Wednesday, December 11, 2013


One self identified as an “avid Melungeon researcher” continues to distort Melungeon History on her blog and website, especially when it comes to the history of the Goins family. Making false claims the Goins didn’t live on Newman Ridge, which is the lie that originated with Will Allen Dromgoole in 1890’s.

“The African Branch was introduced by one Goins who emigrated from North Carolina after the formation of Tennessee”.(Dromgoole)

All of this nonsense is easily disputed by the land, marriage, census, church and tax records which show the Goins, Collins and Gibson lived near each other and intermarried. They also show the most famous Melungeon Mahala “Big Haley” Mullins mother was a Goins.

Lets us describe the area and examine those records. This area was in Hawkins County, Tennessee until 1844 when Hancock County was formed. On the North side of Newman Ridge is Mulberry Gap, Powell Mountain the valley between Newman Ridge and Powell Mountain, was named Vardy, for Vardy Collins who had a hotel and mineral springs resort. Blackwater Creek, beginning from a spring in Snake Hollow and flowing through Vardy Valley into Lee County, Virginia, where it makes a u-turn back to Hancock County and empties into the Clinch River, about 3 miles below Kyles Ford Tennessee, where Indian Ridge ends. On the south side of Newman Ridge is Greasy Rock, Panther Creek (old name Buffalo) flows along the south side and empties into the Clinch River a few miles west from the entrance of Blackwater Creek. Newman Ridge extends several miles east of Kyles Ford, past the Blackwater Church. This area was correctly described in 1848 as a gorge between Powell Mountain and the Copper Ridge.

Micajer Bunch was described by historian Bill Groshe as the first Melungeon on Newman Ridge. Micajer was one of the signers of the 1792 petition to form Lee County, Virginia. Tax records from the Virginia State Library and Archive show- 1795 Lee County, Virginia tax list records Micajer Bunch, Drury Bunch, Israel Bunch, Clem Bunch, Julius Bunch and Jeremiah Boling- 1797 Lee County tax list shows others who arrived which includes Zachariah Goins, he was the son of this authors 7th generation grandparents John and Elizabeth Goins of Henry County, Virginia. At this date most of the Collins, including Vardy was in Ashe County, North Carolina. Micajer Bunch land entry joined Joseph Wallen’s near Kyles Ford. Although Micajer was one of the first settlers he did not stay, Micajer is listed on the 1799 tax list of Cumberland County, Kentucky. Zachariah Goins is on the 1836 Tax list of Hawkins County, Tennessee living near Jesse Goodman and Fountain Goins.

Beginning in 1830 The David Allison Grant was transferred to Walter Sims who lost it to the state from back taxes. This land was located on both sides of the Clinch River and a large part of Newman Ridge, When the land was surveyed it contained over 1000,000 acres and many Melungeon families along with the white settlers made purchases recorded in Entry books B & C located in the Hawkins County Register of Deeds Office and on microfilm at the Hawkins County, Archives.

George Goins 300 acres along cliff of Newman Ridge Book B page 145. George Goins et al 5,000 acres on Newman Ridge Book B page 147.
The 1830 census lists 4 free colored in George Goen household.

George Goins sister Jincie Jane Goins married Soloman Collins, their daughter Mahala (Big Haley) Collins married John Mullins, their son Ruben Mullins application 2946, Married Elizabeth Gibson and they both filed Cherokee Indian Application.– Remarks in Ruben application “Solomon Collins is said to crossed into Tennessee and married Jincy Goins and settled there because He was afraid the chief would kill him if he returned to the tribe”.
Elizabeth application # 2947 and Reuben #2946 were both rejected June 26, 1909. According to family genealogy George and Jincie Goins parents were Joseph and Millie Lovin Goins, Y DNA from descendants show these Goins were Sub-Saharan African and Mullins was European.

Vardy Collins 200 acres on Newman Ridge Book B page 51
Elijah Goins 400 acres on Indian Ridge Book B page 98
Shepherd Gibson 300 acres on Blackwater Creek Book B page 138
Jordan Gibson 300 acres on Newman Ridge Book B page 165
Jordan Gibson 100 acres on Newman Ridge Book C page 10
Jordan Gibson 180 acres on Newman Ridge Book C page 84
Andrew Gibson 50 acres on Newman Ridge Book C page 56
Soloman D. Collins 100 acres on Newman Ridge Book C page 10
Benjamin Collins 100 acres on Newman Ridge Book c page 11
Andrew Collins 100 acres on Newman Ridge page 97
Chrispen Goan 100 on Blackwater Creek Book c page 21
James Mullins 40 acres on Newman Ridge Book c page 24
Vardy Collins 80 acres on Blackwater Creek book c page 26
Vardy Collins 100 acres on Blackwater Creek book c page 54.
Zachariah Minor 25 acres on Newman Ridge book c page 78
William Goodman 50 acres on south side of Newman Ridge page 82
Wyatt Collins 100 acres on Newman Ridge page 87
James Moore 100 acres on Newman Ridge page 87

Alexander Goins was born ca 1815 son of Elijah and Sally Goins. Elijah Goins purchased 400 acres on Indian Ridge from the big Walter Sims survey Book B page 98. Indian Ridge lays on the North side of Clinch River west of Kyles Ford and on the South side of Big Ridge. Alexander Goins married Etta Collins born 1812 daughter of Vardemon “Vardy” and Margaret Gibson Collins. Alexander and Etta had two known children John Goins born 1833 died before 1900. Married Lucinda Sexton they had 9 children. The largest Cemetery on Big Ridge was named for Johnny Goins who has a veterans tombstone in this Cemetery.

The Johnnie Goins Cemetery on Big Ridge, behind Goins Chapel is where most of the filming of Melungeon documentaries began. Following the old road east from this Cemetery you would come to Mahala Mullins home before it was moved to Vardy, by the Vardy Historical Society. Traveling east on the Ridge from Mahala house was where the Solomon D. Collins home was located, There is a,picture of old Solomon Collins log house where Mahala was born in Jim Callahan Book, Lest We Forget page 162. .The 1830 census lists 9 free colored in Solomon D. Collins household, the large two story log house was still standing on Newman Ridge in 1990.

Alfred D. Goins son of Alexander and Etta Collins Goins was born 1837 died Sept 4, 1907. Married Hanna Gibson in 1860, they were the parents of 3 sons. Alfred and Hanna are buried in the Johnny Goins Cemetery. (part of this information is from 1994 Families of Hancock County and Johnnie Gibson Rhea research)

Lies told to Will Allen Dromgoole, or made up stories by Will Allen “The Melungeon Tree and its 4 branches, May 1991” (Tennessee State Library & Archives).

“From Old Vardy Collins the first tribe took its name Collinses, others who followed Vardy took the name Collins also. Old Benjamin Collins one of the Pioneers was older than Vardy Collins, but came to Tennessee a trifle later. He had quiet a large family of children, among them Edmund, Milton, Marler, Harry, Andrew, Zeke, Jordan. From Jordan descended Calloway Collins and from him I obtained some valuable information. Benjamin Collins was known as old Ben and became the head of the Ben Tribe, Old Solomon Collins Sol Tribe. It appears that no tribe was ever called the Vardy tribe, although as long as he lived he was the recognized head and leader of the entire people. For many years they occupied the ridge without disturbance. Moreover these strange people were called the Ridgemanites and the Black-Waterites because of a stream called Black Water which flowed through their territory”. “The tree began to put forth branches, the English or white, Portuguese and African. The English branch began with the Mullins tribe a very powerful tribe. Jim Mullins the father of the branch took up with one of their women, a descendant of old Sol Collins. (*Solomon D. Collins wife was Jencie Jane Goins). “The African Branch was introduced by one Goins who emigrated from North Carolina after the formation of Tennessee. Goins was a Negro and did not settle on the Ridge, but lower down on Big Sycamore In Powell Valley he took a Melungeon wife. The Melungeons repudiate the idea of Negro blood, yet some of the shiftless stragglers among them have married among the Goins people . They evade slights and snubs by claiming to have married Portuguese. There really being a Portuguese branch traced to one Denham, a Portuguese who married a Collins”. [ If Calloway Collins was the source of this information, he surely knew and concealed the fact that Solomon Collins married a Goins. According to Dromgoole Calloway personally knew Vardy Collins. And he did know the Goins were at least part Negro, and as a grandson of Benjamin the Y- DNA on descendants of Benjamin was African. .

Hezekiah Minor and Zephaniah Goins were brother-in-laws and members of the old Blackwater Baptist Church, Hezekiah was married to Zephaniah Goins sister Elizabeth. Known children were John, Zachariah and Lewis Minor. Both Zachariah and Lewis Minor were tried for illegal voting in 1845-48 along with Vardy Collins, Solomon Collins, also Ezekiel, Levi, Andrew and Wyatt Collins sons of Benjamin. All were related because when Wyatt was found not quilty by a Jury the state dropped the charges on Solomon, Ezekiel, Levi and Andrew Collins.

Zachariah Goins a brother to Zephaniah was one of the first settlers to arrive in the Newman River area 1797 Lee County, Virginia tax list lower district on the same list was Micajer Bunch. They were sons of John and Elizabeth Going of Henry County, Virginia. During John Going lifetime 1735-1801 there were no records that indicated he was African, He was the first person granted permission to build a Grist Mill in Henry County, Virginia. John Going owned a plantation that lay astride Blackberry Creek and extended into Patrick County, John Going wrote his will in 1801 naming all his children and dividing the household furniture. Y-DNA test from several descendants of John Going prove he was Sub-Saharan African. All Tax, land and court records indicate he was regarded as white, his wife Elizabeth and son John Going Jr. were enumerated on an 1813 free colored tax list of Henry County, Virginia. Elizabeth may have been full blood African which may be the reason most of their sons were sometimes listed free colored on tax records.

Thomas Goin a Rev. War soldier in 1788 sold his land, 225 acres in Washington County,and moved 90 miles west to newly created Hawkins County, Tennessee from which Claiborne County was later created.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Written records agree with Melungeon DNA results

Written records agree with Core Melungeon DNA Results. The Core Melungeon DNA Project was formed with Family Tree DNA on July 25, 2005. The goal of the project was to determine the origin of the Melungeons and to find matches in the data base. Our project results were submitted to a peer review board and published April 24, 2012 in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy and published by Associated Press reporter Travis Lollar in May 2012, the results of the first generation are offspring of Sub-Saharan African men and white women of Northern and central European origin.

The majority of the male core groups were haplogroup E1b1a Sub-Saharan African and the maternal mtDNA group was European. The first mixed generation was the children from Sub-Saharan African men and white women of Northern and central European origin, the exact date of this mixing is unknown. Some from this first mixed generation eventually intermarried with white settlers in colonial Virginia and took their names. Part of this tri-racial clan may have remained in Colonial Virginia and others migrated to North Carolina who would eventually become known as Melungeons (Calloway Collins told Will Allen Dromgoole the Collins and Gibsons, had stolen those names from white settlers in Virginia where they were living as Indians, before migrating to North Carolina”). Calloway Collins was a great grandson of Benjamin whose origin was African and we also know all Africans took English surnames, even the ones who became slaves.

