The Melungeons blog

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Appalachian American Genealogy


Friday, August 21, 2009

EAST TENNESSEE CHRISTI1N ASSOCIATION OF FRIENDS. Extract! from Report of an Investigating Committee. Page 812

East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends.

Extracts from Report of an Investing Committee.

. . . In regard to the reports published, our own observation partly confirms them ; and the statements of all with whom we conversed, including the leading and most reliable persons we could find within the bounds of our field of investigation, not only fully confirm, but even go to show that all has not yet been told that should be brought to light and remedied by the help of and for the sake of the love of Jesus which has been extended to our unworthy selves.

In regard to the estimation in which the people we visited bold the General Agent, all classes and parties spoke in the highest terms of gratitude of what he had done for them.

We found the Bible schools in a flourishing condition. The two visited on the day we began our investigations were especially interesting, being well attended, orderly, and a deep interest being manifested. The average attendance of one of these schools is one hundred and twenty pupils, and of the other, seventy-five.

As to their progress in learning to read, write, etc., we cannot doubt the correctness of the published reports, since we have iiot only the testimony of mauy of the parents and others, but have actually tested many cases ourselves. Some parts of this field of labor had been visited by us before. We can, therefore, testify to the evident improvement within the last year of the people generally wherever schools have been conducted. Not only is this apparent in the appreciation and utilization of their day and Bible schools, but also in pecuniary prosperity evidenced by the more tidy appearance of their clothing, etc. It must not be inferred that they are in easy circumstances yet by any means, however, for many of them make their crops almost entirely with the hoe, and frequently in valleys or " hollows" from fifty to one hundred and fifty yards wide and upon steep hillsides. Both sexes labor in the field, and men, women and children all seem disposed to be both industrious and economical, and

as they are most commonly naturally very intelligent, nothing is lacking to make them a well-to-do people in every sense but education.

We have examined (he books and papers of the Treasurer and General Agent, and find them well kept. We believe that the latter has not only conducted his business fairly, but also with good judgment. We find, too, that if paid for all the time he has spent, it would not amount to fifteen dollars per month through the Association, nor to over twenty dollars per month from all sources whatever, including school bills and medical fees collected end to be collected.

It should be remembered that he labors not merely five days of six study hours each, per week, but seven days, averaging each about twelve hours actual labor. The alleviation out of his own private funds, of extreme cases of suffering for want of medicine, food, etc., have thus cut down his wages to a mere pittance.

Among his papers we noticed letters from J. Dennis, Jr., of Washington, D. C., from which we find that be, J. Dennis, Jr., made up the first article published in the Friends' Review from several letters which bad been written to him, from time to time, by the General Agept. One of these letters was in answer to inquiries relative to the condition of a certain low class of poor persons who have neither houses nor furniture of their own except as they extemporize huta for temporary shelter. In regard to these wandering vagrants the General Agent wrote, that "one- fourth live in houses with dirt floors," that they were " below the colored race in point of intelligence," and that they were that class " called by the colored people, ' poor white trash.'" These statements therefore were not iutended to apply to ihe inhabitants of these mountain regions generally, but to the class of vagrants above described only.

We observed that the General Agent was frequently called upon for medical aid while he was accompanying us in otfr visits. This we noticed, was given, sometimes by leaving medicine, and at other times by giving directions for treatment with remedies at hand, of which there is an abundance of the vegetable kingdom among these mountains. His directions for hygienic treatment are especially effective, as the people seem to place unbounded confidencain his skill as a physician. We were told by several persons that he frequently walked ten miles after closing school for the day, in making calls upon the sick, and that sometimes he crossed the Chilhowee range of mountains, making altogether a circuit of twenty miles, returning at the proper time for opening his school the next morning. All this medical attendance, we were told, was given without compensation. He tells us himself, however, that he is occasionally paid something for such services by those who have the means to spare to pay with.

As to the construction of houses, we seldom found one with a window, but frequently they were open enough to afford sufficient light without these appendages. Some of them are not much better thaa rail pens, and some are even constructed of timbers split into pieces as rails are. The greater number of floors which we saw were made of split timbers, commonly called " puncheons." Some were of sawed lumber, and occasionally we found one of naked earth, or rather, a house without a floor made to it.

We give in this report a few only of the many touching scenes and incidents coming under our observation.

One family we visited consisted of a mother and six children, all but one of whom seem to be partially or entirely idiotic. The oldest son can talk a little, the rest of her sons cannot. The two older are grown up and can work a little at some things. The three younger—one of these nearly grown—and sometimes the four younger sons, wear nothing but shirts summer or winter.

