Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Melungeon connection to Familial Mediterranean Fever?

Some people never give up trying to defeat a proven fact. A person who writes a blog on the Melungeons (Melungeons are a group of folks in the U.S. who we believe have a Mediterranean ancestry.) has written about Familial Mediterranean Fever, about which she knows nothing. See a response to this blog written by the "OTHERS" on FMF here and on my blog:

A Melungeon connection to Familial Mediterranean Fever?

It never fails to amaze me that some people would rather see friends and relatives die, than admit that there might even be a SLIGHT possibility of an inherited illness amongst them. Familial Mediterranean Fever can be a FATAL illness left untreated. Why would anyone suggest that a relative die? What is so scary to some people that they would write about something that they have not researched, and which they deny is even connected to them?

Years ago, N. Brent Kennedy, author of The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People, told me that IF Familial Mediterranean Fever turned out to be an Appalachian thing rather than a Melungeon 'thing,' then the importance factor of this FACT was raised.

As both a patient with FMF and a patient advocate for others with this disease, I can state that it appears this is so. Cases of Familial Mediterranean Fever are being found all over the United States and in particular amongst those families having roots in the Appalachian Mountain ranges.

I moderate two Familial Mediterranean Fever sites, a mailing list on yahoogroups,

(subscribe - fmf_support-subscribe@yahoogroups.com )

I also moderate a website that is connected to the United States "rarediseases" organization. The rare diseases group is connected to a world-wide group of researchers and patients who are attempting to find solutions and cures for this at present incurable illness. It is written in 5 languages:

Also see NORD, National Organization for Rare Diseases

I have researched this illness and corresponded with doctors and other researchers. It is data from these sources that allows me to recommend doctors practicing in various states and countries to patients searching for an answer to serious, life-threatening health issues and to encourage them to ask their doctors to do the research that would allow them to TRY colchicine.

Years ago, my own doctors told me that a TRIAL of colchicine given in a specific amount and for a limited time would not hurt me even if I did not have the illness. A POSITIVE response to colchicine is a POSITIVE diagnosis of Familial Mediterranean Fever. And colchicine is the ONLY medication that prevents this illness from being fatal.

A recent blog noted that: "Some people have been misinformed that having Familial Mediterranean Fever proves a Melungeon connection."

Nothing could be farther from the truth! Having Familial Mediterranean Fever proves that somewhere in your ancestry you have Mediterranean ancestry. Many of us who have a Melungeon connection in our family lines, do believe that the Melungeons have a Mediterranean connection. After all, the Melungeons themselves noted that they were 'Portyghee.' Portugal is a Mediterranean country and probably one of the most ethnically mixed countries in the world.

When a person writes about a medical problem, that person needs to have not only compassion, but accurate information. The person writing the blog has neither.

The blog mentioned noted that: "The most dangerous aspect of this dislusional thinking is that the advice to just TRY colchicine is very dangerous advice because colchicine is a very dangerous drug." How disingenuous!

Since colchicine requires a prescription from a doctor, that is, a licensed MD, a suggestion to TRY colchicine must pass a rigorous medical procedure before any such prescription can be given.

The statement from this blog that: "An ethical Dr. would only prescribe colchicine if the benefits outweighed the danger. Leave the prescribing to a licensed physician." would be funny, IF it were not so dangerous to the health of those of us who have suffered through dozens of doctor visits to dozens of different doctors over dozens of years arriving at several dozen different misdiagnoses in order to arrive at the correct diagnosis and receive a script for the life-saving product called COLCHICINE. One does not say, 'Doc, give me colchicine and get it.'

As with most drugs there are side effects to colchicine. Given the fact that Familial Mediterranean Fever can be a FATAL illness, weighing the benefits, LIFE against DEATH, seems to me to swing the scales in the direction of life.

I would hope that patients would choose life. Listening to tripe such as that written on the other blog can lead to death.
Familial Mediterranean Fever blog - 'my story' w/ FMF, and LOTS of medical documentation, charts etc.

Familial Mediterranean Fever- rarediseasescommunity
Posted by Nancy at 9:59 AM 0 comments

Saturday, February 12, 2011


thanks to Karen for the following:


Dear Sir: Your letter of yesterday received. I happen to have the information
you seek. The Nashville American of June 26, 1910 (since consolidated with the
Nashville Tennessean) published a paper of about 10 pages in celebration of its
98th anniversary and in this paper is the true story of a small number of people
to be found in a few counties of East Tennessee, as in other sections of the
Appalachian region, called Melungeons or Malungeons. I have traveled horse-back
before, during and since the Civil War, in the counties where these people live,
and have seen them in their cabin homes and from information received
independently of what Judge Shepherd says, I am satisfied his statement is to be
relied upon.