From Virginia they migrated to Granville County, NC. which became Orange in 1753 and were listed mulatto on tax and land records. Then to the New River Area of Fincastle/ Montgomery County in Virginia about 1767, some were on the waters of the New River in Wilkes County, NC about the same time. Those results should not have surprised any descendant, or anyone who has followed them on tax, land and census records, as I will show in this article. I want to thank all the people and organizations who complimented us on our DNA project through emails, letters and private conversations. On 20 October 2012 the North Carolina Society of Historians, INC. presented each of us with the prestigious Paul Greene Multimedia Award for the Melungeon DNA Project. I make no apology and am very proud of this DNA project and all the ones who joined, both the Core and Melungeon Families project. FTDNA has now added the Family Finder Test, which was the major reason I wanted to continue the project after the results were peer-reviewed and published.

Everyone who has read our peer reviewed article should know all tests that go to the same common ancestor only counts as one in the total for that ancestor (Example from review- Benjamin Collins Group-E1b1a7a. He is first found in Wilkes County, NC in 1787 along with the other Collins males. He is then found in the same counties as the other Melungeon families culminating with Hawkins County where in the 1830 census he is listed as a free person of color. There are 5 individuals in this group, plus a match to a Cook, (whose name was changed from Collins after the Civil War. He is a documented grandson of Benjamin Collins from Hancock County Group). A- An additional 4 have been added to the Benjamin group since the review.

Fighting against the Shawnee Indians, owning land and paying taxes suggest the future Melungeons were not Indians. Soldiers in Lord Dunsmore’s War in 1774 included Micajer Bunch, who served 29 days, John Collins (served 35 days), and others who were in the Montgomery County militia, including Benjamin Sexton, Charles Saxton, David Collins, George Collins, Meriday (Meredith) Collins, Lewis Collens, Elisha Collins (who refused to take Oath of Allegiance 1777.) John Sexton, William Bowlin, William Riddle, John Riddle, Samuel Collins, John Collins.

Some from this group moved from the New River and Stony Creek to the back woods section of Hawkins County, Tennessee. “Littell’s Living Age” which was reprinted from the Knoxville Register September 6, 1848 quoting from the Louisville Examiner. The following mixture may be in agreement with the DNA!! “The Melungeons were Portuguese adventures, men and women who mixed with the Indians, white and Negro settlers. Was these Portuguese adventures both men and women descendants of the first African/European group and claimed to be Portuguese?

“Readers need to be aware of the fact that throughout much of the 19th century and well into the early 20th. “Portuguese like the frequently heard “Cherokee Indian Princess,” was nothing other than a euphemism for African-American heritage. In fact that is precisely the way “Portuguese” has been understood by generations of black Americans 53. “Portuguese and “Indian” were contrived defensive mechanisms employed by both light-and dark –pigmented individuals of partial African Heritage to hide or disguise racial identity in an oppressive social climate where skin color essentially determined one’s legal status.” 54 ( C. S. Everette Melungeon History and Myth p 369.Appalachain Journal volume 26, number 4 1999)

The written land, tax, census and court records agrees with the DNA results. As a descendant from two great grandfathers who were Sub-Saharan African. I know my fore-parents denied their African ancestors, and created a mystical heritage of Portuguese, so they could traffic and trade with the white settlers. When some of their white neighbors began to recognize their black heritage they began to tax and label them and in some cases their wives were also taxed. (Moses Riddle and wife Mary) as listed on the 1755 Orange County, North Carolina list were taxed as “mulattoes". Also, on Orange County, North Carolina land grants “1761-to Thomas Collins on Dials Creek of the Flat River Chain bearers: George Gibson and Paul Collins (mulattoes).

We know by the DNA test when it comes to our people “mulatto” to those tax collectors meant half black and half white, not Portuguese, or Indian, to claim it meant something else ignores the DNA and protects the old racist reporters and tax collectors who labeled them. They were enumerated free persons of color on the 1800 census of Ashe County, North Carolina; Heads of household were enumerated free colored with number of free colored in household; Ambrose Collins- 4 free colored; Thomas Collins 7 free colored; Vardy Collins 4 free colored; Valentine Collins 6 free colored; Andrew Gibson 7 free colored; Archibald Gibson 7 free colored; Ezekiel Gibson 3 free colored; Joel Gibson 2 free colored and were listed black on the schedules.

Then again on the1830 census of Hawkins County, Tennessee. The label FPC was an attempt by their white neighbors to make them sojourners in the land, to prevent them from owning property, vote and to sit on a jury against a white man. The true story shows the white racist like Walter Plecker (1861-1947) existed in early 1700, but more than anything it shows how strong our people were, how they escaped slavery. Why should the descendants of our people white wash the racist derogatory labels of the white racist census enumerators, tax collectors, state Attorney Generals who were prosecutors of our people? At this time most of the African features were gone accept for the dark skin, but that was enough to refuse them the right to vote. The TRUTH as proved by DNA shows how they survived against all odds.

Melungeon Illegal voting trials held in Rogersville, Hawkins County, Tennessee resulting from an election in 1845, ended in a Jury trial Dec 1848- Y-DNA test from descendants of all but one family of those tried in the illegal voting trials was African. Also, Y-DNA from descendants of various other Melungeon trials was African. The illegal voting trials beginning in 1846 in Hawkins County, Tennessee show that the Melungeons were most likely 3rd generation descendants of the first core group. Marriages within the group would cause them to be very dark complected. Several men on the Jury were slave owners, so they knew what an African looked like. The Jury found them not guilty. One was Zachariah Minor my 5th generation grandfather. This trial shows the vast discrimination against them. They reveal how the Melungeons were viewed in their neighborhood, the County, and the State of Tennessee.

Vardy Collins Illegal voting case was settled, or dropped by the state. Vardy’s son-in-law Timothy Williams may have paid a fine, amount not specified. Vardy Collins was 83 years old in 1847. The 1850 U.S. Census of Hancock County enumerates Vardy Collins in household #364- "Vardy Collins 86, Margaret 77, Branum Williams 17." Branum was probably the son of Timothy and Letitia Collins Williams. Timothy Williams was living next door to Vardy on 1830 census, and was Vardy Collins son in-law, married to Vardy’s daughter Letitia. The Court called him an acquaintance, and both were enumerated as "free persons of color" on the 1830 Federal Census.

Almost all the popular Melungeon books do not mention these trials, even though they are recorded in the Circuit Court Minute Books and Loose Court Records in Hawkins County, Tennessee. Most authors wrote an exotic undocumented romantic story of the Melungeons because this is what sells books, which in my opinion has caused a vast number of people to claim Melungeon with no history of their descendants being discriminated against, labeled mulatto, or free colored. What could be more exotic than a family living on Newman Ridge in 1800, whose paternal ancestor (African haplogroup A) was referred to as “Bushmen”. Genetic evidence suggests the San Bushmen are one of the oldest peoples in the world.

In private conversations and emails, I have always responded to all questions concerning the results of our peer reviewed DNA project. I have decided to respond to some questions posted on the internet concerning our DNA project.

1-The very first one was skewing the results, I was accused of stacking the results with my Goins. Response-Everyone who has read our Peer Review article should know all tests that go to the same common ancestor only counts as one in the total. Example from the review- In the Melungeon project there are three primary Goins groups, two of which are haplogroup E1b1a, but don't match each other. The third is haplogroup A. All three haplogroups are of sub-Saharan African origin. There is one participant with no additional Goins matches, but who matches the Collins E1b1a7 group. Which is why this complaint of skewing the results are from those who don’t understand, or from those who want to distort the project because the largest groups we have that goes to a common ancestor are R1b1a2 Gibson’s, and R1a1a Collins and with no complaints of skewing those results, all the complaints concern only the E1b1a Sub-Saharan African groups.

2-Complaint about the JOGG Review Board. Response; this was the lowest of the low, those test results would have been approved by any professional review board. Our project was professionally run, academically published and those DNA results will stand the test of time, as Yogi would say, they are what they are.

3-Accused of hiding or canceling Native Americans. Response: The bottom line is no core Melungeon haplogroup was Native American and thus they could not be used as origin, this does not mean there was no mixing with the Indians I have proven NA grandparents Haplogroup Q. We have adversaries on the internet spreading lies and distortions about this issue. Some of those who claim to be Melungeons Indians should give a paternal of maternal DNA test and prove it.

4-Complaint Valentine Collins was not a core Melungeon. Response; The Stony Creek church minutes list Valentine Collins joining in 1801, later moving his membership. Valentine and Charles Gibson may have come to Blackwater in Hawkins County together, because both moved their membership from Stony Creek Church the same day. Vallington Collings 100 ac 1810 Tax list of Hawkins County. (Captain Looney’s Company.) The Family Finder test answered this complaint. A great, great, grandson of Valentine Collins Haplogroup E1b1a sent me his direct cousins from his Family Finder test which show him as a close cousin to descendants of Shepherd Gibson and the Newman Ridge Collins, most of these cousins remained in the Hancock County area. Valentine Collins moved to Kentucky, he may have lived in Hawkins County for about 10 years. If the entire core group would take the Family Finder test they would no doubt be cousins to most of the ones who lived in the area 1800-1830.

5-Some use the Core Melungeon DNA public site to distort the results.

Response-No one can run the DNA project from the public site. Only the Administrators and the person who gave the sample know the details. FTDNA ask those who give a sample to please list their most distant known ancestor this is how their kit is identified on the public site. Those who do not list their common ancestor will only show up as a kit number on the public site. The names of the people tested are private to the public. The most distant ancestor listed by the person before their DNA tests results were known may have changed to another surname, but not corrected by that person. Most of these already knew this before they were tested. We had some who discovered the were not who they thought they were and left the group. Some were direct descendants of a core Melungeon, but from a daughter, so their Y-DNA test does not reflect that core surname, this is sometimes referred to as adoptions. Before you take a DNA test be aware that you may not be who you think you are.

Lewis Jarvis gave some very good history on the Melungeon, but it’s obvious he did not know about the African blood, or was he concealing it? He wrote that Michael Bolen was near full blooded Indian who was in the War of 1812.

A documented grandson of Michael Bolen Kit # 215288 DNA was E1b1a Sub-Saharan African.

The 1755 Orange County, North Carolina tax list from the Flat River area; John Collins 1 tithe (mulatto), Micajer Bunch 1 tithe (mulatto), Gedion Bunch 1 tithe (mulatto), Moses Ridley 1 tithe & wife Mary ( mulattoes),Thomas Collins 3 tithes (mulatto), Samuel Collins 3 tithes (mulatto), Thomas Gibson 3 tithes (Mulatto), George Gibson 1 tithe (mulatto), Mager Gibson 1 tithe (mulatto) Some from this tax list migrated to Tennessee.