We visited another family consisting of a father and mother and six children. We inquired after their health. " There is something the matter with all of them," was the mother's reply. One daughter had bad fits all night the night before we visited them ; the father being partially paralyzed, U not able to walk, and the mother supports the family by working for wages by the day, together with what little help her afflicted children can give her. It should be rerr.arked here that the greater number of those who employ help in these localities are not able to pay the money for labor, hence wages are usually paid in corn, upon which, with the products of their gardens, the poor almost entirely subsist.

In one small cabin we found two families— a widow with five small children, living with her married sister, whose husband's health is poor, aud who has two children. The widow's health was apparently declining under the pressure of the iron hand of poverty.

We estimated all their property, including clothing, bed-clothing, household and kitchen furniture of all kinds, as well as all the provisions on hand that we could observe, to be worth less than two dollars. The entire outfit of several homes (?) we visited was not worth five dollars.

We cannot refrain from mentioning still another case, among the many coming under our observation, of a widow, a cheerful, lively, Christian woman, with six small children,

one of them being permanently a cripple from the effects of white swelling. This widow and her little ones, like many others similarly situated, are eking out a meager support from the cultivation with the hoe of a few acres of sterile mountain soil, and by making baskets when the weather is unfit for out-door work.

The impaired health among these people, especially among the men, has generally been caused by their suffering for their fidelity to their country during the late war.

We were requested by the people to visit many more places of poverty, where they assured us we should witness still greater destitution. This request came from those who do not ask anything for themselves, but their sympathies are deep and tender for their more unfortunate neighbors.

In regard to literary advancement, we can state that we found some who had made surprisingly rapid progress, especially when we take into consideration the fact that the children were unable to obtain any assistance at home in most cases, not even in learning the alphabet. .....

We can think of no other field of charitable labor which will yield a greater harvest than the mountain districts of East Tennessee, western North Carolina, and northeastern Georgia. The natural intelligence of the people and the readiness with which they respond to a call into the Bible School, or come under the influence of any other religious work, are especially encouraging.

David Bowles, ") „ ...
Benj. P. Cosand, } Committee.

Wm. P. Hastings, Prest. of the Ass'n.

Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.—Spurgeon,

Benjamin P. Cosand, Jeremiah A. Grin nell, David Bowles, Jas. F. Beals, Dr. J. D Garner, Wm. P. Hastings, John P. Morris S. 8. Grinnell, and F. Elliott, met in Friend meeting-house, Maryville, Blount County Tenn., 10th month llth, 1872, and formet themselves into an association for the purpos of laboring for the religious, moral, and intellectual improvement of the poor white people in eastern Tennessee and the adjacent arts of North Carolina and Georgia, and to eceive and distribute donations of books, racts, ;ui(l money for that purpose. The association to be known as " The East Tennesee Christian Association of Friends."

Dr. Jeptha D. Garner gives the following ccount of the inhabitants of some parts of Cast Tennessee, in a letter to J. Dennis, Jr., f Washington, D. C., dated Tenth month 4th:

In practising medicine in this and the adjoining counties, I found in the valleys be- ween the mountains, called coves, there was a very poor population, exclusively white, and grossly ignorant, very few of whom could ead or write, as they never had any schools amongst them, and they appear to have been rejected by all religious denominations, and jolporteurs of the Bible, Tract, and Missionary Societies. They inhabit a large tract of country south of Maryville, eighty miles wide, nd two hundred long, in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and the northern part of Georgia, which is too sparsely populated and the people too poor to pay a teacher or support a school. About one-fourth of them ive in houses or cabins, with no floor but the earth, and their average intelligence is below that of the colored people, because they have lad less intercourse with intelligent white people, and far leas opportunities to attend any kind of religious services. And having ittle or no money, not even enough to pay their taxes, they have not excited the cupidity of the Roman Catholics. They raise their own food, and the material of most of their clothing, which is manufactured by themselves. Much of their country is mountainous, without roads upon which an ordinary carriage can travel, being only suited to ox or mule teams with very little load. As they produce no surplus of anything lhat will pay for carrying to market, they do not feel the want of roads. These " poor whites," or " poor white trash " as they are called by the colored people, are one of the results of slavery, and are as much the objects of benevolent efforts aa the colored people."

"Dr. Garner has been actively engaged in travelling among these people, lecturing to them upon " education, Sabbath schools, agriculture, temperance and tobacco," and distributing tracts. Were means afforded him to keep his three daughters in school until they are competent to become teachers, he would willingly devote all his time to the continuance of his missionary work. His supply of books and tracts is nearly exhausted ; and be particularly needs Testaments in large print for unskilled readers."


