the Indian captor's and that of the Negro slave.

There also persist stories (that are recorded in history) that DeSoto visited Southwestern Virginia in the sixteenth century by way of a long chain of mountain leading into Tennessee. One ridge known as "Newman's Ridge" (which could have been "New Man's Ridge") was once the home of a teeming colony of Melungeons who were strongly believed to have descended from members of DeSoto's party lost or captured there.

In both Carolinas Melungeons were denied privileges usually granted to white people. For that reason many migrated to Tennessee where the courts ruled that they were not Negroes.

In weighing this last statement it is interesting to note that the Moors of Tennessee called themselves Portuguese, that the Moors of North Carolina came from Portugal, and that a generation ago the Melungeons called themselves Portuguese.

The Portuguese tradition seems to persist in connection with the Melungeons much more than even that of the Lost Colony.

She (Will Allen Dromgoole) gives no authority whatsoever for this tale, and further states that; "A Collins came to Newman's Ridge and reared a family by a wife whose ancestry was more vague than that of Cain's wife."

In a column called "The Southwest Conrner" published in the Roanoke News, Roanoke, Virginia, on February 25, 1934, Dr. Gooridge Wilson wrote the following .......
........"Mr. Robert Gray, one of the last survivors of those who drove the great herds of cattle, horses, and mules from the mountains to the sea, says that the Melungeons were in much demand for this work, being expert handlers of the stock on long treks...... ... when he was a boy some of the oldest of the clan told him that they were "Croatans," survivors of the Indians tribe supposed to have destroyed or absorbed Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony on Roanoke Island."

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 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Martha Collins - 1907

The Mystery of the Melungeons.

Nashville Tennessean Sunday Magazine 
September 22, 1963
By Louise Davis 

Miss Martha Collins, vice-president of the Citizens Bank of Sneedville, sat at her trim-lined desk in the air-conditioned, modernistic bank and pondered questions we asked her. Obviously it was not a subject to dismiss lightly, nor to discuss with strangers who might write misleading stories. A fair-skinned, blue-eyed woman whose calm efficiency at running the bank was sharpened in 25 years of training under her distinguished father’s presidency, Miss Collins weighed her words, spaced her sentences precisely ------- figuring interest. 

“I used to regard the stories about Melungeons as a part of mythology,” Miss Collins, a college graduate who is descended from one of the oldest families in the region, said. “But my sister said, “No, there is some truth in it.” Miss Collins rose from her desk and walked thoughtfully to the vault to withdraw a letter postmarked 1907. It had been written to her by one of her uncles. Elegant in vocabulary and charming in sentiment, the letter related some of the family stories about their origin. Written by J. G. Rhea, the letter told of one of the legends that persists to explain the presence of the dark-skinned people in the area: they are descendants of the Spaniards and perhaps Portuguese men in DeSoto’s party who ventured from Florida into parts of North Carolina and Tennessee in search of gold in 1540. 

According to this story, some of the men became lost from DeSoto’s party, were either captured or befriended by Cherokee Indians, intermarried with them, and left their descendants in Rhea, Hawkins, and Hancock counties in Tennessee and neighboring counties in Virginia. “Navarrh Collins….a fine old patriarch….said to be of Portuguese descent, was one of the early settlers.” Rhea wrote. “He settled on Blackwater Creek and owned Vardy Mineral Springs.” Vardy, a community centered around a neat cluster of white frame church, school and missionary teacher’s residence, got its name from Spanish settlers, tradition says. 

Navarrh, Rhea said, was a variation of Navarre, a region in Spain. When Navarrh Collins opened Navarrh Mineral Springs, a long-ago health resort in the valley, the name was soon contracted to Varr and they Vardy.There is nothing of the backwardness of the traditional mountaineer in the letter, and it is obvious that Hancock County has—and for generations has had—its artistocracy, some of whom took pride in their Spanish and Portuguese ancestry as well as in their Scotch-Irish blood. But there are no Spanish or Portuguese names in the community now. There is no peculiarity of vocabulary to set the Melungeon apart from other citizens of comparable education and background. 