Affidavit by Joseph Collins in Salethial Martin’s Rev. War Pension Application by his widow, Mary W 1044, applied for in Granger County, Tennessee. “Was a small boy in 1780 when Capt. Martin came to the New River in Virginia and Captured a group of Tories camped at a Rock House on the river. Two of those captured escaped the next night. David Gibson and Lewis Collins. Affiant was intimately acquainted with both men and for many years heard them tell how they made their escape”. Lewis Collins (S2142) Applied in Hawkins Co., TN Aug. 16, 1834 Living in Grainger Co., TN aged 80 Drafted 1st of Aug. 1776 under Capt. James Stean in reg. of Col. Williamson. Was living "in the state of South Carolina the name of the County, I think as well as I now recollect was Montgomery, it was on the waters of broad river Capt. Steans Company met at his house and we marched on to the frontiers of said state and joined Williamson at a place where the Indians had killed two families by the name of White and Parris In the year 1778.”I had hired myself to make a crop in South Carolina, Montgomery County with one Charles Tompson.” "I returned home and finished my Crop and then left the state of South Carolina and went into the state of Virginia to my fathers house in Montgomery County and entered there in 1881.” He lived near the line of Hawkins County he belongs to a Baptist church in Hawkins County and has gone there was many years. He was born 1754 in VA,.They resided in what is today Grayson County, Virginia. Most of this family came to Hawkins County, but in early 1800. Lewis Collins moved to Granger County, Tennessee. Dowell and Edmund Collins applied 17 February 1853 as heirs of Lewis Collins.

1810 tax list Grainger County, TN., Lewis Collins 10 Free colored; Griffin Collins 11 Free colored; Joseph Collins 9 Free colored; Dowell Collins 5 Free colored. [Lewis Collins B. VA, was son of John]

1472-Portuguese negotiate the first slave trade agreement that also includes gold and ivory. By the end of the 19th Century, because of the slave trade, five times as many Africans (over 11 million) would arrive in the Americas than Europeans.
1619-A Dutch ship brings the first permanent African settlers to Jamestown,VA. .(US History.Org )

Core Melungeon Y-DNA test confirm that some of the Gibsons and Goins families living along the Pee Dee River were related to some in the core group, both groups fore-parents migrated from Virginia. The term Melungeons was not originally applied to them. The oldest written records found to date of the term Melungin, Melungeon applies to the East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia group. The Pee Dee River clan was called Brass Ankles according to Edward T. Price 1950 study of Free African Americans in the Eastern United States. And were most likely African/European heritage who identified themselves as Portuguese.

The following article was written in 1934. This was a Project by William E. Cole Associate Prof. of Sociology, and Joe Stevenson Looney University of Tennessee. This document states the Melungeon were well know after the War Between the States and most of the politicians in East Tennessee were referred to as Melungeons.

It seems that the history of Hancock County concerning the origin of the Melungeons have come up at regular intervals. About 30 years ago (1904?) some of the white people whose children attended the same school as the Melungeon children objected to a certain family of Melungeons sending their children to this school. This Melungeon family the Bells, claimed to be of Portuguese descent. They, with the aid of some lawyers who sponsored their cause, brought suit against the county to allow them to send their children to school along with all the other white and Melungeon children in the community. They lost the suit on the following evidence. There was at that time living in an adjacent county, Claiborne, an old woman about 90 years of age. The court took her deposition concerning the ancestors of the Bell family in question. The substance of her statement was as follows:

“The Bells lived on my father’s farm when I was a little girl. They were known at that time as free Negroes. These Bells that are now living on Newman Ridge are descendants of the Bell family that lived on my father’s farm. As they were accepted as free Negroes at that time they should still be classed as Negroes.”

On this deposition the court declared the Bells free Negroes and did not allow them to send their children to that school. The same court failed to state that the county should establish a school for these segregated people. Thus they were deprived of a chance to get even the rudiments of an education because of racial prejudices which were not based, in my opinion, on authentic facts. Other instances are cited by residents of Sneedville and `surrounding areas of cases which have come up in court from time regarding the racial origin of the Melungeons, partularly the Bell family and other related families which were as a rule, a darker skinned people with more Negroid characteristics than other Melungeon families.

When the men were conscripted during the World War the Melungeon soldiers of Newman Ridge were sent as Negroes They resented this so much that it was necessary to take legal action in order to make them obey orders and `stay where they were placed. This in the writer’s opinion was a mistake. One of the commissioners, who classified these troupes, told the writer at the time that seemed to be the only thing to do about it. The white companies refused to receive them and the Negroes, whose color nearly matched theirs, did not object to receiving them in their ranks. Thus the Melungeons, may be said to represent practically all the different races in America.

William E. Cole and Joe Stevenson Looney University of Tennessee.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



This article was published originally in the December 2002 issue of the Appalachian Quarterly, a genealogical magazine in southwest Virginia. Mountain people were at one time described as pure Anglo-Saxon. This was, of course, pure nonsense. Today some writers seem obsessed with describing mountaineers as mostly Celtic or Scots-Irish. The truth is that the mountain people have a varied ancestry, as do many people in America. I grew up among Gibson and Collins families in Knott County, Kentucky. Some members of a few families were very dark, with a distinctive Indian appearance, while some members had a more African American appearance. There were other local families that were said to have African American or Indian ancestry. Through genealogical research I have established that a very talented Knott County family of banjo players had a grandfather that was described as Mulatto in census records.

Gibson and Collins are common surnames among some remnant Indian populations. They are also the most common surnames among mountain families that are today described as “Melungeon.” There has been a lot of romantic nonsense written about Melungeons in various places, including the Internet. The Gibson and Collins families described today as Melungeon came originally from east Virginia to the border counties of Virginia and North Carolina. From there they migrated to southwest Virginia, northeast Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and to other areas. I have found that several other families in eastern Kentucky also followed this general migration path. It was through this migration path, I believe, that banjos and banjo songs entered Knott County.


I grew up in Knott County, Kentucky. I learned at an early age that there were two groups of Gibson families: one group was described as black, the other white. I remember my father telling me about an elderly Gibson that lived near his grandfather. Dad said this Gibson was "black," but claimed to be Portuguese. I have since learned there is a record of families in northeast Tennessee who claimed to be Portuguese.

My father's statement was unusual enough that I have remembered it for over fifty years. I was reminded of this recently when I visited a Baptist Minister in Kentucky. We were discussing our families when he remarked in a matter-of-fact manner: "You know, your family is from the old xxxxx Gibson set, but the xxxxx Gibson set were mulattoes." I am not using first names, because this is still a sensitive subject for some people. I have since researched and found that my Gibson ancestors were neighbors of the ancestors of the "black" Gibsons in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee, so I suspect there was some relationship between the families. I have always been curious why some people, whom others defined as mulattoes or Indian, should claim to be Portuguese.

I have read books about Melungeons in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. Gibson and Collins are the most common names among these people. Gibson and Collins, of course, are names common in east Kentucky, particularly in Knott and Letcher Counties. I feel the Melungeon label has been used as a broad brush to include different families and groups of people that may have had differing origins. None of the people now so labeled ever claimed to be Melungeon. This was originally a derisive term used in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee to describe people with darker skins.

The minutes of the Stony Creek Baptist Church (1801-1814) in Scott County Virginia provide a wonderful window into the past. These minutes have been of interest to me because the most common name in the Church was Gibson. Some of the Gibson members were likely among my ancestors. The disparaging reference in the minutes to a member harboring "Melungins" has generated a lot of comment. The "Melungins" being harbored were probably a different group of people who had moved in, or were passing through the area. These people must have had some obvious differences with the local population. These differences most likely included a darker skin.

The most interesting aspect of the Stony Creek minutes for me, however, was the presence of black members in the church. Black and white people socialized together in early Colonial America and on the early frontier. The increasingly repressive laws regarding free blacks and slaves, especially prior to the Civil War, helped create divisions between black and white neighbors. These laws were coupled with a view, perpetuated by some Northerners and many Southerners, that people with African American ancestry were somewhat less than human. A few Baptist churches in the mountains, however, treated slaves and free blacks with more respect than they received elsewhere. The Stony Creek Baptist Church was one of these. The following question was posed in the minutes for February 26, 1809:
"A query to the church concerning a Black brother or Sister should be taken for a witness against a white Sister or Brother. The church answers, yes."This statement is a wonderful testament to the members of this church, especially considering the treatment blacks were receiving in other areas of both the North and the South.

James F. Gibson, my great, great grandfather, left Scott County Virginia in the 1860s and moved to an area of Letcher County Kentucky that later became Knott County. He preached at the Old Carr Regular Baptist Church in the 1880s. This church had black members who later formed their own church at Redfox, Kentucky. The Little Home Old Regular Baptist Church at Redfox has always had both black and white members, although most of the pastors have been black. Loyal Jones, in Faith and Meaning in the Southern Uplands, discusses the fraternization of black and white members in the Little Home Church.

I have been researching the history of the banjo, which came originally from Africa. I have therefore been reading extensively about early slavery, both in Africa and in America. Richard Jobson documents his travels in Africa in The Golden Trade, "Set down as they were collected in traveling part of the yeares 1620 and 1621." Jobson traveled to the Gambia in Africa acting as a scout for London merchants. Jobson was preceded to Africa by George Thompson, who sailed from England in 1618. Thompson's ship, however, had been taken from him on the Gambia River. The ship was taken, according to Jobson, by "...a few poore dejected ‘Portingals' and Molatos, whom they gave free recourse aboord, being only banisht people, and for the most part runnagados from their Country..."
Jobson was very suspicious of the 'Portingals' when he met them on the Gambia, not only because some of them had pirated Thompson's ship, but because they controlled much of the trade on the Gambia. These people were Creoles, who had both Portuguese and African ancestry. The Portuguese had been on the Gambia for near 200 years in 1620. Jobson has this to say about the "Portingales":
"And these are, as they call themselves, ‘Portingales,' and some few of them seeme the same; others of them are ‘Molatoes,' betweene blacke and white, but the more part blacke, as the natural inhabitants...they doe generally imploy themselves in buying such commodities the country affords...and as they [children] grow up, apply themselves to buy and sell one thing for another as the whole country doth, still reserving carefully, the use of the Portingall tongue, and with a kinde of an affectionate zeale, the name of Christians, taking it in great disdaine, be they never so blacke, to be called a ‘Negro' and these, for the most part, are the Portingalls..."

Douglas Grant, in The Fortunate Slave, writes about the people on the Gambia.

"The Portuguese dominated West Africa for two hundred years...The English found the Portuguese settled on the banks of the Gambia when they first attempted an exploration of the river. When Jobson anchored on the Gambia...he discovered among the Mandingos near the mouth a number of ‘vagrant Portingall.' They were Portuguese by language and sentiment rather than in appearance, for, though some were mulattoes, the majority were as black as the rest of the natives. They called themselves Christians and, whatever their hue, considered themselves to be white and took it as an insult to be classed with the Negroes. The river trade was mostly in their hands...By intermarrying with the natives, they [the Portuguese] had bred into their descendents something of the necessary genius of the place...Creole Portuguese was a useful trading language, widespread along the coast and along the Guinea waterways, and one of the most easily picked up by the English..."

Ira Berlin's Many thousands Gone is a history of slavery in America. He defines "Atlantic Creoles" in the introduction to his book:

"Atlantic Creoles trace their beginnings in the historic encounter of European and Africans on the west coast of Africa. Many served as intermediaries, employing their linguistic skills, and their familiarity with the Atlantic's diverse commercial practices, cultural conventions, and diplomatic etiquette to mediate between African merchants and European Sea Captains. "

It should be noted that the Europeans cited would have included people from some countries on the Mediterranean Sea. The Atlantic Creoles were wide spread along the coast of West Africa, and were also a large presence in Europe:

"In Europe – particularly Portugal and Spain – the number of Creoles swelled as trade with Africa increased. By the mid-sixteenth century, 10,000 black people resided in Lisbon, where they composed 10 percent of the city's population ...Men of color drawn from Creole communities of Europe accompanied Columbus to the Americas and marched with Balboa, Cortez, De Sota, and Pizarro ... Other Atlantic Creoles traveled on their own, as sailors and interpreters in both the transatlantic and African trades. Some gained freedom and mixed with Europeans and Native Americans..."