Friends' review: a religious, literary and miscellaneous journal, Volume 26 edited by Samuel Rhoads, Enoch Lewis
Published date 1872-1873 pages 189-190.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Virginia's Monacan Indian Nation Seeks Recognition

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Monacan Indian Nation of Virginia By Rosemary Whitlock

Friday, August 07, 2009

Abraham Lincoln Was a Jew: An Unreal Exclusive


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gowen Research Foundation


"Berry's fifteen plus years of study of what he termed, the 'Mestizos or racial orphans' along the southeastern coast, was extensive for his time. It resulted in a depth of understanding achieved by few others. After summarizing a few of the established speculated name origins, he stated, "truth is, no one has the faintest idea where the name Melungeon came from." Berry wrote several articles from 1946 to the writing of his 1963 book, "Almost White', Publishers Collier Macmillian. Ldt., London"

Malungeon Tree and It's Four Branches


"Somewhere in the eighteenth century, before the year 1797, there appeared in the eastern portion of Tennessee, at that time the Territory of North Carolina, two strange-looking men calling themselves "Collins" and "Gibson." They had a reddish-brown complexion, long, straight, black hair, keen, black eyes, and sharp, clear-cut features. They spoke in broken English, a dialect distinct from anything ever heard in that section of the country. They claimed to have come from Virginia and many years after emigrating, themselves told the story of their past.

These two, Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, were the head and source of the Malungeons in Tennessee. With the cunning of their Cherokee ancestors, 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 nigger." Once out of Richmond, Vardy turned his mules' shoes and struck 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 Malungeons became a part of the inhabitants of Tennessee.

This story I know to be true. There are reliable parties still living who received it from old Vardy himself, who came here a young man and lived, as the Malungeons generally live, to a ripe old age.

The names " Collins " and " Gibson " were also stolen from the white settlers in Virginia where the men had lived previous to emigrating to North Carolina.

There is, perhaps, no more satisfactory method of illustrating this peculiar race, its origin and blood, than by the familiar tree.

Old Vardy Collins, then, must be regarded as the body, or main stem, in this State, at all events.

It is only of very late years the Malungeons have been classed as families. Originally they were tribes, afterward clans, and at last families. From old Vardy Collins the first tribe took its name — " Collins"— or as they call it, " Collinses." Others who followed Vardy took the name of Collins also. Old Benjamin Collins, one of the pioneers, was older than Vardy, but came to Tennesee a trifle later. He had quite a large family of children, among them Edmund, Mileyton (supposed to have meant Milton), Marler, Harry, Andrew, Zeke, Jordan. From Jordan descended Cal- loway Collins who is still living and from whom I obtained some valuable information.

But to go back a step. Benjamin Collins was known as " old Ben," and became the head of the Ben tribe. Old Solomon Collins was the head of the Sols. The race was increasing so rapidly, by emigration and otherwise, that it became necessary to adopt other names than Collins. They fell, curiously enough, upon the first or Christian name of the head of a large family connection or tribe. Emigrants arriving attached themselves as they chose to the several tribes. After awhile, with an eye to brevity, doubtless, the word tribe was dropped from ordinary, every-day use. " The Sens," " the Sols," meant the Ben and Sol tribes. It appears that no tribe was ever called for old Vardy, although as long as he lived he was the recognized head and leader of the entire people.

This is doubtless due to the fact that in his day the settlement was new, and the people, and the one name Collins covered the entire population.

The original Collins people were Indian, there is no doubt about that, and they lived as the Indians lived until some time after the first white man appeared among them. All would huddle together in one room (?), sleep in one common bed of leaves, make themselves such necessary clothing as nature demanded, smoke, and dream away the good long days that were so dreamily delightful nowhere as they were on Newman's Ridge.

The Collins tribe multiplied more and more; it became necessary to have names, and a most peculiar method was hit upon for obtaining them.

Ben Collins' children were distinguished from the children of Sol and Vardy by prefixing the Christian name either of the father or mother to the Christian name of the child. For instance, Edmund Ben, Singleton Ben, Andrew Ben, and Zeke Ben, meant that Edmund, Singleton, Andrew, and Zeke were the sons of Ben Collins. Singleton Mitch, Levi Mitch, and Morris Mitch, meant that these were the sons of Mitchel Collins. In the next generation there was Jordan Ben (a son of old Benjamin Collins) who married Abby Sol, had a son who is called (he is still living, as before stated) Galloway Abby for his mother. The wife before marriage takes her father's Christian name ; after marriage that of her husband. Galloway's wife, for instance, is Ann Galloway. It is not known, and cannot by any possibility be ascertained at what precise period other races first appeared among the " Collinses." For many years they occupied the Ridge without disturbance. The country was new, wild, and the few straggling settlements were glad of almost any human neighbors. Moreover, these strange people, who were then called the " Ridge- manites," the " Indians," and the "Black-Waterites " (because of a stream called Black Water, which flowed through their territory, the bed of which was, and is, covered with a peculiar dark slate rock which gives a black appearance to the stream), had chosen the rocky and inaccessible Ridge, while the fertile and beautiful valley of the Clinch lay open and inviting to the white settlers. The Ridgemanitcs were not striving for wealth evidently, and as land was plentiful and neighbors few, they held their bit of creation without molestation or interruption for years. They were all Collinses, as I said; those who followed the first-comers accepting the name already provided them. There was no mixture of blood; they claimed to be Indians and no man disputed it. They were called the " Collins tribe," until having niultiplied to that extent it was necessary to divide, when the descendants of the several pioneers were separated, or divided, into clans. Then came the Ben clan, the Sol clan, the Mitch clan, and indeed every prominent head of a large relationship was recognized as the leader of his clan, which always bore his name. There was, to be sure, no set form or time at which this division was made. It was only one of those natural splits, gradual and necessary, which is the* sure result of increasing strength.

