Welcome!


Native Americans of South Carolina

EXAMINING MELUNGEON HISTORY AND GENEALOGY

By: JACK GOINS

Having the advantage of living in and near the homeland of the Melungeons has helped me considerably in my search for the true history of the Melungeons and their kinfolks. I first became interested in the Melungeons when told that some authors and historians listed two of my Great Grandparents as Melungeon. My Grandfather Goins denied these allegations and personally told me "My grandma Minor was about 3/4 Indian and Grandpa Goins was about ½". This heritage has not been established as a fact, but Grandpa believed it. His Grandma Susan Minor's mother was Aggy Sizemore and most of these families filed Cherokee Indian Application beginning in 1905.

In my research journey I backtracked the Melungeons from the Clinch River to the New River, to the Flat River and the Pamunkey. After locating the places where they lived before arriving on the Clinch, my wife and I traveled to those places. This factual research of the historical Melungeons helped me to personally dismiss many fables about the Melungeons. One major discovery was that they migrated with the other pioneer settlers and they owned land in all these places. They lived next door to white settlers and had adjoining farms. They went to the same churches and schools, intermarried with all their neighbors, fought in the same wars, including Lord Dunmore's War; 1774 Militia of Fincastle County, Virginia. These men were to fight in the battle of Point Pleasant against the Shawnee Indians. John Collins served 35 days; Micager Bunch served 29 days (1774. Soldiers of Fincastle County, Virginia by Kegley).

Also, I have found no record where they were driven from their land, or driven to the mountains, etc., etc. This rumor may have started from the outdoor drama "Walk Toward the Sunset." I also discovered that most of the story Calloway Collins told the reporter Will Allen Dromgoole in the 1890 interview on Newman Ridge was true. "The Collins and Gibsons were living as Indians in Virginia before they migrated to North Carolina." The Indian tribe was not named and has not been factually proven, but the important part, moving from Virginia to North Carolina has been proven by deeds from all these areas, beginning on the Pamunkey River in Louisa County, Virginia.

Orange County, Virginia Order Book 3 record 1741-43 "Alexander Machartoon, John Bowling, Manincassa, Capt Tom, Isaac, Harry, blind tom, Foolish Jack, Charles Griffin, John Collins, Little Jack, Indians being bought before the court for stealing Hogs. , Ordered that their Guns be taken away from them till they are ready to depart of this county, they having declared their intentions to depart this colony within a week.". On pages 309-312 of Court Record book the above named men individually put up security.4

This party of Saponia ( Monasukapanough) Indians left that county and some of these may have been the same group that formed the settlement near Hillsborough, North Carolina in 1750. It appears from Granville and Orange County tax records that a John Collins arrived in the area about this time. John Collins lived on the Flat River for about 17 years then moved to the New River circa 1767. Land and court records reveal they settled land on Peach Bottom Creek. This area became Grayson County, Virginia in 1793. Tax records from Grayson County, Virginia reveals that Lewis and James Collins were likely sons of John Collins."James Collins, John Bolin, and Mike Bolin Indians from Blackwater, Newman Ridge, were named by Sneedville attorney Lewis M. Jarvis in 1903, as quite full blooded who fought in the War of 1812-1814". 5

Another Indian family Moses and Mary, Ridley/ Riddle are on these same Granville and Orange County, North Carolina tax lists, identified as mulattoes on the 1755 tax list in Orange County, North Carolina. Moses was closely associated with Charles Gibson, Thomas Gibson Sr & Jr, Thomas Collins and Joseph Collins. Several Collins, Bolling and others with related Melungeon names still live in this area today which is Person County, North Carolina.

Their migration journey began in the 1740's and ended on Newman Ridge about 1790. I can only document a very small number of them who lived to make this complete journey. They were Thomas and Mary Gibson , their sons Charles and Thomas Gibson. Charles was the oldest living Melungeon on Newman Ridge when he filed his Revolutionary War Pension Application in 1839 stating that he was born in Louisa County, Virginia. He enlisted near Salisbury, North Carolina. Benjamin Collins, Jonathan Gibson and Jordan Gibson testified that Charles Gibson was reputed to be a Revolutionary War Soldier in their neighborhood. Charles Gibson was the son of Thomas Sr. and Mary Gibson. They sold their land on the Pamunkey River in 1749 to Thomas Mooreman. This land was located on the south side of the Pamunkey River adjoining Gilbert Gibson's land. Gilbert was the father of Gedion, Jordan, and George Gibson. [Louisa County, Va., deeds and wills]

As previously noted my research journey includes actually locating and going to these above-mentioned areas. Several photos of these Rivers and Landmarks are in my book "Melungeons And Other Pioneer Families." One of my most memorable discoveries was the Flat River Primitive Baptist Church established in 1750. The present church that stands in the same location was built circa 1930's. The earliest minutes found to date begin in 1770. Unfortunately most of the Melungeons left that area for the New River beginning in 1767.

Living in the neighborhood also created a mystery for me concerning the Melungeons and has left me with two troubling questions, which I have not been able to solve, but one of the most important things I have learned from this research was the words, "perhaps and maybe."

Mystery problem #1- Did the 1700 Melungeon forefathers refer to themselves as Melungeons? If the answer to this question is yes, no records have been found that actually call them by the name Melungeon. Also, to my knowledge no Melungeon tribe has been documented prior to the record in Tennessee.

