William Gilbert article, part 2

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VI. Jackson Whites of New Jersey and New York

Locations: Orange and Rockland Counties in New York; Bergen, Morris, and Passaic Counties, New Jersey. Name said to be derived from term “Jackson and White” which are common surnames. Another derivation is from “Jacks” and “Whites,” the terms for Negroes and Caucasians. Still another idea is that Jackson was a man who imported some of the ancestors of these people during the Revolutionary war. In one part of this area are the so-called “blue-eyed Negroes” who are said to be a race apart from the rest.

Numbers: Estimated to be upwards of 5,000.

Organization: Family groups only. Family names are Casalony, Cisco, De Groat, De Vries, Mann, Van Dunk, etc.

Environment and Economy: These are mainly a hill people of the Ramapo Hills. They raise a few crops at favorable spots and do hunting. Many have migrated to the lowlands and to industrial and mining areas.

Physique: In some areas apparently pure white types are found while in others negroid types dominate. Inn still other areas Indian mixed types seem to predominate. Albinism and deformities have been indicated.

In-Marriage: Due to environmental limitations this has been marked.

Religion: Protestant in the main. Presbyterians have had a mission among these people.

Schools: In New jersey, white schools have been attended. No data on New York. Tend to concentrate in a few schools.

Military Draft Status: No data.

Voting and Civil Rights: No data.

Relief: No data.

Cultural Peculiarities: Dialectic peculiarities, home-made utensils, folklore.

Social Status: Regarded as “colored” by white neighbors.

History: Traditionally derived from Tuscarora and Munsee Indians, Hessians, English, Negroes from West Indies, etc. First described by Speck in 1911.


Bibliography

Beck, Henry C. Fare to Midlands: Forgotten Towns of New Jersey (New York, 1939), pp. 73-89.

Donoghue, Frank L. “Jackson Whites Tribal Reserve Broken By War,” New York Journal American (March 24, 1942), pp. 226-229.

Frazier, E. Franklin, The Negro Family in the United States (Chicag, 1940), pp. 226-229.

“The Jackson Whites,” Eugenical News, XVI, No. 12 (Dec., 1931), p. 218.

“Native Sons,” Letters, Time, Inc. Vol. II, No. 15 (July 22, 1935), p. 1-2.

The Negro in New Jersey. Report of a Survey by the Interracial Committee of the New Jersey Conference on Social Work in Cooperation with the State department of institutions and Agencies (Dec., 1932), p. 22.

Speck, Frank G. “The Jackson Whites,” The Southern Workman (Feb., 1911) pp. 104-107.

Storms, J. G. Origin of the Jackson Whites of the Ramapo Mountains (Park Ridge, N.J., 1936), MSS.

Swital, Chet. “In the Ramapos.” Letters. Time, Inc. Vol. II, No. 15 (July 22, 1935), pp. 1-2.

Terhune, Albert Payson. treasure (New York, 1926).

“Twelve toes race of People Bred in North Jersey’s ‘Lost Colony,’” Philadelphia Record, June 6, 1940, p. 1.

U. S. Federal Writers Project. New jersey: a Guide to the Present and Past. (New York, 1939), pp. 124, 505.

U. S. Writers Program, New Jersey. Bergen County Panorama (Hackensack, New Jersey, 1941), pp. 179-180, 305.

“Who are the Jackson Whites?” The Pathfinder (Sept. 5, 1931), p. 20.


VII. Melungeons of the Southern Appalachians

Locations: Original center of dispersal was said to be Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County, Tennessee. From thence are said to have spread into other counties such as Cocke, Davidson (Nashville), Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton (Chattanooga), Hawkins, Knox (Knoxville), Marion, Meigs, Morgan, Overton, Rhea, Roane, Sullivan, White, Wilson, Bledsoe, and Van Buren. In southwest Virginia they are known also as Ramps and occur in the counties of Giles, Lee, Russell, Scott, Washington, and Wise. Some are said to have migrated to southeastern Kentucky and a few went to Blountstown, Florida, just west of Tallahassee. One of two writers mention that they have gone westward to the Ozarks. The name is said to be derived from the French “Melange,” mixed or from the Greek “Melan,” black.

Numbers: Estimated to run from 5,000 to 10,000. Birthrate high.

Organization: Family groups only. Original family names were Collins, Gibson or Gipson, Goins, Mullins or Mellons. Other names mentioned are Bolen, Denhan, Freeman, Gann, Gorvens, Graham, Noel, Piniore, Sexton,Wright.

Environment and Economy: Originally pioneer cultivators in the Appalachian Valley lowlands they were said to be driven to the ridge by the white settlers. Newman’s Ridge, Clinch Mountain, Copper Ridge, and the Cumberland Range in eastern Tennessee were their chief habitats. Their means of living originally included hunting, fishing, ginseng root gathering, herb gathering, charcoal burning, and in the very earliest times river boat carriage and cattle driving.

Physique: Characteristics range between Indian, white, and occasional negroid types. Stoic endurance of out-of-doors life notable.

In-Marriage: Considerable intermarriage with whites in recent times. Originally married only within the group.

Religion: .Presbyterians have had missions among them for many years at Vardy and Sycamore (Sneedville P. O.) in Tennessee. Some are Baptists. Hymns peculiar to mountain folk sung.

Schools: Attend white schools in Franklin, Marion, and Rhea counties in Tennessee after winning lawsuits regarding their racial classification. In southwest Virginia attend white school when they go at all. Most are said to be illiterate.

Military Draft Status: Illiteracy is said to be a bar to their military service in some places.

Voting and Civil Rights: Disfranchised in Tennessee by Constitution of 1834. Have voted since the Civil War. Republican in politics.

Relief: Were given food and clothing in Virginia during the Depression of the 1930’s.

Cultural Peculiarities: Magic and folklore said to be important. Funeral rites formerly involved building a small house over a fresh grave.

Social Status: Said to approximate the white level in many areas today.

History: Several theories or origin. Some derive from the Croatans, some from Portuguese, Negro, and Indian ancestry. Appeared in east Tennessee shortly after the American revolution. First modern notice under the name “Melungeon” in 1889.


Bibliography
 

Addington, L. F. “Mountain Melungeons Let the World Go By,” Sunday Sun, Baltimore, July 29, 1945, Section A, p. 3, cols. 3-6.

Aswell, Jas. R., E. E. Miller, et. al. God Bless the Devil: Liar’s Bench tales (Chapel Hill, N. C., 1940), pp. 207-243.

Ball, Mrs. Bonnie S. America’s Mysterious race. Read vol. 16 (May 1944), pp. 64-67.

Ball, Mrs. Bonnie S. “Mystery Men of the Mountains,” Negro Digest 3 (Jan., 1945), pp. 64-67.

Ball, Mrs. Bonnie S. “Virginia’s Mystery race,” Virginia State Highway Bulletin 2, no. 6 (April 1945), pp. 5-7.

Ball, Mrs. Bonnie S. “Who Are the Melungeon?” Southern Literary Messenger 3, no. 2 (June 1945), pp. 5-7.

Burnett, Swan M. “A Note on the Melungeon,” American Anthropologist 2 (Oct., 1889), pp. 347-349.

Caldwell, Joshua W. Studies in the Constitutional History of Tennessee. 2nd ed. (Cincinnati, 1907), pp. 115, 185, 213.

Century Dictionary and Encyclopedia. (New York, 1906), “Melungeon” defined, vol. 5, p. 3702.

Converse, Paul D. “The Melungeons,” Southern Collegian (Dec., 1912), pp. 59-69.

Converse, Paul D. “The Melungeons,” Dictionary of American History (New York, 1940), pp. 371-372.

Crawford, Bruce. “Letters to the editor.” Coalfield Progress (Norton, Va. July 11, 1940).

Crawford, Bruce. “Hills of Home” (fiction), Southern Literary Messenger, 2,no. 5 (May 1940) pp. 302-313.

Dromgoole, Miss Will Allen. “The Malungeons,” The Arena, 3 (March 1891), pp. 470-479.

Dromgoole, Miss Will Allen. “The Malungeon Tree and Its Branches,” The Arena, 3 (May, 1891), pp. 745-775.

Hale, W. T. and Merritt, D. L. A History of Tennessee and Tennesseeans (2 vols,. Chicago, 1913), 1, chapt. 16, “The Melungeons of East Tennessee,” pp. 179-196.

Haun, Mildred. The Hawk’s Done Gone. (New York, 1940), pp. 15-16, 145-166.

Heiskell, Mrs. Eliza N. “Strange People of East Tennessee, “ Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Jan. 14, 1912), p. 11, cols. 3-7.

Journal of the Convention of the State of Tennessee convened for the purpose of amending the Constitution thereof. Held at Nashville (Nashville, Tenn., 1834), pp. 88-89.

King, Lucy S. V. Article in the Nashville American, 98th Anniversary Number, 37, no. 12717 (Nashville, June 26, 1910).

“Melungeons, The” Boston Traveller (April 13, 1889), p. 6, cols. 5, 6.

Moore, J. T. and Foster, A. P., eds. Tennessee, the Volunteer State, 1769-1923 (5 vols,, Chicago, 1923), I, pp. 790-791.

Mynders, A. D. “Next to the News” Chattanooga Times (June 17, 1945), Sect. 2, p. 10. col. 3.

Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States at the 11th Census, 1890 (Wash. D.C., Dep’t of the Interior, Census Office, 1894), p. 391

Shepherd, Judge Lewis. Romantic Account of the Celebrated Melungeon Case. Reproduced typewritten copy of article inChattanooga Times, 1914. Said to be part of a small book of memoirs of the author.

United States Writers Project. Tennessee, a guide to the State (New York, 1939), “Melungeons in Oakdale, Tennessee,” p. 362.

Weeks, S. B. “Lost Colony of Roanoke,” Papers of the American Historical Association, 5 (1891), footnote pp. 132-133.

Wilson, Goodridge. “The Southwest Corner,” Roanoke Times (Feb. 25, 1934).

Wilson, Samuel T. The Southern Mountaineers (New York, 1906), p. 11


VIII. Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware and New Jersey

Location: Nanticokes are around Millsboro in Sussex County, Delaware. Moors are centered in Chesterwold, Kent County, Delaware, and at Bridgeton, Cumberland County in southern New Jersey. Name “Moor” traditionally derived from shiwrecked Moorish sailors.

Numbers: Moors about 500 in Delaware, Nanticokes about 700.

Organizations: Nanticokes are incorporated. Moors have no organization other than the family. Moor family names are Carney or Corney, Carter, Carver, Cioker, Dean, Durham, Hansley or Hansor, Hughes, Morgan, Mosley, Munce, Reed,.Ridgeway, Sammon, and Seeny. Nanticoke family names are Bumberry, Burke, Burton, Clarke, Cormeans, Coursey, Davis, Drain, Hansor, Harmon, Hill, Jackson, Johnson, Kimmey, Layton, Miller, Morris, Moseley, Newton, Norwood, Reed, Ridgeway, Rogers, Sockum, Street, Thomas, Thompson, Walker, and Wright.

Environment and Economy: Originally both groups may have been swamp hunters and fishers. Now are truck farmers.

Physique: Indian, white, and negro types occur. Drooped eyelids inherited in the family strain.

In-Marriage: Customary.

Religion: Protestants. Some sections among Nanticokes have own churches.

Schools: Moors attend colored schools. Nanticokes have own school with teacher paid by the state.

Military Draft Status: No data.

Voting and Civil Rights: No data.

Cultural peculiarities: Utensils and implements formerly made locally by the Nanticokes. These people also have their own medicine and folklore.

Relief: Not needed apparently.

Social Status: Uncertain.

History: Nanticokes first noticed about 1889, Moors about 1895.


Bibliography

Babcock, Wm. H. “The Nanticoke Indians of Indian River, Delaware,” The American Anthropologist, I (1889), pp. 277-82.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., 1910-11, v. 7, p. 948, article “Delaware.”

Fisher, George P. “The So-Called Moors of Delaware,” Milford (Del.) , June 15, 1895.

Frazier, E. Franklin. The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago, 1940), pp. 229-231.

Negro in New Jersey, The. Trenton 1932. Section on Moors, p. 21.

Speck, Frank G. Indians of the Eastern Shore of Maryland (1922), n.p.

Weslager, C. A. Delaware’s Forgotten Folk (New York, 1943).


IX. Red Bones of Louisiana

Location: The parishes of Natchitoches, Vernon, Calcasieu, Terrebonne, La Fourche, and St. Tammany. The term “Red Bone” is derived from the French Os Rouge for persons partly of Indian blood. As called “Houmas” along the Coast and “Sabines” farther west. In Natchitoches are the “Cane River Mulattoes.”

Numbers: Considerably over 3,000 and with a tendency to rapid increase.

Organization: Family groups and settlements. There are a limited number of French family names.

Environment and Economy: The coastal groups are farmers, sugar cane workers, cattle raisers, hunters and fishers. Those on the inland prairies are farmers raising corn and other crops. The groups at Slidell north of Lake Pontchartrain seem to merge gradually into the Cajans of southern Mississippi.

Physique: Mixed French, Indian, Anglo-Saxon, and Negro.

In-Marriage: Tendency to marry within the group has long been marked.

Religion: Mainly Roman Catholic. Some Baptists.

Schools: Colored or special.

Miltiary Draft: No data on classification by color.

Voting and Civil Rights: No data.

Relief: No data.

Cultural Peculiarities: Many old Indian customs and traits preserved.

Social Status: Once treated as full social equals by the French, they have long since fallen into the status of Mulattoes in some parts, of Indians in other places.

History: Derive from early border conflicts of authority and the banishment of mixed race persons from Texas. Intermarriage of French and Indians a marked feature of colonial period.


Bibliography

Saxon, Lyle. (a Novel), (Boston, Houghton Miflin, 1937).

Shugg, Roger W. Origin of the Class Struggle in Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1939), pp. 43-45.

U.S. Writers Program of the WPA, Louisiana, a Guide to the State (1941), pp. 80, 638.


X. Wesorts of Southern Maryland

Location: Most of these people are in Charles and Prince Georges counties, Maryland. A few have migrated to Washington, D. C. and the Phildalphia metropolitan area.

Numbers:Evidence available seems to indicate from 3,000 to 5,000. They have a high birth rate.

Organization: None beyond family groups. Family names are Butler, Harley, Linkins, Mason, Newman, Proctor, Queen, Savoy, Swan, and Thompson.

Environment and Economy: Are primarily tenant farmers or small landowners growing tobacco and other crops. Near the city they are truck farmers and in town are artisans, petty traders, and repairmen. Originally located near the Zekiah and other swamps many are still excellent fishermen.

Physique: Characteristically white and Indian with occasional marked Negroid types. Albinism, short teeth, hereditary deafness, and nervous disorders occur in some strains.

In-Marriage: A marked characteristic for many years.

Religion: Manly Roman Catholic as are the whites and Negroes who adjoin them.

Schools: Attend negro schools but in one or two neighborhoods a majority of school attendance is made up of children from this group.

Military Draft Status: Some are classified as white, others as Negroes.

Voting and Civil Rights: – Appear to have voted freely for a long period. Formerly Democrats they have tended to be Republican for the last 50 years.

Relief: Not much given to them.

Cultural Peculiarities: Folk medicines and herbalism, animal nicknames, annual festival on August 15th.

Social Status: Somewhat above that of the Negro but below the white.

History: Appear to be in part descended from several small Indian tribes of colonial times. The name originated about 1890. Romantic legends of Spanish shipwrecked sailors, French-Canadian traders, etc. Family names connected with the “free colored” or “free mulatto” names of 1790.


Bibliography

Anonymous. “Wesorts, Strange Clan in Maryland,” New York Times (Mar. 19, 1940).

Dodsen, Linda S. and Woolley, Jane. “Community Organization in Charles County, Maryland,” Md. Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. No. A21 (College Park, Maryland, Jan. 1943), p. 297 et al.

Footner, Hulbert. Maryland and the Eastern Shore (New York, 1942), p. 357.

Gilbert, Wm. H. Jr. “The Wesorts of Southern Maryland, An Outcasted Group,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 35, no. 8 (Aug. 15, 1945), pp. 237-246

Hodge, F. W. 35th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1913-14 (Wash. D. C., 1921), p. 17.

Maynard, Theodore. The Story of American Catholicism (New York, 1941), p. 76.

Semmes, Raphael. Captains and Mariners of Early Maryland (Baltimore, 1937), p. 303.

Warner, Eugene. “Upper Marlboro is Proud of Its Old Charming Homes,” Washington Times-Herald (Aug. 28, 1939), p. 11.

White, Roxana. “They Stand Alone: The Wesorts of Charles County,” The Sun (Baltiimore, Nov. 12, 1939), sec. 1, p. 2.


Concluding Statement

Besides the major minority groups characterized in this memorandum there are many other mixed Indian peoples in the eastern United states no less worthy of notice. A Partial list of these follows:

Massachusetts: Mashpee, Pequot, Wampanoag
Rhode Island: Narragansetts
Connecticut: Mohegan, Pequot
New York: Shinnecock, Poosepatuck
Virginia: Adamstown Indians, Chickahominy, Issues, Mattapony, Nansemond, Rappahannock, Skeetertown Indians, etc.
North Carolina: Machepunga
Alabama: Creeks
Mississippi: Choctaw
Louisiana: Houma, Chitimacha, Choctaw, Coushatta

These groups, together with those already scetched in this memorandum would, if thoroughly studied, provide the answer to a number of questions. For one thing they should demonstrate how detribalization affects Indians and what becomes of Indians presumably “freed” from the supervision of the Federal Government or never really under its jurisdiction. These examples show how outcast or pariah peoples come into existence and provide a ready parallel to the Untouchables of India and the Eta of Japan.

It is extremely urgent that a program be devised as soon as possible for the assimilation and betterment of the condition of these native American backward minorities. It is true that much good work along those lines has already been done religious bodies and private agents but the real solution of the problem must await public recognition and government. A local, State, and Federal policy will have to be developed after the public conscience has been awakened to the need. And this awakening rests on a thorough investigation and widespread public knowledge concerning these groups.

“Sons of the Legend” by William Worden, 1947 article

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Sons of the Legend

by William Worden

Saturday Evening Post, October 18, 1947

Surrounded by mystery and fantastic legends, the Malungeons live on Newman’s Ridge, deep in the Tennessee Mountains. The story of a colony whose background is lost in antiquity.

About the people of Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater Swamp just one fact is indisputable: There are such strange people. Beyond that, fact gives way to legendary mystery, and written history is supplanted by garble stories told a long time ago and half forgotten.

Today, even the legend is in the process of being forgotten, the strange stories are seldom remembered and the people are slipping away to cities and to better farms, there to tell anyone who ask s them, all they can about where they came from, but never to tell who they are. Because they do not know.

Newman’s Ridge lies beyond Blackwater Swamp, and Blackwater lies beyond Sneedville. Sneedville, war-swollen to a population of about 400 persons, is the county seat of Hancock County, Tennessee, just below Virginia, in the mountains through which no principal highway runs, no railroad has tracks, and only a single, insecure telephone line with five or six connections straggles. To get to Sneedville, on outsider can drive up the wandering bank of the Clinch River from Tazewell though Xenophon, which can be missed if the traveler is not looking carefully; or he can go over the switchbacks of Clinch Mountain from Rogersville to Kyle’s Ford and down the river from the east. Either pinestudded route is beautiful. Neither has ever been used by very many people who did not live in Sneedville.

Nothing much ever happened in Sneedville. There is no industry, no mining now. Only once did the town ever get its name into newspapers farther away than Knoxville, when once some years before the war, Charlie Johns, a lank mountaineer, married Eunice Winstead, who was certainly not more than thirteen years old and was variously reported as being only nine. Their pictures and story made most of the United States newspapers in a dull news period.

Charlie and Eunice still live near Sneedville, but nothing has been written about them for a long time. They do not want anything more written.

From Sneedville, a few small roads lead northward toward the swamp and the ridge. One is passable, when the weather permits, through Kyle’s Ford all the way to Vardy, where Presbyterians maintain a mission school. But weather does not permit with any regularity. There are in Rogersville a few tall, olive-skinned people with dark eyes and high cheekbones, small hands and feet and straight black hair, the men gaunt, the young women often remarkably beautiful.

In Sneedville on a “public day” when a lawing of some interest is under way in the county courthouse, many country people come to town from the rich farms along the Clinch River bottoms. Walking among them along the one muddy main street or leaning against the stone wall around the courthouse square will be other dark people — old women withered or excessively fat, inclined to talk very fast in musical voices, old men spare and taciturn, thinlipped, rather like Indians, but not quite like them. Either they have some Latin characteristics or the effect of the legend is to make the stranger think they have. Some few of them — the daughters of these people are very often lovely, soft and feminine, in striking contrast to the bony appearance of most mountain women — live in the town. Of them, their neighbors will say, “Well, they don’t talk about it, but I happen to know her pappy used to make whiskey up on the ridge;” or “He might not tell you, but he never came to town from Vardy until he was growed.”

But for all that some of them live there, these are strangers in Rogersville, strangers in Kyle’s Ford and Sneedville. They are not fully at home where the telephones are or the highways go. The small roads lead up out of Sneedville across the swamp and end at the base of Newman’s Ridge, nearly twenty miles long, a mile or so across at its most narrow point, virgin except for small clearings which dot its high slopes — clearings with log houses in them, corn patches growing beside the doors. That is, those houses that have doors. Many have no floors and some have no doors; only burlap hanging across the openings in cold weather.

Here, beyond where the roads end, in the clearings on the ridge, the dark people are at home. This is the Malungeon country. This is the country where no one ever uses the word “Malungeon.” As a matter of fact, nobody is entirely sure what the word is. Perhaps “Melungeon,” from the French “melange,” meaning “mixture;” perhaps from melas, a Greek word meaning black. Its origin, like that of the people it specifies, is lost now. Already, it is entirely meaningless to most people even within a few dozen miles of Newman’s Ridge; and presently, like the people of the ridge, who are constantly drifting away, intermarrying outside, never going home, saying nothing of the little ridge history they may know, it may be entirely forgotten. Except for a few curious people who like mysteries without answers.

The mystery of the Malungeons is basically simple. When the first Yankee and Scotch-Irish mountain men drifted down the Clinch River from its sources in Virginia toward the place where it meets the Holston to make the Tennessee River, they found in the rich farmland of the Clinch valley a strange people already settled. They were dark, tall, not exactly like Indians, certainly not at all like the escaped Negroes lurking on the outskirts of white slave-holding settlements. Even then they kept to themselves, had little to do with Andy Jackson’s men and the others, the trappers, adventurers and farmers who came down the line of the river.

When they were first seen is doubtful. One Tennessee history notes that the journal of an expedition down the Tennessee River in the 1600’s recorded an Indian story of a white settlement eight days down the river. The Indians said the whites lived to themselves, had houses and owned a bell which they sounded often, especially before meals, when all of them bowed their heads toward it. The journal was not clear about whether the location was on what is now the Clinch River. It could have been. These people could have been the Malungeons. But there is no record that any white man saw them.

Certainly they must have been there fairly early in the eighteenth century. Hale and Merritt’s History of Tennessee and Tennesseans says a census of the settlements in 1795 listed 975 “free persons” in the East Tennessee mountain area, distinguishing between them and the white settlers. As there never was any considerable number of Negroes in the mountains, these must have been the strange people of the Clinch valley.

But the other settlers apparently were unwilling to admit that they dark people were Caucasians, and the dividing line between “whites” and “Malungeons” began to be drawn — by the whites. Forty years later the division became serious. In the Tennessee Constitutional Convention of 1834, East Tennesseans succeeded in having the Malungeons officially classified as “free persons of color.” This classification was equivalent to declaring them of Negro blood and preventing them from suing or even testifying in court in any case involving a Caucasian. The purpose was fairly obvious and the effect immediate. Other settlers simply moved onto what good bottom land the Malungeons had, and the dark people had no recourse except to retire with what they could take with them to the higher ridge land which no other settlers wante d and where no court cases could arise. Some may have been on Newman’s Ridge previously, but now the rest climbed the slopes to live, taking with them their families, a few household possessions, some stock and a burning resentment of this and other injustices, such as the fact that their children were not welcome in the settler’s schools, only in Negro schools, which they declined to attend.

On the ridge they built their small houses — log shacks without floors and sometimes even without chimneys — planted corn, and distilled whiskey. Now and then moving in he night in Indian fashion they descended on the richer farms of the valley. Now and then when strangers approached the ridge too closely or ventured into Blackwater swamp, they used the long rifles which seemed almost like parts of their bodies, so naturally were they carried. Now and then, valley farms lost cattle or hogs or chickens and never found any trace of the missing stock. Now and then, strangers failed to come back from the ridge or the swamp.

When the Civil War split the border states county against county and family against family, few of the Malungeons went to either army. They stayed home, brooding on their mountainside.

In the valleys, farm women told their youngsters, “Act purty or the Malungeons’ll get ye.” There is no record that they ever “got” any children, but old men still live who remember when no wandering hog was safe and few chicken yards secure.

What happened after the war is not entirely clear; nor the reasons for it. Revision of the state constitution took care of the old segregated status of the Malungeons, but nobody now seems certain exactly what made them welcome in the towns again.

Hale and Merritt, in their history, have the most fantastic explanation. They say, without giving any authority, that the Malungeons struck gold. Just when and just where are difficult to decide. The history declares flatly that the strike was made somewhere on Straight Creek, where ovens were built for refining the metal and for manufacture of technically counterfeit twenty dollar double eagles. But the counterfeit coins, the history continues, actually had nearly thirty dollars worth of gold in them and were welcomed by most storekeepers in the area. The storekeepers gave face value, more or less, for them, then sold the coins as gold by weight. Naturally, Malungeon business was more than welcome.