They were still, however, we must observe, all Collinses. The main tree had not been disturbed by foreign grafting, and while all were not blood descendants of old Vardy they, at all events, had all fallen under his banner and appropriated his name.

The tree at last began to put forth branches, or rather three foreign shoots were grafted into the body of it, viz: the English (or white), Portuguese, and African.

The English branch began with the Mullins tribe, a very powerful tribe, next indeed for a long time to the Collins tribe, and at present the strongest of all the several branches, as well as the most daring and obstinate.

Old Jim Mullins, the father of the branch, was an Englishman, a trader, it is supposed, with the Indians. He was of a roving, daring disposition, and rather fond of' the free abandon which characterizes the Indian. He was much given to sports, and was always " cheek by jowl" with the Cherokees and other tribes among which he mingled. What brought him to Newman's Ridge must have been, as it is said, this love for freedom and sport, and that careless existence known only to the Indians. He stumbled upon the Ridge settlement, fell in with the Ridgemanites, and never left them. He took for a wife one of their women, a descendant of old Sol Collins, and reared a family known as the ''Mullins tribe." This is said to be the first white blood that mingled with the blood of the dusky Ridgemanites.

By marriage I mean to say (in their own language) they " took up together," having no set form of marriage service. So old Jim Mullins took up with a Malungeon woman, a Collins, by whom he had a large family of children. Some time after he exchanged wives with one Wyatt Collins, and proceeded to cultivate a second family. Wyatt Collins also had a large family by his first wife, and was equally fortunate with the one for whom he traded her.

After the forming of Hancock County (Tennessee) old Mullins and Collins were forced to marry their wives according to the laws of the land, but all had children and grandchildren before they were lawfully married.

The Mullins tribe became exceedingly strong, and remains to-day the head of the Ridge people.

The African branch was introduced by one Goins (I spell it as they do) who emigrated from North Carolina after the formation of the State of Tennessee. Goins was a negro, and did not settle upon the Ridge, but lower down on Big Sycamore Creek in Powell's Valley. He took a Malungeon woman for a wife (took up with her), and reared a family or tribe. The Goins family may be easily recognized by their kinky hair, flat nose and foot, thick lips, and a complexion totally unlike the Collins and Mullins tribes. They possess many negro traits, too, which are wanting to the other tribes.

The Malungeons repudiate the idea of negro blood, yet some of the shiftless stragglers among them have married among the Goins people. They evade slights, snubs, censure, and the law, by claiming to have married Portuguese, there really being a Portuguese branch among the tribes.

The Goins tribe, however, was always looked upon with a touch of contempt, and was held in a kind of subjection, socially and politically, by the others.

The Mullins and Collins tribes will fight for their Indian blood. The Malungeons are not brave; indeed, they are great cowards and easily brow-beaten, accustomed to receiving all manner of insults which it never occurs to them to resent. Only in this matter of blood will they " show fight."

The Portuguese branch was for a long time a riddle, the existence of it being stoutly denied. It has at last, however, been traced to one Denhan, a Portuguese who married a Collins woman.

It seems that every runaway or straggler of any kind whatever, passing through the country took up his abode, temporarily or permanently, with the Malungeons, or as they were then called, the Ridgemanites. They were harmless, social, and good-natured when well acquainted with one —although at first suspicious, distant, and morose. While they have never encouraged emigration to the Ridge they have sometimes been unable to prevent it.

Denhdn, it is supposed, came from one of the Spanish settlements lying further to the South, settled on Mulberry Creek, and married a sister of old Sol Collins.