J. G. Rhea
Griffin, Georgia
April 14, 1918

Miss Martha B. Collins
Bristol Tenn

Dear Niece

Read the letter HERE

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Other Collins

Hezekiah and John Collins 

"In 1773 at the Treaty of Augusta (Augusta, GA), the Cherokees and Creeks ceded over 2 million acres of land in return for cancelling 40,000 Pounds indebtedness to the Indian Traders. The two murdered Cherokees were members of the surveying expedition led by Col. Edward Barnard to map the land cession. The surveyors and other members of the expedition included the naturalist William Bartram.

There were already hundreds of trespassers in the new land. They had migrated into the upcountry hills of the Carolinas before the Revolution and on into the backcountry of Georgia. And in general they viewed the Indians with hatred -- while at the same time desiring the land.

Two young Cherokees, who were with Barnard's boundary-marking expedition, called at Collins's cabin on the Broad River for some refreshment. They were not armed and were not looking for trouble. Collins' wife invited them in and gave them some milk and something to eat. When Collins returned to his cabin and found them there, he killed the first with his rifle and the second with an ax. John Collins, father of the murderer, arrived to drag the bodies to the river and sink them.

Later when the Cherokees were reported missing, Barnard's men searched the Broad River area. Under questioning Mrs. Collins related the sad story. Barnard's men found the bodies in the shallows of the river and returned them to their people.

John Collins, the father, was arrested for his part in the affair. Hezekiah fled to South Carolina where he was arrested, but then escaped. There is no record of him ever being brought to justice for his crime."

1752 Hezekiah was located on Cane Creek and the Haw River. 
6194 Zachariah Martin plat 27 May 1752, 573a Orange, on N side of Haw Rv on Cain Ck above the Piney Mountain. CB John Daniel, Hezekiah Collins; Richd Caswell Jr Survr 

Nathan Melton  Survey 25 October 1759
391 acres on north side Haw R.; Robert Patterson, John Collins*: CC (chain carrier)  Entered 4 November 1756

John West Born about 1707 (in Virginia?). In 1725 when John was 18, he married Mary Madden, in Granville District, Orange County, North Carolina--- John was appointed constable in Orange County, North Carolina, in March of 1753. Two daughters of John West married two Collins brothers.  Hezekiah Collins m. Mary West [born 1742] and bought land from his father in law in 1755 Orange County, NC. 

John and Hezekiah Collins remove to York County, SC?

State of South Carolina, York County, Deed Book F, No. 20, Page 26-27, March 14, 1791. This Indenture made the fourteenth day of March in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven Hundred and ninety one. Between Hezekiah Collins of the County of York & State of South Carolina planter of the one part and James Donally of the County and State aforesaid planter of the other part. Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of eight pounds Sterling to the said Hezekiah Collins in hand paid by the said James Donally at and before the ensealing & delivery of these presents the receipt and payment whereof is hereby Acknowledged hath granted Bargained sold aliened  conveyed and confirmed and by these presents doth grant Bargain Sell alien enfeoff convey & confirm unto the said James Donally his Heirs & assigns forever, a Certain piece Tract or piece of land Containing by computation one Hundred & fifty acres being a part of a Tract of Land granted to John Collins in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Sixty eight lying and being on the East side of Kings Creek. Beginning at a red oak Marked H. C upon the first Spring Branch below the mouth of the Gum Branch from thence down the said Spring Branch to a white oak Tree on the Branch of Kings Creek marked H.C. _ _ _ _ from thence up Kings Creek to the upper line of said Tract & from thence runs the Courses of said Tract of Land upon the east side of said Creek to the beginning. Black oak marked as aforesaid H.C. with the appurtenances situate lying and being as aforesaid with their and every of their rights members and appurtenances whatsoever and the reversion and reversions, Remainders & remainders of all and Singular the lands Tenements Hereditaments and premises is hereby Granted or intended to be granted and of every part and parcel thereof of all __ Services and profits to them or any of them or any part and parcel of them or any of them J____ belonging or appertaining. And __ all of every the Said Lands Tenements Hereditaments & Premises whatsoever hereby granted or mentioned to be granted or any of them or any part or parcel thereof. To have & to Hold the said Lands Tenements Hereditamnets & premises hereby granted with their appurtenances to the said James Donally his heirs and assigns to the only proper use behoof of the said James Donally his Heirs & assigns forever and the said Hezekiah Collins for himself his heirs Executors & Administrators doth hereby promise Covenant & agree that he the said Hezekiah Collins his Heirs Extr Adminisrs shall & will at all times Warrant forever defend the said premises to the said James Donally his heirs and assigns against all lawful claims or demands whatsoever whereof the above Mentioned premises might or maybe affected or encumbered contrary to the True Intent and meaning of these presents. In Witness whereof the said Hezekiah Collins hath hereunto set his Hand & seal the day & Year first above written. Hezekiah “his H mark” Collins (Seal) Mary “her __ mark” Collins.Signed Sealed & Delivered in presence of us John Hood, Massey (x) Sandlin.