The only catch to the story is that nobody except Hale and Merritt ever seems to have heard of it. No other history mentions it and no trace of the coins remains in East Tennessee — at least, not in any of the expected places. Nor does Straight Creek appear on available maps. Milum Bowen, storekeeper at Kyle’s Ford, says he has known the Melungeons all his life and “they’re real friends if they’re your friends, but will do you some kind of dirt at night if they don’t like you.” He has traded constantly with them during most of his seventy-some years, but never saw or heard of any such coins.

Only one ghost of a clue is in the memory of anyone in the area. That is a rumor — no on of the dozen people who will tell it as a rumor seems to know where it comes from — that there is silver — not gold, but silver — somewhere in the lowering mountains which ring Hancock County, somewhere in the half-mapped, heavily wooded ridges. “People say,” they tell a stranger, “that it’ll be found again someday.”

Whether there was gold or whether there was none, the Malungeons, after the Civil War, seemed to enter a new phase of their lonesome existence. Bushwhacking declined, some few Malungeons came off the ridge to go to school, many more turned to distilling for their principal source of livelihood. Of all the stories of moonshining in the Hancock County mountains, the best seems to be the often-retold tale of Big Haly Mullins, a very real woman who became a legend herself. Milum Bowen testifies to the fact that Big Haly really did exist, really did make whiskey and most certainly weighed 600 or 700 poounds.

The legend is that in the early years of this century, Federal revenue agents time and again followed the steep paths to Big Haly’s cabin, time and again found aging whiskey and the still for making it, and found Haly, peaceful and alone, waiting for them in her cabin. Each time she admitted ownership of the still and whiskey, and each time they officially arrested her.

There they stopped. Big Haly was in her cabin and was too fat to be got out the door. Even if they had been able to get her through the door, they had no method for getting her down the ridge to any court for trial. She was much too heavy for any combination of men who could go together down the trail, she was much too heavy for any mule, and she would not or could not walk.

So the revenuers went away and Big Haly resumed making whiskey as soon as the still could be repaired — that is to say, her myriad of relatives, who had vanished into the hills as soon as the Federal men left the highway, returned and began making whiskey again under Haly’s directions, shouted from inside the cabin.

At least one supporting fact is attested by Bowen. When Mrs. Mullins died, he says, Malungeon relatives knocked the fireplace out of the end of her cabin in order to get her body outside for burial. It just would not go through the door.

Toward the end of the 1800’s one person made an extended study of the Malungeons. This was a Nashville poetess, Miss Will Allen Dromgoole, who spent some months living with the dark people in the mountains and reported her findings in two articles in the Arena magazine, published in Boston in 1891.
]
Miss Dromgoole noted several strange facets of the Malungeon life, some of which she thought indicated Latin origin. Especially, she noted that there was a special veneration for the Christian Cross shown along the whole ridge. She thought this strange, in view of the fact that the ridge people, if they were religious at all, leaned toward the shouting types of Protestantism which used the cross symbol little, if at all. Too, she said the Malungeons commonly made and drank brandy rather than whiskey. This seems open to some doubt, as no one in the area makes any brandy now, and no one remembers any of it ever coming off Newman’s Ridge or out of Blackwater Swamp. Possibly Miss Dromgoole was a teetotaler and no authority on the subject. She also noted a common habit of burying the Malungeon dead above the ground, with small, token houses over the graves, much as the Spanish and Indian Catholics bury the dead in the Southwestern United States and Alaskan Indians, converted to Greek Catholicism, do in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Again, Miss Dromgoole’s word must be taken for it, because no such graves are in evidence now.

Several peculiarities mar the poetess’ account of the dark people. One is that she changed her mind. In the Arena article of March, 1891, she rejected the theory that the Malungeons might be Negroid, basing her rejection on their appearance and on what she stated as a fact — that continuance of such blood would be impossible because octoroon women never have children, and Malungeon families were traceable for numerous generations. She said then that she did not know where the Malungeons had come from or of what blood they were, although she was inclined to believe they were basically Portuguese.

Three months later, however, Miss Dromgoole signed another article on the same subject in the same magazine. But this time she had decided, among other things, that octoroon women were not necessarily barren after all. She no longer found the Malungeons interesting, friendly or pathetic. In June they were dirty, thieving, untrustworthy, decadent and not mysterious at all. In June she knew their exact history. There had been, said Miss Dromgoole, two wily Cherokee Indians with a big idea. First, they borrowed names from white settlers in Virginia and called themselves Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson. Then, in the woods near a Virginia settlement, Vardy covered Buck with a dark stain, led him to a plantation and there sold him as a “likely nigger,” receiving in payment $300, some goods and a wagon with a team of mules. With this loot he promptly vanished into the forest again.

Whereupon Gibson made his way to the nearest fresh water, washed off the dark stain, then calmly walked off the plantation a free man protesting that he knew nothing of the sale of any “likely nigger” and certainly was not one.

In the forest, Gibson met Collins at a rendezvous where they split the loot and went their separate ways. Miss Dromgoole’s article gives no hint of her authority, but she states flatly that Collins came to Newman’s Ridge, Tennessee, where he begat a large family by a wife whose ancestry was not specified. Subsequently, an English trader named Mullins came to the ridge and married one of the Collins family. A free or escaped Negro, one Goins — this is still quoting Miss Dromgoole — married another daughter and settled in Blackwater Swamp; ansd a Portuguese, one Denham, arrived from no one knows where, married still another Collins to establish one more related family on the ridge.

Miss Dromgoole completed her estimate of the Malungeons by noting that the most common names among them wre still those four, along with Gorvans, Gibbens, and Bragans, or Brogan, and that all the families used a strange system of identifying their members, a system in which the wife of Jack Collins would be known as Mary Jack, his daughter as Sally Jack and his son as Tom Jack. She did not say what she thought this system proved, if anything.

Miss Dromgoole is gone and there is no practical method of checking her theories or even her facts now. But her final estimate of the Malungeons did not please them, and they had a sort of revenge. Milum Bowen remembers that the ridge people created a jingle about the poetess and repeated it endlessly to each other. “I can’t remember the rest of the words,” he says, “ but the last of it was ‘Will Allen Damfool.’”

Actually, Miss Dromgoole’s theory of origin for the dark people has as much to support it as any of the others, which is virtually nothing except that the dark people do exist. Many theories have been advanced. One, which the Malungeons themselves like especially, is that they are descendants of the lost Roanoke colony in Virginia — although the only plausible link with that colony is the English-sounding names the Malungeons now bear. They could be the Lost Colony, of course. But there is no real indication that they are.

Woodson Knight, a Louisville, Kentucky, writer, professed to find in 1940 an indication in these same names that the people might be Welsh, and was bemused by the possibility that those along the Clinch River might have descended from the retainers of a certain early Welsh chieftan, one Madoc, who with his ship “sailed from the ken of men into the Western Sea” in the days of the Roman Empire’s decline. Which could be, of course, but lacks any supporting evidence whatsoever.

Unquestionably the oddest theory of all was advanced by J. Patton Gibson, a Tennessee writer, and given an odd twist by Judge Lewis Shepherd, of Chattanooga. Shepherd’s connection with the malungeons came through his employment as attorney for a half-Malungeon girl in a land case near Chattanooga. The land had been owned by a Caucasian who married a Malungeon woman who somehow had wandered far from her native Hancock County mountains. A daughter was born, and subsequently botht the mother and the father died, the latter in an asylum. His relatives sent the child away and claimed the land, basing their claims on the theory that the Malungeon woman had been of Negro blood, that the marriage therefore had been illegal under Tennessee statutes and that the child was illegitimate and wothout rights of succession to the property.

Shepherd was employed as attorney for the girl, by this time nearly grown, and brought back to Chattanooga by friends of the dead man. Like so many of the people who have written and spoken of the subject of the Malungeon mystery, Shepherd nowhere quoted his authorities, but what he told the jury was that the girl in question had no Negroid characteristics and that she, a Malungeon, was a descendent of a lost and hounded people, originally Phoenecians, who migrated to Morocco at the time the Romans were sacking Carthage. From Morocco, he said, they eventually sailed to South Carolina, arriving there before other settlers. But when lighter neighbors came, these people could not get along with them because the light South Carolinians insisted the Malungeons were Negroes, and even attempted to impose a head tax on them as such, as well as barring their children from Caucasian schools. So they fled toward the mountains and stopped only when they reached Hancock County, Tennessee. There was nobody then, and there is nobody now, to support in any way his theory or to argue with him on any basis except improbability. But he did win the court case.

One more theory is worth repeating along with the more curious. Among others, James Aswell, magazine writer and Tennessee history expert, has repeated it as a possible explanation for the Malungeons. This is: that about the time of the Portuguese revolt against Spain, numerous Portuguese ships were playing the Caribbean as pirates or near-pirates. A common method of disposing of unwanted crew members was to maroon them, sometimes on the Florida keys or coast. Some crews also mutinied, and one may well have burned its ship, attacked some small Indian village ashore and taken the women, then fled west to the mountains to escape Indian wrath.

That these Portuguese could have reached the Hancock ridges is obviously quite possible, especially if their marooning or mutiny should have taken place on the North Carolina coast. To say that they did reach the ridges is another matter. The only evidences of it are the dark and Latin features of the present-day Malungeons — the differences between Indian and Latin are often difficult to distinguish, the rumors of cross veneration and near-Catholic habits of burial, and the possibility mentioned by some writers that a name such as Bragans might as easily originally have been Braganza as Brogan.

Whatever they are — Welsh, English, Phoenician, Portuguese or just Indian — the Malungeons still are on Newman’s Ridge, in Hancock, Rhea and Hawkins counties of Tennessee, and a few across the border in Virginia. Many are scattered by ones or twos, miles from the isolated ridge to the occupied for so long. There are known to be hundreds and maybe thousands with variously diluted blood. And where they came from nobody knows. The old people left no records, no implements, books or relics to help in solving the mystery. They were uneducated, often illiterate people, and even what little the grandfathers knew or had heard of their own origin died with them, except for scraps of oral stories.

The descendants are still farmers, for the most part, still have occasional trouble about their color. Within the last dozen years, disputes flared briefly in certain Hancock County districts about whether Malungeon children should go to white or Negro schools and during both wars of this century, Malungeons have had color trouble upon reporting to Southern cantonments. They still make a certain amount of tax-evading whiskey somewhere up the dim ravines, and now and then are hauled into court for it. Generally, they still avoid schools, except for the mission at Vardy, from which the Rev. Chester F. Leonard sends a few on to the University of Tennessee or to church colleges. One such college, Maryville, has records of half a dozen entered, none graduated. Mr. Leonard, incidentally, says “The group is so intermingled that one cannot be sure of a typical specimen.”

In the small Tennessee hill towns, now and then, a dark man will talk to a stranger, tell a few incidents heard or seen on Newman’s Ridge or advise him, “See ___. If anybody knows, he will.” Only ___ never does. A lovely woman may even, looking straight at the visitor with gray eyes, say, “My own grandfather had some Indian blood and perhaps some Spanish. We don’t know much about the family, but there is a story that some of De Soto’s men…”

The lady may have small hands and feet, high cheekbones, straight hair and olive skin, and a regal carriage. She may talk for some time and tell much that is written in no books, some hearsay, some the most fanciful legend. But one word she will never say. She will never say,

“Malungeon.”

“Geographical Analysis of White-Negro-Indian Racial Mixtures in the Eastern United States” by Edward T. Price, 1953 article

Published by:

Geographical Analysis of White-Negro-Indian Racial Mixtures in the Eastern United States

by Edward T. Price, Los Angeles State College

The following is from the Association of American Geographers Annals Vol. 43 (June 1953) pp 138-55. Reprint permission granted with acknowledgment.

A strange product of the mingling of races which followed the British entry into North America survives in the presence of a number of localized strains of peoples of mixed ancestry. Presumed to be part white with varying proportions of Indian and Negro blood, ** they are recognized as of intermediate social status, sharing lot with neither white nor colored, and enjoying neither the governmental protection nor the tribal tie of the typical Indian descendants. A high degree of endogamy results from this special status, and their recognition is crystallized in the unusual group names applied to them by the country people.

 

The chief populations of this type are located and identified in Figure 1, which expresses their recurrence as a pattern of distribution. (1) Yet each is essentially a local phenomenon, a unique demographic body, defined only in its own terms and only by its own neighbors. A name applied to one group in one area would have no meaning relative to similar people elsewhere. This association of mixed-blood and particular place piques the geographic curiosity about a subject which, were it ubiquitous, might well be abandoned to the sociologist and social historian. What accounts for these cases of social endemism in the racially mixed population?

The total number of these mixed-bloods is probably 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. The available records, the most useful being old census schedules,(2) indicate that the present numbers of mixed-bloods have sprung from the great reproductive increase of small intial populations. The prevalence in each group of a small number of oft-repeated surnames is in accord with such a conclusion. The ancestors of the mixed-bloods have been free people (usually “free colored” in earlier censuses) for as long as their history can be traced; it is extremly unusual to find any evidence of slavery in their main ancestral lines.

The mixed-bloods are heterogeneous in physical appearance. Some of the population in some of the groups are unmistakably negroid in some characteristics. Proof of Indian ancestry rests more on tradition than on present appearance. The dark-skinned strain, however, does not seem to be due entirely to Negro blood; other negroid traits seem less clearly prevalent than darkness of skin. Skin colors among the mixed-bloods vary from white to brown, but few are as dark as an unmixed Indian.

LARGER MIXED-BLOOD STRAINS


The Croatan Indians of North Carolina

Figure 2 The Locklears in Halifax County are apparently not recognized today.

Probable ancestors of the Croatan Indians were reported along the Lumber River at the time of the area’s first settlement by Scotch people in the early 1730’s,(3) and they may be identical with a lawless band of swamp-dwellers reported in 1754. (4) At least sixty-five family heads can be identified in the census of 1790, but the groups seem to have remained relatively obscure until after the Civil War when one member of the group acquired notoriety for his exploits as an outlaw.(5) The Croatans’ demand for status found a champion in the person of Hamilton McMillan, a member of the legislature which conferred on them the title of “Croatan Indians,” later changed to “Cherokee Indians of Robeson County” (6) over the protests of the Cherokees of eastern North Carolina. The Croatans have had their own Indian school system, separate from both white and Negro, culminating in the State Teachers’ College at Pembroke. The census has tabulated them as Indians since 1890,and has shown their amazing rate of growth. (7) The Croatans are mostly small farmers engaged in growing cotton, tobacco, and corn in the western part of Robeson County, where they dominate the rural settlement. Even in their center of Pembroke, however, the business is mostly in the hands of whites, and the Croatans are resentful of their own lack of influence and status. (8) The latter is closely related to apparent or suspected presence of Negro blood, a matter which has internally compartmented the Croatan society itself. The Croatans appear in numbers in several nearby counties, and “Croatan” as a designation of race appears occasionally in the marriage records of even more distant localities.

A popularly held theory that Raleigh’s Lost Colony survives in one of the mixed-blood groups usually centers on the Croatans. It is difficult to tell whether this idea has been a tradition among the Croatans, or was only popular for a time in the late nineteenth century as a device for gaining status. The case built by McMillan(9) for historical continuity of the Lost Colony and the Croatans seems to have been successfully refuted by Swanton. (10) McMillan also lists the names of the members of the Lost Colony, alleging a similarity to Robeson County names. (11) Such a similarity was not evidenced by names in the census of 1790, nor are the most frequent Croatan surnames on the Lost Colony list at all. Indeed Locklear and Oxendine, the two most common names, covering nearly a third of the Croatans,(12) seem to be virtually unique to the Croatans. They were not reported among whites in the 1790 census, and so few free colored families of those names appeared outside of Robeson County in either 1790 or 1830 that an origin among the Croatans is indicated (Fig. 2).

The density of free Negroes in 1830 was greater in Robeson County (where they were mostly Croatans) than in any other county in the southern half of North Carolina. Whatever aberration from the usual bi-racial pattern resulted in the Croatans evidently had a quantitative as well as a qualitative aspect. Whether this process was immigration, a conservative lack of emigration, high fertility, or simply an early start is an unanswered question.


The Melungeons

The Melungeons(13) centering in Hancock County, Tennessee, are sometimes said to derive from the Croatans, but the comparison of names suggests only a tenuous connection. The Melungeons reached Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater Valley (in Hancock County) among the first settlers, apparently In the 1790’s. The number and ages of family heads bearing the names of Collins, Gibson, and Goins in 1830 suggest that several households with these names were involved in the original migrations from North Carolina and Virginia. By 1830 the Melungeon colony included 330 persons in 55 families in Hawkins County (from which Hancock was formed) and 130 persons in 24 families in adjoining Grainger County. Because of them Hawkins County showed more free colored persons in the 1830 census than any other county in Tennessee except Davidson (Nashville) and more free colored families named Collins than any other county in the United States. A few Melungeons persisted until 1830 in Ashe County in northwestern North Carolina; the records of that area contain the earliest references to Vardy Collins, (14) said to be the first of the Melungeon settlers.

A few of the Melungeons of today resemble Indians, but more are impossible to distinguish from white mountaineers. A caste distinction persists to a considerable degree, though the Melungeons are not segregated in schools. Melungeons are found in some numbers in Lee, Scott, and Wise County, Virginia, Letcher County, Kentucky, and in Graysville, Tennessee, and occasionally on and west of the Cumberland Plateau. In these more distant localities they are not always identified as Melungeons, but bear the characteristic surnames. Historical records do not supply proof for their likely relationship to the Hancock County group, and some of these other settlements are also very old. The name of Goins is particularly associated with Melungeons living south and west of Hancock County.


The Redbones of Louisiana

Five parishes of southwest Louisiana– Calcasieu, Rapides, Beauregard, Vernon, and Allen–include in their population a strain of mixed-bloods identified as Redbones. Louisiana, with its French background, is probably the state where mixture of white and Negro blood has been most typical; a number of concentrations of such peoples are recognized. The markedly English names of the Redbones and their Protestant religious affiliations (usually Baptist) demarcate the Redbones from all these other Louisiana mixed-bloods, with whom this study is not concerned.
The Redbones appear clearly in the earliest census records of the area as free colored persons, usually the only free colored persons with English names in the present areas. Later records identify the same persons as mulattoes; when the listed birthplace is outside of Louisiana, South Carolina is usually the state. Olmsted in 1857 (15) mentions a wealthy mulatto family of Ashworths near the border in east Texas, which is quite likely connected with the Redbones of the same name. Evidently the Redbones were mixed in blood when they came as cattle-grazers to this last-settled corner of Louisiana. Further support for believing their origin to be South Carolina stems from the facts that Redbone is an old Carolina term for mixed-bloods, (16) that several Redbone names occurred among free Negroes of South Carolina, and that several names of South Carolina mixed-bloods occurred with the Redbones in earlier censuses.

The Redbones probably number 3000 or more. They are not segregated in schools, though several rural areas and two or three villages are predominantly Redbone in population. Many of the Redbones have drifted into the towns to take various jobs in recent: years. In spite of the absence of any official recognition or rigid segregation, the Redbones form what is essentially a caste; and they are homogeneous in economic class, the small subsistence farm or labor in forest or mill providing the livelihood.
The term Redbone suggests Indian blood, which is reported to have been evident among some of the older Redbones. The status the Redbones hold and the appearance of many of the Redbones today suggest an admixture of Negro blood. No one is called a Redbone to his face, but the term is universally understood in southwest Louisiana, and the members of a Redbone family will be so tagged as long as they continue to live in the area.

The nucleus of American settlement in Alabama was a small enclave on the west bank of the lower Tombigbee and Mobile Rivers which, in the early nineteenth century, was surrounded by Spanish Mobile to the south and Indian tribes on the other sides–Creek, Choctaw and Cherokee. (17)

Into this frontier came a free colored man named Reed, said to have been a mulatto from Jamaica; he married a slave woman, also a mulatto, whose freedom he later purchased, (18) and the two operated a cattle-penning center in conjunction with an inn along the road into Mississippi. The Reeds had eight children, 56 grandchildren, and at least 202 great grandchildren; (19) by today the eighth and ninth generation has appeared, and the descent of the Reeds is innumerable. A free colored couple named Byrd, who probably came into the area a little later, are known to have produced 119 great grandchildren, and a Weaver family traced back to two family heads has been equally prolific.

About half of the population of over 2000 Cajans in Mobile and Washington Counties in Alabama bear the names of Weaver, Reid, and Byrd. The descendants of these families were not numerous until after the Civil War, but their previous status of freedom and their mixed race may account for their subsequent separation from the other Negroes. Certainly their rapid growth in numbers and their intermarriage of one family with another help to explain the recognition by the white population which ultimately resulted in borrowing (with a slight rnodification in spelling) the term Cajan from Louisiana to identify them.
Today the Cajans live in a clearly circumscribed rural area of the pine forests containing about 175 square miles. Their children attend special schools provided by the counties. Perhaps another 2000 Cajans have managed to slip into towns or cities where they are not actively thrown with the core of the group.

The Cajans have not only survived, but have steadily grown in this area of change and instability. After the cattlegrazers came the lumber and railroad camps. Geronimo’s Indians were detained at nearby Mt. Vernon in 1890. (20) Each of these transient groups and many others may have contributed blood to the Cajans.

The exhaustion of the forests has left the slim leavings to the Cajans. Many of them are squatters on large landholdings; most of them work in the forest industries, lumbering, turpentining, hauling logs, operating sawmills. Increasing population in an area of depleted resources cannot continue indefinitely. Some of the Cajans leave the region and pass as white in distant localities; these are usually the lighter-skinned. A conservatism tends to hold most of them near home. The emigration has not kept up with the growth by reproduction, but it probably balances occasional intermarriage with whites to keep most of the residual Cajan population moderately dark-skinned.


The Issues of Amherst County, Virginia

A concentration of several hundred Issues (a term applied to Negroes freed before the Civil War) has long been recognized at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge near Amherst, Virginia. They are mostly a laboring group, working on the tobacco farms of the Piedmont and the apple orchards of the slopes above and as domestic servants. The mulatto ancestors of the Issues were in the area by 1785, but little is known of their history; one of the group was mentioned as a free mulatto in 1848. (21) The idea that the group has some Indian blood persists, however. (22)
Emigration, especially to New Jersey during the War, has reduced the number of Issues materially. This movement seems to be the result of the assiduousness of the Virginia Department of Vital Statistics in its campaign to label as Negroes in all official records those with any fraction of Negro ancestry. This threat to their previous intermediate status was distasteful. A possibly related group have been mountain farmers on Irish Creek on the western side of the Blue Ridge; they have not been excluded from white schools in Rockbridge County.


The Guineas of West Virginia

Most of the Guineas (23) live in Barbour and Taylor Counties in north central West Virginia, but they are known in several other counties also. This is an area of very few other colored people; though the Guineas attend the colored schools, they have resisted this segregation and would probably resist more forcibly if the schools had more Negro children and Negro teachers. The 1600 or more Guineas in Barbour and Taylor Counties are mostly peasant farmers, coal miners, day laborers, and domestic servants. A very few are wealthy. They live in several rural concentrations where their ownership of land dates from early in the nineteenth century, (24) in others where they have more recently replaced whites, and in some numbers in the towns.

Several surnames belong almost exclusively to Guineas in this area, but nearly half the group are named Mayle (formerly spelled Mail, Male, etc.). (25) There are several traditions of Indian blood among the Guineas, but the records confirm only the “colored” and mulatto mixtures. The records of the Guineas’ ancestors all trace back to Virginia (then including West Virginia); they were in the western part of the state well before 1800. The mixed-bloods seem to have reached this area from several different directions before their increase to the present population. The Mayles, and perhaps other Guinea families came from Hampshire County, where they may have been people of some means. Just when the Mayle family became mixed-blooded is not clear, but it evidently occurred before 1810, when they had already started moving westward into the Plateau. The census evidence indicates that all of the Mayles of the Guinea group, numbering over 700 in Barbour and Taylor Counties, are either actual or legal descendants of one man. Most of the Guinea settlement in Taylor County has developed from Barbour County in the last two generations, and more recently the Guineas have settled in some numbers in several Ohio cities and in Detroit.


The Wesorts of Maryland

A vaguely defined mixed-blood group known as Wesorts (26) form part of the population of the southeastern peninsula of Maryland west of Chesapeake Bay, within an hour’s drive of Washington. Their number is estimated at between 750 and 3000. Their children attend both white and colored schools. Twenty-six Wesort surnames have been identified, most of which were among the 54 family names of free colored persons in the area in 1790; most of the names were also, common among whites of the area at the same time.


The Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware

Two mixed groups, probably related to one another, live chiefly in Delaware. (27) The Moors numbering about 500, are in a suburb of Dover, and the Nanticokes. numbering about 700, live in the southeast part of the state near the estuary of the Indian River. The former support themselves from various wage jobs, while the latter have retained their modest farms in the Indian River Hundred. Most of their children attend an assortment of special schools, both public and private, which has resulted from internal differences and misunderstandings with officials.

The Nanticoke leaders have recently tried to revive their Indian birthright through the formation of the Nanticoke Indian Association. In spite of the fact that their economy has made use of a surprising number of Indian culture traits, (28) there is little evidence at hand to connect them directly with the aborigines of Delaware. Their claim to Indian status seems neither stronger nor weaker than that of several other mixed-blood groups.


The Jackson Whites of New York and New Jersey

The Jackson Whites, the only large mixed group of the North, is the only one whose members have been willing to throw in their lot with the Negroes, though they do not class themselves with the colored population at large. Though within easy commuting distance of New York City (Bergen County, New Jersey, and Rockland County, New York), their existence has apparently depended historically on a refuge in the fault-bounded Ramapo Hills. Their names of Mann, DeGroat, DeFreese, and Van Dunk suggest a relation to the Dutch settlers of New York; all of these names but the last are old (29) in the area, while a de Vries appeared in a seventeenth century reference (30) as a free Negro.