There is another story, however, about the Denhans. It is said that the first Denhan came as did the first Collins from North Carolina, and that he (or his ancestors) had been left upon the Carolina coast by some Portuguese pirate vessel plying along those shores. When the English wrested the island of Jamaica from Spain, in 1655, some fifteen hundred Spanish slaves fled to the mountains. Their number grew and their strength multiplied. For more than a hundred years they kept up a kind of guerilla warfare, for they were both savage and warlike. They were called "mountain negroes," or " maroons." The West Indian waters swarmed with piratical vessels at that time, the Portuguese being the most terrible and daring. The crews of these vessels were composed for the most part of these " mountain negroes." When they became insubordinate, or in any waj useless, they were put ashore and left to take care of themselves. It is said the Denhans were put ashore on the Carolina coast. Their instincts carried them to the mountains, from which one emigrated to Newman's Ridge, then a part of the North Carolina territory.

So we have the four races, or representatives among, as they then began to be called, the Malungeons; namely, the Indian, the English, the Portuguese, and the African. Each is clearly distinct and easily recognized even to the present day.

The Portuguese blood has been a misfortune to the first Malungeons, inasmuch as it has been a shield to the Goins clan under which they have sought to shelter themselves and to repudiate the African streak.

There is a very marked difference between the two, however. There is an old blacksmith, a Portuguese, on Black Water Creek, as dark as a genuine African. Yet, there is a peculiar tinge to his complexion that is totally foreign to the negro. He has a white wife, a Mullins woman, a descendant of English and Indian. If Malungeon does indeed mean mixture, the children of this couple are certainly Malungeons. The blacksmith himself is a Denhan, grandson of the old Portugese emigrant and a Collins woman.

This, then, is the account of the Malungeons from their first appearance in that part of the country where they are still to be found, Tennessee.

It will be a matter of some interest to follow them down to the present day. Unlike the rest of the world they have progressed slowly. Their huts are still huts, their characteristics and instincts are still Indian, and their customs have lost but little of the old primitive exclusive and seclusive abandon characteristic of the sons of the forest."


Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Malungeons

Featured in the book "Arena," the book has a story written by Will Allen Droomgoole.

Excerpt :



Were you ever when a child half playfully told "The Malun- geons will get you" ? If not, you were never a Tennessee child, as some of our fathers were; they who tell us all that may be told of that strange, almost forgotten race, concerning whom history is strangely silent. Only upon the records of the State of Tennessee does the name appear. The records show that by act of the Constitutional Convention of 1834, when the " Kace Question " played such a conspicuous part in the deliberations of that body, the Malungeon, as a ''free pen-on of color," was denied the right of suffrage. Right there he dropped from the public mind and interest. Of no value as a slave, with no voice as a citizen, what use could the public make of the Malungeon ? When John Sevier attempted to organize the State of Franklin, there was living in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee a colony of dark- skinned, reddish-brown complexioned people, supposed to be of Moorish descent, who affiliated with neither whites nor blacks, and who called themselves Malungeons, and claimed to be of Portuguese descent. They lived to themselves exclusively, and were looked upon neither as negroes nor Indians.

All the negroes ever brought to America came as slaves ; the Malungeons were never slaves, and until 1834 enjoyed all the rights of citizenship. Even in the Convention which disfranchised them, they were referred to as "free persons of color " or " Malungeons."

Their condition from the organization of the State of Tennessee to the close of the civil war is most accurately described by John A. McKinley, of Hawkins County, who was chairman of the committee to which was referred all matters affecting these "free persons of, color."

Said he, speaking oifree persons of color, "It means Malungeons if it means anything. Although 'fleecy locks and black complexion' do not forfeit Nature's claims, still it is true that those locks and that complexion mark every one of theAfrican race, so long as he remains among the white race, as a person doomed to live in the suburbs of society.

" Unenviable as is the condition of the slave, unlovely as slavery is in all its aspects, bitter as is the draught the slave is doomed to drink, nevertheless, his condition is better than that of the 'free man of color' in the midst of a community of white men with whom lie has no interest, no fellow-feeling and no equality." So the Constitutional convention left these the most pitiable of all outcasts ; denied their oath in court, and deprived of the testimony of their own color, left utterly helpless in all legal contests, they naturally, when the State set the brand of the outcast upon them, took to the hills, the isolated peaks of the uninhabited mountains, the corners of the earth, as it were, where, huddled together, they became a law unto themselves, a race indeed separate and distinct from the several races inhabiting the State of Tennessee.

So much, or so little, we glean from the records. From history we get nothing; not so much as the name,—Malun- geons.

In the farther valleys they were soon forgotten: only now and then an old slave-mammy would frighten her rebellious charge into subjection with the threat,—" The Malungeons will get you if you aint pretty." But to the people of the foot hills and the nearer valleys they became a living terror; sweeping down upon them, stealing their cattle, their provisions, their very clothing, and household furniture.

