Mattie Ruth Johnson, age 73, died Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at Holston Valley Medical Center, Kingsport, Tennessee. Mattie Ruth, who spoke at 6th Union, authored My Melungeon Heritage: A Story of Life on Newman’s Ridge (Overmountain Press, 1997).
Tracing her ancestry to the Collins, Mullins, and Gibson families of Hancock County, she gave us a personal account of growing up on Prospect Ridge, part of Newman’s Ridge. She had many friends among MHA members who remember her kindness, her art work, and her Melungeon genealogical research. At 14th Union in 2010 (Lincoln Memorial University), and again at 16th Union in 2012 (Southwest Virginia Museum), Julie Williams Dixon shared outtakes from her documentary Melungeon Voices, and her interview with Mattie Ruth was especially enjoyed by those who attended the presentation. Mattie Ruth gave five of her paintings of the Newman’s Ridge area to Philip Roberts, who has kindly allowed us to use them on our main page. Here are his descriptions of the places depicted:
The red house is her grandparents home, Walter and Nora Gibson Collins. The log home is on the same property and the home of Walter’s parents, Lewis and Sarah Gibson Collins. Her mother, Celia, was a Roberts. Lewis Collins was the brother of my ancestor Frances Collins Roberts, descendants of Solomon Collins. The church was Prospect Church on the Ridge, no longer there.
Here I’ve posted another painting of Ruths, Mahala Mullins cabin as it appeared years ago on Newman’s Ridge when folks lived in it.
To recap the other paintings I sent earlier:
1-Barn in snow. That was a barn on or near her family home place on Newman’s Ridge.
2-Walter and Nora (Gibson) Collins . The red house. That was Ruth’s grandparents place as she remembered it growing up. It was near Prospect on Newman’s Ridge. The house still stands but about to fall down and overgrown.
3-Lewis and Sarah (Gibson) Collins log house. On the same property as the red house. Lewis and Sarah were Ruth’s great grandparents. The log cabin still stands but is about to cave in also.
4-Prospect Church on Newmans’ Ridge. The Prospect school that Ruth attended as a child sat directly in front of the church. The church no longer stands, but the school still does. I have a photo of it.