The foremost jury lawyer of East Tenn. of his generation was the late Hon. John
Netherland, the son-in-law of the John A. McKinney, referred to by Lucy S. V.
King, and he gave me the same account, substantially, of the origin of these
people that Judge Shepherd does. Netherland was the Whig candidate for Governor
of Tennessee in 1859, against Isham G. Harris. He died in the 80'c. He was a
slave-owner and practised law in all the East Tennessee counties, which these
people live.

Prior to 1824 free negroes voted in Tennessee, and when in that year the State
Constitution was so amended as to disfranchise "all free persons of color", it
was sometimes made the pretext of refusing the franchise to these people of
perfectly straight hair, small hands and shapely feet who bore no more
resemblance to a negro than do members of the Spanish or Portugese embassies of
Washington. As to whether they voted or not, in the few counties where they were
up to the Civil War, depended upon the disposition of the election officers and
the closeness of the contest. But I will add that the election officers were
very rarely unfair and their right to vote rarely challenged. Sometimes, in a
very close contest, some fellow would challenge it and the man would forego
exercising his rights rather than fight about it.

They have not been of a lawless or turbulent disposition. They realized the
prejudice against them because of their dark complexion. Some of them served in
the Confederate, and some in the Federal East Tennessee Regiment, but neither
side would have accepted them had they believed they had negro blood In their

In my boyhood days they were called Portugese. The word Mulangeon is
comparatively modern as to its general use. As a rule they did not go into
either army; did not wish to. They preferred agriculture; happy in their
mountain cabins.

The extract from McKinney's speech is garbled. He truly said the language of the
disfranchising clause included these people because it embraced "all free
persons of color" but notwithstanding that the majority of them always voted
because their neighbors did not regard them as negroes or as having negro blood
in their veins.

I believe there was some mixture of these Portugese with the Cherokee Indians,
but not with negroes. Lying, sensational newspaper correspondents, from the
North, originally started this racket to show that Southern whites were given to
miscegenating with negroes, and to have something to write about. Some Southern
writers have imitated them, magnifying fifty or one hundred fold the number of
these people. Gen. William T. Sherman did some things I disapproved as much as
you do, but he hit the nail on the head when he said that "there were some
newspaper correspondents who, to create a sensation and for pay, would slander
their grandmothers."

Of course, some of the people were shiftless and degraded, as are some of all
races, but I remember a notable exception by the name of William Lyle. He was a
prosperous country merchant who came to Knoxviile every year to buy goods of our
wholesale dealers and was treated by every one, with the utmost respect. He was
spoken of as a Portugese, and bore no more resemblance to a negro than any
Spaniard or Portugese. He dressed elegantly, was well informed and as polished
and refined as half the members of Congress, and more so than many of them.

In the early history of the country, there were many Spanish and Portugese
sailors, who settled on the South Carolina and North Carolina coast. One oi
these was a Spanish ship carpenter by name of Farragut. In North Calorina, he
married a poor girl and drifted to this city (then a town of about 1,200 people)
where he followed the trade of house-carpenter, and here was born his
subsequently famous son, Admiral David G. Farragut. His Spanish father was a
dark-skinned man.

Finally, the decision of the Supreme Court of Tennessee in 1872, referred to by
Judge Shepherd, should be conclusive on this subject. Every one of the five
members of that Court was a Confederate and Democrat. The Chief Justice, A. Q.
P. Nicholson, was the Colleague of Andrew Jehnson In the U. S. Senate in 1861.
James W. Deaderick, after this decision and after the death of Nicholson, also
of the bench at the time, succeeded Nicholson as Chief Justice. He was not
himself in the army but every one of his seven sons were at the front in the
Confederate Army, some of whom were badly wounded and the other three Judges had
honorable records as Confederate soldiers. Judge Shepherd himself was a
Confederate soldier.


P. S. Lyle is not a Portugese name, neither is that of the American Darbey's
French, as was that of their ancestor D. Aubigney.