They became shiftless, idle, thieving, and defiant of all law, distillers of brandy, almost to a man. The barren height upon which they located, offered hope of no other crop so much as fruit, and they were forced, it would sippear, to utilize their one opportunity.

At the breaking out of the war, some few enlisted in the army, but the greater number remained with their stills, to pillage and plunder among the helpless women and children.

Their mountains became a terror to travellers; and not until within the last half decade has it been regarded safe to cross Malungeon territory.

Such they were ; or so do they come to us through tradition and the State's records. As to what they are any who feel disposed may go and see. Opinion is divided concerning them, and they have their own ideas as to their descent. A great many declare them mulattoes, and base their belief upon the ground that at the close of the civil war negroes and Malungeons stood upon precisely the same social footing, ''free men of color" all; and that the fast vanishing handful opened their doors to the darker brother, also groaning under the brand of social ostracism. This might, at first glance, seem probable, indeed, reasonable.

Yet if we will consider a moment, we shall see that a race of mulattoes cannot exist as these Malungeons have existed. The race goes from mulattoes to quadroons, from quadroons to octoroons, and there it stops. The octoroon women bear no children, but in every cabin of the Malungeons may be found mothers and grandmothers, and very often greats grandmothers.

" Who are they, then ? " you ask. I can only give you their own theory —if I may call it such— and to do this I must tell you how I found them, and something of my stay among them.

First. I saw in an old newspaper some slight mention of them. With this tiny clue I followed their trail for three years. The paper merely stated that " somewhere in the mountains of Tennessee there existed a remnant of people called Malungeons, having a distinct color, characteristics,, and dialect." It seemed a very hopeless search, so utterly were the Malungeons forgotten, and I was laughed at no little for my "new crank." I was even called "a Malun- geon" more than once, and was about to abandon my " crank " when a member of the Tennessee State Senate, of which I happened at that time to be engrossing clerk, spoke of a brother senator as being " tricky as a Malungeon."

I pounced upon him the moment his speech was completed. " Senator," I said, " what is a Malungeon ? "

" A dirty Indian sneak," said he. " Go over yonder and ask Senator ; they live in his district."

I went at once.

" Senator, what is a Malungeon ? " I asked again.

"A Portuguese nigger," was the reply. "Representative T-—— can tell you all about them, they live in his county."

From " district " to " county" was quick travelling, and into the House of Representatives I went, fast upon the lost trail of the forgotten Malungeons.

" Mr. ," said I, " please tell me what is a Malungeon ?"

"A Malungeon," said he, "isn't a nigger, and he isn't an Indian, and he isn't a white man. God only knows what he is. /should call him a Democrat, only he always votes the Republican ticket." I merely mention all this to show how the Malungeons of to-day are regarded, and to show how I tracked them to Newman's Ridge in Hancock County, where within four miles of one of the prettiest county towns in Tennessee, may be found all that remains of that outcast race whose descent is a riddle the historian has never solved. In appearance they bear a striking resemblance to the Cherokees, and they are believed by the people round about to be a kind of half-breed Indian.

Their complexion is a reddish brown, totally unlike the mulatto. The men are very tall and straight, with small, sharp eyes, high cheek bones, and straight black hair, worn rather long. The women are small, below the average height, coal black hair and eyes, high cheek bones, and the same red- brown complexion. The hands of the Malungeon women are quite shapely and pretty. Also their feet, despite the fact that they travel the sharp mountain trails barefoot, are short and shapely. Their features are wholly unlike those of the negro, except in cases where the two races have cohabited, as is sometimes the fact. These instances can be readily detected, as can those of cohabitation with the mountaineer; for the pure Malungeons present a characteristic and individual appearance. On the Ridge proper, one finds only the pure Malungeons ; it is in the unsavory limits of Black Water Swamp and on Big Sycamore Creek, lying at the foot of the Ridge between it and Powell's Mountain, that the mixed races dwell.

In Western and Middle Tennessee the Malungeons are forgotten long ago. And indeed, so nearly complete has«been the extinction of the race that in but few counties of Eastern Tennessee is it known. In Hancock you may hear them, and see them, almost the instant you cross into the county line. There they are distinguished as the " Ridgemanites," or pure " Malungeons." Those among whom the white or negro blood has entered are called the "Black-Waters." The Ridge is admirably adapted to the purpose of wild-cat distilling, being crossed by but one road and crowned with jungles of chinquapin, cedar, and wahoo.

Of very recent years the dogs of the law have proved too sharp-eyed and bold even for the lawless Malungeons, so that such of the furnace fires as have not been extinguished are built underground.

They are a great nuisance to-the people of the county seat, where, on any public day, and especially on election days, they may be seen squatted about the streets, great strapping men, or little brown women baking themselves in the sun like mud figures set to dry.