The early history of the Jackson Whites is obscure, and no hypotheses or theories (31) seem to find much confirmation in records. The people seem to have supported themselves on the mountain during the nineteenth century by farming and producing forest products such as charcoal, baskets, barrel staves, brooms, and wooden tools. (32) Missionary work on the mountain and increased job opportunities in the lowlands have made the Jackson Whites a part of modern society. Most of them have moved into the lowland towns and taken jobs in the shops and mills. Segregation in a colored grade school in one of the New York communities was ended in 1947. Traditions among the Jackson Whites themselves indicate either a very diverse ethnic background or a complete confusion over the actual truth.


SMALLER GROUPS OF MIXED-BLOODS

Nineteen separate groups of mixed-blood peoples have been identified on the Coastal Plain of South Carolina. (33) Typically they live somewhat apart from other groups in rural settings with their own clusters of shacks. Their employment is mostly in agricultural labor. In most cases special schools are provided.

The groups may have formed around the small lowland Indian tribes as nuclei, picking up both white and Negro blood. (34) Characteristic names are recognized in each locality, but certain names tend to be common in several counties, sometimes linking the South Carolina groups with Croatans and other larger groups. The South Carolina mixed-bloods, on the whole, are said to be making gains toward white status. A number of group names–e.g., Brass Ankles, Redbones; Redlegs, Buckheads, Turks–are applied locally to these peoples. Their social differentiation seems to be a pattern of long standing in South Carolina.

North Carolina is also prominent on the map of mixed-bloods. Its school directory lists 27 Indian schools. (35) Goins is the chief surname among a scattering of alleged mixed-bloods in Surry, Stokes, and Rockingham Counties, North Carolina, and adjoining Patrick County, Virginia. Though one Indian school is maintained for these people, they have, in at least one case, won suit for admission to white schools. Usually they attend white schools and are distinguished only socially by their neighbors. Their total number is at least several hundred. The compact land ownership around Gointown in Rockingham County suggests it as being of longest standing as a center for this strain; land records carry them back in that part of the county to its formation in 1786. A similar situation occurs in Moore County in southern North Carolina with the difference that the Goinses and their associates are classed as Negro, but mix little with other Negroes.

Magoffin County in the Kentucky Mountains has a small mixed-blood population considered to be of Indian mixture. (36) They are noted in the county as mountain farmers with large families whom they are able to maintain without apparent means of support. The people have been in the county as long as records have been maintained. Their surnames have all been associated with Melungeons in the records, though some of the early Magoffin County mixed-bloods were themselves born in Virginia and North Carolina. A colony of the Magoffin County group planted itself near Carmel, Ohio, about the time of the Civil War. At the very edge of the Appalachians, they built their shacks in the hills where they obtained shelter, wood, game, and ginseng, providing farm labor at times on the more fertile plains. Some of the group are now rooted in Carmel, but close contact is yet maintained with relatives in Magoffin County.

Ohio has a second small group living in the rich Corn Belt land of Darks County. Admittedly part Negro, members of this group are descended from ancestors who began settlement there by 1822. A number of families, all of whom came from the southeast, apparently found here an escape from the anomalous position of the free Negro in the slave states. The colony is fairly prosperous although the farms are somewhat smaller than the average about them; subdivision through inheritance probably accounts for this condition.

Other small mixed-blood groups are indicated on the map in Figure 1.


INTERPRETATION OF MIXED-BLOOD DISTRIBUTION

The mixed-blood groups generally appear to have arisen from diverse sources. Where records are available, they indicate that the ancestors of the present mixed- bloods, coming into their present areas at the time of American settlement, were themselves mixed. The mixing must have had a beginning, of course; the old records are lacking for the easternmost groups where settlement was earlier. The surnames of the mixed-blood people are usually distinctive in their areas; if their names are taken from white people, such event seems to pre-date settlement in the present areas.

The mixed-blood groups are not closely associated with particular physical refuge areas in most cases; more broadly, however, Figure1 shows that most of them live in the Coastal Plain and Appalachian Provinces–areas generally marginal in soil fertility and irregular in utility, accessibility and settlement. Though typically, but not entirely, a Southern phenomenon, mixed-blood groups are not typical of the old Cotton Belt, but rather outline its edges. Borders of some nature seem to be favorite locations. The Redbones near the old Texas border, the Jackson Whites, Issues, and Carmel groups near borders between hills and plains, the Cajans on the old Spanish frontier, and many groups near state boundaries may be locationally related to the meeting of two worlds.
The conservative nature of these groups is evidenced by the fact that the boys who saw service during the second World War, usually in white units, have regularly returned to their homes. One stream of mixed-bloods does leave the focal areas to pass as white in cities and elsewhere, ultimately losing touch completely with the original group. The home areas often present limited opportunity in the economic niches open to the mixed-bloods. Some expand in a real extent, some in replacing white groups, but generally their populations are restricted, and their increase as identifiable mixed-bloods does not approach their actual reproductive growth.

Many of the mixed-blood groups seem unrelated or unimportantly related one to the other. Perhaps they represent similar responses to similar social conditions, each in a different area. The records of the surnames and birthplaces, however, tie a number of the groups together: the Croatans and many small groups of the Carolinas and Virginia; the Melungeons; the Redbones; the mixed-bloods of Magoffin County; and the two small groups mentioned in Ohio.

Though certain facts concerning the origin of these peoples have been traced, the questions of who they were and why they displayed this unusual clannishness have hardly been touched. The relationships mentioned suggest the hypothesis of a colonial mixed-blood society having origin in Virginia and the Carolinas, consisting of a number of localized concentrations as well as floaters who served to maintain or effect both blood and social ties between the sedentary groups. Though the early groups certainly grew by accretion, chance colonization of a few members of this society in a new location may have been the necessary condition for a new localization of the same type. They seem to have moved westward into and across the Appalachians with the general stream of population. It is difficult to trace specific parenthood of one group by another, but numerous interrelationships are indicated by the records.


ORIGIN OF THE MIXED-BLOOD GROUPS

The records needed to probe the origin and nature of this society are, if ex- istent, not available through the common indices and card catalogues. Perhaps they may be accidentally turned up. Some suggestive fragments are herewith presented.


The Goins Family

Figure 3

The name Goins seems to be a peculiar marker of these mixed-bloods. It has already been mentioned in connection with the Melungeons and certain strains in North Carolina. It is prominent among the mixed-bloods of Darke County, Ohio, and was associated with the Redbones in what is now Calcasieu Parish. It is a minor name among the Croatans and is the chief name among a mixed-blood group with a special school in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. Further, Goins is an unusual name; though many whites are named Goins, it occurred with a much greater frequency among free colored persons in 1830 (2.8 per thousand) than among the population at large in 1790 (0.1 per thousand in six populous Southern and Middle states.

Over a hundred free colored families named Goins were well scattered in 1830 through the South and southern parts of the Northern border states (Fig. 3). The two greatest concentrations occurred in the Melungeon area and the North Carolina-Virginia Piedmont where so many are found today. The former was almost certainly derived from the latter. (37) The concentration in central Virginia may be older than these, but is not known to have persisted. The Goins name arrived in Virginia early, (38) one “Tho. Gowen” having been listed as a passenger on the Globe in 1635. (39) One account of the better known branch of the family (40) has them spreading southward from a center in Stafford County, Virginia. A colored servant, Mihill Gowen, was released after four years of service in 1657; (41) It may be noted that Gowen had not been the name of his mistress. The same unusual name (Mihil Goen) crops up again in 1718 in James City County as former owner of escheat land being patented by another man. (42) A muster roll of a Granville County, North Carolina, regiment in 1754 singled out five men in one company as mulattoes; three of them were named Gowen. (43) A roster of North Carolina Revolutionary soldiers of 1778 lists a Gowan as a mulatto. (44) A 1792 entry in a deed book of Fairfeld County, South Carolina, (45) records the fact that Levi Goyen made his friend John Goyen his attorney for handling a parcel of land in “Daverson Co. N.C. aforesaid land being first in the hands of David Goyen decd. free Mallatto went to Cumberland River in the year 1770 and were killed by the Indians in the year 1780 and left the said Mallatto Levi Goyen his proper heir….” The records available leave open the possibility that a branch of the Gowen family emerged as free mixed-bloods in the seventeenth century. Russell uses Milhill Gowen (46) to illustrate his contention that the early Negro servitude was usually an indenture rather than a permanent slavery. Can the mixed-bloods have had such an origin as free men, maintaining ever since the social barrier against the freed slaves? Certainly such a phenomenon as the Goins family must have a definite story behind it, but has it made its way into the records?

No real center of the Goins mixed-bloods can be identified antedating their concentration in 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.


The Chavis Family

Figure 4

Another widespread name among mixed-bloods is Chavis (Chavous, Chavers, probably Shavers, etc.) (Fig. 4). Whereas Goins was more frequent among free colored people than whites, Chavis was also more numerous among the free colored. One free Negro of the name rose to fame as an educator. (47) Chavis is a prominent Croatan name. It has been reported in South Carolina as a mixed-blood name, e.g., In Orangeburg County, and its association with the Melungeons and Redbones is suggested by the records. A Granville County muster roll of 1754 lists three members of the family, one as a Negro, the other two (at least one a son of the first) as mulattoes. (48) Colored slaveholders of the name were identified in Virginia by Jackson (49) in Charlotte County and Russell (50) in Mecklenburg County. They are identified as South Carolina frontiersmen in 1751 and 1752. (51) Again an interesting story should unfold could the family and name be traced to their beginnings.

A number of other names seem to be frequent tracers of people of these mixed- blood castes, not only in the Carolinas and Virginia, but also in other states to their west. Bass, Epps, Scott, Bell, Sweat, and Revels are good examples. In addition there are less definite suggestions or fewer cases of still other names of which the following may be given as examples: Bolton, Braveboy, Cumbo, Harris, Newsom, Russell. Many of these names are common among whites and are of no use in the present connection unless identified as separate from their occurrence in the population at large.

An example of the suggestive co-occurrence of several of these names may be found in a document of 1822. (52) A list of free people of color in Richland District, South Carolina, delinquent in the personal tax expected of them in 1821 and 1822 includes prominently the names of Oxendine, Locklier, Chavis, Sweat(Redbones and South Carolina groups), Gibson (Melungeons), and Jacobs. The last name is important in a mixed-blood group in Richland County today, a group of localized residents known as Sandhillers; it is also the name of probably a few hundred Croatans. Accompanying the list of delinquents is a petition to the House of Representatives on the estate of the then late district sheriff, begging release from the payment of the uncollected tax because “the time allowed by the Law for the return of these Executions is so short, and the difficulty of finding them on account of the peculiar situation of their place of residence, is such, that it was impossible for the Sheriff to collect…. (53) A seclusion of the mixed-bloods in an inaccessible location is definitely implied, yet their separation was not so perfect that the sheriff did not have a list of their names. The people with whom the sheriff was timid about dealing were likely the ancestors of the present Sandhillers; they almost certainly included some Croatan families, and the names suggest connection with other mixed- bloods too.

The social attitude of these mixed-bloods must have been such that they found it congenial to take up with others of their own kind. They seem to have persisted in the static societies of rural areas stimulated perhaps by tradition of Indian blood or pride of early freedom. (54)

Notes to Price Article

Notes to Edward Price article

**Grateful acknowledgement is made for financial assistance in the preparation of this paper from a special fund at the disposal of the Geology and Geography Department of the University of Cincinnati; it was used for field study in the Carolinas and Virginia in the summer of 1950 in the interests of running back the origins of mixed-blood groups previously studied elsewhere.

*The word blood is used throughout this paper to denote composition of racial ancestry.

1For a useful summary of these groups see W.H. Gilbert, “Memorandum Concerning the Characteristics of the Larger Mixed-Blood Islands of the Eastern United States,” Social Forces, XXIV (1946): 438-447.

2Original schedules of the United States Censuses not destroyed are available in the National Archives, Washington, D.C., in volumes identified by state, county, and year. Two indexed publications are particularly useful: U.S. Census Bureau, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, Washington, D.C., 1907-8; C. G. Woodson, Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830, Washington, 1925.

3Guy B. Johnson, “Personality in a White-Negro-Indian Community,” American Sociological Review, IV (1939): 519

4J. R. Swanton, “Probable Identity of the Croatan Indians,” Senate Reports, 73rd Congress, 2nd Session, Calendar No. 229, Report No. 204, Washington, 1934: 5.

5Johnson, op cit, 517-518.

6Ibid, pp. 518, 520.

7See R. M. Harper, “A Statistical Study of the Croatans,” Rural Sociology, II (1937): 444-456, and “The Most Prolific People in the United States,” Eugenical News, XXIII (1938): 29-31.

8Johnson, op cit, p. 522.

9Sir Walter Raleigh’ Lost Colony, revised edition, Raleigh, 1907 (earlier edition, 1888).

10Op. cit, pp. 3-6.

11>Op. cit, p. 35.

12Lists of students at Pembroke State College, taken from Catalog II, No. 4, June, 1949 give the following percentage frequencies for the most common names: Locklear 17, Oxendine 13, Lowrie 9, Sampson 6, Chavis 5, Dial 4, Maynor 4, Hunt 4.

13Edward T. Price, “The Melungeons: A Mixed-Blood Strain of the Southern Appalachians,” Geographical Review, XLI (1951): 256-271.
14The earliest is from the April term of Wilkes County (then containing Ashe) Court, 1790, case 10, State vs. Vardy Collins: case 11 was State vs. Jordan Gibson.

15Frederick Law Olmstead, A Journey Through Texas, New York, 1857, pp. 386-7.

16Stephen B. Weeks, “The Lost Colony of Roanoke: its Fate and Survival,” Papers of the American Historical Association, V (1891): 466; Brewton Berry, “The Mestizos of South Carolina,” American Journal of Sociology, LI (1945): 34.

17Peter Joseph Hamilton, “Early Roads of Alabama,” Transactions of Alabama Historical Society, II (1897-8): 47.

18Harry Toulmin, Digest of Alabama Laws, New York, 1823, p. 642.

19Lineage book of mixed-blood families (typewritten ms.) prepared for Mobile School Board, ca. 1931.

20U. S. Census Office, Eleventh Census, Report on Indians Taxed and Indians Not Taxed, Washington, 1894, p. 132.

21John Jaquelin Ambler, ms. journal, Amherst, 1848, p. 60.

22The group is anonymously examined in Arthur H. Estabrook and Ivan E. McDougle, Mongrel Virginians, Baltimore, 1926.

23Gilbert, “Mixed Bloods of the Upper Monongahela Valley, West Virginia,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, XXXVI (1946): 1-13.

24Deed books of Barbour and Harrison Counties.

25Based on school census and voter registration; in the latter the following families had the given percentages of the total number of Guineas: Mayle 45, Croston 11, Kennedy 10, Dalton 8, Newman 7.

26Gilbert, “The Wesorts of Southern Maryland, an Outcasted Group,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, XXXV (1945): 237-246.

27C. A. Weslager, Delaware’s Forgotten Folk, Philadelphia, 1943.

28Frank G. Speck, “The Nanticoke Community of Delaware,” Contributions form the Museum of the American Indian, II (1915), No. 4.

29Constance Crawford, The Jackson Whites, M.A. thesis, School of Education, New York University, 1940, p. 41.

30George H. Budke, “The History of the Tappan Patent,” The Rockland Record (Rockland County Society of the State of New York), II (1931-2): 35.

31See J. C. Storms, Origin of the Jackson Whites of the Ramapo Mountains, Park Ridge, N.J., 1945.

32”Community of Outcasts,” Appleton’s Journal, VII (1872): 324-329.

33Berry, Op. cit., pp. 34-41.

34Ibid, p. 35.

35Educational Directory of North Carolina, 1949-1950, Publication No. 273. Issued by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Raleigh. Only two of these schools are more than two counties removed from the Croatan center; at least two other such Indian schools have existed in the past.

36Edward T. Price, “The Mixed-Blood Strain of Carmel, Ohio, and Magoffin County, Kentucky,” Ohio Journal of Science, L (1950), 281-290.

37A census taker in Lee County, Va., in 1870 recorded county of birth (whereas only the state was requested). A mulatto Goins family had adults born in Surry and Ashe Counties, N. C., and children born in Hancock, Grainger, and Knox Counties, Tennessee. All except the last are mixed-blood localities of some importance.

38This statement is based on the identity of the names Goins and Gowen (along with Going, Gowings, Goyne, etc.), which are certainly indistinguishable in the records. Those who wold derive Goins from the Portuguese Gôes, of course, present a problem of different nature (lining up with those who suggest Chavez as the derivation of Chavis, discussed below; the suggestion of an Iberian origin for the mixed-bloods is widespread, but not supported by direct evidence). Goins is also said by McMillan (op. cit., 40) to have been derived from O’Guin in Robeson County.

39John Camden Hotten, The Original Lists of Persons of Quality…and Others who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700, London, 1874, 119.

40(Mrs.) A. Evans Wynn, Southern Lineages, Atlanta, 1919, pp. 319 et seg.

41John H. Russell, “The Free Negro in Virginia, 1619-1865,” Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, XXXI (1913): 47 and Ms. Court Records of York County, 1657-1662, p. 45, filed in Virginia State Library, Richmond.

42”Patents Issued During the Regal Government,” William and Mary Historical Quarterly Magazine, 1st series, XII (1904): 189.

43The State Records of North Carolina. Goldsboro, N. C., 1886-1907, XXII, 372.

44Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution, Durham, 1932, p. 600.

45Deed Book A, p. 162, filed in courthouse at Winnsboro.

46Loc. cit.

47E.g., see John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom, New York, 1947, p. 227.

48The North Carolina State and Colonial Records, XXII, p. 379.

49Luther P. Jackson, Free Negro Labor and Property Holding in Virginia, 1830-1860, New York, 1942, p. 216.

50James S. Russell, “Rural Economic Progress of the Negro in Virginia,“ Journal of Negro History, XI (1926): 559.

51Kenneth Wiggins Porter, “Negroes on the Southern Frontier,” Journal of Negro History, XXXIII (1948): 74.

52Filed with documents under head of “Free Persons of Color” in the South Carolina State Archives, Columbia.

53Present writer’s italics.

54Since the compilation of this article, Mr. Calvin Beale of the Census Bureau has informed me of the results of his examination of these mixed-blood groups as they appeared in the 1950 Census. They could be identified with reasonable accuracy from a list of the known surnames, by their sequence on the list, and by evidence of intermarriage obtained from maiden names. The data tend to confirm most of the population estimates and to strengthen considerably the evidence of connections between certain groups. The Magoffin County group seem to be twice as numerous as estimated (500 or more), and a number of small concentrations previously unknown to me were discovered in this manner.

“American Triracial Isolates” by Calvin Beale, 1957 article

Published by:

1957 Beale article

American Triracial Isolates: Their Status and Pertinence to Genetic Research

by Calvin L. Beale
originally published in Eugenics Quarterly
4/4 (December 1957): 187-196.
Used with permission of author

 

In the 1950 Census of Population, 50,000 American Indians are listed as living in states east of the Mississippi River. These people do not constitute the sole biological legacy of the aboriginal population once found in the East, of course. The remnants of many tribes were removed west of the Mississippi where they retain their tribal identity today. Nor is it uncommon to meet Easterners, thoroughly Caucasian in appearance and racial status, who boast of an Indian ancestor in the dim past. Other intfusio9ns of Indian blood were absorbed into the Negro population, and in this context may also be referred to with pride even if they afford no differential social status.

It is another class of people, however, that engages the attention of this article – a class more numerous than the Indians remaining in the East, more obscure than those in the West, less assured than the white man or the Negro who regards his link of Indian descent as a touch of the heroic or romantic. The reference is to population groups of presumed triracial descent. Such isolates, bequeathed of intermingled Indian, white, and Negro ancestry, are as old as the nation itself and include not less than 77,000 persons. They live today in more than 100 counties of at least 17 Eastern States with settlements ranging in size from less than 50 persons to more than 20,000. Their existence has furnished material for the writings of local historians, folklorists, journalists, and novelists. Occasionally, they have come to the attention of cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and – here and there – a geographer or educator. Attention to the triracial isolates by geneticists is largely confined to the last three years, however. It is the object of this discussion to describe the nature, location, and status of such Indian-white-Negro groups in Eastern States and to indicate the potential interest they hold for the field of human genetics.1

Although the precise origin of these groups is unknown in most instances, they seem to have formed through miscegenation between Indians, whites, and Negroes – slave or free – in the Colonial and early Federal periods. In places the offspring of such unions – many of which were illegitimate under the law – tended to marry among themselves. Within a generation or so this practice created a distinctly new racial element in society, living apart from other faces. The forces differed from place to place. Some groups subsequently dispersed or were assimilated during the 19th century. Some waxed in numbers, others waned. Most have persisted to the present day.

A majority of the triracial isolates originated in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Their members were among the early pioneers in the Appalachian Plateaus and the Tennessee River Valley. Many left the South and moved to Northern States such as Ohio and Indiana, especially when restrictive measures were passed against free nonwhite people in Southern States during the 1830’s. Thus it happens that the majority of the groups in the Trans-Appalachian States are related to others remaining in the South Atlantic States, although contact between them has lapsed.2 None of the Northern groups seem to have colonized to the west, however.

The habitat of the mixed-blood people has been typically rural and geographically isolated. It is difficult to find such a settlement that is not associated with a swamp, a hollow, an inaccessible ridge, or the back country of a sandy flatwoods.3 Many modern developments have helped reduce their isolation, but this isolation factor appears to have been of major importance in fostering and perpetuating the existence of the groups. Legal disputes over their racial status for purposes of school attendance, vital statistics registration, and other public matters have been numerous in Southern and Border states. In many groups educational attainment is low, income is inadequate, and reliance on public welfare programs is high. The incidence of illegitimacy, common-law marriage, petty larceny, and other socially disapproved practices has been frequent enough in certain locations to type the racial hybrids unfavorably in the public mind.

The racial status of the triracial people varies greatly, both as conceived in the minds of the people themselves and in the eyes of their white or Negro neighbors. Occasionally they occupy no more than a peculiar status among the Negro population. Some are regarded as a separate race, known either as Indian or by a local colloquial name. Where such is the case in Southern States, they often have their own segregated schools. In North Carolina, where they are most numerous, this practice extends to a separate State college. Other groups have achieved a measure of acceptance as white. It seems impossible to reconstruct for each community the circumstances that have determined the present status. Physical appearance and local traditions of origin may well be the most important.

It is well to make clear that the designation of these groups as triracial is often the conclusion of the investigator rather than a reflection of public opinion in the area concerned. In general all local informants will agree that the mixed population is partly white. (Blue eyes are commonly in evidence to validate this.) The white informant will insist that the mixed-blood people are partly Negro. Perhaps he will agree that they are partly Indian, perhaps not. The mixed-blood individual will usually insist – with vehemence, if necessary – that there is no Negro ancestry in his family (although he may not make this claim for all other families in the settlement) but that he is partly Indian. In a minority of communities unmistakable elements of Indian culture have between found. Presence of Negro ancestry may or may not be evident in some families from the occurrence of Negro hair forms or facial features. If evident, it tends to jeopardize claims of the group to non-Negro status. In sum, the groups described are with few exceptions considered only of white and Indian descent by their members but are regarded to be partly Negro by neighboring whites or Negroes.4 Investigators frequently report the opinion of elderly persons that the average skin color of younger members of triracial isolates is lighter than that of earlier generations. This is not surprising in view of the fact that in most groups social relations with Negroes are discouraged and marriage to a Negro may result in ostracism. Relationships with white persons entail no such group displeasure.

Characterization of the triracial groups has its limitations, for thy have emerged over a large geographic area under varying cultural conditions. With the usual footnote that there are exceptions, it can be said that they are a highly inbred class of people. It is this feature that most warrants the interest of students of human heredity.

The conditions of social and physical isolation – both imposed and voluntary – that fostered the emergence of mixed racial communities typically limited the choice of marriage partners within a relatively small number of surnames. Scattered data on marriage records attest to this. In Halifax County, North Carolina, between 1819 and 1860, 14 out of 29 male members of the leading family in a triracial group for whom marriage bonds were filed married females of the same name.5 Of 35 marriages recorded for persons having the key surnames of a mixed-racial community in Cumberland County, New Jersey, 9 were to spouses of the same surname and 17 to spouses of just one other surname.6 In two families of the so -called “Guinea” community of Barbour and Taylor Counties, West Virginia, 102 of 112 marriages from 1856-1931 were to other persons in the racial isolate (about 11 surnames).7

Presumably as a result of such close marrying practices, genetically determined diseases and defects of unusual frequency have been reported among a number of the triracial isolates. The Jackson Whites of New Jersey have long been noted for albinism and polydactylism.8 Some of the Moors of Delaware suffer from microphthalmia9, and hereditary deformities of the joints are reported among the West Virginia mixed bloods.10

The most notable evidences of inbreeding and hereditary difficulties have been reported for an isolate in Southern Maryland termed colloquially, “Wesorts.” These people number about 4,000, including those in Washington, D.C., of whom at least one-fourth bear one surname, with a dozen names accounting for most of the rest of the population. An excellent measure of consanguinity in the group is provided by the fact that at least 90 percent are Roman Catholic and ecclesiastical dispensation is required by that faith for marriages of known first or second cousins. In one major parish over a 104-year period, one sixth of the marriages involving at least one Wesort required such a dispensation.11

The Indian tribes of Southern Maryland left the area before the end of the 17th century, but some Indians of mixed descent, or married to non-Indians, apparently remained. A triracial group evolved. Some knowledge of the original tribal clan structure was handed down, but the triracial people became part of the larger society as a poor farming and laboring element regarded as colored.

Maintenance of racial separateness by the Maryland group is notable for it has been achieved without the assistance of institutionalized aids such as separate schools and churches. By law the children had to attend the “regular” colored schools. The people have attended the same churches as the general population but for a long period sat by custom in a particular section of the church.

The Wesorts are variable in appearance, including substantial variation within sibships. In general, they are somewhat darker than most of the other triracial peoples, and Negroid hair forms and facial features are not uncommon. However, some can pass as white and as a group they are distinctly lighter and more Caucasian than the neighboring Negro population, which itself has a substantial infusion of white ancestry. Some are pointed out as showing Indian characteristics.