Watson's Jeffersonian magazine, Volume 13
edited by Thomas Edward Watson
Jeffersonian Pub. Co., 1911
Page 522 and 523
(free google book)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010




Dr. Samuel Tyndale Wilson says in his excellent little volume, “The Southern Mountaineers:” “Occasionally the student of sociology may stumble upon a community that is a puzzle, as, for example, the one occupied by the ‘Melungeons’ of upper East Tennessee.” That is all he says of the community; and so far as known, no other history refers to the Melungeons at all. Miss Dromgoole in an article mentioned further along states that they appeared during the existence of the State of Franklin; while Colonel Henderson in a letter declares that they were in the East Tennessee mountains when the earliest settlers arrived.

The word “Melungeon” was once more familiar to Tennesseans than it is now. To illustrate, it was a custom immediately after the close of the war between the states for the Democratic editors of the central and western sections of the state to refer flippantly to their eastern neighbors collectively as Melungeons, perhaps because East Tennessee was largely Republican in politics. It was in the nature of an epithet. That it was, and still is resented, may be seen from the following circumstance. In seeking for the latest information relative to this puzzling community we recently wrote to a citizen of upper East Tennessee to help us out.

This reply was received so promptly as to lead to the belief that he hardly waited to finish the query before snatching up his pen. And perhaps his eyes were red as he wrote; “We have no such race. Our citizens are civilized people and believe in earning their living by the sweat of their brow, and are far superior to those who try to disgrace them by placing the fictitious name of ‘Melungeon’ upon them.”

The word used to be uttered by parents and nurses as a bugbear to frighten children into obedience: thus, “if you are not good, the Melungeons will get you.” Notwithstanding our acquaintance with the word, few really know what it means. The Century ventures this definition of Melungeon:”One of a class of people living in East Tennessee, of peculiar appearance and uncertain origin.” It then makes this quotation from the Boston Traveler for June 13, 1889: “They resented the appellation Melungeon, given to them by consent by the whites, and proudly called themselves Portuguese.”

It is remarkable that Tennessee history is silent on the subject since by the census taken in 1795 the Melungeons must have been numbered with the 973 “free person” other than the whites. There could hardly have been so many free negroes within the bounds of the present state only about twenty-five years after the first settlement. That of itself should have received notice. Moreover, the Melungeons’ votes, as well as those of the free negroes, had something to do with the politicians making such a radical change in the constitution of 1834, whereby both were disfranchised; though, as we shall presently see, the Melungeons were finally restored to citizenship through the efforts of Col John Netherland, of Hawkins county, the witty and eloquent opponent of Isham G. Harris for the governorship in 1859.

Col. W. A. Henderson, for some time president of the Tennessee Historical society and at present one of the most prominent members of the Tennessee bar, furnished the writer the following information in 1912:

“The name, Melungeon, is of obscure origin; probably it is from the French melange, a mixture. The Melungeons are a peculiar people living in the mountains of East Tennessee, western North Carolina, southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky, and are of queer appearance and uncertain origin. They have swarthy complexion, straight black hair, black or gray eyes–Indian’s eyes are always black—and are not tall but heavy-set. * * * *

They call themselves Portuguese (which they pronounce “Porter-ghee’) and were found in the regions mentioned by our first pioneers of civilization there. As a body, they were as concrete as the Jews, and their descendants are still to be found. “The Melungeons were never adherents to the Indian religion and rites, but adhered to the Christian religion. The cross was ever held by them as a sacred symbol. In religious belief they are chiefly Baptist. It is a fact that they took no part in the Indian wars, either against the whites or the Indians.

“From time immemorial they have been counterfeiters of gold and silver, and, strange to say, their money contained more of the precious metals per coin than that minted by the government. At one time within my recollection these coins passed current, without question. There is a legend that their silver came from Straight creek, a tributary of Cumberland river which flows into that stream at Cumberland Ford ( now Pineville, Ky.). Ruins of ancient furnaces are still to be seen along the banks of Straight creek, but have not been used within the makers of the silver money in that section. The Beckler gold dollars were coined in North Carolina, and some of these coins are yet extant, preserved as curiosities. They were of native gold made by a family named Beckler and were called ‘Becklers.’

“The Melungeons have always, moreover, boasted of their kinship with the white race. Many years ago a decision was handed down by the supreme court of Tennessee, holding that the Melungeons were not negroes. The case probably arose out of some prosecution for illegal voting. “Where this people originated will probably never be known. **** Some people believe that the Mulungeons were descendants of the lost Raleigh Colony of Roanoke which disappeared, supposedly absorbed with the Croatan Indians; but they have never claimed any affiliation with the English— and that was an English colony. They must come of some colony emanating from Portugal. They are a living mystery.”

