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23rd Union Report from MHA President Heather Andolina

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The 23rd MHA Union was a fun and insightful three day long weekend (June 20, 21, and 22), in Wytheville, Virginia. It was kicked off on Thursday, with a very informative tour of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum located in downtown Wytheville.

On Friday we took a road trip over to Tazewell, Virginia, where we first had a lovely and delicious lunch at the Grate Escape restaurant before continuing on our journey. Terry Mullins and Stephanie Musick were our illustrious tour guides into what is referred to as “God’s Thumbprint,” or better known as Burke’s Garden. It was definitely a highlight for everyone.

Friday night we had our reception at the Bolling Wilson Hotel and we would like to thank Jessica Mullins Dunsmore for accommodating and organizing the event for us.

Saturday was a full day of exciting, but enlightening presentations. The President Emeritus, S. J. Arthur welcomed everyone and Brennan McDaniel introduced Katie Vande Brake to start off the presentations. Katie took an interesting look at female Melungeon characters in Appalachian fiction. She was followed by the Melungeon Women’s Panel which was monitored by Dr. Terry Mullins and included April Mullins Mela and Lauren Magnussen. Between April’s extensive research on Melungeon heritage and Lauren’s concentrated work on Appalachian society, it made for a very robust discussion.

After lunch we had a wonderful presentation by Lynda Davis-Logan and Stephanie Musick on Melungeon Mitochondrial DNA. Dr. Edward Davis was able to present via video conferencing to give us a history about his Goins family, through his grandmother. Last, but certainly not least, Wayne Winkler captivated us with his very illuminating presentation on Walter Plecker.

In the general meeting we discussed future MHA Union locations and passed out surveys for attendees to tell us what they liked about this year’s Union, and to offer suggestions on things we can make better. We want to give a big thank you to the presenters, MHA board members and Consultants, and to each and every MHA member and future members for making this all possible. I would also like to give a special thank you to Scott Withrow. Scott has decided to retire as President. He served five years as MHA president and during his time the MHA has grown in memberships and expanded its reach. Thank you Scott for all of your hard work and dedication to the MHA. We couldn’t have had such a successful 23rd Union without you. We’ll see you and everyone else at next year’s 24th Union!

 

 

Melungeon Women is the theme at Wytheville, Virginia MHA Conference, June 20, 21, and 22, 2019

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The Melungeon Heritage Association is meeting this year at Wytheville, Virginia, June 20th, 21st, and 22nd for its 23rd Union with the theme, “Melungeon Women.” The Association welcomes those who have proven Melungeon ancestry, probable Melungeon ancestry, and those who have none at all and simply an interest in Melungeon history and genealogy, which is also part of Appalachian history and within the fabric of American history. The fee is $10 for any or all three days.

Persons arriving Thursday will have an opportunity to visit the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum and learn of the First Lady descended from Pocahontas. Persons attending Friday will have an opportunity to meet and learn about early Melungeon families in Burke’s Garden, a lush valley and geological wonder in the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains, and George Vanderbilt’s first choice for the Biltmore House (For car-pooling, meet at Wytheville, 10 a.m.). This is followed by a reception at the Bolling Wilson Hotel, at  7 p. m. Saturday, June 22nd is the day for speakers on the theme “Melungeon Women” at the Meeting Center in Wytheville. Speakers will present Melungeon women in literature, the true story of Mahala Collins Mullins, and stories of their own maternal ancestors. Saturday’s full schedule begins at 9 a. m.

To pre-register, click on the button to the left, with payment on arrival at either the Bolling Wilson Hotel MHA table or Wytheville Meeting Center MHA table. A limited number of rooms at a special rate are reserved at the Bolling Wilson Hotel, Wytheville. Call (276) 223-2333 for reservations and say you are attending the Melungeon Heritage Association conference.   For questions, email the Melungeon Heritage Association at MHAinc2000@yahoo.com

For more detailed information, see the schedule below:

23rd Union Schedule, Wytheville, Virginia  June 20, 21, and 22, 2019

Thursday, June 20

3:00 p. m.      From Wytheville to the White House: A Tour of the Edith Bolling

Wilson Birthplace Museum. Meet at the Edith Bolling Wilson

Museum, 145 E Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382. $5/person. Optional

visit to the Edith Bolling Wilson cenotaph, East End Cemetery, 800 E

Main St, Wytheville, VA 24382

 