Records are confusing but the earliest records say John is the father and Hezekiah was the son who killed the Cherokees.

"There were many settlers who had lost loved ones to the Indians, and had a deep hatred for them. Not only were the Indians at fault, but the white people themselves committed many crimes against the Indians.

The first blow came at the end of June during the expedition to mark the boundary line in Georgia. A family named Collins had settled high up Broad River at the edge of the line. The survey party had camped across the river in site of the house. Two young Cherokee lads of eighteen and twenty years old, who were near relations of Eccuy the Good Warrior and Big Swanny, decided to go unarmed over to pay a visit, and ask for a drink of milk. At that time the owner John Collins, and his son Hezekia, were away. The two lads went to the house. Mrs. Collins gave them milk, and also a well portion of victuals for each. While they were in the yard sitting and eating, the son Hezekia returned. He leveled his rifle with the intent to kill both. He fired and killed one, and struck the other on the neck with the stock of the rifle, which shattered it to pieces. The Indian began thrashing about on the ground, and the wicked Hezekia finished him off with an Ax. About this time the father returned, and seeing what had happened, they threw the bodies into the river.

When the story went out of the possible murders, the white people began a search to find the bodies as proof. After nine days they were found. Knowing of the consequences, Hezekia left the country. John was arrested in South Carolina, but made an escape. A circular was distributed throughout the other colonies, with a large reward for the apprehension and arrest of Hezekia.

Watagua Records
Aug. 27, 1778
Benjamin Rodgers vs. Peter Ford.
Caveat returned by the Sheriff, settled and agreed. All fees paid. 
Val Sevier, Abraham Sevier, Julius Robinson, Zachriah White, Dempsey Ward, Andrew Thompson, Gideon Morris, Robert Sevier, Jermiah Duncan, came into court and took the oath of Allegiance.

Ordered that the sheriff make the sale of six head of Creatures taken by John Sevier from Joseph Box called the property of Zekiah Collins, wheel right, and make return of money arising from the sale thereof to the Treasurer.

Ord. that Pheba Collins have three creatures returned to her that was ord. by the court to be sold by the Sheriff, the creatures supposed to belong to Hezekiah Collins.

There are two sources that may indicate the John and Hezekiah descendants did end up in Hawkins County, Tennessee area;
I came upon some old notes I had taken from a film at a LDS library. It was
an interview in 1936 with a Berry Collins, a son of Griffin. He says that
these Collinses came from GA to TN & that Griffin was first in the line to
settle in the county-Grainger Co., TN. I know GA became a state in 1788 but
Griffin was b. 1773. GA was also Indian lands. [ Email to Brenda Dillon 2002] 

''Old Griffith Collins who died in Grainger county some forty years ago once approached 'Squire Gill' of Bean Station, who was an Englishman by birth, on this subject. 

"Squire Gill" he asked, "what is convicts?" I've often heard my grandfather say we's come down from convicts." [Varney]

Griffin Collins has a history of coming from Georgia.  Solomon Collins born in what was Johnston County, North Carolina at the time enlisted from Caswell County, North Carolina in 1778, formed the following year from Orange, removed to Georgia after the war.  He is found in same areas of Georgia as Seaborn Collins, a perfect DNA match to Vardy, David, and Amos, etc.


Cherokee Application - Deposition of Seaborn Hagan, son of Zilpha Collins and Coleston Hagan.