The reference to the gold and silver coins of the Melungeons suggests what Adair says of silver in east Tennessee in a history of the Indians published in London in 1775: “Within twenty miles of the late Fort Loudoun **** the silver mines are so rich that by digging about ten yards deep some desperate vagrants found at sundry times as much rich ore as to enable them to counterfeit dollars to a great amount, a horse-load of which was detected in passing for the purchase of negroes at Augusta.”

“ Were those “desperate vagrants” Melungeons? Furthermore, speaking of the Beckler gold dollar made in North Carolina, the metal was found in that state at an early day. John Reed, a Hessian soldier, settled in Cabarrus county after the revolution. His son in 1799 found in Meadow creek a nugget of gold as large as a small smoothing iron, but the family had no idea of its value until 1803 he, by fluxing, it made a bar of gold from six to eight inches long. Reed is known as the first gold miner in the United states, but the Melungeons of North carolina may have been entitled to the distinction.

Miss Dromgoole, the novelist and poet, paid a visit to the Melungeons in Hancock county about 1890. She says that John A. McKinney, of Hawkins county, was chairman of the committee of the Constitutional Convention of 1834, to which were referred matters affecting “free persons of color,” and held that if the phrase meant anything it meant Melungeons. Her opinion was that the amendment to the fundamental law of the state, denying the Mulungeons their oath as well as their right to vote, rendered them desperate. They took themselves to the hills where, huddled together, they became a law to themselves, a race distinct form the several races inhabiting the state, and were soon a terror to the people of the foot hills and valleys, swooping down and stealing their cattle, provisions, clothing, and furniture.

In time they became, almost to a man, distillers of brandy. At the breaking out of the war between the States a few enlisted, but the greater part remained with their stills, and kept up plundering the valleys. “Their mountains became a terror to travelers,” she declares, “and not until within the last half decade has it been regarded safe to cross Melungeon territory.”

“In appearance they bear a striking resemblance to the Cherokees, and they are believed by the people round about to be of a kind of half-breed Indian. Their complexion is 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. The hands of the Melungeons women are quite shapely and pretty. Also their feet, despite the fact that they travel the sharp mountain trails barefoot, are short and shapely. Their features are wholly unlike those of the negro, except in cases where the two races have cohabited, as is sometimes the fact. These instances can readily be detected, as can those of cohabitation with the mountaineer, for the pure Melungeons present a characteristic and individual appearance.

On the Ridge proper, one finds only the pure Melungeons; it is in the unsavory limits of Black Water Swamp and on Big Sycamore Creek, lying at the foot of the ridge between it and Powell’s mountain, that the mixed races dwell. So nearly complete has been the extinction of the race that in but few counties of eastern Tennessee is it known. In Hancock you may hear them, and see them, almost the minute you cross into the county line. There they are distinguished as the ‘Ridgemanites’ or pure Melungeons. Those among whom the white or negro blood has entered are called the ‘Blackwaters.’

The ridge is admirably adapted to the purpose of wildcat distilling, being crossed but by one road and crowned with jungles of chinquapin, cedar and wahoo. Miss Dromgoole’s summary is, that they are filthy, and have filthy homes; they are rogues; close, suspicious, inhospitable, untruthful, cowardly, and “sneaky.” More charitable is the opinion of Mrs. Eliza N. Heiskell, of Memphis, whose father, Col. John Netherland above mentioned, was a staunch friend of these apparently down-trodden people.

In an article contributed to the Arkansas gazette, January 14, 1912, she says: “But there is also another people who have lived in the mountains, principally in the Clinch mountains of eastern Tennessee for more than a century; separate and distinct from all others, whose ancestry is shrouded in mystery –the mystery of obscurity. They have lived their simple pastoral life and for more than a hundred years so quietly and obscurely that their name is unknown to many. They are the Melungeons–their very names is a corruption of some foreign word unknown to them or to the few who have given them any study. They have had no poet or seer to preserve their history.

“The Melungeons have a tradition of Portuguese ship and a mutiny, with the successful mutineer beaching the vessel on the North Carolina coast, then their retreat towards the mountains, farther and farther away from the avenging law of man, going on where nature’s barriers were their protection from a relentless foe–swept into this haven by the hand of fate. This strange people seem to have been forgotten by a century of civilization that has left its impress on everything else; They still have some names that suggest the Portuguese ancestry such as ‘Sylvester.’ but their surnames are anglicized to such a degree that to trace them to their originals would be impossible.