Friday, June 21- Tour of Burke’s Garden

10:00 a. m.             Leave Wytheville (drive on your own or car-pool. Directions provided)

11:30 a. m.             Arrive Tazewell and Lunch at Your Grate Escape, 2871 Fincastle

Turnpike, North Tazewell, VA 24630

12:45 p. m.              Leave Tazewell

1:15 p. m.                 Arrive Burke’s Garden

1:30 p. m.                 Discuss—Burke’s Garden Geology and History

2:00 p. m.                 Burke’s Garden Artisan Guild Studio Tour

2:30 p. m.                 Discuss—Melungeon Connections in the Garden

3:00 p. m.                 Leave Burke’s Garden

4:00 p. m.                 Arrive Wytheville

7:00 p. m.             Reception- Bolling Wilson Hotel, 170 E Main St, Wytheville, VA

24382 (light fare)

 

Saturday, June 22 – Wytheville Meeting Center, 333 Community Blvd, Wytheville, VA 24382

9:00-9:10 a. m.       Scott Withrow, President; S. J. Arthur, Pres. Emeritus – Welcome

9:10-10:00 a. m.     Katherine Vande Brake, PHD – Melungeon Women in Literature

10:10-11:15 a. m.    Melungeon Women Panel Discussion

11:15-1:00                Lunch

1:00-1:50 p. m.       Lynda Logan and Stephanie Musick –Who Do You Think You Are?

Melungeon Mitochondrial DNA 

2:00-2:50 p. m.       Edward Davis IV, PhD – A Goins Grandmother

3:00-3:50 p. m.       Wayne Winkler – The Walter Plecker Exemptions  

4:00-4:45 p m.         Book signing and family discussions

4:45-5:15 p. m.         Scott Withrow, Heather Andolina – General Meeting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Troy Williams Memorial Service Update

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In our most recent post about Troy Williams’ passing, we mentioned that there will be a special memorial service for Troy on April 20th in Vardy. We have been recently informed that the memorial service has been postponed. It will be rescheduled for a later date, and as soon as we know the new date, we will post it here.

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Troy Williams

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It is with great sorrow that we share with all of you the passing of one of our own, Troy Williams. Troy was born and raised in the Vardy Valley and was a staunch supporter and member of both the MHA and the Vardy Community Historical Society.  Troy Williams was always proud of his Melungeon Heritage, and it showed in his commitment in educating others about the history of the Vardy Valley where he grew up and about the Melungeon people. Troy’s contributions to the VCHS and MHA were invaluable.

My own experience with Troy is one I will never forget. My brother’s and I had the honor and privilege of meeting and interviewing Troy for our documentary about our Melungeon Ancestry. Troy and his wonderful wife Nancy were warm, welcoming, and very hospitable. They made us feel like family, and well I guess we are family through our shared Gibson Genealogy. Both Troy and Nancy guided us in our research for our documentary. We couldn’t have gotten started without them. My brother’s and I are so grateful and lucky to have had the opportunity to have met and known Troy Williams. His knowledge and experience was one of a kind, and we treasured our short time we had with him.

From all of us here at the MHA, thank you Troy Williams, you will be greatly missed, but never forgotten. To read more about Troy, in the MHA’s Spring newsletter, Troy’s wife Nancy, wrote a beautiful piece about Troy and his mother, and about growing up in the Vardy Valley. There will be a special memorial service for Troy Williams in the Vardy Valley, near Sneedville, Tennessee on April 20th, 2019 for anyone who would like to attend. Below are a few pictures of Troy. One from about five or six years ago in the Vardy Valley and two from my interview with Troy last year for the documentary.