In 1945 Gilbert, a cultural anthropologist, reported on the group and mentioned hereditary difficulties ascribed to it.12 About three years ago, the existence of the group as a distinct breeding population and the widespread incidence of hereditary disease within it were first recognized by medical researchers through admissions to Washington hospitals. An intensive survey of the population was subsequently undertaken under the sponsorship of the National Institutes of health and is still in progress. Results reported from this work indicate exceptionally high incidence of dentinogenisis imperfecta and albinism.13 The former is a dental defect, transmitted as a simple dominant gene, which has various manifestations. It is an unsightly affliction and commonly results in the necessity for full artificial dentures in early adulthood. Many other hereditary conditions such as lop ears, polycystic kidneys, deaf mutism, glaucoma, syndactylism, polydactylism, congenital cataracts, convergent and divergent strabismus (nonparalytic eye squint), and hyperstatic bone disease have been found in the group and are being assessed. Two or more of the conditions often occur in the same person. “Due to several centuries of in-marriage, many genetically recessive traits have become manifest and many genetically dominant traits have become concentrated in certain lines of the clan.”14Fertility is high notwithstanding the heavy load of inheritable handicaps. Cohorts of women of recently completed childbearing averaged better than five and one-half children per female beginning life in the cohort.

It may be that the intensity of inbreeding and notable constellation of hereditary effects evident among the Wesort group will be found to represent the extreme example of such conditions in the Indian-white-Negro isolates.15 In any event, it illustrates persuasively the attention which American triracial isolates merit from geneticists, and which, strangely, they have not previously received.

The statistics in Table 1 show the location, size, and racial status in the 1950 Population Census records of nearly all rural and small town triracial groups know to be still in existence. Folk-names for the groups are also given where known. These data were compiled by the writer while employed by the Bureau of the Census, in order to appraise the results of the Bureau’s efforts to introduce consistency into the classification of triracial isolates. In past censuses, variation in the listing of such groups had produced obvious inconsistencies in race statistics from one census to another. In 1950, the Bureau instructed enumerators to “Report persons of mixed white, Negro, and Indian ancestry living in certain communities in the Eastern United States in terms of the name by which they are locally known.”16 Such persons were then to be classified for publication purposes among “other nonwhite races,” that is, other than Negro, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino.

In 116 counties checked, the population of triracial character was estimated at 77,000 persons, on the basis of race entries, enumerators’ notes, and through the use of extensive surname data on th4e groups assembled from a variety of sources. Of this number, 33,000 were enumerated as Indian, 29,000 as white, 14,000 as Negro, and 1,000 under colloquial race names or with the race entry blank. More than 40 percent of the total live in North Carolina. It was not feasible to make the investigation in cities of more than 20,000 inhabitants. Undoubtedly all of the groups have made some contribution to urban migration, but it is the native rural environment that status as a separate race or endogamous group is most common.

Relatively few instances were noted in the 1950 Census records where enumerators employed colloquial race terms, although there was an increase from previous censuses in the use of “Indian” as the race name for triracial people. On reflection, it is not surprising that colloquial terms were not employed more freely by the enumerators. They exist for the great majority of the groups but are usually offensive to the people so-termed. Examples include: Croatan, Brass Ankle, Red Bone, Red leg, Free Jack, Bushwhacker, Dominicker, Guinea, and Issue. Common politeness or self-interest may have led many enumerators to list groups as Indian or white. Field investigations by the writer and others substantiate that certain of the communities have acquired a public status as white or Indian even though they continue to be regarded informally as having some Negro ancestry. In the numerous instances where the racial status of an isolate has not been static – at least as reflected in census records – the direction of change over the years seems invariably to have gone toward a lighter classification. For example, the so-called “Melungeon” people were commonly listed as mulatto prior to the Civil War. In various censuses after the war Melungeons in many counties were classified as Indian. By 1950, all but a very few of them were listed as white and are known to be accepted officially as part of the white population in their local areas.

Fertility rates in the triracial isolates appear to be exceptionally high. Reliable inferences can be drawn on this subject for those Southern groups who were tabulated in the published reports of the 1950 Census as “other nonwhite races.” This population of 33,000 includes the majority of mixed bloods who were listed as Indian or by a colloquial term in the original schedules but few who were listed as white or Negro. The ratio of children under 5 years old per 1,000 rural women 15 to 49 years old among these people was 825 (standardized for age to distribution of total United States women).17 This is nearly double the ratio of 417 for total women in the nation. It also exceeds the high fertility ratios of the rural Spanish-speaking population of the Southwest (755) and the Negro rural-farm population of the South (771). In fact it is the highest fertility ration for 1950 known to the writer for any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

When translated into its potential for yields an estimated generation replacement index of 259 percent per 100 women. In other words, under continuation of fertility and morality conditions current in 1945-1950, the triracial population would increase by over two and one-half times in the course of each generation. Such a rapid increase is no longer containable in the rural homelands of the groups. It portends a wider distribution for them in the future and growing contacts in urban settings with people unacquainted with their curious history. In several large cities to which migration has tended to cluster and form a visible social group, as many immigrant peoples have done before them. However, the clannish aspect of their lives seems ultimately to weaken, and marriage outside the group begins. Meanwhile, as definable population groups of large family size, developed from relatively few family lines, and still practicing close marriage, the triracial groups offer unusual opportunities for the study of genetic diseases and factors affecting the persistence of population isolates.


Although the precise origin of these groups is unknown in most instances, they seem to have formed through miscegenation between Indians, whites, and Negroes – slave or free – in the Colonial and early Federal periods. In places the offspring of such unions – many of which were illegitimate under the law – tended to marry among themselves. Within a generation or so this practice created a distinctly new racial element in society, living apart from other faces. The forces differed from place to place. Some groups subsequently dispersed or were assimilated during the 19th century. Some waxed in numbers, others waned. Most have persisted to the present day.

A majority of the triracial isolates originated in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Their members were among the early pioneers in the Appalachian Plateaus and the Tennessee River Valley. Many left the South and moved to Northern States such as Ohio and Indiana, especially when restrictive measures were passed against free nonwhite people in Southern States during the 1830’s. Thus it happens that the majority of the groups in the Trans-Appalachian States are related to others remaining in the South Atlantic States, although contact between them has lapsed.2 None of the Northern groups seem to have colonized to the west, however.

The habitat of the mixed-blood people has been typically rural and geographically isolated. It is difficult to find such a settlement that is not associated with a swamp, a hollow, an inaccessible ridge, or the back country of a sandy flatwoods.3 Many modern developments have helped reduce their isolation, but this isolation factor appears to have been of major importance in fostering and perpetuating the existence of the groups. Legal disputes over their racial status for purposes of school attendance, vital statistics registration, and other public matters have been numerous in Southern and Border states. In many groups educational attainment is low, income is inadequate, and reliance on public welfare programs is high. The incidence of illegitimacy, common-law marriage, petty larceny, and other socially disapproved practices has been frequent enough in certain locations to type the racial hybrids unfavorably in the public mind.

The racial status of the triracial people varies greatly, both as conceived in the minds of the people themselves and in the eyes of their white or Negro neighbors. Occasionally they occupy no more than a peculiar status among the Negro population. Some are regarded as a separate race, known either as Indian or by a local colloquial name. Where such is the case in Southern States, they often have their own segregated schools. In North Carolina, where they are most numerous, this practice extends to a separate State college. Other groups have achieved a measure of acceptance as white. It seems impossible to reconstruct for each community the circumstances that have determined the present status. Physical appearance and local traditions of origin may well be the most important.

It is well to make clear that the designation of these groups as triracial is often the conclusion of the investigator rather than a reflection of public opinion in the area concerned. In general all local informants will agree that the mixed population is partly white. (Blue eyes are commonly in evidence to validate this.) The white informant will insist that the mixed-blood people are partly Negro. Perhaps he will agree that they are partly Indian, perhaps not. The mixed-blood individual will usually insist – with vehemence, if necessary – that there is no Negro ancestry in his family (although he may not make this claim for all other families in the settlement) but that he is partly Indian. In a minority of communities unmistakable elements of Indian culture have between found. Presence of Negro ancestry may or may not be evident in some families from the occurrence of Negro hair forms or facial features. If evident, it tends to jeopardize claims of the group to non-Negro status. In sum, the groups described are with few exceptions considered only of white and Indian descent by their members but are regarded to be partly Negro by neighboring whites or Negroes.4 Investigators frequently report the opinion of elderly persons that the average skin color of younger members of triracial isolates is lighter than that of earlier generations. This is not surprising in view of the fact that in most groups social relations with Negroes are discouraged and marriage to a Negro may result in ostracism. Relationships with white persons entail no such group displeasure.

Characterization of the triracial groups has its limitations, for thy have emerged over a large geographic area under varying cultural conditions. With the usual footnote that there are exceptions, it can be said that they are a highly inbred class of people. It is this feature that most warrants the interest of students of human heredity.

The conditions of social and physical isolation – both imposed and voluntary – that fostered the emergence of mixed racial communities typically limited the choice of marriage partners within a relatively small number of surnames. Scattered data on marriage records attest to this. In Halifax County, North Carolina, between 1819 and 1860, 14 out of 29 male members of the leading family in a triracial group for whom marriage bonds were filed married females of the same name.5 Of 35 marriages recorded for persons having the key surnames of a mixed-racial community in Cumberland County, New Jersey, 9 were to spouses of the same surname and 17 to spouses of just one other surname.6 In two families of the so -called “Guinea” community of Barbour and Taylor Counties, West Virginia, 102 of 112 marriages from 1856-1931 were to other persons in the racial isolate (about 11 surnames).7

Presumably as a result of such close marrying practices, genetically determined diseases and defects of unusual frequency have been reported among a number of the triracial isolates. The Jackson Whites of New Jersey have long been noted for albinism and polydactylism.8 Some of the Moors of Delaware suffer from microphthalmia9, and hereditary deformities of the joints are reported among the West Virginia mixed bloods.10

The most notable evidences of inbreeding and hereditary difficulties have been reported for an isolate in Southern Maryland termed colloquially, “Wesorts.” These people number about 4,000, including those in Washington, D.C., of whom at least one-fourth bear one surname, with a dozen names accounting for most of the rest of the population. An excellent measure of consanguinity in the group is provided by the fact that at least 90 percent are Roman Catholic and ecclesiastical dispensation is required by that faith for marriages of known first or second cousins. In one major parish over a 104-year period, one sixth of the marriages involving at least one Wesort required such a dispensation.11

The Indian tribes of Southern Maryland left the area before the end of the 17th century, but some Indians of mixed descent, or married to non-Indians, apparently remained. A triracial group evolved. Some knowledge of the original tribal clan structure was handed down, but the triracial people became part of the larger society as a poor farming and laboring element regarded as colored.

Maintenance of racial separateness by the Maryland group is notable for it has been achieved without the assistance of institutionalized aids such as separate schools and churches. By law the children had to attend the “regular” colored schools. The people have attended the same churches as the general population but for a long period sat by custom in a particular section of the church.

The Wesorts are variable in appearance, including substantial variation within sibships. In general, they are somewhat darker than most of the other triracial peoples, and Negroid hair forms and facial features are not uncommon. However, some can pass as white and as a group they are distinctly lighter and more Caucasian than the neighboring Negro population, which itself has a substantial infusion of white ancestry. Some are pointed out as showing Indian characteristics.

In 1945 Gilbert, a cultural anthropologist, reported on the group and mentioned hereditary difficulties ascribed to it.12 About three years ago, the existence of the group as a distinct breeding population and the widespread incidence of hereditary disease within it were first recognized by medical researchers through admissions to Washington hospitals. An intensive survey of the population was subsequently undertaken under the sponsorship of the National Institutes of health and is still in progress. Results reported from this work indicate exceptionally high incidence of dentinogenisis imperfecta and albinism.13 The former is a dental defect, transmitted as a simple dominant gene, which has various manifestations. It is an unsightly affliction and commonly results in the necessity for full artificial dentures in early adulthood. Many other hereditary conditions such as lop ears, polycystic kidneys, deaf mutism, glaucoma, syndactylism, polydactylism, congenital cataracts, convergent and divergent strabismus (nonparalytic eye squint), and hyperstatic bone disease have been found in the group and are being assessed. Two or more of the conditions often occur in the same person. “Due to several centuries of in-marriage, many genetically recessive traits have become manifest and many genetically dominant traits have become concentrated in certain lines of the clan.”14Fertility is high notwithstanding the heavy load of inheritable handicaps. Cohorts of women of recently completed childbearing averaged better than five and one-half children per female beginning life in the cohort.

It may be that the intensity of inbreeding and notable constellation of hereditary effects evident among the Wesort group will be found to represent the extreme example of such conditions in the Indian-white-Negro isolates.15 In any event, it illustrates persuasively the attention which American triracial isolates merit from geneticists, and which, strangely, they have not previously received.

The statistics in Table 1 show the location, size, and racial status in the 1950 Population Census records of nearly all rural and small town triracial groups know to be still in existence. Folk-names for the groups are also given where known. These data were compiled by the writer while employed by the Bureau of the Census, in order to appraise the results of the Bureau’s efforts to introduce consistency into the classification of triracial isolates. In past censuses, variation in the listing of such groups had produced obvious inconsistencies in race statistics from one census to another. In 1950, the Bureau instructed enumerators to “Report persons of mixed white, Negro, and Indian ancestry living in certain communities in the Eastern United States in terms of the name by which they are locally known.”16 Such persons were then to be classified for publication purposes among “other nonwhite races,” that is, other than Negro, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino.

In 116 counties checked, the population of triracial character was estimated at 77,000 persons, on the basis of race entries, enumerators’ notes, and through the use of extensive surname data on th4e groups assembled from a variety of sources. Of this number, 33,000 were enumerated as Indian, 29,000 as white, 14,000 as Negro, and 1,000 under colloquial race names or with the race entry blank. More than 40 percent of the total live in North Carolina. It was not feasible to make the investigation in cities of more than 20,000 inhabitants. Undoubtedly all of the groups have made some contribution to urban migration, but it is the native rural environment that status as a separate race or endogamous group is most common.

Relatively few instances were noted in the 1950 Census records where enumerators employed colloquial race terms, although there was an increase from previous censuses in the use of “Indian” as the race name for triracial people. On reflection, it is not surprising that colloquial terms were not employed more freely by the enumerators. They exist for the great majority of the groups but are usually offensive to the people so-termed. Examples include: Croatan, Brass Ankle, Red Bone, Red leg, Free Jack, Bushwhacker, Dominicker, Guinea, and Issue. Common politeness or self-interest may have led many enumerators to list groups as Indian or white. Field investigations by the writer and others substantiate that certain of the communities have acquired a public status as white or Indian even though they continue to be regarded informally as having some Negro ancestry. In the numerous instances where the racial status of an isolate has not been static – at least as reflected in census records – the direction of change over the years seems invariably to have gone toward a lighter classification. For example, the so-called “Melungeon” people were commonly listed as mulatto prior to the Civil War. In various censuses after the war Melungeons in many counties were classified as Indian. By 1950, all but a very few of them were listed as white and are known to be accepted officially as part of the white population in their local areas.

Fertility rates in the triracial isolates appear to be exceptionally high. Reliable inferences can be drawn on this subject for those Southern groups who were tabulated in the published reports of the 1950 Census as “other nonwhite races.” This population of 33,000 includes the majority of mixed bloods who were listed as Indian or by a colloquial term in the original schedules but few who were listed as white or Negro. The ratio of children under 5 years old per 1,000 rural women 15 to 49 years old among these people was 825 (standardized for age to distribution of total United States women).17 This is nearly double the ratio of 417 for total women in the nation. It also exceeds the high fertility ratios of the rural Spanish-speaking population of the Southwest (755) and the Negro rural-farm population of the South (771). In fact it is the highest fertility ration for 1950 known to the writer for any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

When translated into its potential for yields an estimated generation replacement index of 259 percent per 100 women. In other words, under continuation of fertility and morality conditions current in 1945-1950, the triracial population would increase by over two and one-half times in the course of each generation. Such a rapid increase is no longer containable in the rural homelands of the groups. It portends a wider distribution for them in the future and growing contacts in urban settings with people unacquainted with their curious history. In several large cities to which migration has tended to cluster and form a visible social group, as many immigrant peoples have done before them. However, the clannish aspect of their lives seems ultimately to weaken, and marriage outside the group begins. Meanwhile, as definable population groups of large family size, developed from relatively few family lines, and still practicing close marriage, the triracial groups offer unusual opportunities for the study of genetic diseases and factors affecting the persistence of population isolates.


References  

1. Bureau of the Census, 1950, Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of Population, Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office.

2. Bureau of the Census, 1953. Nonwhite Population by Race, 1950. United States Census of Population – Special Reports. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office.

3. Craig, H. S. 1934. Cumberland County (New Jersey) Marriages. Privately published.

4. Gilbert, W. H., Jr. 1945. The Wesorts of Southern Maryland: An Outcasted Group. J. Wash. Acad. Sc. 35: 237-246.

5. _____. 1946. Mixed Bloods of the Upper Monongahela Valley, West Virginia. J. Wash. Acad. Sc. 36: 1-13.

6. _____. 1949. Surviving Indian Groups of the Eastern United States. The Smithsonian Report for 1948. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office.

7. Hursey, R. J., Jr., Witkop, C. J., Jr., Miklashek, Doris, and Sackett, L. M. 1956. Dentinogenisis Imperfecta in a Racial Isolate with Multiple Hereditary Defects. Oral Surg., Oral Med., and Oral Path. 9: 641-658.

8. Snedecor, S. T. and Harryman, W. K. Surgical Problems in Hereditary Polydactylism and Syndactylism. 1940. J. Med Soc. New Jersey, XXXVII, 443-449.

9. Weller, George. 1938. The Jackson Whites. New Yorker. 14: No. 31: 29-39.

10. Weslager, C. A. 1945. Delaware’s Forgotten Folk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Notes

1 Excluded from the category described are Indian tribes such as the Narragansett, Shinnecock, or Pamunkey, who absorbed both white and Negro blood, but retained their tribal identity and historical continuity.

2 The most widespread surname among triracial groups has been documented by the writer and others in at least 36 counties of seven states. This is the name Goins and variations thereof.

3 Settlements in Cumberland and Salem Counties, New Jersey, and Darke County, Ohio, are definite exceptions to this generalization.

4 Some groups account for brunette skin coloration by tradition of descent from shipwrecked sailors of Portuguese, Spanish, or Moorish origin. Open acknowledgement of partial Negro descent has been made in a few groups through such means as affiliation with Negro church denominations.

5 Data abstracted for family from State archives.

6 Cumberland County (New Jersey) Marriages, compiled by H. Stanley Craig, 1934.

7 “Mixed Bloods of the Upper Monongahela Valley, West Virginia, ” by William Harlan Gilbert, Jr., Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, Vol. 36, No. 1, January 15, 1946, pp. 1-13.

8 “Surgical Problems in Hereditary Polydactylism and Syndactylism,” by Spencer T. Snedecor and William B. Harryman,Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey, Vol. XXXVII, No. 9, September 1940, pp. 443-449; “The Jackson Whites, ” by George Weller, New Yorker, Vol. 14, No 31, September 17, 1938, pp. 29-39.

9 Delaware’s Forgotten Folk, by C. A. Weslager, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1943, pp. 15-16.

10 “Surviving Indian Groups of the Eastern United States,” by William Harlan Gilbert, Jr. The Smithsonian Report for 1948, Government Printing Office, 1949, pp. 431.

11 Unpublished data furnished to this writer

12 “The Wesorts of Southern Maryland: An Outcasted Group,” by William Harlan Gilbert, Jr., Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, Vol. 33, No. 8, August 15, 1945, pp. 237-247.

13 “Dentinogenisis Imperfecta in a Racial Isolate with Multiple Hereditary Defects,” by Rudolph J. Hursey, Jr., Carl J. Witkop, Jr., Doris Miklashek, and Lee M. Sackett, Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, and Oral Pathology, Vol. 9, No. 6, pp. 641-658.

14 Ibid, p. 642.

15 Reconnaissance work in other localities, planned by Dr. Witkop and the writer, may determine whether this is true.

16 Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, United States Department of Commerce, Washington, D. C., N. D. Page 34.

17 All fertility ratios cited are computed from reports of the 1950 Census of Population. Statistics by age and sex for “other nonwhite races” are found in the Special Report, Nonwhite Population by Race, Government Printing Office, 1953, table 7. In the rural South, persons of triracial description comprise about 97 percent of the “other nonwhite races” population.

 

“The Melungeons” by Bonnie Ball, 1966 article

Published by:

The Melungeons

by Bonnie Ball

from Historical Society of Southwest Virginia Publication 2 – 1966, p. 47-52.

A generation ago census records of certain mountainous counties of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Carolina, and others proved somewhat confusing. This was due to the presence of a strange group of people whose origin was, and has remained, one of the deepest and most fascinating mysteries of American ethnology.

The “Melungeons” who were called “ramps” in certain areas by their neighbors, have characteristics that range from those of the whites and American Indians to Orientals or Negroes. This variation prevented a definite race classification, and has also given rise to numerous theories concerning their origin.

Some had dark, oily skin, kinky hair, upturned noses and dark stoic eyes. Others, even in the same family had coarse bronzed skin, with straight black hair. Still others, close relatives, differed little from their white neighbors, perhaps having brown or light, fuzzy hair, fair or medium skin, and dark blue or gray eyes. Then there were others among them that had smooth, yellowish skin, curly brown or black hair, and dreamy, almost Oriental eyes.

It would be impossible to make any accurate estimate of how many such people were scattered throughout the mountains of the Southern Appalachians, but it can be assumed that their number fifty years ago would have run into at least five digits.

According to Bruce Crawford, a former newspaperman, and leading student of ethnology of the Appalachian area, the Melungeons were officially recognized about 1887 and given a separate legal existence under the title of “Croatan Indians” on the theory of their descent from Raleigh’s Lost Colony of Roanoke Island (North Carolina), a convenient means of disposal, but hardly satisfying to the inquisitive historian.

The older Melungeons insisted that they were Portuguese. I have known the Melungeons from childhood, when three families lived as tenants on my father’s farm in Southwestern Virginia. Their children have been my pupils, and I have done first-hand research on their traits, customs, and past, but can give here only the proposed theories of their origin.

Mr. Crawford’s research revealed that when John Sevier organized the state of Franklin (Tennessee) there was a colony of “dark-skinned, reddish-brown complexioned people supposed to be of Moorish descent.” They were neither Indians nor Negroes, but claimed to be Portuguese.

There is a doubtful theory that the Melungeon was a product of frontier warfare when white blood was fused with the Indian captor’s and that of the Negro slave.

There also persist stories (that are recorded in history) that DeSoto visited Southwestern Virginia in the sixteenth century by way of a long chain of mountain leading into Tennessee. One ridge known as “Newman’s Ridge” (which could have been “New Man’s Ridge”) was once the home of a teeming colony of Melungeons who were strongly believed to have descended from members of DeSoto’s party lost or captured there.

In both Carolinas Melungeons were denied privileges usually granted to white people. For that reason many migrated to Tennessee where the courts ruled that they were not Negroes.

Traditions still persist that the Melungeons were descendants of the ancient Phoenicians who migrated from Carthage to Morocco, whenced they crossed the Atlantic before the American Revolution and settled in North Carolina. If this theory can be accepted, they were pure Carthaginians, and not a mixed race.

In weighing this last statement it is interesting to note that the Moors of Tennessee called themselves Portuguese, that the Moors of North Carolina came from Portugal, and that a generation ago the Melungeons called themselves Portuguese.

Yet there are factors that are puzzling in these assumptions. Such common surnames among them as Collins, Gipson (Gibson), Sexton, Bolen, Goins, and Mullens suggest no Phoenician background. And there is nothing about the word “ramp” to suggest a shy, usually inoffensive race of people. Neither is there any known reason for usage of the word “Melungeon” which is believed to have been derived from the French word “melange,” meaning mixture.

The Melungeons were sometimes shy and reticent toward outlanders, but amiable with neighbors. They were loyal to their kin and employers. While they were fond of whiskey few were boisterous or malicious. I recall a story often told by my father, who was reared only a few miles from Newman’s Ridge, about “Big Mahala Mullens” who lived on the Virginia-Tennessee state line. She grew so obese that she was unable to leave her house, and sat at the door all day selling whiskey to travelers. When she discovered the approach of revenue officials she waddled over to the Virginia side of her house if they approached from the Tennessee side, and vice versa if from Virginia. The act was probably unnecessary, since the authorities could not have removed her from the house. When Mahala died the chimney was torn away in order that she could be removed for burial.

Practically all Melungeons preferred a care-free existence with members of their own clan. For many generations they seldom married outsiders, and virtually all families in each area were related. Nearly all Melungeons, young and old chewed tobacco. They lived largely on bacon, corn pone, mush, and strong coffee. In early spring they gathered “crow’s foot” from the woodlands, and “bear’s lettuce” from spring branches, and ate them raw with salt. They liked wild fruits and berries to eat from the bush, but cared nothing for canning and preserving them. The holiday for Melungeon men was a week in late summer, after the crops were laid by, to be used for a ginseng expedition. No camping equipment was taken along except a water pail, knives, and a frying pan. They slept under the cliffs.

No fisherman could compete with the Melungeons. He simply waded into the stream, shoes and all, and searched with his fingers for fish hiding under stones. It no time he emerged with a nice string of fish.

Theirs was a hardy race, and seldom did they rely on a doctor. They applied many home remedies for injuries and brewed herb teas. Childbirth was a casual matter, usually attended by mountain midwife. Babies, as a rule, grew and thrived without any pretense of comfort or sanitation.