“The Portuguese mutineers came to a region almost uninhabited, and because settlers were so few and scattered the strangers were unmolested. Beyond the mountains that hem them in was the institution of slavery; when they went beyond their narrow confines they were in contact with the influence and prestige of the slaveholder. In all slave-holding communities all persons not white, or Indians, were classed as negroes, and the name Melungeon was generally understood to mean a class of mixed-blood but free negroes. This they resented, and insisted on their Portuguese ancestry. By the Constitution of 1834 all persons of color were deprived of the franchise in Tennessee, and by a special act of the legislature these people were given the right to vote.

“To prove they were not negroes, the beautiful hands and feet of some of the race were examined, and the marked difference between them and the negroes decided the question in their favor. “The late John Netherland of Tennessee obtained the right of citizenship for them and their deep gratitude was manifested toward him in every way as long as he lived. “ As a class they are faithful friends. They have a kindly nature, and personal friendship carries a degree of unselfishness that could well be intimated in higher life. Though they resented being considered as negroes, they never presumed to be on an equality with the whites, but were well content to occupy an intermediate ground-a sort of ‘third estate.’ “

They are a shrinking, timid people outside of their own boundaries. During the Civil war a few of them were in Southern army, but most of them were loyal to the Union. When the conscript law was enforced many of them went to Kentucky and joined the Union army, thought there is little military glory in their history. “It is said on authority that the brave Admiral Farragut was a descendant of a Portuguese of that name who married a poor North Carolina girl. “In one respect the Melungeons are like the Irish peasant, in that one of their principal recreations consists in telling and hearing stories, recounting famous neighborhood fights and tales of hunting adventures. They also have many superstitions. They have a firm belief in the powerful influence of the moon and a never-failing fear of ‘ha’nts.’

“In their narratives one is impressed with the smallness of their vocabulary, and at the same time the graphicness of it. Once the Melungeon colony learned that one of their political idols was to spend the night at a certain house. By the time the sun had set the men began to drop in, many having walked miles to enjoy the evening’s entertainment. Seated around the fire, one after another told some experience he had had or seen.

Finally one said to another: “George, the master-lick that I ever seed one man hit another was the lick you hit Shep Gibson!’

“Yes,’ said George–‘you had to hit Shep a master-lick or he would whup you, for he was big and strong and naturally on handy in a fight.’ “Which outlined a situation and stated results in a very few words.

“What will be the ultimate fate of these people no one can tell. As they improve in wealth and opportunity, many of their original characteristics will change. They have already intermarried with some of the mountain people near them, and in all probability in the next two or three generations the name Melungeon will be all that is left of a people whose origin is shrouded in mystery.”

In the sixties of the nineteenth century some of the Melungeons had left east Tennessee mountains. There were a few at Lebanon, Livingston, and Nashville; and a writer in the Nashville banner, for October 12, 1912, makes a statement which indicates that there have been Melungeons who were not false to a trust. A family named Dungee kept a toll-gate on the Charlotte Pike during the war between the States and until 1908. Only faithful employees hold positions so long.

Beneath Myth, Melungeons Find Roots of Oppression

Beneath Myth, Melungeons Find Roots of Oppression

Beneath Myth, Melungeons Find Roots of Oppression

By Carol Morello
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 30, 2000; Page A01


It usually begins simply enough. A blue-eyed, olive-skinned child asks a
parent: Who am I? Where did our family come from? In the mist-shrouded
hollows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the answers have long been evasive.
When Brent Kennedy started questioning his origins, an aunt doused old
family documents and photographs with gasoline and set them ablaze. "I hope
you burn in hell," another relative told him.
Bill Fields grew up hearing an elaborate, romanticized, totally concocted
genealogy traced back to a white matriarch captured by Indians.
Mary Ramsey Cameron's grandmother to this day refuses to even discuss the
family tree. But a sympathetic aunt once whispered a melodic word that she
implored Cameron to keep hush-hush:
For generations in Appalachia, the word has been an epithet and worse.
Melungeons, who have a mixed European, African and Native American heritage,
have been maligned and denied their basic rights. They have been pushed off
fertile land. They have been barred from schools. They have been prohibited
from voting.

Now something extraordinary is happening here up on Stone Mountain and along
Tennessee's Newman's Ridge, two bastions where Melungeon ancestors retreated
from the land confiscations but could not escape the slurs. Descendants of
men and women who desperately tried to hide their backgrounds so they and
their children could pass as pure white are researching and proudly
embracing their mixed Melungeon roots.

