A wee bit of our Melungeon Heritage...
Joan’s introduction and excerpts from two favorite Melungeon sources -
Melungeons! An immense amount of information is available in print and on the web these days, regarding the mysterious Melungeon people. Rose Hill is located along “The Melungeon Trail” according to an article in a recent issue of "Blue Ridge Magazine." Melungeon family names with descendents still living in and around Rose Hill include Collins, Gibson, and Minor. My favorite excerpts from among the Melungeon literature relate to my ancestors, the Minors. I have posted excerpts from two of those sources here. My personal favorite “Melungeon Origins Theory” includes Portuguese descent, since that’s what Grandma said she’d always heard.
Melungeons: and other Pioneer Families
By Jack H. Goins
P.48 & 49
“Most descendants of Zachariah Minor claim he was of Indian and Portuguese descent. This claim can be substantiated on some Federal Census Records of Hancock County, Tennessee, where the enumerator wrote the word Portuguese. There is a census record Zachariah Minor where a Portuguese Indian had been written in the free person of color section and erased, but still visible on the first micro films. According to my Goins forefathers the Indian blood came from Zachariah and Lewis Minor’s mother Elizabeth Goins who was a sister to Great Grandpa Zephaniah Goins. Elizabeth had two brothers who were in Hawkins County, Zephaniah and Zachariah Goins. On most known records they are listed white, but both are listed on a separate record as free persons color. Zachariah Goins was one of the first settlers in the clinch valley area. According to a cousin Sue Fitzgerald, her grandmother Elizabeth Goins Parsons told her several times they were Indian and Portuguese. Mrs. Parsons was a sister to Grandpa Harrison who to my knowledge never mentioned Portuguese, but calculated he was one quarter Indian. It is possible some of the Melungeons were here before Columbus and mixed with the Indians, but at the time of these trials in 1847 they may have had more Indian blood than Portuguese. As previously stated, in court they would have most likely identified their original race, believed to be of Attorney Lewis Shepard in the 1872 Bolton trial.”
The Melungeons by Bonnie Ball 1992
p.69, 70, 76, 78
“Toward the end of the 1880s a Nashville writer and poetess, Miss Will Allen Dromgoole, made an extensive, first-hand study of the Melungeons. She spent months living among them in their homes on Newman’s Ridge, on the border of Hancock County in Tennessee where it meets Virginia. (Interestingly enough, the origin of “Newman” may be from “new man,” a term coined because it seemed to describe this ridge’s strange inhabitants.) Miss Dromgoole reported her impressions and conclusions in the Arena Magazine, published in Boston in 1891.
“Miss Dromgoole wrote that John A. McKinney of Hawkins County, Tennessee, was chairman of the committee of the Constitutional Convention of 1834 which handled matters affecting “free persons of color.” McKinney held that this phrase was a code word for “Melungeon.” Dromgoole believes that the amendment of the fundamental law of state, denying them their oath as well as suffrage, rendered Melungeons desperate.
“A few years ago Mr. G.M. French, Jr., a native of southwestern Virginia who lives in Cheverly, Maryland, sent me his notes from an interview he had with one of the oldest residents of the Dungannon area of Scott County, Virginia, who lived on Copper Ridge.
The old timer was known as “Uncle Washington Osborne.” In the interview, he said that the Melungeons began their migration to that part of Scott County, Virginia, and neighboring Wise County, about 1820. They came there, he said, in about equal numbers from Kentucky, Newman’s Ridge, and the lower end of Lee County, Virginia. He added that a few had also come from North Carolina.
“He also separated them into the following seven groups:
(a) Purebred Indian groups such as Goins, Bolling, Sweeney, Adkins, and Minor.
(b) Indian groups from Blackwater who married into other “Melongo” tribes, such as Baldwin and Collins.
(c) Melongo groups from Kentucky, such as Collins, and Sexton.
(d) Portuguese Indians and whites from Newman’s Ridge, such as Collins and Bolling.
(e) Portuguese Indians and whites such as Collins, from Blackwater; and Lucas, Sexton, and Gibson from Newman’s Ridge.
(f) Portuguese Indians from Kentucky, such as Gibson.
(g) A pure-bred Indian group from Blackwater named Minor.
In speaking of the Minors, he said:
“The Minors are a fighting people and show more of the Indian than any other Indian group in Scott County. They claim to be of Portuguese-Indian stock. They are large stature, tall, of dark complexion, and very strong. I believe the Minors are three-quarters Indian and one-quarter Portuguese. They are the type pf people whose word is their bond. In Scott County some of them own large stock farms and have prospered.”
Yes, I just discovered the "text color" button on my blogger software - how fun!