Their religion was of the simple Protestant type. They often attended their neighbors’ churches, and occasionally had a patriarch-preacher in their group. They learned some of the old ballads and gospel songs from memory, for few of them could read or write. They accepted attendance at school, in most cases, an “unnecessary evil.” Church picnics were always attended by Melungeon boys, but my mother once had a difficult time persuading young Willie that he must have a bath and wear a suit in order to participate in a children’s day program. So he appeared, grinning broadly, in my brother’s hand-me-down.

Then came industry to the Appalachians – coal, timbering, and railroads. The change was slow. World War I drew Melungeons into industry as well as military service. Coal towns grew up rapidly, and the Melungeon, like other tenant farmers, loaded up his few belongings on a wagon and headed for the “public works.” A few remained behind and bought little hillside farms. For some reason their number appears to have decreased sharply in the past three decades, probably a result of long intermarriage, or perhaps many have been lost in white blood. Soon they may become just a legend – a lost race.

Ohio Valley Folk Research Project. Publications released in 1960 as of June 15, 1960. (1) “Sage’s Purple Passon” by Ben Hayes, New Series No. 37 (2) “Hair Balls and the Witch” by Melissa Hughes, New Series No. 38 (3) “Uncle Remus in Syracuse” by Lawrence S. Thompson, New Series No. 39 (4) “Hewitt, the Hermit” by James Emmitt, New Series No. 40 (5) “Tobacco Folklore” by Lawrence S. Thompson, New Series, No. 41 (6) “Ox, Capon and the Hare” by Yancy Yadkin, New Series, No. 42 (7) “Hugh Mosher, the Fifer” by Robert L. Walden, New Series, No. 43 (8) “Control of Grasshoppers” by Raymond Embree, New Series, No. 44 (9) “The Lost Silver Mine” by Dr. Carl R. Bogardus, New Series No. 45 (10) “Hog Drive to Evansville, 1879” by Elmer S. Elliott, New Series No. 46 (11) “Johnny Appleseed” by Rosella Rice, New Series, No. 47 (12) “Squirrel Broth” by Merrill C. Gilfillan, New Series, No. 48; (13) “The Undertaker’s Revenge,” by Jean Dow, New Series, No. 49 (14) “The Jackson County Madstones” by Dr. Gwyn Parry, New Series No. 50. (15) “The Feast of Rosea” by Adlyn Keffer, New Series, No. 51 (16) “Song, Legend of PA and WV” by Keysner and Whiting, New Series, No. 52 (17) “Lazy Tom” by Ellen Margolis, New Series No. 53 (18) “The Story of Nelson T. Gant” by Norris F. Schneider, New Series, No

“An Overview of the Phenomenon of Mixed Racial Isolates in the U.S.” by Calvin Beale, 1972 article

Published by:

An Overview of the Phenomenon of Mixed Racial Isolates in the Unites States

by Calvin L. Beale
American Anthropologist 74 (1972): 704-710 1

Mention is made of the decreasing proportion of endogamous marriages in recent times. The essentially rural nature of these racial isolates is pointed out, and the general societal trend of rural depopulation is stated to be affecting their size and continued existence. A suggested list of research needs is offered.

In about 1890, a young Tennessee woman asked a state legislator, “Please tell me what is a Melungeon?” “A Melungeon,” said he, “isn’t a nigger, and he isn’t an Indian, and he isn’t a White man. God only knows what he is. I should call him a Democrat, only he always votes the Republican ticket” (Dromgoole 18901: 473).

Calvin L. Beale

The young woman, Will Allen Dromgoole, soon sought out the Melungeons in remote Hancock County and lived with them for awhile to determine for herself what they were. 2 Afterward, in the space of a ten page article, she described them as “shiftless,” “idle,” “illiterate,” “thieving,” “defiant,” “distillers of brandy,” “lawless,” “close,” “rogues,” “suspicious,” “inhospitable,” “untruthful,” “cowardly,” “sneaky,” “exceedingly immoral,” and “unforgiving.” She also spoke of their “cupidity and cruelty,” and ended her work by concluding, “The most that can be said of one of them is, ‘He is a Malungeon,’ a synonym for all that is doubtful and mysterious – and unclean.” (Dromgoole1891:479). Miss Dromgoole was essentially a sympathetic observer.

The existence of mixed racial populations that constitute a distinctive segment of society is not unique to the United States — needless to say. But this nation must rank near the top in the number of such communities and in their general public obscurity. I refer in particular to groups of real or alleged White-Indian-Negro mixtures (such as the Melungeons) who are not tribally affiliated or traceable with historical continuity to a particular tribe. It is also logical to include a few groups of White-Negro origin that lack the Indian component. The South in particular is rich in such population strains, with all states except Arkansas and Oklahoma having such groups at present or within the twentieth century. (And I would not be surprised to be contradicted on my exception of those two states.)

They are found in the Tidewater areas, the interior Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Appalachians, and in the Allegheny-Cumberland Plateaus. They may be Protestant or catholic, of Anglo provenance or French-Spanish. Their mixture may have originated in the area of residence, or they may have come in as racially mixed people. Some are landless, some landed. But they are all marginal men – wary until recently of being Black, aspiring where possible to be White, and subject to rejection and scorn on either hand.

Many themes classically connected with racial marginality occur repeatedly in the history of the groups, such as (to repeat Dromgoole only in part): illegitimate origin; the use of stigmatic group names by the general society; proscription from social intercourse with others on terms of equality; and in particular barriers to upward out-marriage or attendance at White schools; a reputation for violence, drunkenness, and crimes of passion within the group, and for petty thievery against outsiders; the ascription of beauty and sexual attractiveness to the women of the group when young; a reputation for laziness, illiteracy, poverty, and inbreeding; a relegation of settlement to the least desirable land (hilly, sandy, swampy, backwoods); and a preference to withdraw from public attention. These are stereotypes, of course, and exceptions to their validity as public images occur, especially with respect to the mulatto or colored Creole groups of the Gulf Coast.

At least a few of the groups clearly originated in the period well before the Revolution – even in the seventeenth century in Maryland and Virginia. They do not seem to be viewed in public records as communities or elements in society until after the Revolution. Gradually during the nineteenth century, and continuing to the present day, they came to local public notice in one way or another as individual groups, but usually with no recognition of the fact that such communities have been a common phenomenon throughout the East and South. Questions relating to legal racial status, jury duty, voting, taxation, schools, inheritance, census enumeration, civil disorder, crime, and health have been prominent among issues that have brought public attention. Some examples from different times and places follow.

In 1791, the Turks of South Carolina petitioned the legislature to be recognized as White and not as free Negroes. Somewhat later their right to sit on juries was challenged and their patron, General Thomas Sumter, vouched for them (Kaye 1953: 153).

In 1823, another South Carolina group with such classic triracial surnames as Locklear, Oxendine, Chavis, and Sweat was reported as delinquent in taxes but difficult to find because “of the peculiar situation of their place of residence.” (Price 1953:153).

In Mobile, a Creole Fire Company was organized in 1819 and remained independent well into the present century. 3

In 1840-41, North Carolina legislative papers describe how, “The County of Robeson is cursed with a free colored population that migrated originally from the districts around the Roanoke and Neuse Rivers…Having no regard for character they are under no restraint but what the law imposes. They are great topers, and so long as they can procure the exhilarating draught seem to forget entirely the comfort of their families.” 4

In 1842, a member of a group in present day Vinton County, Ohio, that I have heard referred to only as “the half breeds,” sued the township trustees for refusing him the right to vote because he was partly of Negro ancestry. He lost his suit at the county court level but won a reversal in the state supreme court (Thacker vs. Hawk).

In 1856, voting by the free colored people (present day Red Bones) of Ten Mile Creek Precinct in what is now Allen Parish, Louisiana, became a source of public concern. Several were tried for illegal voting – for free Negroes did not have the franchise – but they were acquitted when their colored ancestry could not be proven and the judge would not permit the jury to evaluate them by their appearance (Shugg 1936).

In 1857, Frederic Law Olmstead noted and publicized in his book Journey Through Texas the skirmishes and murders that took place in the Sabine country of east Texas between the “Moderators” and “Regulators” based on friction with the local mixed bloods of Louisiana Red Bone origin (Olmstead 1959: 164-166).

In 1860, the census taker in Calhoun County, Florida, noted, “The Free Negroes in this county are mixed blooded, almost white, and have intermarried with a low class of whites. Have no trade, occupation or town of their own. Their personal property consists of cattle and hogs. They make no produce except corn, peas, and potatoes and very little of that. They are a lazy, indolent, and worthless race” (Free Inhabitants Census 1860). This was the Dead Lake or Scott’s Ferry group, of South Carolina tri-racial origin.

During the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Henry Berry Lowry, a folk-hero of the group now known as the Lumbee Indians, led a band of fugitives and outlaws in Robeson County, North Carolina. Disorder requiring Federal troops continued for some years until Lowry and others were killed (Rights 1947).

In the mid-1880s, this group was provided with separate schools and Indian status by the state – beginning a procedure that spread to several other groups (Ibid).

In 1930-31, the Virginia Registrar of Vital Statistics endeavored to prevent mixed bloods from being accepted as Indians in the U. S. Census. The Bureau declined to change the original returns, but footnoted the published results of the Virginia census in four counties to note that the count of Indians, “includes a number of persons whose classification as Indians has been questioned.” This included the Amherst County “Issues” and several of the groups that the anthropologist Frank Speck had concluded were the mixed survivors of the Powhatan Confederacy.

During the 1950s, the Wesorts of Southern Maryland came to the attention of physicians and dentists in the Washington area because of one of the most serious ands varied complexes of genetic diseases and anomalies ever recorded. 6

In September 1969, a number of Indian (Brass Ankle) parents in Dorchester County, South Carolina, were arrested for attempting to enroll their children in a public school other than the small segregated one that had traditionally been provided them. 7

The establishment of separate schools for the racial isolates was a major factor in maintaining group identity. Typically, the mixed bloods were denied enrollment in white schools and declined to attend Negro schools. In some states, separate public schools were provided for them. This was particularly true in North Carolina where the ultimate in triracial school systems was created – one that included a separate college. In other areas, only the operation of mission schools by churches provided any educational facilities at all. Disputes over the racial background of children attempting to enter either local white schools or the separate schools were common.

So long as segregated public schools were permitted, and so long as small rural elementary schools were common and high school education was not often sought, the separate school pattern was feasible. But in recent decades, the school situation of the mixed-blood communities has changed rapidly, sometimes through law suits, sometimes without. Most of the mission schools have been closed or made part of the public system. Most of the rural one and two room schools have been consolidated into larger integrated schools. Conditions have changed so steadily that without an up-to-the-minute survey it is impossible to speak definitively about the extent of separate schooling that still exists. Essentially it is no longer a characteristic of mixed racial communities.

Where separate schools have been closed, the church is usually the only formal social arrangement that continues to reflect the existence of a mixed racial community, and that reinforces the endogamous marriage patterns of the past. Church separatism has never been complete and is probably declining, but there are still many examples of congregations comprised entirely or largely of mixed racial populations.

Interest in the racial isolates by anthropologists began in the late nineteenth century, stimulated, I should say, by the emergence of the Robeson County, North Carolina, people as Croatan Indians and the suggestion of their descent from the Lost Colony. At the Smithsonian, James Mooney conducted a mail inquiry through postmasters in 1889 in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina seeking information on people of reputed Indian descent. He received responses that related not only to the Powhatan tribes that seem to have been his principal interest, but that also identified the Wesorts, the Guineas of western Maryland, the Amherst County Issues, and the group that later emerged as the North Carolina Haliwa. It is unfortunate that someone could not have followed up all of Mooney’s leads at the time, for it was more than a half-century later before Gilbert produced the first scientific inquiries into the Wesorts and Guineas, and another ten years before I and others visited the Haliwa. Mooney’s replies, incidentally, are still on file at the Smithsonian.

Frank Speck followed in the 1920s and later with extensive inquiry into the eastern Virginia groups – usually regarded as Negroes locally – who appeared to show authentic evidence of Indian origin though cultural survivals. But perhaps because of the tribalized Indian focus of American anthropology, very little later anthropological work dealt with the mixed racial isolates. Sociologists, educators, journalists, geographers, and local historians gave some attention to the groups, and more lately genetic research and accounts by the members of the isolates themselves have appeared.

In terms of today’s research needs, it is already a generation too late to pursue some of the questions that would have been relevant earlier. Some of the smaller groups have for all practical purposes disappeared. The practice or knowledge of handicrafts or of distinctive food habits, hunting practices, or folkways is gone or rapidly disappearing. Increasing outmarriage makes meaningful genetic studies less feasible. And the abolition of legal segregation reduces the likelihood of the groups continuing as separate and readily identifiable elements of local society.

But there is still worthwhile research to be undertaken, whether one is satisfied with knowledge for its own sake or insists on socially significant inquiries. I would suggest the following topics relating to Southern groups as relatively untouched by research or in need of a modern appraisal:

(1) The Goins family. Beyond a doubt, the surname Goins (with its many variations in spelling) is the most widespread and one of the oldest and most reliably indicative surnames of tri-racial origin in the United States. I have documented its existence among mixed bloods in more than thirty-five counties of seven states. The Goinses were mixed in Colonial days in Virginia, and both of the Carolinas. The name is found today among the Lumbee, the Melungeons, the Smilings, the Red Bones, the Ohio Guineas, and in various other parts of Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina where none of these terms are used. Some are White, some Indian, and some Negro, in current status. An investigation of the Goinses, their origins and traditions, their dispersal through the South and the old Northwest territory and their status today would touch almost the whole fabric of the tri-racial phenomenon.

(2) Socio-psychological studies of the mixed blood people. The precarious social acceptance of the mixed bloods by the White, Negro, or Indian elements of society has created problems of psychological insecurity for many of them that the average person never experiences. Berry touches on this issue in his work, but a study focusing on it is needed (Berry 1963: 212).

(3) Gulf Coast Creoles. Other than Horace Mann Bond’s valuable article of nearly forty years ago (Bond 1931), I have not seen work on the Creole populations of the Gulf Coast (Mississippi, Mobile Bay, Pensacola). These people of French-Spanish and Negro origin have an interesting history, a comparatively high degree of social stability, and respectability in the eyes of the Whites; and considerable documentation is available on their origins and social history. A general research treatment on any one of these groups would be both interesting and useful.

(4) The Tennessee groups outside Hancock County. Most all work relating to Tennessee has focused on the Hancock County Melungeons. But there are a number of other areas in Tennessee where unstudied tri-racial groups are found – sometimes related in the past to the Hancock County people and usually derived from mixed blood origins in the Carolinas or Virginia. In addition, an unrelated Tennessee group of White and Indian descent known as the Upper Cumberland River Cherokee has surfaced in the last several years in Scott County and adjoining McCreary County, Kentucky, asserting its Indianess in a rather vigorous way to officials in Washington.

(5) The Red Bones of Louisiana and Texas deserve research attention. Given the number of people and counties involved, it is surprising that they have not received more. Or perhaps it is not surprising, in view of the sensitivity of the population to the subject of origins.

(6) The Smilings of Robeson County, North Carolina are of particular interest for their interplay is not only with the White and Negro populations but also with the surrounding Lumbee people from whom they appear not to have received full acceptance. The groups has an antebellum origin in Sumter County, South Carolina, but migrated to Robeson. What were the circumstances that impelled this long established population to leave, but that did not affect the Sumter County Turks similarly?

I have not mentioned specific studies of a more conventional anthropological nature, such as Indian cultural survivals or linguistic studies, but here, too, there are still positive results to be obtained, if I may judge from the recent fieldwork in several groups by Claude Medford (personal communication), or Everett’s study of language among the Clifton red Bone community in Louisiana (Everett 1958).

In 1950, I estimated the tri-racial isolates in their rural and small town settings to number 75,000 people I do not think the number is less today, primarily because of the growth of the Lumbee. But many of the isolates – particularly those of non-Indian status – can be said to be in a process of decline or even dissolution. They have with a few exceptions been rural communities, and in the last half century have experienced the same heavy outmigration to a variety of urban destinations as have rural people in general. Thus despite typically high fertility, many of the isolates have dwindled in size. The special racial status is not generally transferred in a group context to urban environments. Secondly, the frequency of outmarriage and assimilation into either the White or Negro populations has greatly increased. I have found this in every group whose marriage records I have examined. 3 Harte has rather thoroughly documented it for the Maryland Wesorts (Harte 1959: 218).

Given this trend, I think the odds are against the survival of groups that do not have a concentrated core of at least several hundred members and that are no longer distinctly different in appearance or status from the local White or Negro populations. Both severe lack of local economic opportunity or rapid local population growth seem to militate against group survival. In the first instance, the population disperses to seek opportunity elsewhere, and in the latter case the intrusion of other people or changes in employment and residential patterns facilitate a breakdown in cohesion.

It will be interesting to observe the fate of the Lumbee in the future, for in this case the local numbers of people involved are large (26,000 in Robeson County in 1970, and 7,000 in nine nearby counties). The local tobacco economy is under some strain, but with an acceptable official social status as Indian, a large pool of potential marriage partners, a fair amount of non-agricultural job opportunities, and a fund of history and legend in which to have some pride, this group – along with several others – may well continue indefinitely in its local setting, although surely not without change.

MHA President Wayne Winkler with Calvin L. Beale, recipient of the MHA Lifetime Achievement Award, June 2004

In terms of today’s research needs, it is already a generation too late to pursue some of the questions that would have been relevant earlier. Some of the smaller groups have for all practical purposes disappeared. The practice or knowledge of handicrafts or of distinctive food habits, hunting practices, or folkways is gone or rapidly disappearing. Increasing outmarriage makes meaningful genetic studies less feasible. And the abolition of legal segregation reduces the likelihood of the groups continuing as separate and readily identifiable elements of local society.

But there is still worthwhile research to be undertaken, whether one is satisfied with knowledge for its own sake or insists on socially significant inquiries. I would suggest the following topics relating to Southern groups as relatively untouched by research or in need of a modern appraisal:

(1) The Goins family. Beyond a doubt, the surname Goins (with its many variations in spelling) is the most widespread and one of the oldest and most reliably indicative surnames of tri-racial origin in the United States. I have documented its existence among mixed bloods in more than thirty-five counties of seven states. The Goinses were mixed in Colonial days in Virginia, and both of the Carolinas. The name is found today among the Lumbee, the Melungeons, the Smilings, the Red Bones, the Ohio Guineas, and in various other parts of Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina where none of these terms are used. Some are White, some Indian, and some Negro, in current status. An investigation of the Goinses, their origins and traditions, their dispersal through the South and the old Northwest territory and their status today would touch almost the whole fabric of the tri-racial phenomenon.

(2) Socio-psychological studies of the mixed blood people. The precarious social acceptance of the mixed bloods by the White, Negro, or Indian elements of society has created problems of psychological insecurity for many of them that the average person never experiences. Berry touches on this issue in his work, but a study focusing on it is needed (Berry 1963: 212).

(3) Gulf Coast Creoles. Other than Horace Mann Bond’s valuable article of nearly forty years ago (Bond 1931), I have not seen work on the Creole populations of the Gulf Coast (Mississippi, Mobile Bay, Pensacola). These people of French-Spanish and Negro origin have an interesting history, a comparatively high degree of social stability, and respectability in the eyes of the Whites; and considerable documentation is available on their origins and social history. A general research treatment on any one of these groups would be both interesting and useful.

(4) The Tennessee groups outside Hancock County. Most all work relating to Tennessee has focused on the Hancock County Melungeons. But there are a number of other areas in Tennessee where unstudied tri-racial groups are found – sometimes related in the past to the Hancock County people and usually derived from mixed blood origins in the Carolinas or Virginia. In addition, an unrelated Tennessee group of White and Indian descent known as the Upper Cumberland River Cherokee has surfaced in the last several years in Scott County and adjoining McCreary County, Kentucky, asserting its Indianess in a rather vigorous way to officials in Washington.

(5) The Red Bones of Louisiana and Texas deserve research attention. Given the number of people and counties involved, it is surprising that they have not received more. Or perhaps it is not surprising, in view of the sensitivity of the population to the subject of origins.

(6) The Smilings of Robeson County, North Carolina are of particular interest for their interplay is not only with the White and Negro populations but also with the surrounding Lumbee people from whom they appear not to have received full acceptance. The groups has an antebellum origin in Sumter County, South Carolina, but migrated to Robeson. What were the circumstances that impelled this long established population to leave, but that did not affect the Sumter County Turks similarly?

I have not mentioned specific studies of a more conventional anthropological nature, such as Indian cultural survivals or linguistic studies, but here, too, there are still positive results to be obtained, if I may judge from the recent fieldwork in several groups by Claude Medford (personal communication), or Everett’s study of language among the Clifton Red Bone community in Louisiana (Everett 1958).

In 1950, I estimated the tri-racial isolates in their rural and small town settings to number 75,000 people I do not think the number is less today, primarily because of the growth of the Lumbee. But many of the isolates – particularly those of non-Indian status – can be said to be in a process of decline or even dissolution. They have with a few exceptions been rural communities, and in the last half century have experienced the same heavy outmigration to a variety of urban destinations as have rural people in general. Thus despite typically high fertility, many of the isolates have dwindled in size. The special racial status is not generally transferred in a group context to urban environments. Secondly, the frequency of outmarriage and assimilation into either the White or Negro populations has greatly increased. I have found this in every group whose marriage records I have examined. 3 Harte has rather thoroughly documented it for the Maryland Wesorts (Harte 1959: 218).

Given this trend, I think the odds are against the survival of groups that do not have a concentrated core of at least several hundred members and that are no longer distinctly different in appearance or status from the local White or Negro populations. Both severe lack of local economic opportunity or rapid local population growth seem to militate against group survival. In the first instance, the population disperses to seek opportunity elsewhere, and in the latter case the intrusion of other people or changes in employment and residential patterns facilitate a breakdown in cohesion.

It will be interesting to observe the fate of the Lumbee in the future, for in this case the local numbers of people involved are large (26,000 in Robeson County in 1970, and 7,000 in nine nearby counties). The local tobacco economy is under some strain, but with an acceptable official social status as Indian, a large pool of potential marriage partners, a fair amount of non-agricultural job opportunities, and a fund of history and legend in which to have some pride, this group – along with several others – may well continue indefinitely in its local setting, although surely not without change.


NOTES

1 Prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society, Athens, Georgia, April 9, 1970.

2 I have used the modern spelling, Melungeon, except where quoting Dromgoole.

3 Information from present day Creoles.

4 Manuscript, North Carolina Legislative Reports (Robeson County).

5 Correspondence files of the Bureau of the Census; see also The Indian Populations of the United States 1937:20

6Various published studies of the research work led by Cark J. Witkop, Jr., of the National Institute of Health.

7 See Charleston Evening Post, various issues beginning September 19, 1969.

8 I refer to groups such as the Pools of Pennsylvania, the Amherst and Rockbridge County Issues, the Shifletts, the Poquoson and Skeetertown groups of Virginia, the Dead Lake Group in Florida, the Cane River Mulattoes and Natchitoches Red Bones of Louisiana, and the Mobile area Creoles.


REFERENCES CITED

Berry, Brewton, 1963, Almost White. New York: Macmillan,

Bond, Horace Mann, 1931, “Two Racial Islands of Alabama.” American Journal of Sociology 36:552-567.

Dromgoole, Will Allen, 1891, “The Malungeons.” The Arena 3:470-479

Everett, Russell, 1958, “The Speech of the Tri-Racial Group Comprising the Community of Clifton, Louisiana.” Master’s thesis, Louisiana State University.

Free inhabitants, 1860 Census, Florida 1860. National Archives 1:129.

Harte, Thomas J., 1959, “Trends in Mate Selection in a Tri-Racial Isolate.’ Social Forces 37 (3):215-221.

Indian Population of the United States and Alaska 1930, 1937 Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Kaye, Ira, 1963, “The Turks.” New South; June.

Olmstead, Frederic Law, 1959, The Slave States New York: Putnam’s Sons.

Price, Edward T., 1953, “A Geographical Analysis of White-Negro-Indian Racial Mixtures in the Eastern Unites States.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 43(2): 138-155.

Rights, Douglas L., 1947, The American Indian in North Carolina. Durham: Duke University Press.

Thacker vs. Hawk, 1887, Ohio Reports 11:337

Shugg, Roger W., 1936, “Negro Voting in the Antebellum South.” Journal of Negro History 21 (4): 357-384.

 

 

The Melungeon Mystery: The Making of Myth? by Pam Vallett, 1977 article

Published by:

The Melungeon Mystery: The Making of Myth?

from The Tennessee Alumnus/ Summer 1977 Vol. 57/ number 3/ Summer 1977

By Pam Vallett

“…shiftless, idle, thieving, and defiant of law, distillers of brandy almost to a man…they are not at all like the Tennessee mountaineer either in appearance or characteristics….Their complexion is a reddish brown, totally unlike the mulatto. The men are very tall and straight, with small, sharp eyes, high cheek bones, and straight black hair, worn rather long. The women are small, below the average height, coal black hair and eyes, high cheek bones, and the same red-brown complexion.”

Will Allen Dromgoole, 1891
_______________________________

A sociology professor at the University of Tennessee at Nashville says that the Melungeons of East Tennessee, a people thought for many years to possess unique racial and cultural characteristics, may not be so unique after all.

“People have been asking the wrong question all along,” said C. McCurdy Lipsey, associate professor of sociology at UTN. “Instead of asking, ‘Who are these strange people and where do they come from?’ they should be asking, ‘Are these really a strange people? Do they, in fact, possess unique racial and cultural characteristics?'”

“According to my interpretation of the evidence, they are not and do not.”

Lipsey says the term Melungeon became a derogatory label for all the people who lived on Hancock County’s Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater Valley, and that the basis for the myth which now surrounds them can be traced to the period between 1889 and 1891 when a wealth of material was published about the Melungeons.

“The single most damaging article from among this proliferation of misinformation, and the one most commonly referred to by other writers in the perpetuation of the myth about the Melungeons, was written by a young Tennessee literary figure by the name of Will Allen Dromgoole,” he says.