Berlin has this to say about the first generation of slaves in Virginia:

"Atlantic Creoles shaped black America's charter generations in the Chesapeake. They numbered large among the ‘twenty Negers' a Dutch man-o'-war sold to John Rolf at Jamestown in 1619...Although some of the new arrivals hailed directly from Africa, most had already spent some time in the New World, understood the language of the Atlantic, bore Hispanic and occasionally English names, and were familiar with Christianity and other aspects of European culture. Set to work alongside a mélange of English and Irish servants, little but skin color distinguished them from others who labored in the region's tobacco fields. Through the first fifty years of English and African settlement in the Chesapeake, black and white workers lived and worked together in ways that blurred racial lines. The small number of people of African descent (never more than 5 percent of the region's population during this period) combined with the peculiar demands of the tobacco economy to strengthen the bargaining position of black people, whose status as slaves remained undefined in law, although not in practice. Many escaped bondage and secured a modest prosperity. Reviled and disparaged, black America's charter generations nevertheless found a place in the society with slaves that emerged around the Chesapeake during the middle of the seventeenth century."

Some of the charter generation of enslaved and free blacks discussed by Berlin include the following: Emanuel Driggers (or Drighouse, probably Rodriggus), Bashaw Farnando (or Ferdinando), Francis Payne, John Graweere and his wife, Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary, Domingo, John Francisco (later Sisco), Anthony Longo, and somewhat later Robert Cain (1660).

Berlin makes the following observation about free blacks:

"By mid-century (1650) the Johnsons, the Paynes, and Graweeres were not alone among people of African descent who enjoyed freedom in the Chesapeake. Small communities of free blacks sprouted up all around the perimeter of the Chesapeake Bay, with the largest concentration on the eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland."

The social life of the early servants and slaves are discussed:

"Many blacks and whites appeared to enjoy one another's company, perhaps because they shared so much. Behind closed doors, far from the eyes of suspicious slaveholders, black and white joined together to drink, gamble, frolic, and fight. Indeed, it was the violence that followed long bouts of ‘drinkinge and carrousinge' that time and again revealed the extent of interracial conviviality..."

Berlin discusses the early mixing of races on the Chesapeake:

"Inevitably, conviviality led to other intimacies...Bastardy lists suggest that the largest source of mixed-race children in the seventeenth century Chesapeake was not the imposition of white planter men on black slave women but the relations of black slaves and white servants. Fragmentary evidence from various parts of Maryland and Virginia affirms that approximately one-quarter to one-third of the illegitimate children born to white women had fathers of African descent..."

He summarizes the close relationship between blacks and whites in the seventeenth century:
"Throughout the seventeenth century, black and white ran away together, joined in petty conspiracies, and upon occasion, stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the weighty champions of established authority.

In 1676, when Nathaniel Bacon's ‘Choice and Standing Army' took to the field against forces commanded by Virginia's royal governor, it drew on both white and black bondman in nearly equal proportions. Among the holdouts were a group of eighty black slaves and twenty white indentured servants, who bitterly condemned as a betrayal the surrender of Bacon's officers."

The plantation regime, which Berlin discusses, began to put new strictures on the life of slaves and freed slaves. Berlin relates the following:

"In the 1660s the Johnson clan abandoned Virginia for Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. John Johnson and John Johnson, Jr., the son and grandson of Anthony Johnson, took refuge among the Nanticoke Indians and so-called Moors, among whom the Johnson name has loomed large into the twentieth century. Near one Nanticoke settlement in Delaware stands the small village of Angola, the name of John Johnson's Virginia plantation and perhaps Anthony Johnson's ancestral home. Similar ‘Indian' tribes could be found scattered throughout the eastern half of the United States, categorized by twentieth -century ethnographers as ‘tri-racial isolates'."

Berlin also discusses black people on the frontier:

"Others moved west to a different kind of autonomy. Scattered throughout the frontier areas of the eighteenth-century were handfuls of black people eager to escape the racially divided society of plantation America. In upcountry South Carolina, backcountry Virginia, and piedmont Georgia, white frontiersman with little sympathy for the nabobs of the tidewater sometimes sheltered such black men and women, employing them with no questions asked. People of African descent found refuge among the frontier banditti, whose interracial character – a ‘numerous Collection of outcast Mulattoes, Mustees, free Negroes, all Horse-Thieves, by one account – was the subject of constant denunciation by aspiring planters."

William Byrd, who was one of a party surveying the dividing line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728, confirms Berlin's account of blacks on the frontier. He states the following in the History of the Dividing Line:

"We had encamped so early that we found time in the evening to walk near a half mile in the woods. There we came upon a family of mulattoes that called themselves free, though by the shyness of the master of the house, who took care to keep least in sight, their freedom seemed a little doubtful. It is certain many slaves shelter themselves in this part of the world, nor will any of their righteous neighbors discover them... Nor were these borderers content to shelter runaway slaves, but debtors and criminals have often met with like indulgence."

The "mulattoes," and others were welcome on a frontier where neighbor had to depend on neighbor. William Byrd and other planter elites had a less than flattering view of people on the frontier.

Reading Berlin and others leads me to conclude that many slaves in early America and the West Indies were Atlantic Creoles from the western coast of Africa. Slaves were imported into America for over 200 years, so it is likely some Atlantic Creoles arrived in America well after the first slaves in 1619. Is it possible that some mountain families claimed they were Portuguese because they had Atlantic Creole ancestry? It is an interesting possibility, and has some support in the historical record.

Atlantic Creoles were the result of racial mixing that began long before America was settled.Racial mixing continued in Colonial America among people of European, African, Atlantic Creole, American Indian and other ancestries. Racial mixing also continued on the early frontier. It is likely therefore that some mountaineers have both African and Atlantic Creole ancestors.

It appears to me that the debate about Melungeons has more to do with creating myths about ones ancestors than it does with exploring the historical record. Some genealogists deny that any Melungeon families had African ancestry. They describe Melungeons as a people with Indian and European ancestry. These researchers ignore the early mixing of eastern Indian tribes with Africans as well as Europeans. Some claim a group of Portuguese sailors, stranded in early America, mixed with native Indians and later with Europeans to form Melungeon families. I find no evidence for this in the historical record. If this theory were true, however, Melungeons would still have some African ancestry. Atlantic Creoles, with both Portuguese and African ancestry, would have had a large presence among any group of Portuguese sailors in early America. There are other theories that claim Melungeons have Turkish, Gypsy, Jewish or some other ancestry. There is no doubt that there was a remarkable mixture of people in early America. There is little evidence at this time, however, to support the more exotic claims for Melungeon ancestry.

A mathematician recently discussed the fact that every person living in America today can be proven to have descended from any historical person, if that person is distant enough in the past. The time frame discussed regarding possible Melungeon ancestry is from about 1600 to 2000, or 400 years. If a generation is 25 years, then we are discussing 16 generations. Any person living today would have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, and so on. Continuing this for 16 generations means each of us would have had 65,536 ancestors living in 1600. This is clearly impossible considering the large population living today and the much smaller population existing in 1600. This means we have many ancestors in common, which is another way of confirming all humans are related, however distantly. Mountaineers should be proud of all their ancestors, regardless of their color or ethnicity. Melungeons And Other Pioneer Families, by Jack H. Goins, is a well researched book on the origin of Gibson, Collins and other families that were described as Melungeon in the early 1800s in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee.

The author, George R. Gibson, welcomes comments about this article. His email address is; his address is 1311 California Avenue, St. Cloud, FL 34769. George is seriously researching the origin of the banjo in the mountains. He would like to hear from any genealogist who has oral history of family members playing banjo prior to the Civil War.

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Monday, August 26, 2013


Webster defines first as before anything else. They were given the name Melungeon by their white neighbors who lived here among them. Lived as to remain or persist as in the mind and continue to be remembered; the old customs live on and so does the history of the Newman Ridge, Blackwater, Melungeons. They began settling here in the 1790s and most were probably the 3rd generation of the original clan. This clan called Melungeons would flourish, and then all but vanish during the next 150 years due in part to inter-marriages with their white neighbors. Among the early settlers of Newman Ridge were several who saw service in the American Revolution: Three originating from Virginia Charles Gibson, William Goins and Zephaniah Goins. They came from the New River, some stopped off for a few seasons at Stony Creek before coming on to Blackwater. This northeast section of North Carolina and the adjoining southern section of Virginia served as a way-station for the future Melungeon Families moving west across the mountains. The largest group who were probably the 2nd generation of the original clan migrated from Louisa and Hanover Counties Virginia to the Flat River area of Granville County, North Carolina, this area became Orange County in 1752. *

 Several families migrated from Fairfax to Lunenburg and some from Hanover to Halifax/Henry Counties in Virginia. Some from both groups migrated to other areas. This was the number one reason we requested a core Melungeon DNA program with FTDNA. You start with the descendants of the known Melungeons to find their common ancestors and kinfolks. *

 A good example of DNA confirming family research is the genealogy of Shepherd “Ole Buck” Gibson 1765-1842 Matilda and Shepherd Gibson’s oldest son was Ozias Denton Gibson born 1835, Ozias great grandson gave a DNA sample which matched the older Gibsons on Newman Ridge and also matched descendants of Gedion Gibson who migrated to the Pee-Dee River area of South Carolina. When Gideon Gibson migrated to South Carolina, it caused a disturbance in Craven County. Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina summoned Gibson and his family to explain their presence in the area, and after meeting them reported: * * *

 “I have had them before me in council and upon examination find that they are not Negroes nor slaves but free people, that the father of them here is named Gedion Gibson and his father was also free. I have been informed by a person who has lived in VIRGINIA that this Gibson has lived there several years in good repute and by his papers that he has produced before me that his transactions there have been very regular. That he has for several years paid taxes for two tracks of land and has seven Negroes of his own. That he is a carpenter by trade and is come hither for the support of his family. I have in consideration of his wife being a white woman and several white women capable of working and being serviceable in the country permitted him to settle in this Country.” *

 Some family researchers have been led down the wrong path by accepting early authors definition and location of the Melungeons, who at times used the term to describe anyone of mixed ancestry, regardless of their location. Thus Melungeon became a catchall word to define people who were mixed, or just dark skin individuals in general. If some of your family members were here at the time of the revolution and they are listed white on tax, land and military records, they were probably not tri-racial. The only other way to be sure is a male Y-DNA test from descendants of the ancestor in question. *

 According to historical documents found as of this writing, William Parsons Brownlow was the first to use the term Melungeon as a political slur. No doubt Brownlow knew where the people lived who was given this name Melungeon and probably knew some of their names, because he was a traveling minister of the gospel before he became a journalist and a politician for the Wig Party, and is a likely candidate for the one who reported that a group of Melungeons voted in the 1845 election in Hawkins County where he was defeated by Andrew Johnson. Brownlow used the term impudent Malungeon in 1840 to describe a political adversary as half Indian and half Negro which became the norm for most of the old journalist during the mid to late 1800s. *

A document dated 1934 by William E. Cole Associate Prof. of Sociology, and Joe Stevenson Looney University of Tennessee. This document states the Melungeon were well know after the War Between the States because most of the politicians in East Tennessee were referred to as Melungeons. It seems that the history of Hancock County concerning the origin of the Melungeons have come up at regular intervals every 30 years”. When the men were conscripted during the World War the Melungeon soldiers of Newman Ridge were sent as Negroes They resented this so much that it was necessary to take legal action in order to make them obey orders and `stay where they were placed. This in the writer’s opinion was a mistake. One of the commissioners, who classified these troupes, told the writer at the time that seemed to be the only thing to do about it. The white companies refused to receive them and the Negroes, whose color nearly matched theirs, did not object to receiving them in their ranks. Thus the Melungeons, may be said to represent practically all the different races in America. William E. Cole and Joe Stevenson Looney University of Tennessee.