 

Schedule for the 23rd MHA Union June 20th, 21st and 22nd, Wytheville, Virginia

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23rd Union Schedule, Wytheville, Virginia
_____________
June 20, 21, and 22, 2019

Thursday, June 20
3:00 p. m. From Wytheville to the White House: A Tour of the Edith Bolling
Wilson Birthplace Museum. Meet at the Edith Bolling Wilson
Museum, 145 E Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382. $5/person. Optional
visit to the Edith Bolling Wilson cenotaph, East End Cemetery, 800 E
Main St, Wytheville, VA 24382

Friday, June 21- Tour of Burke’s Garden
10:00 a. m. Leave Wytheville (drive on your own or car-pool. Directions provided)
11:30 a. m. Arrive Tazewell and Lunch at Your Grate Escape, 2871 Fincastle
Turnpike, North Tazewell, VA 24630
12:45 p. m. Leave Tazewell
1:15 p. m. Arrive Burke’s Garden
1:30 p. m. Discuss—Burke’s Garden Geology and History
2:00 p. m. Burke’s Garden Artisan Guild Studio Tour
2:30 p. m. Discuss—Melungeon Connections in the Garden
3:00 p. m. Leave Burke’s Garden
4:00 p. m. Arrive Wytheville
7:00 p. m. Reception- Bolling Wilson Hotel, 170 E Main St, Wytheville, VA
24382 (light fare)

Saturday, June 22 – Wytheville Meeting Center, 333 Community Blvd, Wytheville, VA 24382
9:00-9:10 a. m. Scott Withrow, President; S. J. Arthur, Pres. Emeritus – Welcome
9:10-10:00 a. m. Katherine Vande Brake, PHD – Melungeon Women in Literature
10:10-11:15 a. m. Melungeon Woman Panel Discussion
11:15-1:00 Lunch
1:00-1:50 p. m. Lynda Logan and Stephanie Musick -Who Do You Think You Are?
Melungeon Mitochondrial DNA
2:00-2:50 p. m. Edward Davis IV, PhD – A Goins Grandmother
3:00-3:50 p. m. Wayne Winkler – The Walter Plecker Exemptions
4:00-4:45 p m. Book signing and family discussions
4:45-5:15 p. m. Scott Withrow, Heather Andolina – General Meeting

23rd Melungeon Union in Wytheville, Virginia, June 21 and 22, 2019

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Plans are being made for the Melungeon Heritage Association’s 23rd Union (meeting) in Wytheville, Virginia, Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, 2019. This includes a trip to Burke’s Garden on Friday, a reception Friday evening, and speakers on Saturday. Our Saturday theme this year is “Melungeon Women.”

All persons interested are welcome, whether the interest is in Appalachian history, women’s history, or Melungeon history. The Melungeon Heritage Association invites membership, but one does not have to be a member to attend nor does one have to have Melungeon ancestry. The Melungeon Heritage Association is inclusive of persons who are Melungeon, think they are Melungeon or a related people, or simply have an interest in Melungeon history.

Wytheville is the county seat of Wythe County in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Convenient to interstate highways, Wythe County is largely rural with pasture land and forests and the historic north-flowing New River.

Look for updates on how to register, lodging discounts, and the speaker schedule. For more information, email the Melungeon Heritage Association at mhainc2000@yahoo.com

MHA Members by State, 2018

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As the as current membership total is 99, this pie chart with the number of members in each state can almost be considered as percentages as well. With members in 26 states and DC, we are a national organization, but with almost half in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina we are also clearly a regional one.

In Memory of Claude Collins (March 19, 1927-February 15, 2017)

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Mr. W. C. “Claude” Collins, long-time and beloved board member of MHA, passed away Wednesday, February 15, 2017.     A service of celebration for his life was held at Sneedville (Tennessee) United Methodist Church on Saturday, February 18, 2017, 6:00 p. m.

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Claude lived and worked in Hancock County his entire life. A graduate of the masters program at the University of Tennessee, he worked in the Hancock County Educational System for 45 years as a teacher and then a food service director.

Those who knew Claude may remember that he attended Vardy School and told stories of his hardscrabble life growing up on Newman’s Ridge –of walking down a mountain path in mornings to attend school—and how those teachers and leaders at Vardy School inspired him to become a life-long educator.   Presented the first life-time achievement award from MHA, he was as genuine as they come and a mentor to many.     

One person remembered him as the “best of people”—one with “spunk and a positive outlook on life.”  This person remembered thinking once:  “I’d like to be more like Claude.  Maybe I am a better person for having known him.”   

We who knew Claude are all better people for the experience.