“Published in The Arena in 1891, it asserted that the records of the constitutional convention of 1834 show that John A. McKinney, a delegate to that convention, used the term Melungeon to refer to free persons of color. In checking the journal of the constitutional convention of 1834, I found the McKinney quotation, but the term Melungeon was not mentioned.”


Articles Perpetuate Myths

Practically all subsequent articles, with few notable exceptions, adopted the assumptions of these early articles, Lipsey said. “It is in this manner that the myth of the Melungeons has been perpetuated. Nobody has conducted a thorough investigation. Researchers only go as far back as the articles published between 1889 and 1891 and stop there.

“Information contained in Dromgoole’s article to support the claim that the Melungeons are a unique racial group can be used to show just the opposite. If the Melungeons had been designated as free persons of color at the constitutional convention of 1834, then, according to the Southern custom which did not permit Negroes to participate as citizens, they would not have been able to own or buy land, receive land grants from the state of Tennessee, or conduct other legal business. While it’s true that some of the people on Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater valley were refused these rights, public records show that by no means were all of them refused.”

In a forthcoming article, Lipsey turns to the history and settlement patterns of the Eastern United States to further support his alternative theory to the existing Melungeon belief. He maintains that by the nineteenth century, there had already been over 300 years of American history which included lost colonies and mixed groups. “The eastern seaboard and the western frontier – that is, Kentucky and Tennessee – provided fertile ground out of which grew romantic stories and ballads, legends, and myths,” explained Lipsey. “Not surprisingly, when Will Allen Dromgoole ‘found’ the Melungeons on Newman’s Ridge, the available and handy myths were tested for their ‘fit’ and the speculators were off and running. What you had, in essence, were legends waiting for groups to explain.”


Indians Join Migrating Parties

Lipsey also said that it was not unusual during the nineteenth century for groups of outcast Indians and “half-breeds” to attach themselves to migrating groups of English, Scotch, and Germans and to take their surnames.

“Evidence reveals that this was the case of the people who came to settle on Newman’s Ridge. L.M. Jarvis, a long time resident of Hancock County, maintained that the term ‘Melungeon’ was coined in derision during the 1800s and given the Indians on account of their color.”

“Lipsey said other evidence supports his theory. “The reputable History of East Tennessee by Goodspeed, which was published in 1887, before the Dromgoole articles, does not mention the existence of a race of people called the Melungeons, although the author does refer to people with a mixture of white and Indian blood living on Newman’s Ridge.”

Dr. Lipsey first became interested in the Melungeons when he was living in Kingsport during the 1960s.

“I had read an article in the local paper which told about this strange-looking group of people with peculiar habits who lived 75 miles further west in Hancock County.

“Interestingly enough, it subsequently became necessary for me to make monthly trips to Vardy, which is at the foot of Newman’s Ridge in Blackwater Valley. I went there expecting to find a strange- looking, strange-acting group of people. What I found was a people who were, in appearance, general Anglo-Saxon types, the majority being of Scotch and Irish descent.

“This aroused my curiosity. Where had all the information about the Melungeons come from? Why had something so obviously not true – as evidenced by the appearance of the people in and around Vardy – been allowed to be perpetuated?”


Studied at Knoxville Campus

In 1971, Dr. Lipsey was a graduate student in sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. With encouragement and support from the late Dr. Norbert Reidl of the anthropology department, he decided to undertake the study of the Melungeons. He conducted interviews with folklorists, attorneys, historians, other authors who have written on the subject, and people in Hancock County.

“Interviews with persons who are of Melungeon-designated families have been almost impossible to obtain because of the intense resentment to the implications of the term,” said Lipsey. “I have talked with long-time residents of the county about the Melungeons, including the mayor of the county seat in Sneedville, public school teachers and local historians.

“My most significant contact is Bill Grohse, who has lived in Vardy since 1930. Interestingly enough, he fits the description of a Melungeon better than most of the residents of the Ridge. Unfortunately for the proponents of the Melungeon myth, he was born and raised in New York City.

“Bill Grohse has collected a fantastic amount of material on families of Newman’s Ridge which he has shared with me. He has researched court records, conducted library research and done a number of genealogical analyses. The information he has uncovered also supports the theory that the history of the Melungeons is a myth.

“In fact, he married a woman from a Melungeon-designated family whose maiden name was Mizer. He has traced her genealogy back to Germany through Virginia. This has been the case in other genealogical analyses he has conducted. Evidence such as this certainly doesn’t support the theory of a unique racial group.”

In addition to conducting numerous interviews to collect information on the Melungeons, Lipsey has compiled an extensive bibliography. “Compiling a comprehensive bibliography has been no small task,” said Lipsay. “It has required long hours in archives and extensive correspondence with libraries throughout the United States. Much time has been spent reading nineteenth-century newspapers which, whether on my subject or others, are fascinating to read.”

Future research of the Melungeons will include a more thorough investigation into cultural indicators such as architectural structures. Dr. Lipsey thinks such indicators will be the same for both the Ridge and the rest of Appalachia rather than different, which they would need to be to support the present theory of the Melungeons being a unique cultural group.

Seeks Origins of Word

Additional research will need to be done on the term “Melungeon” itself. There are several theories as to its origin and meaning. “I am suggesting the possibility that the term was derived from the Middle English term ‘mal engine’ which meant deceitful, tricky, treacherous, wicked. It may have been a generally derogatory term used in reference to persons or groups who were threatening or who were considered wicked or evil.

“The term could easily have made the transition from adjective (a malengine person) to noun (a malengine), especially if applied to readily identifiable persons or groups which, in turn, could provide racial overtones to the word.” A third area of study involves a more thorough investigation of the account by Louis Shepherd of a trial which took place in Chattanooga in 1872.

“In his memoirs, Judge Shepherd recounts the details of an 1872 trial in which he successfully defended a young woman’s right to inherit property with the argument that she was of Melungeon ancestry, not Negro, and that the Melungeons were descendants of the Moors. Further research is needed on this topic in order to clear up many unanswered questions.”

The last phase of Dr. Lipsey’s research will be to publish a book on the myths which have evolved in the east Tennessee area. His research has been partially supported by a grant received during the past year from the UT National Alumni Association. He presented his findings to the Southern Sociology Society in April.

“I am writing a short article for publication in the near future,” said Lipsey. “I don’t think there is any evidence to support the myth that the Melungeons constitute a unique racial group or a unique cultural group. I hope to be able to set the record straight and clear up eighty-seven years of misconception

Virginia Demarce review of Brent Kennedy, 1996

Published by:

Review Essay: The Melungeons
by Virginia Easley DeMarce, Ph.D. Originally printed in the National Genealogy Society Quarterly
Vol. 84, No. 2, June 1996

The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People. An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America by N. Brent Kennedy, with Robyn Vaughan Kennedy.
Published by Mercer University Press; Macon, GA 31210; 1994. xviii,
156 pp. Appendix, illustrations index.
Mercer University Press has placed its imprimatur on a book that attempts to cross the disciplines of anthropology, genealogy, and history with genetics as a periodic refrain. However, the author does not apply the standard methodology of any of these disciplines. Racial prejudice and persecution, as the title implies, are the themes that meld all this together. A chronological leap over several centuries enables the author to propose an exotic ancestry for “200,000 individuals, perhaps.’ far more” (p xv)-an ancestry that sweeps in virtually every olive, ruddy, and brown-tinged ethnicity known or alleged to have appeared anywhere in the pre-Civil War Southeastern United States.

Beginning with an account of his diagnosis with erythema nodosum sarcoidosis, a rare, serious medical problem to which certain ethnic groups are prone-Kennedy presents a deeply felt account of his immediate family. However, nothing indicates that he investigated whether this medical problem has appeared elsewhere in the extended families who descend from his ancestors or, if it does occur in a pattern, in which line(s).1

Any study centered upon genetics and ethnicity should solidly document all genealogical data and links. Yet Kennedy offers no evidence, not even census records. He outlines an ancestry that centers in the Virginia counties of Wise, Russell, and Scott, and the Kentucky counties of Floyd and Pike. Beyond that, he implies that his forebears are traceable only to the mid-to-late eighteenth century. at which time they were primarily in northwestern North Carolina, (particularly modern Ashe and Yancey Counties) and the region that became Greenbrier and Franklin Counties, Virginia. He arranges his pedigree in a series of “family lines,” including (pp. 137-38) one claimed ascent to Pocahontas (which, if accurate, certainly would not have been a basis for social persecution) . 2

The failure to provide documentation makes it difficult to retrace the path by which the author determined his generational links and sorted forebears from others of the same name. This difficulty will deter many readers from the fact checking that good genealogists always perform. Those who do seek actual evidence and those who already have conducted solid research on these lines will be dismayed at the extent of the genealogical errors set forth in so few pages. Similarly, a great deal of unearned trust is expected of students and scholars in other disciplines. This review essay covers four major areas of concern: ethnic identification, prejudice, genealogy, and historical origins. 3

ETHNIC IDENTIFICATION Kennedy does not use the term Melungeon in its anthropological sense-that is, the interlocking families who moved into, existed in, and dispersed from Hawkins and Hancock Counties, Tennessee. Rather, he coins a very loose definition, expanding it to cover essentially all colonial-era Virginians and Carolinians who (in whatever records he consulted) are not clearly stated to be European American or African American. Melungeon thus becomes a catchall description for dark- skinned individuals whose ancestry does not seem to be sub-Saharan African-as well as their lighter-skinned relatives and descendants, whom he presents as subjects of racial prejudice. The manner in which numerous individuals are “deduced” to be Melungeon is troubling. By surmising a connection when he cannot show it, he makes “Melungeons” of numerous frontier families whose ancestry appears to be wholly northern European, including those whose known origin is Scotch-Irish or German. Typical cases are the Ritchies (pp.23-24), Hutchinsons (p.27), Kennedys and Hornes (pp. 66-68), Powerses and Alleys (pp.69-70), and Counts, Jessees, and Kisers (pp.77-79). In discussing an unproved line of descent from Edward “Ned” Sizemore, a central figure in the famous attempt to cash in on early-twentieth-century Eastern Cherokee claims awards (p.56), Kennedy ignores extensive testimony indicating that Sizemore descendants were, for social and legal purposes, a white family claiming Indian ancestry not Melungeons or free nonwhites. 4

Illustrative of the problem is Kennedy’s analysis of William Roberson’s ethnicity, which strongly suggests inexperience in genealogical and historical research. Because this Revolutionary War veteran supposedly said he was Scotch-Irish and from London, and because his name is variously spelled as Robertson, Robinson, and Robeson, Kennedy concludes the man was a Melungeon who purposefully obscured his true origins. “Surely, if William . . . really did come from England, Scotland, or Ireland, he would have known how to spell his last name…. [His] early meandering in [the Carolinas] undoubtedly plac[ed] him within the geographical region … known as ‘Robeson’ county. Could William I have ‘borrowed’ his surname from the name of the county?” (pp.25-26). Coincidentally, Kennedy proceeds to state that Roberson’s son married the first cousin of President Andrew Jackson. Obviously, in his historical studies, Kennedy has not encountered Jackson’s declaration that he “could never respect a man who knew only one way to spell a word.” 5

Kennedy often refers to the labels fpc (free person of color) and fc (free colored) informing readers that these were maliciously applied by the Scotch-Irish to their Melungeon neighbors in order to “strip the Melungeons of their lands” (p.12), and that “American antebellum census records consistently described those with Indian blood” as fpc (p. 89, italics added). Placing his family into this context, he says “they and we were ‘free persons of color”‘ (p.5). In checking Kennedy’s family lines, this reviewer consistently found the opposite-not a single instance in which his named ancestors, from 1790 through 1900, appear in public documents as anything but white. The legal acceptance of these lines as white by local officials contrasts curiously with the author’s repeated statements that they were routinely labeled fpc. 6

As frontiersmen and mountaineers, his named ancestors repeatedly appear as white on federal censuses. Their marriages, where separate books were maintained for “white” and “colored,” are entered in “white” books.7 In one case, when identifying the father of an out-of-wedlock child as “Melungeon” and “free person of color” (pp. 70-71), Kennedy does refer to a source-but misquotes the work he cites. The book is subtitled Free Black Population of Amherst County, Virginia, and it does mention (in other contexts) Kennedy’s claimed ancestor, David S. Garland; but it does not identify’ Garland as either Melungeon or fpc. In fact, it specifically indicates that he was white. 8

PREJUDICE Kennedy alleges, but does not document, systematic, population-wide, race-based persecution of his ancestral families. His introductory assertion that Melungeons were “a people ravaged, and nearly destroyed, by the senseless excesses of racism and genocide” (p. xiii) begs for supporting evidence-as does his contention that Melungeon families were originally large landowners, deprived and marginalized by Scotch-Irish and other northern-European settlers (p.4). Similarly, the author offers no evidence for his statement that “being legally declared a ‘Melungeon’ meant losing one’s land” (p. 125). He does not present one land grant, deed, or court case to show that his claimed Melungeon ancestral lines ever held large tracts of land or that they were deprived of them by whiter settlers. William Roberson is said to have “left Greenbriar County Virginia] at the same time the Melungeons were being ‘evicted’ “(p.25). No evidence of any Melungeon eviction is offered In Wise County, Virginia, supposedly, “undesirable land [was] ceded to the Melungeons in exchange for the prime property they had originally held. …. land where the town of Wise now sits (and) the beautiful farm country of the Powell Valley were territories well worth stealing” (p.39). Yet no court suits, deed’s, tax rolls, or land grants are cited. In repeating the family legend that “William Nash III had once owned some 6,000 acres of land, but gambled it away,”9 Kennedy’s opinion that it was, instead, “probably taken [from ….. But to cover the truth [of their persecution] the family had to turn William III into an irresponsible reprobate” (pp. 39-40). Again, the author offers none of the court or land records or newspaper notices of public sales that genealogists routinely cite in cases such as this.

Echoing a theme popular with some writers on Southern minorities, Kennedy contends (p.14 and elsewhere) that records are scarce because persecution caused Melungeon families to “avoid” census takers and other public officials. 10 That assertion is difficult to support in this instance, because many records concerning his ancestral families are readily available. Genealogists of all families suffer lacunae in the records, but most failures to find evidence can be overcome by applying improved research skills. Kennedy is not precise in his discussion of public laws. For example, he states that “by 1834 Melungeons had been stripped of most rights of citizenship in both Tennessee and North Carolina” (p.15) and that “Sarah [Adkins] and husband John Bennett left North Carolina with their children in the late 1830’s, about the time that North Carolina declared Melungeons to be ‘free persons of color”‘ (p.46, italics added). North Carolina never “declared Melungeons” to be free persons of color; nor did a Tennessee statute single out Melungeons for persecution. Statutes did restrict the rights of persons who were legally classed as free persons of color; but the 1830s definition of that class, in both states, was the same definition established in the 1700s. In Tennessee, state law limited the term to those whose parent or grand-parent was a full-blooded Indian or Negro (i.e., descent to the third degree). North Carolina’s law extended it to “all Negroes, Indians, and mulattos…. to the fourth generation, inclusive” (i.e., individuals with one-eighth-degree Negro or Indian ancestry). The laws of the 1830s did not affect farnilies who were legally white, they did not change anyone’s classification, and they did not mandate anyone to be legally nonwhite once they passed the point that had been defined in the 1700’s. 11 Similarly, Kennedy reinterprets voting laws. “By a sweep of the judicial pen,,, readers are told, census takers arbitrarily ruled Melungeons to be fpc “and, presto! [they] became legally disenfranchised” (p, 12). 12 Returning later to that theme, Kennedy states that his ancestor Alexander Hall, son of Isham, rose to the rank of captain in the Confederate army but was not permitted to vote because of his status as a “free person of color” (p.33). Yet the 1830 census of Russell County, Virginia, labels Isham Hall white. 13 By the 1850 enumeration, Alexander had become a head of household-white, as were his wife, children, father, and father’s family. 14 Alexander’s future son-in-law, Wickliffe Hendricks Nash, who also saw Confederate service (p.33), was similarly counted as white, both in his father’s household in 1860 and in his own household in 1880. 15 Kennedy provides no documentation for his statement that “well into the 1900s, the Nashes and Halls were not permitted to vote” (p. 40). If this was the case, the cause needs to be documented, because it does not appear to have been based on their racial classification in the census. 16

GENEALOGY
Two sections, headed “No Place to Hide,” briefly sketch Kennedy’s maternal and paternal lines. Some genealogical problems are obvious, even without documentation. Other links, relationships, and conclusions do not withstand fact checking. The following illustrates the types of concerns that genealogists must address before deciding whether to add the author’s conclusions to their family records.

Mullin

While writing of his multiple “shot[s] of Old Booker Mullins’ genes” (p.73), Kennedy says next to nothing about the man, only that he was born 1762, died .1864, and was “apparently from Franklin County, Virginia” (p 47), 17 a county created in 1785. A variety of records actually exists to track this man and to sort him from numerous other contemporaries of the same name. Tax records that have been conveniently published since 1972 show this Booker to be a 1789 settler of Burks Fork and Greasy Creek of Indian Ridge, in Montgomery County, Virginia 18 (now the county-boundary area between Floyd and Carroll Counties, slightly above the North Carolina line). From here, Booker apparently moved south, as a subsequent census attributes to his son David a circa 1800 birth in North Carolina. 19 From there, they trekked westward into Floyd County, Kentucky, where Booker’s household is enumerated-as white-in l8l0. 20 Other early-nineteenth-century censuses and land records (not discussed by Kennedy) place Booker and his grown children in both Floyd and its offshoot counties, Pike and Lawrence. 21 By 1830, this Mullins family had backwashed from eastern Kentucky into southwestern Virginia’s Russell County, where Booker is recorded as a free white male, aged sixty to seventy. 22 He last appears, 1860, in Wise County-aged ninety-six, of Virginia birth, and still white. 23

A more-serious genealogical problem, for which the evidence apparently confused Kennedy, is the identification of Booker’s wife. She is said by Kennedy (without documentation) to be “Nancy Judith Stanley” in each of the four tables presented on pages 48, 49, 50, and 51. However, the text at page 48 discusses her as “Booker’s wife, Nancy Stanley.” At page 49, the text comments: “Old Booker may have had a previous marriage, possibly before his marriage to Nancy Stanley. The name Judith Bunch, or Bench, has occasionally been tied to Booker.” Virginia’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century marriage records are highly incomplete. 24 Surviving records show that Judith Stanley married one of the several contemporary Booker Mullinses during 1803 in Franklin County, Virginia. However, this is not Kennedy’s ancestral couple, because this Booker Mullins is shown consistently on the Franklin County censuses from 1810 through 1860. 25 Meanwhile, the Booker Mullins from whom Kennedy descends obviously had married by 1790 or so, because he had a son James) who wed in 1812 and another (Sherwood) who married in 1813. 26 The only evidence this reviewer has found of a Booker Mullins to Nancy {-} marriage is the 1835 union of Booker Mullins, son Sherwood and grandson of “Old Booker,” to Nancy Potter in Pike County, Kentucky. 27 Chronology suggests that Kennedy attributed to “Old Booker” born circa 1764 some of the post-1835 children of this younger Booker and Nancy Mullins. 28 There were also at least two, possibly three, other men named Booker Mullins in the area of eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia between 1790 and 1860 – classed as white, Yet another problem relating to the author’s genealogical reconstruction of the Mullins family is his statement that the famed Mahala “Big Haley” (Collins) Mullins, of the Hancock County, Tennessee, Melungeons, “married into” the family of his own ancestor’s son, Wilson Mullins; and he cited Wilson’s birth in 1824 (p.48). Mahala herself was born in 1824; and the 1880 census shows that her husband, John Mullins (whose identity Kennedy appears not to know), was born about 1815. Kennedy does not show a relationship between her husband and his own family line. In any case, John was too old to have been a son of Wilson.

Mullins-Adkins-Hall

Pursuing the Mullinses through the federal censuses also yields evidence that Kennedy did not fully exploit the available sources. His genealogical table for the Hall family (p.36) cites two consecutive Hall-Mullins marriages: Isham Hall I (dates unknown) to Mary Mullins and Isham Hall II (1785-1856) to Jane Mullins. His only statement regarding the origins of either Isham is that the one born 1785 “claimed to be from Greenbriar County, Virginia” (p.30). For ancestor Henry Clyde Runyon, comp., Marriage Bonds of Pike County, Kentucky, 1822-1865 (Belfry, Ky: p.p., 1984), 78, citing file no. 431. Kennedy apparently confused the 26-year-old Sherrard [Sherwood] Mullins (wife Anna i.e., Nancy-aged 22), in Booker’s 1860 household, with the much-older Sherwood who was Booker’s son. Certainly Sherrard and Anna cannot have been the parents of Andrew Jackson “BrandyJack” Mullins, who was born in 1834 (Kennedy, p.50) 29 Two were heads of households on the 1840 census of Pike Co., Ky; one, age 40-50; another, 20- 30. See Jesse Stewart and Leah Stewart, comps., 1840 Federal Census of Pike County, Kentucky (n.p. n.p., Ca. 1990), 3. The 1850 census more fully identifies them as Booker Mullins (age 55, wife Mary; Floyd Co.) and Booker Mullens (age 31, wife Nancy; adjacent Pike Co.). See Barbara, Byron, and Samuel Sistle; 1850 Census, Eastern Ky. Counties of Breathitt, Caner, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Letcher, Morgan, Perry, and Pike (Nashville: Byron Sistler and Associates, 1994, 68, 301. One Booker Mullins married Polly Johnson, daughter of William Johnson, 16 Apffl 1821; see Skeens, Floyd Kentucky, Consent and Marriage Book, p.136. A second Booker wed Polly Newsom, daughter of Harrison Newsom, 5 December 1829; see Runyon, Marriage Bonds of Pike County, 43, file no.235. Subsequently, there appears Booker Mullins Sr., age 68, b. Va., with wife Polly, age 60, b. N.C., on the 1870 U.S. cens., Pike Co., Ky., dist. 9, Robinson Creek, dwell. 26, fam. 26; and Booker Mullins, age 70, with wife Polly, 65, both born in Va., on the 1880 U.S. cens., Pike Co., Ky., 9th precinct, Upper Elkhorn Creek, dwell 16, fam. 16. All listings identify them as white. 30 Gowen Research Foundation, Electronic Library, file GOWENMS.OO2, closed stacks, printout dated 30 March 1996, unpaginated. Available to foundation members via sysop, 806-796-0456. For the foundation, contact Arlee Gowen, 5708 Gary Ave., Lubbock, TX 79413. Mahala Collins was the daughter of Solomon and Virginia Jane “Gincie” (Goins) Collins. Adkins, whose granddaughter married in 18511 the only stated origin is “1700s, North Carolina” (p. 70). Yet the 1850 census of Russell County, Virginia, is more explicit. It is one of the serendipitous enumerations on which the marshal recorded the county of birth for all persons born within the Cornmonwealth. Both Isham Hall and Henry Adkins are assigned a birth in Franklin County, Virginia-the place Kennedy speculates for Booker Mullins.

FOOTNOTES

1. This omission contrasts strikingly with T. Tipton Biggs, Knowing Mama: The Discovery of a Family (Omaha, Neb: privately printed, ca.1980), which painstakingly tracks the progress of Huntington. disease through an extended family from the 1820s until the present.

2. The claimed line from Pocahontas is said to have come through Benjamin Bowling born 1734)and wife Martha “Patsy” Phelps. This couple (although Kennedy does not state so) married 1751-53 in Albemarle Co., Va. See Families of Yancey County, North Carolina 5 (March 1988): 5; and “Osborne and Related Families,” Pike County, Kentucky, 1821-1983; Historical Papers, no.5 (Pikeville: Pike Co. Hist. Soc., 1983), 61. Kennedy’s connection depends on an assumption that the Benjamin who married Martha is the same one who later wed Charity Larrimore. This assertion was published in 1985 by W. W .Lake, “The Pocahontas Connection,” The Mountain Empire Genealogical Quarterly 4 (Winter 1985): 214-7; but it has been challenged by David Risner, “Bolling Family Information,” The Mountain Empire Genealogical Quarterly 7 (Winter 1988): 273-74, who presents contrary evidence. Kennedy points out that the ascending line of the Benjamin who married Martha Phelps is itself unproved, although often claimed-as in R. Marshall Shepherd, “John Rolfe Lineage,” The East Kentuckian: A Journal of Genealogy and History 25 (September 1989): 34-35. For a general pro-and-con discussion of the limited evidence available, see Alexander R. Bolling Jr., The Bolling Family: Eight Centuries of Growth (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1990), 114-17.

3. Because this essay is a book review rather than a full-fledged genealogical study, all of the author’s families have not been comprehensively reconstructed. The present analysis is designed to indicate the direction that future research should take.

4. For a synopsis of this rich body of Sizemore oral history, see Jerry Wright Jordan, comp., Cherokee by Blood: Records of Eastern Cherokee Ancestry in the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910, vol.1, Application’s to 1550 (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1987), 126-81 Kennedy (p.24) cites 1725 as the date of Sizemore’s birth. This is incompatible with the claims-case testimony, which holds that Ned’s father fought in the Revolution and that two of his brothers were in the War of 1812. The oral histories may have been confused, but Kennedy does not cite corrective evidence or address the conflict. The testimony also does not document Kennedy’s stated Sizemore connection to his Phipps family. Jeffrey C. Weaver, Eastern Cherokee Applications, Southwest Virginia Ancestors 4 (Winter 1990): 33, indicates that Edward (“Old Ned”) Sizemore was a Loyalist, “hung by Col. Ben Cleveland on the Tory Oak in Wilkesboro NC.” This must be a different generation from the “Old Ned” in the Sizemore testimony, who died in the 1850s. Regarding the ethnicity of this family and their census labels, consider for example, George and Owen Sizemore and their household members who are all considered white on the 1800 Ashe Co., N. C., census. See Eleanor Baker Reeves, A Factual History of Early Ashe County, North Carolina: Its People, Places and Events (Tex.: Taylor Publishing Co., 1986), 67. The 1820 census. of Ashe Co. similarly cites the households of George (Sr and Jr), Edward, and Owen as white. See Dorothy Williams Potter, 1820 Federal Census of North Carolina, vol. 2, Ashe County (Tullahoma, Tenn.: privately printed, 1970), 13. (ASHE COUNTY NC ONLINE CENSUS DATA )

5. Quoted by David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Fou, British Folkways in America (N.Y: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), 718. Kennedy (p.67) also proposes a deliberate fabrication of origins to explain another common type of genealogical carelessness– an alleged birthdate of 1781 for Pleasant Home, said to be the son of Jesse Home, born 1777.