 * Lewis Jarvis, who knew many of the first Melungeons, wrote in the first paragraph of his letter to Hancock County Times April 17, 1903;

 ”They were given this name Melungeon by the local white people who have lived here with them; it’s not a traditional name, or tribe of Indians. Some have said these people were here when the county was first explored by the white people and others that they are a lost Tribe of Indians and have no date of their existence here, traditionally or otherwise. All of this however is erroneous and cannot be sustained”. In the third paragraph Jarvis wrote: “They originally were the Friendly Indians who came with the whites as they moved west. These Indians came to Newman Ridge and Blackwater. Some of them went into the war of 1812-14 whose names are here given: James Collins, John Bolin and Mike Bolin, and some others not remembered; those were quite full blooded”.

 Jarvis wrote in the first paragraph they were not a tribe of Indians and went on to explain they were not a lost tribe of Indians. A documented ggg grandson of Mike Bolen Y DNA test was Sub-Saharan African, so if Mike was part Indian it was most likely from his maternal line. Who was Jarvis Friendly Indians? Was they the Portuguese Adventures, or has DNA answered this question. *

 Lewis M. Jarvis was a union captain during the Civil War, in a battle near the Yellow Store Stokely Lawson’s horse became lame and Jarvis gave him a leave to go home to get another horse. Stokely lived near Kyles Ford. Shortly after this he and my gg grandfather William Goins were captured and later executed by a rebel army led by a Captain Surgenor. Stokely Lawson was a brother to Enoch Lawson my mother’s great grandfather; they were sons of Obadiah and Mary England Lawson.*

 *The most likely place for a nickname, such as Melungeon was at a church gathering. Several churches were established along the Clinch River late 1790s. Stony Creek, Blackwater, Big Door, Mulberry. The Melungeons have been Baptist dating back to at least 1750 and the Flat River Baptist Church. The location of this church was about 200 ft from the Flat River and in the heart of their homeland on the Flat River. The Mulberry Gap Association of United Baptist was formed in 1836 and held its first convention at Blackwater meeting house the first Friday in September of that year. The association listed 811 members and the following churches: Mulberry Gap, Gap Creek, Hickory Flat, Blackwater, Richardson Creek, Newfound, Cedar Fork, War Creek and Greasy Rock were the ones near, or in the Melungeon homeland. (Goodspead, page 871)- “They have never adhered to Indian custom or religion” (Hale and Merritt, page 180) *

 William “Parsons” Brownlow became friends with Thomas A.R. Nelson in Elizabethton and both later moved to Jonesboro, as members of the Wig party they became lifelong friends. Brownlow and Nelson played leading rolls in all Jonesboro Wig meetings. Andrew Johnson (Democrat) met Nelson on October 29, 1840 in full debate which left friends of each man satisfied that their man had triumphed. This same 1840 campaign made Johnson a state-wide reputation, and in 1841 he was sent to the state senate from the district comprising his own county of Greene and Nelson and Brownlow’s Washington County. In 1843 Johnson was promoted to the house of Representatives by his Democratic majority in the first congressional district. In 1844 Nelson was keynote speaker when the Wigs of Washington County organized on Jan 3, Brownlow was sent to Knoxville as a Wig delegate and from there to the National Convention in Baltimore. The following year (1845) Brownlow decided to contest the congressional seat with Johnson. After his re-election in 1845, Johnson served ten years in the house and senate. Brownlow’s hatred for Johnson continued, once while in Nashville he spoke to a crowd almost under Johnson window “I therefore pronounce your Governor, here upon his own dunghill, an unmitigated Liar and Calumniator, and a Villainous coward.

 *This same 1845 election was contested in Hawkins County where several Melungeons were charged for illegal voting. The vote total was:

 * “State of Tennessee, Hawkins County. I do certify that a popular election was held according to law at the respective election places in all the districts in Hawkins County on the seventh day of August 1845 for a member to Congress. Andrew Johnson received fourteen hundred and thirteen (1413) votes and William G. Brownlow received nine hundred & seventy six (976) votes. This the 8th day of August 1845, Jacob Miller Sheriff of Hawkins County. *

Thomas A.R.Nelson was the State Attorney General who prosecuted the Melungeons as free persons of color in the illegal voting trials which began in Rogersville in late 1845 and ended by two jury trials on 29 January 1848. This trial was famous in its day. It was mentioned by Swan Burnett in his 1890 article, stating One, I believe, was found to be sufficiently flat-footed to deprive him of aright of suffrage. The others, four or five in number, were considered as having sufficient white blood to allow them a vote. Col. John Netherland, a lawyer of considerable local prominence defended them. He wrote: They resented the appellation Melungeon, given to them by common consent by the whites, and proudly called themselves Portuguese. Vardy Collins illegal voting trial ended in Rogersville, Hawkins County Circuit Court on Tuesday, 25 May 1847, when Timothy Williams his bondsman appeared and a settlement was reached. *Newspaper Article The Melungeons 1897*

 The Malungeons who inhabit the mountainous districts of Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas, have long been an interesting study of ethnologists. Theory after theory has been advanced as to their origin, and some of the most scholarly men of the country have given thought and investigation to the subject. J. H. Newman, who has lived among the Malungeons in Hancock county, Tennessee, for sixty-seven years and who has given long and intelligent study to the question of the origin of these strange people gave your correspondent the following interview of the result of his research: *

 * "The origin of these people goes back to the aborigines of North America who came here from Virginia, and they are the descendants of friendly Indians and half breeds left in Virginia when the Indians all went West from there under treaties made with the white people, and as is their habit, they would all go together, and settle together and as the whites advanced their frontiers west these people [Malungeons] were with the front and came here to Newman's Ridge and Blackwater about the year 1800, or possibly a few years later. Some of them were in the war of 1812 and the nearest that can be reckoned from a traditional point would be about the close of the war of 1812. They began to settle Newman's ridge and Blackwater [Hancock County, then Hawkins County, Tennessee]. At this time these people had lost their Indian vernacular and spoke English, and they speak it yet. *

 "What is the traditional idea of these people themselves, from their parents and grandparents and older ones? It is that they are of Cherokee blood; that their ancestors were Indians, and many of them have gone to the Cherokee nation and have sued in the Cherokee Council for land and annuities, and they have obtained them. They made their proof here among our people and old citizens, that, according to the best traditional evidence, they are of Cherokee blood, and those here now boast of their Cherokee blood. They were indicted for illegal voting when this country was Hawkins county, and had their trial in Rogersville, and this was over forty years ago, probably fifty years ago, and in the trial Hon. Thomas A R Nelson, the Attorney General, who prosecuted them for illegal voting put the one on trial whose skin indicated he could easily convict, as being of African descent. He was old Wyatt Collins. The charge against them all was that they were of African descent and had not passed the third generation and were not entitled to vote. Col. John Netherland defended the Malungeons, and when old Wyatt Collins was put to the jury, Netherland admitted that his client voted as charged, but the only evidence that the Attorney General had was the color and features of old Wyatt, who stood erect six feet high, high cheek bones, hair straight as a horse's tail. Attorney General Nelson told the jury to look at him and judge whether or not he was a Negro of African descent and had not passed the third generation. Now Mr Netherland, for the defense stated: I make protest of this old man as to whether he is a Negro or not, and I want to show his hair, hands, and feet. 'Now, Wyatt,' said Netherland, ' I will show your features against Mr. Nelson's who is prosecuting you, and I want you to show your naked foot beside Mr. Nelson's.*

 *So Wyatt sat down and pulled his moccasin off and showed his naked feet [but Mr. Nelson would not show with him], and his feet and general features were as delicate and nice as a lady's and presented to the jury the very opposite of the African features. Then it was that the Portuguese race was brought in -- the jury found a verdict of not guilty, and all the other cases took the same course. Mr. Nelson asked Mr. Netherland what race of people he called his clients. Mr. Netherland answered Portuguese; then it was, and not until then, the name of Portuguese was given these people. The North Carolina branch of these people are African and whites, and they came here long after the settlements were made and within the knowledge of the oldest of the present generation. These people, their blood and nationality are known, and the mystery of the Virginia emigrants above described is the subject now under discussion. *

 * "The origin of the North Carolina branch of the race is well known here among the oldest of the present generation, and to those who have fully investigated the Virginia branch of this peculiar people their origin is just as well known. They have all the features of the Indians, their habits, are those of the Indian, and they are of Indian blood. They are found in the mountain fastnesses, in the gorges and on the tops of the high ridges, in their rude huts and places of abode, and many of them are found now in valleys and level lands, in good and comfortable domiciles, and with an abundance of everything the earth brings forth. They all love music and dancing and have their regular frolics like the tribes had of the green corn dance, the buffalo dance and the war dance. However, many of them are refined and belong to the Christian churches, and they have among them ministers of the gospel who preach well and seem to feel the fervor of religious work as much as those of any people. They have their churches and school- houses, and are keeping step with the progress of the age. There are many incidents that could be related of their early settlement here, much as wife swapping and other habits, now abandoned. These people as a whole are true and reliable and among the kindest and most hospitable people that can be found. (The Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky, 26 September 1897 page 15) *

 *The information in this article on the illegal voting trials agree in part with Eliza Haskell and Swan Burnett. I am always suspicious of the old Newspaper Reporters; they sometimes stretch the truth to its ultimate limits. One of the reasons I was suspicious of this article was because I didn’t remember any Newman’s in the old records, so after I read this article I decided to see what area of Hawkins County J. H. Newman lived. And was not surprised when I could not locate him in any records of Hawkins and Hancock County during this 1830-1900 time period. He did not live in Hancock County as the records below will show. Who was this mysterious person interviewed by the reporter for the Courier Journal? I searched the U. S. census and discovered there was a William Newman age 40-50 living a few miles west of Rogersville on 1830 census, but the youngest male in this household was 15/20 when I looked on the 1840 census, he was gone and no Newman’s were listed on the Hawkins County Census we have at the archive, which included Hancock at this time. Hancock County was formed from Hawkins in 1844 and we have the 1850-60-70-80-1900 U. S. Census of Hancock County and I was not surprised to lean there were no Newman’s living in Hancock County during those time periods, so where did J.H. Newman who this author used as his source for the Melungeon Trials live? He claimed he lived in Hancock County among the Melungeon for 60 years. *

* Who was this mysterious witness? With the help of a friend using The following is the only J.H. Newman found: * * Name: John Newman- Age: 30- Est. Birth Year: abt 1826- Residence: Todd, Ky-Spouse Name: M E Monday, Spouse Age: 20, Est. Spouse Birth Year: abt 1836- Spouse Residence: Todd-Marriage Date: Jul 1856-Marriage Location:Todd, Ky. County of Record: Todd. Home in 1860: Todd, Kentucky, Post Office: Elkton, Name: J H Newman, Age in 1860: 30-Birth Year: abt 1830, Birthplace: Tennessee, Gender: Male, Household Members: Name Age, J H Newman 30, M E Newman 24, S F Newman 2, A O Newman 1.