"It's a betrayal of my ancestors," acknowledged Kennedy, a University of
Virginia administrator whom many credit with sparking the interest in
Melungeon studies. But, he added: "I'm also liberating them. We are finally
getting to the point where we are justifying who they were."

When about 1,000 people who are--or suspect they may be--Melungeon gathered
in Wise recently for a conference exploring often arcane theories about
their origins, many said they hope to set an example for Americans of all

"This is a movement," said Connie Clark, head of the Melungeon Heritage
Association and a Wise high school teacher who educates her students on
their Melungeon links. "Some people don't accept or tolerate differences.
Our mission is to show the world we are all one people. Who better to teach
that than those of us who are mixed? Our ancestors were persecuted. We were
raised believing we were white. And now we're saying we are not white. Race
doesn't matter. Here we are, poor Appalachians, and we're leading a

There probably would be no Melungeon movement if Kennedy hadn't gotten sick
in 1988.

Suddenly, he couldn't walk. His vision blurred. His joints throbbed. After
receiving a diagnosis of sarcoidosis, he began reading up on a disease
primarily found in people of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent. That
was odd. Kennedy's relatives had always said they were Scotch-Irish. To the
chagrin of some relatives, he began delving into his background. He became
convinced they were Melungeons.

When his condition improved, Kennedy reassessed his life, quit his job as a
fundraiser for nonprofit organizations in Atlanta and moved home to Wise.
His mission in life was to unravel not just one family's past but the
elusive mystery of the Melungeon people.

Even the numbers of Melungeons are little more than guesses. Researchers
believe some 75,000 people are proud of their Melungeon background. Another
250,000 know they're Melungeon and don't want to know anything more about
it. Theoretically, millions could have a Melungeon ancestor and not know it.

Family surnames are often a hint. Mullins, Goins, Collins and Roberson are
classics. Some Melungeons suspect Abe Lincoln, Elvis Presley and Ava Gardner
may all have had some Melungeon blood.

But it can be difficult to trace. Historical records are sometimes sketchy
and amorphous. Family sagas are often clouded with unfilled blanks and
outright lies. When records do exist, Melungeons were variously described as
"Portyghee," Indian, white or "free persons of color." Who could blame
Melungeons for shunning census takers? Some historical accounts were
contemptuously racist.

"The Melungeons are filthy, their home is filthy," read a 1891 report
published in the magazine Arena. "They are rogues, natural born rogues,
close, suspicious, inhospitable, untruthful, cowardly and, to use their own
word, sneaky. In many things they resemble the Negro. . . . They are an
unforgiving people, although . . . they are slow to detect an insult, and
expect to be spit upon."

To this day, there are teenagers around Wise who can remember their parents'
admonitions to behave or else "the Melungeons will get you."

Kennedy thought there had to be a more balanced, complete explanation of how
Melungeons came to be a much-villified "tri-racial isolate," as academics
tag them in what many Melungeons consider a dismissive box.

As his search broadened, Kennedy began attracting a group of academics,
physicians and fellow Melungeons interested in probing Melungeon origins.

Partly through research, partly through extrapolation, they have proposed a
raft of theories, which Kennedy outlined in a controversial 1997 book called
"The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People; An Untold Story of
Ethnic Cleansing in America."

They believe they carry the genes of sailors, explorers and indentured
servants--all men--who coupled with Native American women in the late 16th
and early 17th centuries.

One thread suggests they may have links to Portuguese and Spanish settlers
left behind from the Spanish colony of Santa Elena, which today is Beaufort,
S.C. Another theory traces them to Ottoman Turks and Moors who were galley
slaves aboard Spanish ships and may have been freed by Sir Francis Drake on
Roanoke Island, N.C. Still another possible connection is Turkish and
Armenian craftsmen working in Virginia settlements in the mid-1600s.

Some believe their very name, Melungeon (pronounced meh-lun-jun), may be a
derivation of the Turkish Mulun can, which translates as "damned soul." As
Anglo-Saxons moved to the New World, the theory goes, the dark-skinned
people with European features who already were there were shoved off fertile
land into the hinterlands until they ended up in the hardscrabble mountains
of Appalachia.

None of this has been proved to the satisfaction of most academics. They
caution that Melungeons may be leaping to conclusions. And though many
Melungeons note the African component of their background, some critics
suggest the focus on exotic Turkish links is an attempt to distance
themselves from their black ancestry.

Virginia DeMarce, a former president of the National Genealogical Society,
notes that Melungeon is neither a race nor ethnicity, but a melange of
racial genes that differs in every Melungeon family. She dismisses the
theory of a Turkish link as undocumented fantasy, and many academics concur.