6. As previously noted, this reviewer has not retraced the author’s lines through every available record. However, for all sources consulted and all lines traced, results were consistent. As representative examples:

(1) The author repeatedly applies the term fpc to ancestral lines in Ashe Co., N.C. (pp.46.55-56. 69-70). While antebellum Ashe certainly had free persons of color, Kennedy’s named ancestors were not among them. The 1820 census of Ashe (as a specific) lists six fpc house hold but Kennedy’s Phipps, Swindle, White, Tolliver, and Osborn families were all classed there on as white. See Potter, 1820 Federal Census of North Carolina. . – Ashe County, 6, 11-12, 14-l6, 18-19. (2) As late as 1860, Kennedy’s Swindle line was classified as white in Western Virginia; see 1860 U.S. cens., Wise Co., Va., pp. 28O~1, dwelling 110, family 110.

(3) For 1870, Kennedy’s lines of Kennedy, Kiser, Mullins, Nash, Powers, and Swindle (Russell and Wise Cos., Va.), were all considered white; the Hopkinses (found by the reviewer in Pike Co., Ky.), were deemed white there also.

7. For example, see Larry and Pat Taylor, eds., Wise County, Virginia, Marriage Register, 1887-19C0 (Clintwood, Va.: Southwest Va. Ancestors, 1994); and Dorcas McDaniel Hobbs and John Walter Picklesheimer Sr., comps., Pike County, Kentucky, Death Records, 1849-1909 (n.p.: p.p., ca. 1990).

8. Sherrie S. McLeRoy and William R. Mc LeRoy, Strangers in their Midst: The Free Black Population of Amherst County, Virginia (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1993), 194,218.299. Garland is mentioned herein as administrator of the estate of John Redcross in 1802 and as the 1840 head of a white household that also contained 8 fpc and 40 slaves.

9. Nash’s wealth extended considerably beyond land. The 1840 cens. credits him with 17 slaves. He is enumerated as a white male, aged 30-40, sharing his home with a white female, aged 20-30, and a white male, aged 15-20. See Elizabeth M. Carpenter, ed., 1840 Census, Russell County, Virginia (n.p.: p.p., Ca. 1991), 16.

10. The assertions of nineteenth century legal persecution in the adjacent counties of Wise, Russell, and Buchanan are also difficult to accept when one reads the 1880 census. entry for Kennedy’s claimed great.great.grandparents, James Colley and Emma Farrel (whom he describes, p.77, as one of the ‘Black Jacksons’ W) Not only did the census taker label the family white, but he identified their son William as the county sheriff. See 1880 U.S. census., Buchanan Co., Va., Sand Lake Magisterial Dist., enum. dist. 16, sheet 45, dwell. 35, fam. 35.

11. For N.C., see Revised Statutes of the State of North Carolina, Passed by the General Assembly, 1836-37, 2 vols. (Raleigh: Turner and Hughes, 1837), chap. Ill, “An Act Concerning Slaves and Free persons of color.” This source recapitulates prior laws. For Tenn., see Returnj. Meigs and William F. Cooper, eds., Code of Tennessee Exacted by the General Assembly of 1857-‘8 (Nashville: E.G. Eastman and Co., 1858), 41, 687, which recounts prior acts; Joshua W Caldwell, Studies in the Constitutional History of Tennessee, 2d ed. (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Co., 1907), 202-03; Robert. Shannon, ed., The Constitution of the State of Tennessee (Nashville: Law Book Pubi. Co., 1915), 374-76; and Thos. H. CoIdwell, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Tennessee during the Years 1868-9 (Louisville, Ky.: Fetter Law Book Co., 1902), 231-67.

12. Census takers, of course, did not wield a judicial pen. Their returns had no judicial authority. Again the author appears unfamiliar with record sources. Kennedy’s theme of political discrimination against his ancestors is clearly at odds here with various evidences, for example, the subsequently discussed election of his ancestor to the Va. state legislature (as a Democrat) in 1879. If one cannot vote, one cannot hold office.

13. Elizabeth M. Carpenter, ed., 1830 Census of Russell County, Virginia (Clintwood, Va.: Mullins Princing Royalty, ca. 1991), 11.

14.1850 U.S. census., Russell Co., Va., pp. 323b-324, dwells. 1438-1439, fams. 1438-1439.

15.1860 U.S. census., Scott Co., Va., pp. 35~55, dwell. 816, fam. 815.1880 U.S. census., Wise Co., Va., enum. dist. 101, sheet 24, dwell. 249, fam. 249. Kennedy does not address the genealogical significance of the 1860 census., which shows Wickliff Nash in the home of his father, William Nash, age 59. At that time, William apparently had a much-younger wife, Virginia, age 29. The wife and mother cited by Kennedy, Margaret Ramey, was still alive that year, because she later appears as “mother” and “white” in her son’s household; see 1880 U.S. census., Wise Co., Va., enum. dist. 101, sheet 24, dwell. 249, fam. 249. Other Rameys repeatedly appear as white on southwest Va. and eastern Ky. returns. The following 1850 enumeration entry also should be examined carefully for relevance: 1850 U.S. census., Scott Co., Va., pop. sch., p.422, dwell./fam. 967: Margaret Ramey, 28, female; Louisa J., 10, female; Wickliffe, 8, male; Sally, 60, female; and Worthington Brooks, 20, male, born in N.C. All the Rameys were said to have been born in Va. Presumably all were considered white, because they, like others on the page, have no entry to the contrary in the column for race.

16. For the turn-of the century racial status of this family, whose “darkness” is heavily treated by Kennedy, see 1900 U.S. census., Wise Co., Va., enum. dist. 123, sheet 3, fam. 4, dwell. 42, citing the widowed Louisa (Hall) Nash and her children as white.

17. This assumption may have been made on the basis of a birthplace provided for 67-year-old James Mullins on an 1857 marriage record. See John C. Mullins, wise County’, Virginia, Marriage register, 1856-1886 (n.p.: p.p., 1981), 9, no.97. Franklin Co. was created from Henry and Bedford Cos. Prior to that, in the 1770s, family names associated with this Mullins line appear in Henry Co. See Lela C. Adams, Henry County, Virgina, Deed Book I and II Bassett, Va.: p.p., 1975), 30,44,82,91; and Lela C. Adams, 1778-1780 Tax List of Henry County, Virginia (Bassett, Va.: p.p., 1973), 16, 27-28, 41.

18. Nettie Schreiner-Yantis, ed., Montgomery County Virginia, Circa 1790: A Comprehensive Study-Including the 1789 Tax Lists, Abstracts of Over 800 Land Surveys ~ Data Concerning Migration (Springfield, Va.: p-p., 1972), 98.

19.1860 U.S. census., Wise Co., Va., p. 325, dwell. 400, fam. 400. A Mullins line that went from Pittsylvania Co., Va., into Burke Co., N.C., and from there into Russell Co., Va., has been put into print also. See Gary M. Mullins, “The Ancestral Lineage of Ollie Cox Mullins,” The Mountain Empire Genealogical Quarterly 7 (Winter 1988): 21~38. This article is most helpful in distinguishing the various Mullins lines that came into Russell Co. by different routes than the one taken by Booker Mullins.

20.1810 U.S. census., Floyd Co., Ky., p.105. See also 1820 U.S. cens., Floyd Co., Ky., p.37.

21. In 1823, Booker Mullins was in the part of Floyd that had just been cutaway to create Lawrence; see Clayton R. Cox, “Pike County, Ky., Deed Book A, 1820-1828,” The East Kentuckian 22 (March 1986): 16. Joe R. Skeens, comp., Floyd County, Kentucky, Consent and Marriage Book, 1808-1851 (Prestonsburg, Ky.: p.p., 1987), 21, shows the marriages of several Mullins men, including that of Kennedy’s traced ancestor, David Mullins, to Jenny Short on 3 February 1820.

Pike Co. was created from Floyd in 1822. For more on the family’s activities there, see Dorcas Hobbs, “First Tax List of 1823,” in Leonard Roberts, Frank Forsyth, and Claire Kelly, eds., Pike County, Kentucky, 1822-1967, Historical Papers, no.2 (Pikeville: Pike Co. Hist. Soc., 1976), 4-12 (which includes Booker Mullins, John Booker Mullins, and ten other Mullins landowners on Shelby Creek).

22. Carpenter, 1830 Census of Russell County, 17-18.

23.1860 U.S. cens., Wise Co., Va., p. 325, dwell. 401, fam. 401.

24. See the 1844 affidavit on this point that was published by Mary McCampbell Bell as “Who Is to Blame’.” NGS Quarterly 75 (September 1987): 193.

25. Marshall Wingfield, Marriage Bonds of Franklin County, 1786-1858; Transcribed from the Original Records, Annotated and Alphabetically Arranged (Baltimore: Genealogical Pubi. Co., 1973), 166. According to the 1850 enumeration (dwell. 1496, fam. 1490), this Booker was aged 71; his wife Judith, 67. In 1860 (dwell.

335, fam. 331), Booker was 80 and Judith was 75. See Karen Mann Robuck, comp., Franklin County, Virginia,

1850 6,, 1860 Censuses (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1990), 131. A married Judy Mullins, aged 63 and born in Va., died in August 1849 in Pike Co., Ky.; see Dorcas McDaniel Hobbs and John Walter Picklesheimer Sr., Pike County, Kentucky, Death Records, 1849-1909 (n.p.: p.p., ca. 1990). She could not have been Judith Stanley, who married in 1803. If the death record’s age is correct, it is doubtful that she bore the older children of Kennedy’s Booker.

26. James Mullins married Agnes Little in 1812; see Julius Little, “Isaac Little and his Descendants,” The East Kentuckian 21 June 1985): 4. The actual marriage record does not list James’s father. However, Sherwood Mullins was named as son of Booker Mullins when he wed Mary Roberts in 1813; see Skeens, Floyd County, Kentucky, Consent and Marriage Book, 21.

27. Clyde Runyon, comp., Marriage Bonds of Pike County, Kentucky, 1822-1865 (Belfry, Ky.: p.p., .1984), 78, citing file no.431.

28. Kennedy apparently confused the 26-year-old Sherrard [Sherwood] Mullins (wife Anna-i.e., Nancy-aged 22), in Booker’s 1860 household, with the much-older Sherwood who was Booker’s son. Certainly Sherrard and Anna cannot have been the parents ofAndrew Jackson “BrandyJack” Mullins, who was born in 1834 (Kennedy, p.50)

29. Two were heads of households on the 1840 cens. of Pike Co., Ky.: one, age 40-50; another, 20- 30. See Jesse Stewart and Leah Stewart, comps., 1840 Federal Census of Pike County, Kentucky (n.p.: n.p., Ca. 1990), 3. The 1850 cens. more fully identifies them as Booker Mullins (age 55, wife Mary; Floyd Co.) and Booker Mullens (age 31, wife Nancy; adjacent Pike Co.). See Barbara, Byron, and Samuel Sistle; 1850 Census, Eastern Ky. Counties of Breathitt, Caner, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Letcher, Morgan, Perry, and Pike (Nashville: Byron Sistler and Associates, 1994), 68, 301. Crie Booker Mullins married Polly Johnson, daughter of William Johnson, 16 Apffl 1821; see Skeens, Floyd Kentucky, Consent and Marriage Book, p.136. A second Booker wed Polly Newsom, daughter of Harrison Newsom, 5 December 1829; see Runyon, Marriage Bonds of Pike County, 43, file no.235. Subsequently, there appears Booker MuHins Sr., age 68, b. Va., with wife Polly, age 60, b. N.C., on the 1870 U.S. cens., Pike Co., Ky., dist. 9, Robinson Creek, dwell. 26, fam. 26; and Booker Mullins, age 70, with wife Polly, 65, hoth born in Va., on the 1880 U.S. cens., Pike Co., Ky., 9th precinct, Upper Elkhorn Creek, dwelL 16, fam. 16. All listings identify them as white.

30. Gowen Research Foundation, Electronic Library, file GOWENMS.OO2, closed stacks, printout dated 30 March 1996, unpaginated. Available to foundation members via sysop, 806-796-0456. For the foundation, contact Arlee Gowen, 5708 Gary Ave., Lubbock, TX 79413. Mahala Collins was the daughter of Solomon and Virginia Jane “Gincie” (Goins) Collins.©
Virginia Easley DeMarce, Ph.D

Response of Brent Kennedy to Virginia Demarce, 1997

Published by:

Response of Brent Kennedy to Virginia DeMarce

I was recently asked by several media representatives to respond to Virginia DeMarce’s most recent statements regarding the Melungeons and me personally. Their questions have tended to revolve around the three basic issues below, so I have crafted a sort of synopsis of my replies to the media for inclusion on the home page if appropriate, or for sharing with others who may also be curious.

Of course, much of this back-and-forth bantering could have been avoided if the National Genealogical Quarterly had permitted me some sort of response to her 1996 book review. But the editors did not, and the rest as they say, is history. But I am grateful to those journals and web-sites which did publish my rebuttal. Their sense of fair play was recognized and there’s no doubt that the entire sordid incident in truth fueled the great debate that has brought the issue to the forefront. In that sense, I must extend my gratitude to the editors of NGQ. Thank you. Time is indeed demonstrating the vailidity of our work.

First, I am generally pleased to see what appears to be Dr. DeMarce’s increasing acceptance of a broader-based Mediterranean gene pool for our Appalachian ancestors. This less narrow view is in stark contrast to the one exhibited in her original review of my book in last summer’s edition of the National Genealogical Quarterly. In each succeeding news account her views on the theory, if not me, are softening. I have heard indirectly that her major contentions now are that:

(1) She sees no rationale or evidence for any theorized Turkish infusion, and

(2) She believes that Melungeons have always been – and remain – a very few isolated families, and that I have broadened the definition of Melungeon to the point of meaninglessness, and

(3) She sees absolutely no evidence that I personally am of Melungeon descent.

I would like to respond to these three points:

Regarding (1): Earlier Virginia saw no rationale for any Mediterranean heritage at all. Her book review is clear evidence of this conviction. I suggest that with time she’ll come to accept this portion of our ancestry as well.

For example, Turks and Armenians comprised some of the “indentured servants” at Jamestown. The Virginia Company kept records, fortunately, and the documented Turkish presence here as early as 1631 is important to say the least. We also now are gathering new evidence of other Turks being brought to the New World by the Spanish as early as the 1580s, with their mission to create and manage the New World textile industry. What happened to these people? Where did they go? Did they just simply disappear because they were neither slave nor European? Or like other human beings did they, too, survive and pass on their genes and cultural memories to their children?

Accumulating evidence is also bolstering Drake’s likely abandonment of Turkish and Ottoman sailors on Roanoke Island in 1586. New documents absolutely prove that Drake did indeed reach England with liberated Turkish captives, of which only 100 (of an original 200 to 300) were sent home to Istanbul. Well documented claims on the part of some of our ancestors to be Turkish, as well as medical, genetic, and linguistic evidence build a strong case for at least some – if not substantial – authentic Turkish and/or Ottoman heritage. As I said earlier, as the research unfolds over the next six months I suggest that DeMarce will indeed soften her stance on this last remaining “ethnic holdout.”

Regarding (2): I continue to be amazed that DeMarce is seemingly genuinely convinced that a few isolated Melungeon families in the 1600s remain but a few isolated Melungeon families in the 1990s. Did these people not reproduce? Estimates from Virginia historians suggest that Pocahontas – who had only one child – could have as many as 500,000 living descendants today! Yet somehow, DeMarce’s Melungeons experienced absolutely no population growth. It is a staggering limitation that we are asked to swallow.

She is wrong. Her mistake falls into the same vein as her other mistakes: she assumes the written record is the only reality and that it is always accurate. DeMarce identifies a few early Melungeon families, assumes that those are the only ones, and then excludes all other populations and individuals from kinship.

The reality is that those she identified were merely the “tips of icebergs,” metaphorically speaking. “Melungeon” is NOT an ethnic group – it was a self-descriptive term, probably originating from the Arabic/Turkish term pronounced identically and meaning “cursed soul” and was applied by these early settlers to themselves to describe their sad circumstances. Over time as the term literally became synonymous with “free person of color”, they dropped it. And most of these people – well before the first census was ever conducted – had already admixed with white, black and Native American groups.

A few, of course, held out and became known as the mysterious or reclusive Melungeons. But these smaller groups were in no way the total population. They were just the identifiable population. When I’m out fishing on Cherokee Lake, I may only see one or two bass swimming around, but from experience and common sense I don’t conclude that they’re the only ones in the lake. In a sense, Virginia DeMarce has done just that. So, my contention is that the population was far larger and more diverse than DeMarce ever dreamed possible based on the official records, and that it spread exponentially, but silently, in an effort to survive.

This does not mean, as DeMarce has also suggested, that I believe that the Pamunkey Indians or the Cherokees or any other tribal group are simply Melungeons. On the contrary, I believe instead that these Melungeons (i.e., Turks, Portuguese, Berbers, etc.) were accepted into the tribes and became part of the tribal structure, thus creating kinships between the various groups. And that in this sense their cultures merged to some degree. Which is not difficult to imagine, especially since Turks are themselves Central Asians – that is, literal cousins to the Native Americans!

In this regard, I believe that this broad Melungeon admixture into the tribes does not lessen the “Native American” component, as DeMarce assumes, but instead replaces at least some of what historians have traditionally considered simple white and black admixture with Melungeon admixture (again, Turk, Portuguese, Spanish, Berber, etc.).

Finally, I remain mystified by DeMarce’s view that expanding the definition of Melungeon renders it “meaningless.” I take the opposite viewpoint. The truth is that the population was and is much broader, and that this very inclusiveness renders the term far more meaningful, as opposed to meaningless. We have here a story that can literally relate millions of Americans in a way they never deemed – or dreamed – possible. The potential for improving race and ethnic relations in our country is incredible. If a population must be small and isolated to have meaning for DeMarce, then I’m certain she is indeed disappointed in my viewpoints. And they remain unchanged. There were – and still are – a lot of Melungeons, whatever they call themselves.

Regarding (3): Given DeMarce’s exceedingly limited view on what a “Melungeon” was, or is, I now understand her inability to rationalize how I fall into this category. Because of DeMarce’s very narrow view of what it is that defines a Melungeon, other mixed-race individuals that I absolutely consider to be Melungeon related, DeMarce casts aside as simply “Mulatto” or “Black” or “White,” depending upon the census classification. I personally know of no litmus test for Melungeonism, nor do I have a Golden Tablet with the names of all Melungeons inscribed upon it. But DeMarce seemingly does have such diagnostic tools stashed away in her genealogical bag.

I do know this: that my family verifiably looks Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Native American, and African, though our census records agree with DeMarce’s book review assertion that we are nothing but white northern European. And I know that my ancestor, Betty Reeves, claimed to Portuguese, and that all the neighbors in the Castlewood area considered my Robersons/Robinsons to be Portuguese. And I was very surprised when Virginia DeMarce announced that W.A. Plecker’s infamous letter of 1943 (see website: http://www.clinch.edu/appalachia/melungeon/) listed only one of my family surnames – Mullins. First, she fails to mention that I have SIX lines of Mullinses (as opposed to the insinutated single line), and second, she overlooks the other NINE family surnames found on that list that undoubtedly pertain to me. She conveniently does this by looking only at Wise County, but my ancestors migrated westward from the very regions where the surnames are listed by Plecker as non-white. For the curious, those other surnames are: Adams, Adkins, Bolin (Bowlin), Gibson, Hammond, Keith, Phillips, Robinson, and Weaver. DeMarce conveniently overlooks these names because they aren’t specifically called Melungeons by Plecker. But this single letter lends great credence to my contention of both the mixed-race background of so many westward moving Virginians, as well as the preponderance of related surnames that characeterize my – and other – so-called “white” families of this region.

I trust this response is helpful.

N. Brent Kennedy
21 August 1997

“Bridging the Digital Divide in Rural Appalachia” by Jacob Podber, 2003 article

Published by:

Bridging the Digital Divide in Rural Appalachia: Internet Usage in the Mountains

Jacob J. Podber, Ph.D.
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA

Jacob@siu.edu

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Abstract

This project looks at Internet usage within the Melungeon community of Appalachia. Although much has been written on the coal mining communities of Appalachia and on ethnicity within the region, there has been little written on electronic media usage by Appalachian communities, most notably the Melungeons. The Melungeons are a group who settled in the Appalachian Mountains as early as 1492, of apparent Mediterranean descent. Considered by some to be tri-racial isolates, to a certain extent, Melungeons have been culturally constructed, and largely self- identified.

According to the founder of a popular Melungeon Web site, the Internet has proven an effective tool in uncovering some of the mysteries and folklore surrounding the Melungeon community. This Web site receives more than 21,000 hits a month from Melungeons or others interested in the group. The Melungeon community, triggered by recent books, films, and video documentaries, has begun to use the Internet to trace their genealogy. Through the use of oral history interviews, this study examines how Melungeons in Appalachia use the Internet to connect to others within their community and to the world at large.

Keywords : Internet, media, digital divide, Appalachia, rural, oral history, ethnography, sociology, community


Introduction

In Rod Carveth and Susan Kretchmer’s paper “The Digital Divide in Western Europe,” (presented at the 2002 International Summer Conference on Communication and Technology) the authors examined how age, income and gender were predictors of the digital divide in Western Europe. In addition, they pointed out how geography played a crucial role given that countries in Southern Europe have less computer and Internet penetration than their Northern European counterparts. In my paper, I examine the digital divide in the United States, particularly while looking at Internet usage in rural Appalachia.

Given that the growth of the American “Sunbelt South” has become somewhat of a symbol of U.S. economic progress, I will examine Internet usage in Appalachia, an area of the U.S. that is often overlooked. As Eller (1999, ix) writes, “Always part of the mythical South, Appalachia continues to languish backstage in the American drama, still dressed, in the popular mind at least, in the garments of backwardness, violence, poverty and hopelessness once associated with the South as a whole. No other region of the United States today plays the role ofthe ‘other America’ quite so persistently as Appalachia.”

By using oral histories, my intention is to give an outlet to residents of rural Appalachia. Using their own words, I hope to discover who they think they are and how their use of electronic media has informed their identity and included or excluded them. As participants recalled their histories, I attempted to record their lived/reconstructed/and or perceived past.

Riesman (1950) illustrated the effects of electronic media on our sense of community in his “lonely crowd” theory. His analogy of the individual living in a modern technological society yet existing in seclusion seems to echo the beliefs that electronic media are isolating catalysts on society. This theory is even more poignant given the strong sense of community and family within the Appalachian region. The analysis of this concept—whether the arrival of electronic communication technology into the region disrupted rather than enhanced the sense of community—defines this study.


Significance of the Study

As stated above, although much has been written on the coal mining communities of Appalachia (see Fisher, 1993; Yarrow, 1990; and Eller, 1982) and on ethnicity within the region (see Billings, 1999; Turner, 1985; Klotter, 1980; Cunningham, 1980; and Snyder, 1982), there is a dearth of literature on electronic media usage within the Appalachian community. An important distinction should be made in that there is a body of work that examines print media’s effect on Appalachia (see Stephens, 1972 and Maggard, 1985). In addition, Newcomb (1979) examines how Appalachian stereotypes are perpetuated on TV, Williamson (1994 and 1995) points out how the Appalachian is portrayed in motion pictures, and some alternative media sources, such as Appalshop Film and Video in Whitesburg, Kentucky, produce works on Appalachian culture and history (seeMountain Vision: Homegrown Television in Appalachia, and Strangers and Kin).1 None, however, address electronic media usage by Appalachians.

Therefore, I hope the oral histories collected in this study will contribute to the understanding of the impact the Internet had on the residents of rural Appalachia, especially from a social historical context. I see a great value in a human diary that documents how electronic media affected the lives of rural Appalachians and hope the oral histories used to trace the early adoption of the Internet contribute to a better understanding of how Appalachians, particularly within the Melungeon community, were able to establish communities — both virtually and in real life — regardless of their geographical isolation.


Oral History

Conducting oral history interviews is fraught with challenges, particularly when the interviewer is seen as an outsider by the interviewees. Some participants, uncomfortable with an interviewer entering into a region where many are burdened with poor educations, were reluctant to be recorded. Given the way the media often depict Appalachians in movies (Deliverance), television (“The Beverly Hillbillies”), and comic strips (Snuffy Smith), their reluctance is not surprising. In “The Appalachian Inheritance,” Cattell- Gordon (1990, 41) describes the Appalachian region as a “culturally transmitted traumatic stress syndrome.”

However, in their viewing of the Appalachian community, Banks, Billings, and Tice (1996, 82) suggest that

[T]his account of the effects of history as social trauma bred in the bones of the people of the region is flawed because it constitutes Appalachians solely as “victims” and obscures the potentiality of diverse subjects’ making history…thereby minimizing the possibilities for agency and empowerment.

Such an account leaves unquestioned paradigmatic views of Appalachia that have the effect of either marginalizing and excluding Appalachians as fully human beings or else treating them as a monolithic category.

It is incumbent upon social historians to rethink oppositional terms such as “insider/outsider” and “scholars/activists.” The idea of “apprehend[ing] and inscrib[ing] others in such a way as not to deny or diffuse their claims to subjecthood” should be the goal of all social scientists (Mascia-Lees 1989, 12). It is therefore the intention of this study to allow the participants who were interviewed to express themselves through the use of their own words.