* Home in 1870: Hebbardsville, Henderson, Kentucky-Name: J H Newman, Age in 1870: 40-Birth Year: abt 1830, Birthplace: Tennessee, Race: White, Gender: Male, Post Office: Hebbardsville, Household Members: Name Age; J H Newman 40, Martha E Newman 37, Susan F Newman 12, Thomas L Newman 10, Wm S Newman 7, Monroe W Newman 5, Martha E Newman 7/12

 * Home in 1880: Hebbardsville, Henderson, Kentucky; Name: John H. Newman Age: 50, Birth Year: abt 1830, Birthplace: Tennessee, Race: White, Gender: Male, Relation to Head of House: Self (Head), Marital Status: Married, Spouse's Name: Martha E. Newman, Father's Birthplace: Virginia, Mother's Birthplace: Virginia, Occupation: Farmer, Household Members: Name Age, John H. Newman 50, Martha E. Newman 46, Thomas L. Newman 19, William S. Newman 15, Monroe W. Newman 13, Martha E. Newman 10, Bejaman R. Newman 8, Mary E. Newman 6 8

 * Home in 1900: Hebbardsville, Henderson, Kentucky, Name: J H Newman Age: 70, Birth Date: Feb 1830, Birthplace: Tennessee, Race: White Gender: Male, Relation to Head of House: Head, Marital Status: Married Spouse's Name: M E Newman, Marriage Year: 1855, Years Married: 45 Father's Birthplace: Virginia, Mother's Birthplace: Virginia, Household Members: Name Age, J H Newman 70, M E Newman 66, M W Newman 33, B B Newman 28, Suda Hazelwood 43, Eva A Hazelwood 20, Willie Hazelwood 17, Lillian Hazelwood 14, Louise Hazelwood 11

 * Hebbardsville is in the western part of Ky, near the Indiana border.

 * The illegal voting trials may be the reason for the un-named Journalist visit to Vardy mineral springs and. probably in the summer of 1847 because the article, “Littell’s Living Age” was reprinted from the Knoxville Register September 6, 1848 quoting from the Louisville Examiner. (We are sorry to have lost the name of the southern paper from which this is taken. They claimed to be “Portuguese Adventurers, men and women--who came from the long-shore parts of Virginia, that they might be freed from the restraints and drawbacks imposed on them by any form of government. These people made themselves friendly with the Indians, intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants (after the advances of the whites into this part of the state) with the negros and the whites.” John Netherland used the Portuguese defense to explain their dark skin. My 5th generation grandfather Zachariah Minor was one of those tried for illegal voting. This race was confirmed when some of his children and grandchildren both Goins and Minor were enumerated Portuguese on the 1880 Federal Census of Hancock County, Tennessee. Zachariah Minor mother was Elizabeth Goins. 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........... ”Just two days after this letter was reprinted in a Maryland newspaper, an Alabama paper printed an item about Botts and his supporters “thirteen congressional electors, fifty senatorial elections, and three hundred and sixty county electors have been notified to hold themselves in rediness to repel the Dragon of Rockbridge. Botts too, will dash to the rescue at the head of a noble band of Molungeons and Eboshines as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently warm to render his odoriferous forces efficient. John M. Boggs was a former Whig congressman from Virginia it is obvious he was placing names such as Molungeons, Eboshines, to describe people of mixed race or mulatto.

Using his definition of a Melungeon every dark skin person was a Melungeon regardless of the location. These old newspaper letters show how the term Melungeon was spread swiftly from the 1848-9 Little Living Age article and by a few journalists who used the term as a political slur.

 The Newman Ridge Melungeons were the source of other colonies in Davidson, Morgan, Rhea, Hamilton in Tennessee and Lecture and Knott Counties, Kentucky, but the people who migrated there did not retained the name some of their neighbors may have called them Melungeon after learning where they came from. A good example is the Goins family in Hamilton County, Tennessee “We generally called them Melungeons when we talk about the Goins and them-the Goins that were mixed blooded.”(Testimony in the Shepherd Trial) The problem with all these mysterious Melungeon settlements is a lack of named Melungeons and pinpoint location. They do not have a history of other witnesses, or names of Melungeons such as described by Lewis Jarvis. Usually one person wrote an article about some phantom group of unnamed Melungeons, but that group has no historical existence beyond these named events.

An example of historical existence is the visit to Vardy Valley in 1848 and was revisited about 50 years later on Friday July 2, 1897. C.H. Humble returned to the same place as the writer in Littell’s Living age. “On Friday forenoon, July 2, (1897) the writer and Rev. Joseph Hamilton, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, started in a hack from Cumberland Gap, Tennessee for Beatty Collins, chief of the Melungeons, in Blackwater.” Beatty’s son was a school teacher, When Humble ask the school teacher about the Melungeons he strongly resented its application to his people and replied, “We are a pure blood”meaning at least they didn’t have Negro blood in their veins In this time frame 1890’s Melungeon meant negro to Beathy Collins son.

*Beginning about 1920 several from my Minor and Goins family begin to leave Hancock County and this caused the racist Walter Plecker to search for them in Virginia: August 20, 1942 Mrs. John Trotwood Moore State Librarian and Archivist State Department of Education Nashville, Tennessee Dear Mrs. Moore: We thank you very much for your informative letter of August 12 in reply to our inquiry, addressed to the Secretary of State, as to the original counties from which Hancock County, Tennessee, was formed. We are particularly interested in tracing back, as far as possible, to their ultimate origin the Melungeons of the Newman’s Ridge section, especially as enumerated in the free Negro list by counties of the states in the U. S. 1830 census. This group appears to be in many respects of the same type as a number of groups in Virginia, some of which are known as "free issues," or descendants of slaves freed by their masters before the War Between the States. In one case in particular which we have traced back to its origin, and which we believe to be typical of the others, a slave woman was freed with her two mulatto sons and colonized in Amherst County in connection with a group of similar freed Negroes. These sons were presumably the children of the woman's owner, and this seemed to be the most satisfactory way of disposing of them. One of those sons became the head of one of the larger families of that group. All of these groups have the same desire, which Captain L. M. Jarvis says the melungeons have, to become friends of Indians and to be classed as Indians. He referred to the effort which the melungeon group made to be accepted by the Cherokees, apparently without great success. It is interesting also to know the opinion expressed by Captain Jarvis that these freed Negroes migrated into that section with the white people. That is perfectly natural as they have always endeavored to tie themselves up as closely as possible either with the whites or Indians and are striving to break away from the true Negro type. We have a book, compiled by Carter G. Woodson, a negro, entitled "Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830," listing all of the free negroes of the 1830 census by counties. Of the names that Captain Jarvis gave, we find included in that list in Hawkins County, Solomon Collins, Vardy Collins, and Sherod (probably Shepard) Gibson. We find also Zachariah Minor, probably the head of the family in which we are especially interested at this time. We find also the names of James Moore (two families by this name) and Jordan and Edmund Goodman. In the list for Grainger County we find at least twelve Collins and Collens heads of families. This shows that they were evidently considered locally as free Negroes by the enumerators of the 1830 census.

 2(To Mrs. John Trotwood Moore, State Librarian and Archivist, State Department of Education Nashville, Tennessee, from Walter Plecker, Virginia State Registrar.)

* Fact. The actual, factual, history of the Melungeons is going to be written by descendants using DNA and documented family genealogy, which is the only way to find their true family history and relatives who may have been Lumbee, Redbone, Guineas, Brass ankles, Ramps and other isolated African/Indian groups, or clans . Based on these witnesses Melungeon was not a tribe but a derogatory name given to a particular group of people at a certain place and time in history. The term Melungeon was spread from said beginning point to other areas and localities by travelers and migration and it has become a catchall word for all dark skin people. Copyright © 2013 by Jack Goins.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kinfolks left behind

In a 1950 Georgraphic Analysis of White-Negro-Indian Racial Mixtures in the United States by Edward T. Price  From the Available records and census schedules, it is estimated there was between 50,000 and 100,000 persons. Individually recognized groups may run from fewer than 100 to as many as 18,000 persons in the case of the Croatans of North Carolina. Yet each is essentially a local phenomenon, a unique demographic body, defined only his own terms and only by its own neighbors. Price goes on to name and locate all the Clans, 23 in number. (Price)

Most of these Clans named by Price shared some surnames such as Goins, Gowen etc.,As for Croatan "Locklear and Oxedine@, are the two most common names, covering nearly a`third of the Croatans" footnote 12 page 141 Price -"list of students at Pemboke State College, taken from Catalog 11, No 4, June, 1949 give the following percentage frequencies for the most common names;Locklear 17, Oxedine 13, Lowie 9, Sampson 6, Chavis 5, Dial 4, Hunt 4."

I match the Goin Croatans on a YDNA test. "Speaking of the upper Piedmont it is understood that the settlement of these Counties was mostly from Virginia; This is in keeping with the above observation on southward spread of the Gowen family. The oldest Goinses recorded in the North Carolina portion of this district in the 1850 census were born in Virginia.(Edward T. Price-Racial mixtures in Eastern United States page 151.)

                                   Edward T. Price correctly separated these Clans.

Pedee River clans in SC, were called the Mestizos, Brass Ankles, etc,
Lawrence Johnsons 1889 letter to the editor, in the Atlanta Constitution March 11, 1889.Meridian, Miss., March 11BB Editors Constitution Johnson does not name anyone and he bought into the idea they were Moslems, he wrote "their physical structure, their hair, their teeth, and general features, though every trace of their Moslem religion and north African dialect may have long been lost." Johnson does not say they were Melungeons, in fact he says they were Moors, Arabs and Negroes who claimed to be Portuguese.

The use of the term Moors by Johnson sends  a red flag that he was well aware of the Newman Ridge Melungeon traditions, the John Sevier encounter, which was spread by word of mouth. And printed in another newspapers before it was printed in the Nashville Daily American, September 15 1890,by Dan W. Baird, "A Backward Glance, which is the identical account as written by Will Allen Dromgoole, neither writer gives a reference, so the question is where did they get the story of Sevier encounter with the Melungeons in the mountains of Tennessee?

The PeeDee River settlement, from the Santee River: Several free colored men with their white wives had immigrated from Virginia with the intention of settling on the Santee River Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina summoned Gideon Gibson and his family to explain their presence there and after meeting them reported:"On Examination find that they are not Negroes nor slaves, but free people, that the father of them here is named Gideon Gibson and his farther was also free. I have in consideration his wife's being white women and several white women capable of working and being servitude in the county permitted him to settle in this county. (Parish Trans.,SC, Box 1,Folder 4, pp 24-5 by Jordan- Paul Heinegg p 272 )

Both Gideon Gibson and Gideon Bunch were in South Carolina when they sold their adjoining Halifax County land to Montefort Eelbeck of Halifax County.
In South Carolina he recorded a plat of 200 acres on the Northwest side of Peedee River in Craven County 13 April 1736. He recorded a plat for 200 acres on the southwest side of Pee Dee River adjoining Jordan Gibson (His brother?)