"It's a myth designed to give them some self-esteem they never had," said
David Henige, a University of Wisconsin historian who specializes in African
oral traditions. "They fail to realize it's not accidental that there is no
evidence of these things."

Research into Melungeons can be as significant for some African Americans as
it is for white Melungeons. For Kevin Hayes, a technical manager for IBM in
Atlanta, it may help explain why he and his mother were born with sixth
fingers that were amputated at birth and why an aunt has diseases more
typical among Mediterranean people.

"The African American community is more accepting of not being pure
African," said Hayes, who discovered Melungeons while searching a
genealogical site on the Internet. "This country is a greater melting pot
than most people imagine. People of mixed heritage need to acknowledge it
and speak out about it if we are going to have any hope of overcoming

Science is beginning to shed some light on origins discarded or forgotten
generations ago. DNA tests in 1990 on blood samples from 177 Melungeons are
consistent with Mediterranean, especially Portuguese, traits. Testing for
Turkish links is just beginning.

"It's at least possible," said Chester DePratter, a University of South
Carolina archaeologist digging at the Santa Elena site and an adviser to the
Melungeon Heritage Association. "The evidence is there for some things, and
others you need to be cautious about interpreting."

Although the Turkish Embassy says its government takes no official position
on Melungeons, many Turks have embraced the Melungeons as long-lost cousins.

The University of Virginia at Wise and Dumlupinar University in Ankara
recently established faculty and student exchanges. The towns of Wise and
Cesme on the Aegean coast of Turkey are sister cities. One of Cesme's main
streets has been renamed Wise Avenue. Melungeon heritage tours to Turkey
have been reciprocated by Turkish tours coming to Appalachia. In 1996, Cesme
dedicated a "Melungeon Mountain" overlooking the sea; about 30 visiting
Melungeons have their names on small metal plaques attached to trees on the

And the Melungeon Heritage Association has just been accepted into the
Assembly of Turkish-American Associations.

"We were surprised at first, then extremely excited," said Guler Koknar, the
executive director. "It's not a clear-cut connection. But we're supportive
of it. Who are we to say: 'We don't want you'?"

For many Melungeons, who have puzzled over convoluted family histories and
unusual diseases, the emerging explanations just make more sense.

Wayne Winkler, a radio station manager whose mother is Jewish and father is
Cherokee, said tracing his heritage to Melungeons has given him a sense of

"On the reservation, I was the Jew," he said. "In Hebrew school, I was the
Indian. With Melungeons, it's like a shoe that finally fits."

For many Melungeons, the debate over their roots is as much about class as
it is about race. It's a message to non-Melungeon folk in Appalachia, and to
the world at large: The days of judging us are over. We're judging ourselves

"Appalachia is that place where you ain't never gonna get white enough, but
spent an incredible amount of time trying," said Darlene Wilson, a Melungeon
sociologist. "You can't have a middle class unless you've got an underclass.
America needed Appalachia the way Appalachia needed Melungeons."

Ever since President John F. Kennedy, Melungeons say, politicians have used
the poorest and most disheveled among them for staged photos that
stereotyped them as poor, crude and uneducated hillbilly moonshiners.

"This is about Appalachian people taking control of saying what we are,"
said Bill Fields, publisher of the Melungeon newsletter, Under One Sky. "The
academics don't like it, but we're telling ourselves our own history. That
hasn't happened before in this part of the country."




Congressional serial set
By United States. Government Printing Office 1915


Exhibit B4.
Office Letter To Hamilton Mcmillan, January 29, 1889.
Department Of The Interior,
Office Of Indian Affairs,
Washington, January 29, 1889.
Hamilton Mcmillan, Esq.,
Fayetteville, N. C.

Sir: I have received a petition from parties in Robeson County, N. C., in which the claim is made that they are "Croatan" Indians, descendants of "White's lost colony," and asking Government aid lor the education of their children, numbering about 1,100.

I am informed that you are familiar with the history of these people, and if so, I will thank you for any information you will furnish me. Are they citizens of the United States, and are they entitled to the educational advantages furnished by the State of North Carolina ?

Please answer at your earliest convenience and oblige,
Yours, respectfully,

Jno. H. Oberlt, Commissioner.


Exhibit B5.

