Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cherokee Melungeons Part I


THE CHEROKEE MELUNGEONS 

Will Allen Dromgoole




"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."  

"Calloway Collins is an Indian if ever one set foot on Tennessee soil.  He is very fond of his red skin, high cheek-bones and Indian like appearance." (5) 



  ~Will Allen Dromgoole  1890


This photo is from the article "Mysterious Tribe Known as the Malungeons" (5) appearing in newspapers in 1890, the same time Will Allen Dromgoole's articles were published. It appears on the Melungeon Wikipedia page although the caption simply reads  "A Typical Melungeon."

The subject is Calloway Collins a descendant of Benjamin Collins through his son Jordan Collins and if he is a typical Melungeon as depicted at Wikipedia then the "typical Melungeons were Cherokee, at least on Newmans Ridge in Tennessee. 

In 1890 Will Allen Dromgoole went to Hancock County, Tennessee to learn the origins of the Melungeons.  The English had come down through Jim Mullins, the Indian trader and the African branch had came down through the Goins. She had a hard time learning of the Portuguese branch as it was 'stoutly denied' but apparently traced it to the Denhams. Buck Gibson's wife was Matilda Denham. The Gibson and Collins were Indians, Cherokee Indians. 

Dromgoole wrote;

"The Malungeons believe themselves to be of Cherokee and Portuguese extraction. They cannot account for the Portuguese extraction. They cannot account for the Portuguese blood, but are very bold in declaring themselves a remnant of those tribes, still inhabiting the mountains of North Carolina, which refused to follow the tribes to the Reservation set aside for them. (3)

"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." (4)

"The owner was a full-blooded Indian, with keen, black eyes, straight black hair, high cheeks, and a hook nose. He played upon his violin with his fingers instead of a bow, and entertained us with a history of his grandfather, who was a Cherokee chief, and by singing some of the songs of his tribe." (2)

"Many of the Malungeons claim to be Cherokee and Portuguese. Where they could have gotten their Portuguese blood is a mystery. The Cherokee is easily enough accounted for, as they claim to have come from North Carolina, and to be a remnant of the tribe that refused to go when the Indians were ordered to the reservation. They are certainly very Indian-like in appearance." (1)

"Still, it was good to be a healer; 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" (6)

"He half rose from his seat, and waved his large, strong hand toward the upper heights, dark with the purplish forests in whose mysterious depths the old Cherokee — Jordan — had been sleeping for fifty years. A Cherokee! Such he claimed, and none have yet successfully denied the claim;" (6)

"The musician ceased playing: the fiddle lay across his knee. Now and then his hand strayed among the mellow old strings, but only to , caress them. His thoughts were far away among the days when old Jordan Collins had fiddled for the young people on Newman's Ridge and Black Water Swamp. 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."(6)






(6)  THE LAST OF THE MALUNGEONS

About the Author

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3 comments:

  1. WHO I AM. I'M TRUE TO THIS LAND. MY SOUL IS A OLD SOUL, THE SWEAT FROM MY BROW IS THE SWEAT OF HUNDREDS THAT WERE HERE BEFORE ME AND SO NOW IS MY TURN TO HOLD THERE SOULS FOR WITH OUT THEM WHO WOULD I BE. I'M DAVID GIBSON, THE SON TAYLOR GIBSON JR, WHO WAS THE SON OF TAYLOR GIBSON SR, WHO WAS THE SON OF ROBERT (BOB) GIBSON, WHO WAS THE SON OF JAMES ( JIM) GIBSON, WHO WAS THE SON OF ZACHARIAH GIBSON, WHO WAS THE SON OF JOSEPH FISHER GIBSON ...............

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    1. Hello David, can you tell me how far back the Melungeon Fishers have been traced/documented? My Browns [through my mom's Dalton/Meeks ancestors] may go back to the marriage of British soldier James Brown to wife Catherina/Katherina Fisher/Fischer, in 1749, Schoonhoven, Zuid Holland, Netherlands. Both were born in Schoonhoven, James in 1724, Catherina in 1727. Their son Robert Brown was born in Breda, Netherlands, Nov. 8, 1759. I think this Robert Brown is my great X6 grandfather, Robert Fisher Brown Sr. [1759-1840]. On Robert's rejected Guion Miller Cherokee applications, Robert's Meeks & Blackburn descendent applicants claimed Robert was originally know as Robert Fisher, then later changed his name to Robert Fisher Brown Sr [& Robert was Cherokee through his mom's Fisher Cherokee father]. These Browns went by Fisher as their indian/Cherokee surname.



      Sincerely

      Marshall A. Spencer

      alien71121@netzero.net

      Delete
  2. I'm looking for all the genealogy information I can get on Melungeon Fishers/Fischers. I believe my line of Browns are related to the Melungeon Fishers, through Robert Fisher Brown Sr. [1759-1840]. On Robert's descendents [rejected] Guion Miller Cherokee applications, the Meeks & Blackburn applicants claim Robert was Cherokee through his mother's Cherokee Fisher father. I may have traced this line back to the 1749 marriage of British soldier James Brown, to wife Catherina/Katherina Fisher/Fischer, in Schoonhoven, Zuid Holland, Netherlands. Both were also born in Schoonhoven, James in 1724, & Catherina in 1727. Their son Robert Brown was born in Breda, Netherlands, Nov. 8, 1759. This line of Browns keep having Brazilian surname DNA/Y-DNA matches turn up as relatives, per FTDNA testing results. The Arantes family surname is one of several Brazilian families who match my Browns. They look to have strong Portugese ties [& I think Melungeon/Dutch/Caribbean as well]. My Dalton mom also has strong Melungeon ties as well. Among her close cousins are Collins, Gibson, Brown, & others. Also related to her Daltons & Meeks are Goins, Bunch, Fisher & others as well, per FTDNA results.

    I may be reached at alien71121@netzero.net

    Thank you

    Marshall A. Spencer

    I may be reached at

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