The people of the town do not allow them to enter their dwellings, and even refuse to employ them as servants, owing to their filthy habit of chewing tobacco and spitting upon the floors, together with their ignorance or defiance of the difference between meum and tuum.

They are exceedingly shiftless, and in most cases filthy. They care for nothing except their pipe, their liquor, and a tramp " ter towin." They will walk to Snccdville and back sometimes twice in twelve hours, up a steep trail through an almost unbroken wilderness, and never seem to suffer the least fatigue.

They are not at all like the Tennessee mountaineer either in appearance or characteristics. The mountaineer, however poor, is clean,— cleanliness itself. He is honest (I speak of him as a class) he is generous, trustful, until once betrayed; truthful, brave, and possessing many of the noblest and keenest sensibilities. The Malungeons are filthy, their home is filthy. They are rogues, natural, u born rogues," close, suspicious, inhospitable, untruthful, cowardly, and, to use their own word " sneaky." They are exceedingly inquisitive too, and will trail a visitor to the Ridge for miles, through seemingly impenetrable jungles, to discover, if may be, the object of his visit. They expect remuneration for the slightest service. The mountaineer's door stands open, or at most the string of the latch dangles upon the " outside." He takes you for what you xeem until you shall prove yourself otherwise.

In many things they resemble the negro. They are exceedingly immoral, yet are great shouters and advocates of eligion. They call themselves Baptists, although their mode of baptism is that of the Dunkard.

There are no churches on the Ridge, but the one I visited in Black Water Swamp was beyond question an inauguration of the colored element. At this church I saw white women with negro babies at their breasts — Malungeon women with white or with black husbands, and some, indeed, having the three separate races represented in their children, showing thereby the gross immorality that is practised among them. I saw an old negro whose wife was a white woman, and who had been several times arrested, and released on his plea of " Portygee " blood, which he declared had colored his skin, and not African.

The dialect of the Malungeons is a cross between that of the mountaineer and the negro,— a corruption, perhaps, of both. The letter R occupies but small place in their speech, and they have a peculiar habit of omitting the last letter, sometimes the last syllable of their words. For instance " good night" — is " goo' night." " Give " is " gi' " etc. They do not drawl like the mountaineers but, on the contrary, speak rapidly and talk a great deal. The laugh of the Malungeon woman is the most exquisitely musical jingle, a perfect ripple of sweet sound. Their dialect is exceedingly difficult to write, owing to their habit of curtailing their words.

The pure Malungeons, that is the old men and women, have no toleration for the negro, and nothing insults them so much as a suggestion of negro blood. Many pathetic stories are told of their battle against the black race, which they regard as the cause of their downfall, the annihilation, indeed, of the Malungeons, for when the races began to mix and to intermarry, and the expression, "A Malungeon- nigger" came into use, the last barrier vanished, and all were regarded as somewhat upon a social level.

They are very like the Indians in many respects,— their fleetness of foot, cupidity, cruelty (as practised 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 could not be called homes,— and their taste for liquor and tobacco.

They believe in witchcraft, " yarbs," and more than one "charmer" may be found among them. They will "rub away " a wart or a mole for ten cents, and one old squaw assured me she had some " blood beads " that " wair bounter heal all manner o' blood ailimints."

They are limited somewhat as to names: their principal families being the Mullins, Gorvens, Collins, and Gibbins.

They resort to a very peculiar method of distinguishing themselves. Jack Collins' wife for instance will be Mary Jack. His son will be Ben Jack. His daughters' names will be similar; Nancy Jack or Jane Jack, as the case may be, but always having the father's Christian name attached.

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. They do not welcome strangers among them, so that I went to the Ridge somewhat doubtful as to my reception. I went, however, determined to be one of them, so I wore a suit as nearly like their own as I could get it. I had some trouble securing board, but I did succeed at last in doing so by paying the enormous sum of fifteen cents a day. I was put to sleep in a little closet opening off the family room. My room had no windows, and but the one door. The latch was carefully removed before I went in, so that I had no means of egress, except through the family room, and no means by which to shut myself in. My bed was of straw, not the sweet-smelling straw we read of. The Malungeons go along way for their straw, and they evidently make it go a long way when they do get it. I was called to breakfast the next morning while the gray mists still held the mountain in its arms. I asked for water to bathe my face and was sent to " ther branch," a beautiful little mountain stream crossing the trail some few hundred yards from the cabin.