On 25 July 1767 as a leader of the Regulators, Gideon was involved in a skirmish with a constables party near Marr's Bluff on the Pedee River . The incident brought matters between the Governor and the Regulators to a head. The South Carolina Gazette, which like the government was far removed from the location, reported in the 15 August 1768 Edition that there was two parties of Regulators. One made up of People with good principles and property, and the other made up of ;
gang of banditti, a numerous collection of outcast Mulattoes, Mustees, free Negroes, etc. all horse thieves from the borders of Virginia and other Northern Collies..headed by one Gideon Gibson.. ( Free African Americans of Colonial Virginia and NC. pp272-273 Paul Heinegg)

These Gibson's originated in Louisa County, Virginia. Descendants of Gideon Y-DNA was R1b1b2 and matched the Newman Ridge Melungeon Shep “Buck” Gibsons on 29 of 30 markers, which proves they share a common ancestor.

Gideon Bunch was the son of John, son of Paul who was son of John Bunch b 1630, A descendants from him in our DNA project was E1b1a

The Kinfolks left behind
Where ever these families lived on their way to Newman Ridge, Blackwater area, they always left a few behind and they escaped the label Melungeon according to the old witnesses. Vardy Collins and most of the Collins, Gibson and Bunch left Ashe County on the New River shortly after 1800.

1810 tax list of Ashe County enumerates:
1-Ambrose Collins, was 48 + 1 male 5, and 6 females the oldest female 48+, was probably his wife

2- Thomas Collins 48, 4 males under 5, and one female 48.probably his wife. Both families were listed white.

1820 Ashe County, NC Census, list these family as black
Elisha Collins (Free Black)
Thomas Collins (Free Black family
Tom Tomson   (Free Black family)
Andrew Williams (Free Black family)
Mathias Williams (Free Black family)

1830-census of Ashe County, NC enumerates 70 free persons of color, included are: 5 Collins families, 2 Goin families, 1 Bass family, one Freeman family, one Thomalson family; one Anderson family, one Robinson family, one Teague family and one Drew family.
District 13
# 12 was Thomas Collins fpc 36 to 50-his household shows 5 free colored males and 2 free colored females total 7 fpc
13-Larkin Collins 3 fpc males, one 36 to 50 and 4 fpc females
14-Robert Collins-fpc, 1, 5 to 10, 1 to 10 to 24, 1 36 to 50 and 4 females total 7 fpc
15- Edward Thomalson fpc -males 3 5 to 10; 1 36 to 50- Females 2, 5 to 10, 136 to 55.
District 5
#4-Hutchil Freeman fpc, 1 male 24 to 36 ; 1 females 10 to 24; 1, 24 to 36 -
#8-William Anderson fpc males 2, 5 to 10; 1, 10 to 24; 1, 24 to 36; 1, 36 to 55- Females 2,5 to 10, 1, 10 to 24; 1, 24 to 36.
Dist 31
# 18- William Goins Jr. fpc.Males 1, 10 to 24; 2, 24 to 36; 1 36 to 50; Females 2, 10 to 24; 1, 36 to 50

#18-William Goin Sr. fpc- 1 male 24 to 36 1 50 to 100; Females 1 10 to 24; 1, 24 to 36; 55 to 100
#27- Elisha Collins fpc- males 2 10 to 24, 36 to 50. Females, 1 36 to 55

#27- Elisha Collins 2 males 10 to 24, 1 36 to 50- Females 1 36 to 55

35-Elias Robinson 50 to 60, white, with a free colored household- fpc Males 1, 5 to 10- fpc  Females 5, 5 to 10, 2 10 to 24, 1, 36 to 55.

#7, Joab Teague, 1 free colored male 24 to 36-fpc Females 1, 10 to 24

#8-Anderson Drew 1fpc  male 10 to 24- 1 fpc females 10 to 24 .

1830 Total number of free person of color in Ashe County, North Carolina was 70.
5 Collins families, 2 Goin families; 1 Bass family; 1 Freeman family; 1 Tomalson family, 1 Anderson family, 1 Robinson family, 1 Teague family and 1 Drew family.

     We owe a debt of gratitude to the old tax and census enumerators for sometimes  labeling our people mulatto, or free colored, even though they were most likely racist who did not have the best interest of our people at heart. This label helps some family researcher to identify them as their ancestors.   According to Attorney Lewis Jarvis they were derisively dubbed Melungeon by the whites who lived here with  them. If this was not true then the name Melungeon should be in records where they lived prior to moving to Blackwater around 1800. Especially the area of Wilkes County,NC., that became Ashe in 1799, several from the Collins and Williams family stayed in this area. Another area is Grayson County, Virginia formed from from Wythe in 1793. George Collins testified in a land dispute in 1808 in Grayson County that he settled on the land known as Peach Bottom Creek, in 1767.  Wythe County formed 1790 from Montgomery formed in 1777 from the lands of Fincastle, which came out of Bontetourt County, Virginia. This land George Collins settled on was in Bontetourt County in 1767 and he is still on it in 1808. Most of these old records survived, so if they were called Melungeons before they migrating to Hawkins County it should be in the above named counties in North Carolina and  Virginia.   Jack Goins

Monday, August 12, 2013

Newman Ridge Gang

Sunday June 23, 2002
Left to right:
Betty Griffith, Konnie Hoover, Tari Adams, Phillip Roberts, Penny Ferguson, Jack Goins, Kathleen McGowan.

"Early on Sunday morning, seven Melungeons piled into a minivan and trundled up Newman's Ridge into the heart of Tennessee's Melungeon country. The sycamores were draped with mistletoe, and many of the houses along the way had small plots of tobacco growing. Sitting at the wheel, Jack Goins joked that the switchbacks were so sharp that "you meet yourself coming back," while others made wisecracks about whose outlaw ancestors killed whose.
This was why they had come to the reunion—to see the valleys and hilltops their forebears had farmed, to share lore and take pictures of each other in front of gravestones and crumbling cabins. Others may have looked to DNA for identity, but to this group of Melungeons, a summer morning in the sweet air of Hancock County was more meaningful than any pattern of genetic blips.
In the valley below Newman's Ridge, the Melungeons clambered out and headed for the little whitewashed Primitive Baptist Church. Seven Gibson, who can trace his roots through several major Melungeon families, was preaching. In front of the church, a fountain collected the springwater that ran off the razorback hills above. It was little more than a low stone trough with a roof and a spigot, but the sign above it read: "This water will satisfy the thirst of your body. Only Jesus can satisfy the thirst of your soul."
Goins passed out some Styrofoam cups, and each of the Melungeons drank in turn."( Kathleen McGowan, reporter, was along on this trip from Rogersville, Tennessee. Kathleen McGowan wrote the above in her article on the Melungeons concerning their DNA in the May  2003 issue of Discover Magazine beginning page 58.)

We took HWY 70 to Kyles Ford, then east up the Clinch River and turned on Fishers Valley road, crossed the North Fork of Clinch River and visited near the home of Paul and Kate Hurd, which was originally the home of my 5th generation grandparents Zachariah and Aggy Sizemore Minor.  We passed Walnut Grove Church and drove on to the farm where I was born, then we drove toward Sneedville and crossed  Newman Ridge near Seven Gibson's home, where we took this picture. We then drove down Newman Ridge into Vardy Valley.   Jack Goins


In the summer of 1992 I was searching for old church records in the Palmer Room of the library in Kingsport, Tn., because my 5th great, grandfather Zephaniah Goins Joined Blackwater Church via letter from another church recorded in the minutes of Blackwater Church.

I found a book containing the minutes of the old Stony Creek Church located in Fort Blackmore Virginia 1801-1814. I didn’t find grandpa’s name, but I did find the word *Melungin* which to date is the oldest written record of this word. I first wrote about this in Families of Hawkins County, Tennessee and in the Gowen Research Foundation Newsletter 1994.

This book was perhaps the first book of Stony Creek Baptist Church and was in the possession of Scott Boatright whose grandfather was once a minister of this church. The handwriting is very good and the ink has lasted well. Copied August , 1966 by Emory Hamilton, Wise Virginia, with a copy filed in the archive of Southwest Virginia Historical Society at Clinch Valley College. Notice this date 1966 which was before the outdoor drama Walk toward the sunset, before the internet, at this time frame Melungeon was a forgotten word. At this time the word used in Wise County to describe tri-racial people was Ramp.

Book 1 ends with July 1811, Book 2 starts with what seems to be the Nov.meeting 1812, was copied at the same time by Emory Hamilton, copied from Hamilton copy in 1970 by Bobbie Baldwin.

Book 2 transcribed by Bobbie Baldwin became an issue with one person on her Melungeon blog and website, simply because it no longer fit her new agenda, while in the past she praised the find. Only The part involving the word Melungin simply because she did not want the oldest written record to be involved with the Newman Ridge, Blackwater, settlement who were recorded in these minutes as some of the first members beginning 1801.  The word Melungin was recorded in 1813 book 2 by Emory Hamilton who placed a copy in the library at Clinch Valley College in Wise Virginia, which is now the University of Virginia at Wise.

Emory L. Hamilton (1913-1991) was a historian and educator in Wise,County Virginia. The collection contains books, photographs, articles written by Mr.Hamilton, and personal letters pertaining to the history and genealogy of Southwest Virginia the word melungin was transcribed from original by Hamilton in 1966.

I learned from this trip that a lady named Garnell Marshall of St. Paul,Virginia had all 4 of these books for sale I purchased 3 of them, but before I bought these I ask her if they were from the original books and she said yes. This removed the possibility of an error in transcribing the book by Baldwin. This first known written reference to the word "Melungin" is recorded on 26 September 1813, page 37 in minute Book two of Stony Creek Church by Baldwin and Page 40 in Garnell Marshall Stony Creek Church minutes. The record reads: Brother Kilgore, Moderator

          “Then came forward Sister Kitchen and complained to the church against
           Susanna Stallard for saying she harbored them Melungins."

Thomas Gibson family was  originally from Louisa County, Virginia, and Orange County, North Carolina, moved to Wilkes County from the Flat River circa 1770. Most of the Collins left Orange County in 1767. This family moved to Fort Blackmore, Virginia before 1800. And joined Stony Creek Church as recorded in the minutes:

Feb. 26, 1802 Church came to order, Thomas Gibson excommunicated, Sister Vina Gibson obtained a letter of dis-mission by letter of recommendation from  Blackwater Church, sister Mary Gibson obtained a letter of dismission.

July 1802 Ruebin Gibson, Fanny Gibson, Henry Gibson, Thomas Gibson Jr, Vina Gibson, Judith Moore, Fanny Gibson, received by experience.