Mystery problem #2- Was this name Melungeon coined by the local people? If the answer to this question is yes the name would only apply to those people. This is the message I got from living in the land of the Melungeons because during the early years of my life time no person in that neighborhood was actually identified as a Melungeon until after the Article "Sons of the Legend" was printed in the Oct 14, 1947 Saturday Evening Post. Those people in this time period told their children; "If you don't be quiet the Melungeons will get you." They would tell you the Melungeons lived somewhere else, or over on the next ridge, etc.

In conversations with several old-timers including two whose pictures are in the Melungeon story Sons of the Legend they did not realize until the story was published in the Saturday Evening Post that they were the Melungeons the author was writing about.

William L. Warden, author of this Saturday Evening Post story, asked Asa Gibson who was then 75 years old if his ancestors were Welsh Warriors, Phoenicians or survivors of Roanoke his answer, "an Indian."

One person in the Post story told me the whole Melungeon thing was a myth and laughed about it. She assured me there was no such thing as a Melungeon, but like Grandpa Goins, they also claimed to be of Indian descent. In conversations and letter from Melungeon descendants, including the Collins, Gibson and Bolin families they also claimed Indian descent.

Several authors have suggested that the Melungeons were lying about their Indian nationality just to hide their known African ancestors. I am convinced that old Asa Gibson told the author William Warden, (Saturday Evening Post 1947) story what he believed was the truth, that his ancestors were Indian. This does not exclude Asa from the possibility of having both white, and or black genes. Example; In colonial days if an indentured servant, regardless of their nationality married a Saponia Indian and was accepted in their said Indian tribe, their children would be recognized as Indians. In a few generations their original nationality would be lost to history if they remained in the tribe. If these children married whites, mulattoes, or other free blacks they would eventually lose their Indian identity and would not have a clue as to their original nationality.

Let us examine the historical Melungeons. The first known records that specifically identifies a group of people historically known as the (Melungins) and living in Tennessee. These records also pinpoint their location. Let us examine some of these written records.

Some of the Tennessee State Senators first denied that there was such a race living in Tennessee according to the reporter Will Allen Dromgoole who keep asking and was told by another senator (not named), that the (Malungeons) live in his district. "Only upon the records of the State of Tennessee does the name appear."

This author discovered the word Melungin written in the 1813 Minutes of Stony Creek Church, which was from an accusation that a lady in the church was housing them "Melungins", There is not enough written about this incident to actually determine anything factual. Some of the first Melungeon families migrated circa 1790's from the New River area of Wilkes County, North Carolina to Fort Blackmore and joined the Stony Creek Church 1801-1802. The majority of these were from the old Thomas and Mary Gibson family who originally migrated from Louisa County, Virginia beginning in 1749. Most of these families were gone by 1810.

This term "Malungeons" sprang up again in "The Wig" a Jonesboro, Tennessee newspaper. This may have been during a political campaign October 7, 1840. (3) And again in the celebrated 1872 Chattanooga Melungeon trial of a Bolton girl represented by Attorney Lewis Sheppard, of Chattanooga, Tennessee "She is related to a group of people living in the mountains of East Tennessee known as (Malungeons)" 1. This statement was made by attorney Lewis Sheppard, describing his Melungeon client whose mother was a Bolton. Sheppard presented the following argument; "The term "Melungeon" is an East Tennessee provincialism; it was coined by the people of that county to apply to these people and is derived from the word, melange, meaning mixture and has gotten into most modern dictionaries". The argument presented in this trial was that this family was not Negro, but pure-blooded Carthaginians (2). In his personal memoirs Judge Lewis Sheppard wrote, "this mysterious racial group descended from the Phoenicians of Ancient Carthage". [2- Memoirs of Judge Lewis Shepard, Chattanooga, 1915 p, 88.] also [2-3-4-5-6 Melungeons: And Other Pioneer Families]

Several racial clans that existed in the Eastern United States in the 1940-50's have been recognized. Some of these were the Redbones, Croatans, Brass Ankles, Ramps and Melungeons. According to my research of known Melungeon families, the Ramps of Fort Blackmore were related to the families that became known as Melungeons. Oddly the term Melungeon may have also began in Fort Blackmore and later the term Ramps were placed on their kinfolks who remained in Fort Blackmore. Ramptown, known by the locals is located between Fort Blackmore and Dungannon, in Scott County, Virginia.

About The Author:

Jack Goins Lives in Rogersville, Tennessee, Retired from AFG Industries, began family research at an early age.

(1)Articles includes; Zephaniah Goins Fought In Yorktown Campaign [Gowen Research Foundation Newsletter, Volume 5 number 3, 1993.]

(2)Melungeon Families-Sizemore, Minor, Goins, Fisher and Riddle Article in [1994 Families Of Hawkins County, Tennessee page 537 to 540]

(3 and 4)Arrington Family page 88 and co-authored Henry Fisher family page 126.[Hancock County, Tennessee And It's People Volume II 1994]

(5)Sizemore Family, Jan 1999 Distant Crossroads Volume XVI, Number 1

(6)May 2000, Published a book "Melungeon And Other Pioneer Families" price $17.95

(7) Descendants of William F. And Margaret McCullough 1776-1781 (Distant Crossroads Volume 18, Number 3, 2001.)

Transcription Copyright ©2005, JACK GOINS , all rights reserved.

Return to Native American Page

"Turks" of South Carolina Page

American Roma Records Home Page

SCGenWeb Home Page

Anyone with information on Native Americans in this area please contact me.

References

Copyright ©2005, JACK GOINS , all rights reserved. this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same, without written permission of the author.