Melungeons 1963

mdricex Member Photo

Clipped by mdricex

Melungeons 1963 - The Melungeons Are Coming Out In The Drama...
The Melungeons Are Coming Out In The Drama Pondered To Raise Their Name 'From Sliame To The Hall Of Fame' In Hancock By SHIRLEY TRICE Times-News Hogcrsvillc Bureau SNEEDVILLE -- "Sure, I'm a Melungcon and proud of it." Probably for the first lime in history, (his statement came from one of a group of Kasl Tennessee mountain-folk whose history and origin is steeped in legend and mystery. Heretofore, Molungeon was a fighting word in Hancock County and even in adjoining Hawkins County. You just don't ask a fellow if he's a Mclungeon. North of Sneedville, high on a mountain known as Newman's Ridge. Itiis group of people have lived and survived in what some would call primitive condilions. Tlieir poverty hud tlieir lack of education have been n product of (heir isolation -- from the world outside Hancock County, and more or less from llicir neighbors in the county itself. Now plans are underway for an out-door drama at Sneedville, based on the Mehuigeon story and on the frontier way of life as depicted by the -Melungeons. Carson-Newman College received a Federal grant to survey the possibilities of such a drama "as a means to improve the socio-economic climate" of Hancock County. And when W. C. Collins, a supervisor in the Hancock- County School system and co-chainnun of a committee promoting the drama, made the above statement regarding his Melungeon heritage, he opened a door to overcoming the stigma which has been attached for centuries to a people maligned by the society surrounding them. Although the drama committee has not decided definitely, possibilities are that the drama will be based on Jesse SluarCs book. "Daughter of the Legend." Stuart's story of a Melungeon girl and her marriage to an "outsider" is set on Newman's Ridge in Hancock County, although Stuart never mentions Melungeon, or the locale. This strange clan of people settled in Hancock County before Tennessee became a stale. For nearly 200 years their origin has been the subject of speculation and today, no one can actually say where they originated. Henry Price, a Rogersville attorney, gathered material for a paper on the Melungeons, calling it "The Vanishing Colony of Newman's Ridge." SHE'S TIIK iHOST FAMOUS MELUNGEON . . . probably the biggest loo. In his collection of theories as to the origin of the Melungeons, Price said they could be mistaken for either Caucasian, Negro or Indian but that as a people, they do not seem to be any of these. You might not know a Melungeon if you met him. Usually they have dark skin, straight black hair, olive-like hue complexions, coal black, brown, deep purple, or grey eyes. The theories of their origin are many and varied. Among the legends are those that say they are descended from a band of shipwrecked: Portuguese sailors, or from the ancient Carlhagenians, or from Sir Walter Kalcigh's Lost Colony of Roanoke. Other legends link (be Melungeons with DeSolo's party and another, with Prince Aladoc, the Welsh chieftain wlio sailed westward in the 12th century, reached the mouth of the Mississippi and moved into the interior of the wilderness. They have even been linked with the lost tribes of Israel. Another less-romantic legend is that they arc simply the result of miscegenation among the French. Spanish and English outcasts who hung around the fringes of early Virginia and North Carolina settlements. But whatever their origin, the group eventually settled in Hancock County, along Newman's Ridge and in settlements known as Blackwater, Snake Hollow and Vardy. There is evidence that two patriarchs of the clan lived on the ridge before 1790. Far from being savages, (heir acquiring of land, making wills, owning slaves and securing marriage license, paying taxes are on record in Rogersville and in various historical documents. The Vardy Collins and Shep Gibsons were probably the first two Jlelungeon families to settle in the area. Gibson's last will and testament is on file in Rogersville, naming Collins as executor. The Melungeon cabins were small, crude dwellings made of notched Jogs and "dobbed" with clay. The house of one of the better-known Melungeons is among those still standing today, and the drama association plans to restore the cabin of Aunt Mahala Mullins for a museum. Aunt Mahala is reported to have been a huge woman, weighing anywhere from !00 to 800 pounds -- she seems to get heavier with each new story. Tales about Aunt Mahala and her moonshining are many -- she was able to manufacture and sell the "white lightnm' " without fear of prosecution because she was too big to be taken through the door of her cabin. When she died, about 1800, the tale goes, they had to remove the chimney from one end of her cabin to get her out. Her grave is in a cemetery not far down the ridge from her cabin. Collins said, "I think a lot of people really are happy that they are Melungeons." He has traced his ancestry back to Vardy Shepherd Gibson, "but I haven't gone beyond," Earl Turner, who has taught school at number of years said that (he drama "a hislociiil mystery drama -- some Ihings be known." The Rev. R. B. Connor, paslor of First in Sneedville, said Ihe drama on (he bo the biggest thing that's hapiwncd to since the Civil War." Conner has visions of a thcaler for the and restaurants, bridle (rails, playgrounds, and a chair lift ot the lop of Newman's What they want lo do in Hancock County, Conner, is lift Ihe Melungeon name "from hall of fame." FLAY MAY BE TAKEN FROM . . . Collins and Conner 'Citizen Of Year' In AS DEADLINE NEARS

Clipped from
  1. Kingsport Times-News,
  2. 28 Jan 1968, Sun,
  3. Page 4

mdricex Member Photo
  • Melungeons 1963

    mdricex – 14 Oct 2013

Want to comment on this Clipping? Sign up for a free account, or sign in