Throughout the interview process, I tried not to rely too heavily on my prepared questions and allowed the interviewee to follow any unexpected path he or she chose to take. Of course, my initial questions did shape the direction in which I felt I could derive the most raw material (memories), and I tried my best to guide participants in the direction which best served my scholarly aim. As the author of this work, I also recognize that I chose the quotes that are included herein.

In A Shared Authority, Frisch (1990) addresses the notion that the interviewer may feel more responsible for the creation of a work; however, the interviewee is the greater partner. It is in the interviewee’s stories that the greatest value of an oral history resides. Furthermore, the interviewee also participates in the interpretation of the stories since he or she constantly analyzes their own motives while recalling them (see Ritchie, 1995).


The Melungeon Community of Appalachia

While conducting previous research in Appalachia, I recognized that it was the inception of radio in the 1920s, and for some, television several decades later that brought a genesis of belo nging to a national community into this region of the country. During my earlier research, I interviewed respondents who were old enough to recall the inception of both radio and television. The majority of those who participated were either of Scotch-Irish or German descent. However, few were Internet users. In searching for an indigenous group from within the Appalachian region who had actively embraced the Internet, I became aware of the Melungeon Heritage Association. This group began holding national conferences celebrating their tri-racial heritage in 1997. During that year, the first Melungeon Heritage Association meeting, planned as a picnic for fifty participants, attracted over 600 people. Called First Union, many attribute the overwhelming attendance to the group’s Web site and the Internet’s wide reach. Second Union followed in 1998 with a substantially greater attendance. According to Darlene Wilson, founder of one of the earliest Melungeon Web sites, the Internet has proven an effective tool in uncovering some of the mysteries and folklore surrounding the Melungeon community.2 Ms. Wilson claims that the Melungeon Heritage Web site receives more than 21,000 hits a month from Melungeons or others interested in the group.3 For an unadvertised Web site, this is a remarkable number of hits.4

Some speculate that the Melungeons first settled in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the fifteenth century, of apparent Mediterranean descent. Its members are considered by some to be tri- racial isolates. According to Kennedy (1994), the Melungeon community descends from Turks, Berbers, Moors, Jews, Portuguese, Spaniards and others who arrived on the southeastern seaboard of North America during the period between 1492 and the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Webster (1962, 1122) described the Melungeon as “a member of a dark-skinned people of mixed Caucasian, Negro, and Indian stock, inhabiting the Tennessee mountains.”5 Davis (1963, 16) identified the Melungeons as “dark-skinned, reddish- brown complexioned people [who were] supposed to be of Moorish descent, neither Indian nor Negro, but [who] had fine European features, and claimed to be Portuguese.”

Today, the largest Melungeon communities are primarily in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia (Kennedy). However, members are found throughout the Appalachian region and beyond. Perhaps some migrated in search of a place where their tri-racial heritage was not suspect. Others may have been seeking employment in the city. As Melungeons begin to reach out to embrace their heritage, many are using the Internet to trace their genealogy.

Ms. Wilson claimed that a large percentage of the people who visit her Web site are expatriates, comprised of those who le ft the community. 6 As Melungeons faced discrimination (often because of their mixed ancestry), many kept to themselves, settled in isolated communities, or migrated to regions where their heritage was not suspect (see Price 1951). Their “mixed blood” led to discrimination that kept many from claiming or celebrating their heritage. Throughout the years, the term Melungeon had taken on a negative connotation.

Recently however, there has been resurgence in the Melungeon community as many have begun to reach out to embrace their diversity. Within the realm of community studies, it is interesting that the Melungeon community is perhaps defined less as a geographic community than as an electronic community.


Participants

In 1999, the Melungeon Heritage Association held a genealogical workshop at Berea College in Kentucky. It was there that I began interviewing participants. Prior to the gathering, I placed a notice on the Melungeon Web site announcing that while at the conference, I would be seeking to interview individuals to discuss their Internet usage. I also relied on a snowball effect resulting from recommendations of friends and neighbors of those initially interviewed. This required trips to Sneedville, Tennessee and Wise, Virginia (areas with a large intact community of Melungeons) for further interviews.

In May 2000, I attended Third Union in Wise, Virginia, and continued to collect oral histories. In all, eighty-two respondents were interviewed ranging from the age of eighteen to 103.


It’s for the Younger Generation

As stated previously, while conducting earlier oral history interviews on electronic media usage in rural Appalachia, I found that few of the elderly respondents who recalled the inception of radio and television were Internet users. In fact, for some, the mere mention of the Internet brought suspicious looks. Several felt they were too old to learn about something they viewed as “not very personal” or “too technical.” “You hear so much bad about it,” Margaret Tabler said of the Internet, “I don’t want one. Kids are abusing it.”7

Even respondents in their early fifties were resistant. Virginia Miller argued:

It’s for the younger generation. For our generation, I think this newfound stuff is just too far beyond us. I think we’re really scared of it, just like the older generation was scared when telephones come out. They were scared to use the telephone right at first, because I know my dad would very seldom touch the telephone if it would ring. You know, he’d have one of us answer it.8

When asked if anyone felt “scared” of other emerging electronic media such as radio or television, Marian Dees replied: “No, because I was young. I was ready for anything.”9 Henry Shaffer reflected:

Well with radio…then we was kids, and we didn’t think of anything ahead. Now this Internet is sort of scary because there is so much that’s going on you just wonder — everybody knows your business. And you transmit, well, all over the world, and well, it’s sort of scary. It’s something that we don’t know anything about and afraid to find out, I guess.10


Genealogy on the Web

It is important to note that many of the respondents I interviewed became involved in the Internet because of their interest in genealogy. As they examined their possible Melungeon roots, many went to the Internet for further research. Today the Internet is used by tens of thousands of people doing genealogical research. Major genealogy Web sites, like cyndislist.com, claim over 8,800 subscribers to its listserv, more than 70,000 visitors to the Web site each day, and more than 2,000,000 visitors each month (see also rootsweb.com, ancestry.com, Lamb 2000, and Crowe 2000). Tracking genealogical information on her grandmother, Nancy Sparks Morrison spoke of getting on the Internet.

I got a computer [in 1997] and started putting my genealogy into it. And I got on the Internet, and I put a note on one of the [genealogy] message boards saying I’m looking for this Indian grandmother, her name is Mary Collins. And I got a reply from a girl who lived in California and she said your Collins is in the area of the Melungeons, in the area where the Melungeons were. And I wrote her back and said, “Who the heck are Melungeons?” So she gave me a little brief thing, I went to the library and I found Brent [Kennedy]’s book and I sat down and read the book and it just clicked. I knew immediately that this was where this family belonged, was in this character. So, I began doing more research. I have about seven lines that I think are Melungeon connected….I don’t think I would have found it without the Internet.11

Barbara Langdon tells a similar story of finding an identity on the Net:

Well, when I first started doing research, the first thing I did was get on the Internet. There are several genealogy sites [where] you can post your names you are looking for and dates and regions and all that sort of thing, and I had posted information on my grandfather’s family and within just a couple weeks I had contacts from distant cousins….A cousin I’ve never met told me this family story about how we were Melungeon, and the way he told his story, and the way that his family reacted to being Melungeon was very, very similar to my own experience with being told that we were Indian and the sort of barrier there about, you know. 12

Many respondents with Melungeon links spoke of their families’ acceptance of Native American ancestry while avoiding any mention of African or Melungeon heritage. However, most respondents at the Melungeon Heritage Association gatherings appeared ready to embrace this new identity.

Having never before heard the word Melungeon prior to getting on the Internet, Nancy 13 admits,

It’s interesting because I never really felt that I belonged. I’ve always been kind of a private person….I never felt really comfortable in this group or that group or the other group. It was just not — and when I found the Melungeons and the first time I went to Wise, Virginia, [where First Union was held] I felt like I was coming home. It amazed me, the emotional feeling that I got.14


Common, Community, and Communication

In Imagined Communities, Anderson (1983) examined how a community could be imagined around shared cultural practices. In addition, Deutsch and Foltz (1966) contested the notion of nation as a geographically- based construction. To a certain extent, the Melungeons have been both culturally constructed and self-defined. Their use of the Internet has allowed the community to reach out beyond its geographical borders to form an electronic virtual community.

However, some question the motives of those claiming identity with the group. Speaking of participants on the Melungeon listserv, Madonna Cook warns, “And some of them, are wannabes. They wish they could find something and they don’t, but they’re still so enthralled by the ‘What if? I could be!’ they religiously follow the e- mails looking for a specific new surname that might connect them to the Melungeons.” 15 Today, it seems chic to be the “other” in the United States. Groups that were historically marginalized and persecuted, as was apparently the case within the Melungeon community, now proudly announce their identity.

As respondents found that they might be of Melungeon heritage, many began to use the Internet to further research their identity. As Barbara Langdon said: “I think right now my question that I am trying to answer is, how do we define Melungeon? And, in some ways it’s, you know, it is a self- identifying, uh, let’s see, how do I want to say that? Uh, in a lot of ways, people that are Melungeon are self-identified.” 16 Fitzgerald (1991, 202) tells us: “By defining itself, ethnically or otherwise, a group escapes classification by others.”

Some respondents, like Madonna, were already aware of their Melungeon identity and used the Web sites and Melungeon listserv to research their legacy. “I already knew of the Melungeon connection for my family when I went on- line so I started looking for other people who were researching these same lines to see if they had something that I didn’t have. [I use] the Melungeon list, which has automatic emails coming to you, where they have a lot of discussion about the Melungeons. I was getting like 300 e-mails a day off that one list.”17

Being unmonitored, members of the Melungeon listserv, as Madonna stated, could receive up to 300 postings per day. To those tracing their lineage, the number of postings could be overwhelming. Barbara spoke of trying to keep up.

Just to keep up with what’s happening with the Melungeon research, you know, at first, I was using the Internet, oh gosh, I was on there hours, you know, listening to everybody tell their stories. There are a lot of stories on that listserv. People telling their stories about, you know, why they think they are Melungeon or why they got interested in the Melungeons because of, you know, some story in the family, or they always knew, or they have a history of Black Dutch.18

Often, the same individual would post ten to twenty messages within a twenty- four hour period and the content seemed to become less important than the ritual of posting messages. As Barbara saw it:

I don’t get on the listserv as much anymore because [it is] simply a matter of not everything that is posted counts. Everything that is posted to the listserv comes to you. Nobody reads it, and selects certain [themes] you know, everything comes and sometimes it is more than I can handle. For a while I made a policy that if it was in, if it was something I wanted to read, I read it, otherwise I threw everything away.19

At times, the information conveyed via the listserv was merely chitchat amongst the participants. As a result, it did not necessarily appear to “describe the world but portray[ed] an arena of dramatic forces and action” (Carey, 1989, 21). To a certain extent, the multiple postings of messages on the listserv appeared to be a ritualistic form of communication.

Carey’s notion of communication as ritual may also be applied to the use of electronic media in Appalachia, especially when viewing Internet usage within the Melungeon community. Given that some Melungeons migrated to regions where their heritage was not suspect or simply went in search of job opportunities in larger cities, there has been a resurgence in the Melungeon community as many have begun to reach out to embrace their diversity, largely via the Internet.

As they began to reach out to one another in hopes of forming community via electronic communications technology, the concept of communication as ritual comes to light. Carey (1989) described a ritual view of communication as being directed not toward the extension of messages in space but toward the maintenance of society in time; not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs….The archetypal case under a ritual view is the sacred ceremony that draws persons together in fellowship and commonality….Under a ritual view, then, news is not information but drama (18-21).

Cleland Thorpe spoke of making a connection with others (from as far away as California) he had met on the listserv. “I talked to people in California and I then talked to people, by e-mail, in Arkansas and Tennessee, up in Ohio and it was just, you know, it’s really weird how we all have so much in common, and it really had to come from our heritage. I mean, it passed on, it had to be.”20 It is important to note that even though many respondents spoke of skimming the Melungeon listserv, most pursued contact with others in the group by e- mail rather than communicating via the listserv.

In joining the Melungeon listserv, I was surprised to receive over 100 messages a day, most of which were more entertaining than informative. Often, the same individual would post ten to twenty messages. This could be viewed as the ritual of connecting to others within the group.

Here, the tie between the words common, community, and communication, as Dewey (1916) saw them, is revealed within the ritual view of communication. Much of the information conveyed via the listserv did not describe the world but portrayed an arena of dramatic forces and action (see Carey, 1989). In The Roots of Modern Media Analysis, Carey (1997) addresses electricity’s arrival in the United States as classless, if not socialist. Similarly, he described the birth of the telegraph as promising the distribution of information everywhere, “simultaneously reducing the economic advantage of the city and bringing the more varied urban culture out to the countryside” (45).21

Today, the egalitarian dreams of the Internet hold similar promise. Habermas (1989) views democracy as representing a social space wherein members of the society can rationally debate issues. The Habermasian view of the public sphere was inspired by the literary movement and revealed itself in salons and coffeehouses where the average citizen could discuss sociopoliticalissues. Although the bourgeois public sphere was marked by gender and class exclusion, Habermas’s ideal public sphere was egalitarian in principle. In looking at Internet usage in Appalachia within the concept of the public sphere, one might look at the Melungeon listserv where issues of gender, age, and race need not necessarily impact the topic being discussed (if the writer chooses not to reveal his or her physical identity). Although most chat rooms offer little more than questions of where the other person is from and how old he or she is, newsgroups and listservs offer any subscriber a chance to express his or her ideas without prejudice from anything other than what is written. However, a person with a lower educational level might be betrayed by improper use of spelling and grammar. As a result, this person might be taken less seriously in virtual groups. Again, technology, such as automatic grammar and spell checking software, can level the playing field, leading to a more egalitarian and accessible electronic public sphere.


Coming Together

As some interviewees spoke of meeting others in cyberspace, many mentioned how nice it was to make human contact with people with whom they had created an electronic community. “It was more interesting Saturday up at Berea [at the genealogical workshop] when I could look people in the eye and hear them talk,” recalled Claude Collins. “I was standing there Saturday in one of these meetings and this lady come runnin’ up and she threw her arms around my neck and she said ‘Oh, I’m so glad to see what you look like,’ ‘cause she had e-mailed me dozens and dozens and dozens of times.”22

The bonds made in cyberspace seemed to create a familiar bond similar to that of a real family which was reinforced when respondents met at the Unions. As Nancy put it, “It amazed me, the emotional feeling that I got. It was just like we were coming to a family reunion.”23

Barbara concurred:

It was sort of strange coming to Wise the first time and not having met these people, but having created a community, an electronic community, I’d had experiences before with having a community and bringing that community together through electronic media, through the Internet. And so I was sort of nervous about what was going to happen since all of us had met on the Internet and had not met each other yet, because people that I didn’t even know were paying attention to what I was saying, you know. “Oh Barb, I’ve been listening, you know I’ve been reading what you’ve been saying on the Internet and I’m so happy to meet you and what do you think about….” You know, it was strange in a very pleasant sort of way, but, it, I didn’t know what to expect, I was a little apprehensive and I wondered if I was nuts and what am I doing going to meet all of these people from the Internet. Yeah. 24

The phrase, “What am I doing going to meet all of these people from the Internet,” suggests that the Internet is an actual place in space rather than an electronic medium. Addressing the metaphor of a digital world, Sproull and Faraj (1996, 143) tell us, “When e- mail is used for group conversations, the network takes on the characteristics of place — like the office coffee pot or the local watering hole.” The bonds made in cyberspace by most respondents I spoke to appeared to last. When speaking of people she has met on the Internet, Barbara admits, “I keep checking the [Melungeon] Web pages to see what’s going on and I keep in contact with, there’s key people, there’s some people that I have long-lasting relationships with now through the Internet that I stay in touch with.”25 Turkle (1996, 3) states that “virtual experience may be so compelling that we believe that within it we’ve achieved more than we have.”

However, a large number of respondents took the cyber- friendship experience to the next level by actually meeting one another at the Unions. In addition to e- mail and the Melungeon listserv, Melungeon Web sites also proved important in getting people interested in the Internet and bringing them together. As Connie Mullins Clark recalled:

About six months after I got my computer [in 1997], this article in the paper was explaining about a picnic about Melungeon heritage. People could send in, over the Internet, they could fill out the form, send it in, and you could be part of the picnic. So, I did that. I went directly to the Web, you know, hooked on the Web site, went in there, filled out my application, printed it off and sent it. So, I have been, since that time, I have worked directly with the Internet, helping with Web pages and working on research with Melungeons…There’s different Web sites now that you can go to and find the Melungeon information, but that’s how I first got started was with Melungeon. I had it [a computer], but to really get involved in the Internet itself was with the
Melungeon connection.
26

Respondents often spoke of going to these sites when researching their Melungeon heritage. “I don’t think I would have found out as much information so quickly,” recalls Barbara. “I probably would have given up because when I went to your traditional means of research which was the library, I did a search on the various different databases that are available in your university library and searched the word Melungeon and came up with nothing except, the card catalog in that particular library had Brent Kennedy’s book.”27

It appeared that for some respondents, interest in Melungeon culture was an initial catalyst in early Internet usage. In addition, it brought information about the Melungeon community to those not likely to find it elsewhere. As Tammy Mullins saw it, “I feel like the Internet has really opened up the world to everyone. And also, it’s really opened up the world for Melungeon people because, basically, without the Internet and there are very few books that are written, I mean, where would you be? You wouldn’t know where to start so actually, the Internet really opened up a big space for me to be able to do research.”28


The Internet as Electronic Front Porch

Writing about technology’s ability to bring strangers together, Johnson (1997) compared the computer to the cotton gin, which caused millions of workers at the end of the eighteenth century to crowd together in factory towns. Of course, Luddites were quick to react to the drudgery and deskilling brought about by this new labor-saving textile machinery by smashing the gins. Neo-Luddites might have similar feelings towards the computer and the Internet. Even if most people are not so threatened by the computer as to feel a need to toss it out the window, for some there is still an enigmatic quality to the computer.

On a recent trip on U.S. Airways, both outgoing and incoming flights were delayed by over an hour because of improper luggage distribution in the cargo bay. Each time this happened, the pilot readily blamed the computer for causing the improper distribution, as if it were the computer and not the luggage handlers that overloaded the cargo bay. “Please bear with us,” pleaded the pilot, “as we try to get the bugs out of our new computer system.” It appeared that the pilot was demonizing the computer.

Similarly, as expressed by some elderly respondents above, the rapid expansion of the Internet appeared to produce an undercurrent of frustration. This may be in response to people’s discomfort with new technology versus personal human interaction. However, as with radio and television’s arrival into rural Appalachia, the Internet appeared to create interaction within the community. In addition to the Melungeon cyber-communities, (which resulted in face-to-face re-Unions), some respondents spoke of how using the Net, even at home alone, allowed one to interact with others in chat rooms. Some compared their experiences on the Net with “the good ol’ days,” when one sat on the front porch and made small talk with the occasional passerby. This is what might be called, “the Internet as electronic front porch.”

Bob Cole explains his point of view:

I think that between TV and air conditioning, people retreat to their homes and tend to isolate themselves inside of the house whereas radio brought you to the porch in the summertime, and the neighbors walked along the street and then the neighbors would stop and listen to the radio and then they’d discuss the news or listen to the programs. So there was a lot of interaction of people and everybody knew everything that was going on in the neighborhood. The Internet, I think, is a technological innovation that tends maybe to counteract the seclusion that was caused by the air conditioning. Well, you start talking to people again. Start communicating with people. You’re able to meet people. It’s kind of like sittin’ on the porch and the neighbors walking up and down the street. You know, they come in, they get in contact. Well, you sit in your house but you get out on the Internet and it’s like a stream of people walking by. You can reach out and interrelate with them like you used to when you sat on the front porch and the neighbors walked up and down the street.29


A Digital Divide

One might hope that the Internet as electronic front porch could lead to a more egalitarian and accessible electronic public sphere. However, the issue of the “digital divide” remains especially noticeable within rural Appalachia (along with other rural areas of the country). Nonetheless, as with other obstacles, respondents without local Internet access found ways of connecting, though, often at a premium. “I have the Internet now,” says Bennie Lawson. “In the beginning, the only way I could get the Internet was to pay $20 for unlimited access to a [larger city] phone line and then I had to pay $25 for an Internet provider service, so it was $45 a month to get Internet access.”30 Madonna told an Internet access story that recalled telephone party lines 31 of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

It’s a toll call and I knew better than to get on the Internet and there’d be a $6 an hour charge the way we wanted to research, it takes a long time sometimes to find just what you’re looking for. There was access to — there was a lady who had set it up as a non-profit thing where you could share an Internet access line but ten or twelve people had to share. I checked into that but I really didn’t want to do that because I figured if we got on there and researched we’d probably take up too much time.32

In addition, the up- front cost of getting on- line (hardware, software and access expenses) was prohibitive for some with fixed or lower incomes. As Marian put it, “It may be cheaper to send an e-mail but the initial cost wasn’t cheap. Sooner or later you’re gonna spend your money on something.”33

Just as access to electricity seemed to have determined how people listened to early radio, limited local Internet access in rural Appalachia inhibited some respondents’ ability to get on the Net. However, as with other electronic media, many respondents I spoke with were eager to embrace the World Wide Web.

The rapid expansion of the Internet seems to suggest that a new era of global communications has been realized. Clyde Pinney, however, seemed to put things in perspective as he compared radio’s inception to that of the Internet’s arrival.

The world of radio opened up a lot more for me than the Internet. I would assume it may not later on as I get into it more. Well, radio was the forerunner of all worldwide communications, and this is just a continuation of what was started even back in the ‘30s. I see this just as an advancement of radio. I got the computer because it was the right thing to do. I guess it’s something that should be done, so we went that way. 34

When Clyde reminisced about the arrival of electronic media technology in rural Appalachia, his comment, “The world of radio opened up a lot more for me than the Internet,” is quite telling.

Respondents each had the benefit of decades of hindsight as they told their stories of how radio and television’s arrival affected their lives. However, Clyde continued his comment on the Internet with, “I would assume it may not later on as I get into it more.” With the Internet being a relatively new technology, which seems to be evolving almost on a daily basis, it appears to be far more difficult to accurately gauge its immediate impact on society.


Conclusion

In looking back to KDKA’s 35 first radio broadcast on November 9, 1920, we must recognize that it has been more than eighty years since that first historic broadcast. Given today’s rapid growth of electronic media technology, it will be interesting to see how the Internet has evolved when broadcast radio celebrates its centennial.

The Internet has allowed respondents to connect to one another and to the world at large. It has also allowed the Melungeon population to establish themselves as being larger than they had originally seen themselves and perhaps defined less as a geographic community than as an electronic community. In addition, the Internet appeared to precipitate interaction within the community both in cyberspace and at annual re-Unions.

Moreover, the Internet can be used as a powerful tool to unify even the most isolated groups. Its potential as a public forum is especially powerful within a region where getting to a town meeting could require traversing mountainous terrain or traveling great distances, as is the case in much of Appalachia.

Lastly, it is important to note that in looking back at the arrival of other electronic media into this rural area, (such as radio and television) respondents have the benefit of decades of hindsight. However, with the Internet being a relatively new technology, which seems to be evolving almost on a daily basis, it appears to be far more difficult to accurately gauge its immediate impact on society. It is in this direction that I see the need for future research. With the passing of time, respondents may be able to better reflect on how the Internet has affected their lives.


Notes

1 Created in 1969 as a War on Poverty program to train young people in media production, Appalshop is a media arts center located in central Appalachia where it continues to produce and present works on social, economic, and political issues concerning Appalachian culture.
2 Interview with Darlene Wilson, 19 June 1999.
3 Ibid.
4 By comparison, survivor.com, the site for Survivor Software, a small software company that produces personal finance software, receives an average of 2,400 hits a month. At the opposite extreme, during the month of August 2000, their site received 631,998 hits from Internet users seeking the official CBS “Survivor” television program Web site (Survivor Software).
5 Interestingly, there are no listings for “Melungeon” in The American Heritage Dictionary (3rd ed.), Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.), Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), Britannica Online, or The Columbia Encyclopedia.
6 Wilson interviw.
7 Interview with Margaret Tabler, 11 May 1998.
8 Interview with Virginia Miller, 19 June 1998.
9 Interview with Marian Dees, 30 June 1998.
10 Interview with Henry Shaffer, 17 June 1998.
11 Interview with Nancy Sparks Morrison, 26 June 1999.
12 Interview with Barbara Langdon, 26 June 1999.
13 Given that I was on a first name basis with most of the people I interviewed, after using a respondent’s full name the first time I refer to them, I will use only their given name on subsequent reference or citation.
14 Morrison interview.
15 Interview with Madonna Cook, 28 June 1999.
16 Langdon interview.
17 Cook interview.
18 Langdon interview. Black Dutch was sometimes used euphemistically in place of Melungeon
19 Ibid.
20 Interview with Cleland Thorpe, 26 June 1999.
21 One should note, however, that telegraph routes in the United States usually followed railroad lines. Referring back to Smythe (1973), decisions for rail routes were largely based on economic rather than egalitarian forces
22 Interview with Claude Collins, 28 June 1999.
23 Morrison interview.
24 Langdon interview.
25 Ibid.
26 Interview with Connie Mullins Clark, 26 June 1999.
27 Langdon interview.
28 Interview with Tammy Mullins, 26 June 1999.
29 Interview with Bob Cole, 11 May 1998.
30 Interview with Bennie Lawson, 20 May 1998.
31 Interestingly, the telephone party-line provided a social outlet similar to some Internet chat lines (see Curtis 1996).
32 Cook interview.
33 Marian Dees interview.
34 Interview with Clyde Pinney, 25 June 1998.
35 Most media scholars consider KDKA-Pittsburgh, to be the oldest broadcasting station in the United States (see Baudino and Kittross
1977 and Smith 1959).


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