Seaborn's daughter, Zilpha Collins was married in Appling, Georgia to Coleston Hagan.  While Seaborn Hagan states in the application his father didn't have any Indian blood I believe he is represented in the Hagan DNA project in the Q - Native American group.  

Coleston and Zilpha Hagan were apparently in Jefferson Co., Tennessee by 1845 and in Grainger County by the 1850 census;

Birth Year: abt 1798 Birthplace:South Carolina Home in 1850:District 10, Grainger, Tennessee Family Number:1120Household Members:
Coleson Hagen52
Zilphia Hagen41
Selim Hagen20
Peter Hagen17
James Hagen15
Laurence Hagen13
Matilda Hagen11
Christley G. Hagen5
Mahala Hagen2


Solomon enlisted from Caswell County, North Carolina in 1778. The Caswell County tax list for 1777 shows Paul, Martin, Charles and Milleton Collins on lands in St. James District, they are most likely related these four Collins who later remove to Wythe/Giles Co., Virginia and also Hawkins/Hancock County, Tennessee.

From Carolina to Virginia to Tennessee

Paul Collins found in the 1777 tax in Caswell County was in Granville/Orange County, NC as early as 1751 with Thomas Collins. 
1752 Granville County, NC  Thomas Collins received a land grant on the Flatt River on Dials Creek. Witnesses: Paul Collins, George Gibson and Moses Riddle
1761  700 acres to Thomas Collins on Dials Creek of the Flatt River. Chainbearers: George Collins and Paul Collins (mulattoes)”
1782 Montgomery Co Va Tax list
tithes slaves horses cattle land
Ambrose Collins 1 0 1 1 Yes
Daniel Collins 1 0 4 9 Yes
David Collins 1 0 0 2 Yes
George Collins 1 0 0 4 Yes
John Collins 1 0 1 2 Yes
Lewis Collins 1 0 1 2 Yes
Martin Collins 1 0 1 0
Millinton Collins 1 0 1 0 

Millton Collins 1783 Montgomery Co Va

Millinton Collins 5-10-1783 80 acres Big Reed Island Pine & Snake Cr[in modern Carroll Co] & New River Grants 29-325
1789 NE Part of Wilkes Co. NC
Samuel Collins ( 0 poll means he was under 16 yrs)
Volentine Collins (1 poll)
Benjamin Collins (1 Poll....first appearance)
1793 Wythe Co, VA (formed 1793 from the lower western part of Montgomery  Co...1793] List for New River District
Lewis CollinsBenjamin CollinsAbsolem Collins
Joseph Collins
John Collins Sr
John Collins Jr
Mahlon Collins
Millitent CollinsDavid Collins
Jonathan Collins
1800 Grayson Co Va Tax List
George Collins 1 wm over 21
Paul Collins 1 wm over 21
Jacob Collins 1 wm over 21
Jonathan Collins 1 wm over 21, 1 horse
Malin Collins 2 wm over 21, 5 horses
John Collins 1 wm over 21, 2 horses
Milliner [Milliton] Collins 2 wm over 21, 1 horse
Benjamin Collins 2 wm over 21, 2 horses

Moses Collins 1 wm over 21
 1802 Montgomery Co Va
Millenton and Avy Collins of Grayson Co Va sold 80 acres on Big Reed Island to James Bobbit for 34 pds. DB 1-480 22 Feb 1802
 All of these families have ties from Granville/Orange/Caswell to Georgia, Wilkes Co., NC.  Grayson, Wythe, Montgomery Co., Va., and Newman's Ridge. 
The previous blog shows "Old Benjamin Collins with Milleton in Virginia to Tennessee.  Milleton had land on Big Reed Island and the newspaper clipping from 1876 shows that the "Young Benjamin Collins" came from Reed Island.

A race of people mostly by the name of Collins and Mullins live on the top, and along the spurs of Newmans Ridge, and some of them in a fertile valley called, "Blackwater," "history tells not of their origin," but as far as I can learn from the oldest ones among them, their ancestors came there from "Reed Island"about the beginning of the present century.  
 Herald and Tribune (Jonesborough, Tennessee)27 Jan 1876, Thu Page 2  HANCOCK COUNTY

The Collins of Newman's Ridge are not genetically related but it certainly appears they are at least 'tribally related'  --