Breakfast consisted of corn bread, wild honey, and bitter coffee. It was prepared and eaten in the garret, or roof-room, above the family room. A few chickens, the only fowl I saw on the Ridge, also occupied the roof room. Coffee is quite common among the Malungeons; they drink it without sweetening, and drink it cold at all hours of the day or night. They have no windows and no candles, consequently, they retire with the going of the daylight. Many of their cabins have no floors other than that which Nature gave, but one that I remember had a floor made of trees slit in half, the bark still on, placed with the flat side to the ground. The people in this house slept on leaves with an old gray blanket for covering. Yet the master of the house, who claims to be an Indian, and who, without doubt, possesses Indian blood, draws a pension of twenty-nine dollars per month. He can neither read nor write, is a lazy fellow, fond of apple brandy and bitter coffee, has a rollicking good time with an old fiddle which he plays with his thumb, and boasts largely of his Cherokee grandfather and his government pension. In one part of his cabin (there are two rooms and a connecting shed) the very stumps of the trees still remain. I had my artist sketch him sitting upon the stump of a monster oak which stood in the very centre of the shed or hallway.

This family did their cooking at a rude fireplace built near the spring, as a matter of convenience.

Another family occupied one room, or apartment, of a stable. The stock fed in another (the stock belonged, let me say, to someone else) and the " cracks" between the logs of the separating partition were of such depth a small child could have rolled from the bed in one apartment into the trough in the other. How they exist among such squalor is a mystery.

Their dress consists, among the women, of a short loose calico skirt and a blouse that boasts of neither hook nor button. Some of these blouses were fastened with brass pins conspicuously bright. Others were tied together by means of strings tacked on either 'side. They wear neither shoes nor stockings in the summer, and many of them go barefoot all winter. The men wear jeans, and may be seen almost any day tramping barefoot across the mountain.

They are exceedingly illiterate, none of them being able to read. I found one school among them, taught by an old Malungeon, whose literary accomplishments amounted to a meagre knowledge of the alphabet and the spelling of words. Yet, he was very earnest, and called lustily to the " chiller- ing " to " spry up," and to " learn the book."

This school was located in the loveliest spot my eyes ever rested upon. An eminence overlooking the beautiful valley of the Clinch and the purple peaks beyond. Billows and billows of mountains, so blue, so exquisitely wrapped in their delicate mist-veil, one almost doubts if they be hills or heaven. While through the slumbrous vale the silvery Clinch, the fairest of Tennessee's fair streams, creeps slowly, like a drowsy dream-river, among the purple distances.

The eminence itself is entirely barren save for one tall old cedar and the schoolmaster's little log building. It presents a very weird, wild, yet majestic scene, to the traveller as he climbs up from the valley.

Near the schoolhouse is a Malungeon grave-yard. The Malungeons are very careful for their dead. They build a kind of floorless house iibove each separate grave, many of the homes of the dead being far better than the dwellings of the living. The graveyard presents the appearance of a diminutive town, or settlement, and is kept with great nicety and care. They mourn their dead for years, and every friend and acquaintance is expected to join in the funeral arrangements. They follow the body to the grave, sometimes for miles, afoot, in single file. Their burial ceremonies are exceedingly interesting and peculiar.

They are an unforgiving people, although, unlike the sensitive mountaineer, they are slow to detect an insult, and expect to be spit upon. But injury to life or property they never forgive. Several odd and pathetic instances of Malungeon hate came under my observation while among them, but they would cover too much space in telling.

Within the last two years the railroad has struck within some thirty miles of them, and its effect* are becoming very apparent. Now and then a band of surveyors, or a lone mineralogist will cross Powell's mountain, and pass through Mulberry Gap just beyond Newman's Ridge. So near, yet never nearer. The hills around are all said to l>e crammed with coal or iron, but Newman's Ridge can offer nothing to the capitalist. It would seem that the Malungeons had chosen the one spot, of all that magnificent creation, not to be desired.

Yet, they have heard of the railroad, the great bearer of commerce, and expect it, in a half-regretful, half-pathetic way.

They have four questions, always, for the stranger: —

" Whatcher name? "

" Wher'd yer come fum ? "

" How old er yer ? "

" Did yer hear en'thin' er ther railwa' comin' up ther Ridge ? "

As if it might step into their midst any day.

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

There is a theory that the Portuguese pirates, known to have visited these waters, came ashore and located in the mountains of North Carolina. The Portuguese " streak" however, is scouted by those who claim for the Malungeons a drop of African blood, as, quite early in the settlement of Tennessee, runaway negroes settled among the Cherokees, or else were captured and adopted by them.

However, with all the light possible to be thrown upon them, the Malungeons are, and will remain, a mystery. A more pathetic case than theirs cannot be imagined. They are going, the little space of hills 'twixt earth and heaven allotted them, will soon be free of the dusky tribe, whose very name is a puzzle, and whose origin is a riddle no man has unravelled. The most that can be said of one of them is, " He is a Malungeon," a synonym for all that is doubtful and mysterious —and unclean.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Melungeon Picture

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