Charles Gibson and his wife Mary were received by experience at Stony Creek Church 26 June 1802.194

In 1802 Some of these Melungeon  families had left for Blackwater, as per the following request: Sept. 25, 1804 Ruebin Gibson excluded from membership of this church he lives down at Blackwater, and has our letter of dismission and keeps it, and has joined another church. In those days people traveled several miles for  church meetings which were held once a month. Some folks stayed all night on their long journey, which seems to be the disturbance caused between two ladies of this church when one accused the other of harboring the Melungins.

This first known written reference to the word "Melungeon" is recorded on 26 September 1813, page 37 in minute Book two of Stony Creek Church: Church set in love. Brother Oaks, Moderator.

“Then came forward Sister Kitchen and complained to the church against Susanna Stallard for saying she harbored them Melungins."

Sister Kitchens used the given name Susanna in her complaint filed with the church, rather than the nickname Sook, for Susanna Stallard as used by the church clerk in her testimony:
“Sister Sook said she was hurt with her for believing her child, and not believing her,and she won’t talk to her to get satisfaction, and both is " pigedish," one against the other. Sister Sook lays it down and the church forgives her." Interpreting the above church record, I believe the church forgave Susanna Stallard (Sister Sook) for saying Sister Kitchens was harboring Melungins and possibly agreed it was her child who spread the rumor. They could not solve this because they were "pigedish" (Pig Headed, an old expression for stubborn.) The way this word "Melungin" was used in these minutes, suggest it was a common known word at Stony Creek Church in 1813 because no other explanations were given.

Studying the Stony Creek Church Minutes,tax records, and oral history from this area the word "Melungin" used in this church record appears to apply to one group who had moved away. Although several Melungeons, were excommunicated from Stony Creek Baptist Church, this act does not prove they were discriminated against by white members, because whites were also excommunicated for the same reasons.

The first member excommunicated was William Nolen on October 23, 1802. In these first minutes of Stony Creek Church, the Thomas Gibson family, who joined in 1802, were excommunicated a few months later. In almost every case the reason given was drunk, rowdy and fighting. Why were they fighting? Was it because of their dark complection and were not socially accepted by neighbors in the Fort Blackmore area? This was a church that accepted blacks as members, and voted to give them equal rights in the church, and they accepted the Melungeons as long as their behavior was according to church bylaws which was very strict.
Stony Creek Church records point to the Thomas Gibson family as the ones who were returning from Blackwater for meetings at Stony Creek Church. This family is later classified as Melungeon on Newman Ridge. Former members from this family may have been the ones referred to in the 1813 church minutes as "Melungins." Valentine Collins, who joined in 1801 and  moved his letter to Blackwater Church. He may have also returned to visit friends at Stony Creek.

In 1755 The Thomas Gibson family, Thomas Collins family, Moses Riddle family and William Bollen family had adjoining farms on the Flat River in North Carolina. According to family tradition, some of the Collins and Gibsons in Virginia claimed Portugese and Indian blood. In the 1740s these two families lived near the Pamunkey River, then moved to the Flat River in Orange County, North Carolina, before migrating to the New River. According to church minutes, most of the Thomas Gibson Sr. family had moved to the Blackwater Tennessee area before 1813. Valentine Collins probably migrated with the Thomas Gibson family from Ashe County, North Carolina. According to a Dec. 1801 church record, Valentine Collins joined Stony Creek Church. He and his wife received a letter of dismission 23 April 1803, and on the same day Charles Gibson and his wife received a letter of  “dismission”(dismissal), but Charles later returned to Stony Creek Church and he was excommunicated on 25 January 1806. Most of these members of Stony Creek Church migrated from the New River.

“Aug.1807 Valentine Collins' case laid over. Sept: Valentine Collins neglected to hear the church, non-fellowship with him and will inform the church on Black Water. Isaac Denton, Wm Goodson, Harden Williams to write a letter to that church”.

Valentine Collins was a member of Stony Creek and Blackwater Baptist Church. He may have gone to Cumberland County, Kentucky with Micajer Bunch, or Joseph and Isaac Riddle, sons of Tory Captain William Riddle. Valentine Collins was on the move. He didn't stay long as a member of Clear Fork Baptist Church, but came back to Hawkins County where he is listed on the 1810 tax list.

 “State of Tennessee, Hawkins County vs Valentine Collins, Benjamin Collins, Jordan Gibson and Charles Gibson on a plea of debt by merchant John M. Preston May 1,1811”-Then on the 14th day of June 1811 they were summoned to Rogersville to pay John M. Preston eight pounds and thirteen shillings on beef cattle by the first day of August next. Valentine Collins owed 2 pounds 15 shillings, Benjamin Collins 1 pound 18 shillings, Jordan Gibson 1 pound 16 shillings and Charles Gibson 2 pound, 4 shillings totaling 8 pounds, 13 shillings.

Valentine Collins is on a delinquent tax list in Claiborne County 1812. “ Thomas Gibson, Sherod Gibson and Valentine Collins.”  It appears they moved there from Hawkins and then moved from Claiborne owing taxes. According to a descendants Y-DNA test, Valentine Collins was E1b1a. He was obviously white enough to be listed white in most records. He was a member of Stony Creek, Blackwater and Clear Fork Baptist Churches. Valentine Collins obviously left descendants in Hancock County, proven by the FTDNA Family Finder test.

“ James Williams allowed to keep the horse which was pro-vided by this church and Beaver Creek Church for the use of paying Bro Bunch to Bro John Lee, and making Bro Bunch’’s coffin. Letter of dismission to Anne Lee and Wm Bond and his wife.”

The Melungeons actually told us where they come from. Charles Gibson was probably the oldest Melungeon on Newman Ridge when he filed his pension at Rogersville on 19 Jan.1839. Application # R3995 he gave his age as 92 (b. 1747), but according to a tax record in Orange County, NC. He was more than 100 yrs old. He gave his place of birth as Louisa County, Virginia. He enlisted near Salisbury, North Carolina. Benjamin Collins, Jonathan Gibson, and Jordan Gibson swear that Charles Gibson is reputed to be a Revolutionary War soldier in their neighborhood. Charles Gibson and wife Mary, believed to be the daughter of Moses and Mary Riddle, lived on Newman Ridge. Now we know for a fact this Gibson family came from the Pamunkey River. How about the Collins, Bunch and the rest of these ole pioneers who were labeled Melungeons? Who was in this group, and who was the head and source of the Newman Ridge Melungeons?

Hanover County was formed from New Kent County, Virginia in 1723. These Hanover County land records show the relationship of the head Melungeon families. In 1724 Paul Bunch was granted land on both sides of the Haw River. In 1728 Gilbert Gibson was granted 400 acres on the South side of the South Anna River adjacent to Col. Meriwhether. In 1728 John Bunch was granted 400 acres (Same as above location). Paul Bunch, son of John Bunch Sr., and Gedion Gibson, probably his cousin, moved from the Pamunkey River area to the Roanoke River sometime in the 1720's.

“When Gedion Gibson migrated to South Carolina it caused a disturbance in Craven County. Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina summoned Gedion Gibson and his family to explain their presence in the area, and after meeting them reported “I have had them before me in council and upon examination find that they are not Negroes nor slaves but free people, that the father of them here is named Gedion Gibson and his father was also free. I have been informed by a person who has lived in Virginia that this Gibson has lived there several years in good repute and by his papers that he has produced before me that his transactions there have been very regular. That he has for several years paid taxes for two tracks of land and has seven Negroes of his own. That he is a carpenter by trade and is come hither for the support of his family. I have in consideration of his wife being a white woman and several white women capable of working and being serviceable in the country permitted him to settle in this Country”.

“In 1743 land on the Pamunkey River was granted to Gilbert Gibson, Thomas Gibson, and Thomas Collins, (Saint Frederick's Parish record)”.  Deeds of sale entered in this story prove the above land was on the Pamunkey River. These land entries and property transactions suggest that the older Bunch, Gibson and Collins families were related.

 According to land and tax records, the Melungeons were dark complected when they arrived in North Carolina. The 1754-55 Orange County, North Carolina tax records list them “mulatto” Also, land records such as this Orange County, North Carolina Land Grant. “1761- 700 acres to Thomas Collins on Dials Creek of the Flat River. Chain bearers: George Gibson and Paul Collins (Mulattoes)”.  We know by the Melungeon Y-DNA study this mulatto label most likely meant they were mixed African and European.

The Saponi had a settlement near Hillsboro, North Carolina. Post Revolutionary Pleasant Grove region Jeramiah Bunch, George Gibson, and Henry Bunch receive land Grants in 1785 along the Eno River just east of  Hillsboro, North Carolina. These related families had adjoining land on the Pamunkey River in Virginia in early 1700. “29 Oct 1751- Grant to William Churton, 640 acres on south side of Flat River joining John Collins on the Rocky Branch. Grant is for a warrant issued to Thomas Gibson (#3775).” “1752 250 acres to Thomas Gibson on the Flat River.”

“28 Oct 1752 640 acres to Joseph Collins on the south west side of the Flat River in St. John’’s Parish, Witness-Thomas Collins and James Lilkemper”.

William Bolen, Thomas Collins, and Moses Riddle lost their improvements to John Brown’’s survey as previously stated. ““Warrant 26 Dec 1760. 700 acres includes Bolins, Ridles & Collins impovements. Surveyed 13 April 1761" “John Brown Survey 13 April 1761 698 acres on Flat River joins Thomas Gibson, Chainbearers Moses Riddle, Charles Gibson”.

The 1755 Orange County, North Carolina tax lists identify the Melungeons as mulatto or other than white also confirms Calloway Collins statement to Dromgoole in 1790. Last paragraph page 746 “The original Collins people were Indian there is no doubt about that, and they lived as Indians lived until the first white settlers appeared among them”. From a close analysis of this story published in the Arena in 1891 it appears that Dromgoole added the tribe Cherokee, especially if she is quoting Calloway Collins which appears to be a direct quote from him, he says they were living as Indians in Virginia. This eliminates the Cherokee Indians as the Indian Tribe because the Pamunkey River was near the home of Chief Powhatan.

Not all these inter related families migrated to the New River and Newman Ridge ; Caswell County was formed from the Northern Part of Orange in 1777 it included part of the Flat River such as Rocky Branch and the following where in the new County; John Collins, Obadiah Collins 1, Middleston Collins (Millington) Martin Collins and Paul Collins.

Person County NC was formed in 1791 from the northeast area of Caswell County and the rocky branch area of the Flat River was in Person County. Roxboro is the county seat. Many of the dark skin settlers who remained became known as the Person County, Indians and they were so recognized and had their own Indian school.1790 census of Burke County North Carolina-Major Gibson, Wilborn Gibson, Stephen Gibson, Isom Gibson, Joseph Gibson, David Gibson, Wm. Gibson, Harmon Gibson.

With the help of family members and researchers, the author began this search for the Indian ancestors described by Grandpa Harrison Goins in 1950. his Indian ancestor was from his great grandma Aggy Sizemore Minor, descendants from her father George Sizemore was Q haplogroup, Native American. I talked with all the old timers in our family, gathered information from church, tax, census, court and land records. This combined documentation, and family history convinced me that our Goins family descended from Virginia’s Northern Neck, but even more convincing is the fact that our northern neck Goins foreparents were referred to as mulatto in 1724, approximately 290 years ago. Entries of mulatto, and as I later learned from the Goins FTDNA project they were African E1b1a. These findings establish this Going family as an unidentified mixture of African and European in 1724.