Osborne, N. C., July 2, 1890.
Mr. T. W. Belt, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir: Answering your letter of 7th ultimo will say that the people in whose behalf we wrote are not the Eastern Cherokees, but the Croatan Indians. Therefore they receive nothing appropriated for the Cherokees. The people for which I am officially interested have as a general thing grown up without so much as the rudiments of education, yet the youth who have had (to some degree) better opportunities for educating themselves show that the moral, intellectual, and social aptitudes in them are real. Can not something be obtained to assist them in a normal school for them? If so, please direct me how to proceed.

There are 1,100 children between the ages of 6 and 21 years who need continual instruction.

Please reply at the earliest convenience.
Very respectfully,

W. L. Moore.


Exhibit B6.
Office Letter To Hamilton Mcmillan, July 14, 1890.

Department Of The Interior,
Office Of Indian Affairs,
Washington, July 14, 1890.
Hamilton McMiLLAN, FayetteviUe, N. C.

Sir: On the 29th of January, 1889, a report from the Bureau of Ethnology in regard to the Croatan Indians was mailed to you with the request that information be forwarded to this office in regard to these people. Inclosed find copy of the letter. No communication has been received from you in response to the office letter mentioned. The subject is again brought to the attention of the Indian Office by Mr. W. L. Moore, of Osborne, N. C., in a letter dated July 2, copy of which is also inclosed herewith.

I trust that you will promptly respond to this communication and return the document mailed to you January 29 with such information as you can give. Very respectfully,

T. J. Morgan, Commissioner


Exhibit B7.


Red Springs, N. C., July 17, 1890.
T. J. Morgan, Esq.,
Commissioner of Indian Affairs,

My Dear Sir: Your letter of July 14 ultimo just to hand. The communication and report from the Bureau of Ethnology to which you refer were never received, and your letter just received conveys the first intimation of their having been sent. Had they been received I would have responded with pleasure.

I inclose to you to-day a copy of a pamphlet containing much of interest in this connection. The pamphlet was written very hastily nearly two years ago in order to give the North Carolina Legislature some information, as the Croatans were asking some legislation in their behalf.

The Croatan Tribe lives principally in Robeson County, N. C., though there are quite a number of them settled in counties adjoining in North and South Carolina. In Sumter County, S. C., there is a branch of the tribe and also in East Tennessee. In Lincoln County, N. C., there is another branch, settled there long ago. Those living in East Tennessee are called " Melungeans," a name also retained by them here, which is a corruption of Melange, a name given them by early settlers (French), which means mixed. The pamphlet sent you will outline their history as far as it can be discovered from their traditions. In regard to their exodus from Roanoke Island their traditions are confirmed by maps recently discovered in Europe by Prof. Alexander Brown, member of the Royal Historical Society of England. These maps are dated in 1608 and 1610, and give the reports of the Croatans to Raleigh's ships, which visited our coast in those years. These maps will be lithographed and published in a book, now being prepared by Prof. Brown. The particulars of the exodus preserved by tradition here are strangely and strongly corroborated by these maps. There can be little doubt of the fact that the Croatans in Robeson County and elsewhere are the descendants of the Croatans of Raleigh's day. In 1885 I got the North Carolina Legislature to recognize them as Croatans and give them separate public schools. In 1887 I got $500 a year from the State for a normal school for them for two years. In 1889 the appropriation was extended two years longer.

Their normal school needs help—at least $500 more is needed. The appropriation to the public schools amounts to less than a dollar a head per annum.

If you can aid them in the way desired we would be glad. They are citizens of the United States and entitled to the educational privileges enjoyed by other citizens, but those advanatges are not much.

T. J. Morgan, Commissioner.


(Croatans rejected for financial aid for their children, which included rejection for the Malungeans)

Exhibit B8.

Office Letter To W. L. Moore, August 11, 1890.

Department Of The Interior,
Office Of Indian Affairs,
Washington, August 11, 1890.
W. L. Moore, Osborne, N. C.

Sir: Referring to your letter of July 2 and office response thereto of the 16th, I have received a communication from Hamilton McMillan, of Red Springs, N. C., setting forth the situation of the Croatan Indians very fully. It appears from his statement that this band is recognized by the State of North Carolina, has been admitted to citizenship, and the State has undertaken the work of their education. While I regret exceedingly that the provisions made by the State of North Carolina seem to be entirely inadequate, I find it quite impracticable to render any assistance at this time. The Government is responsible for the education of something like 36,000 Indian children and has provisions for less than half this number. So long as the immediate wards of the Government are so insufficiently provided for, I do not see how I can consistently render any assistance to the Croatans or any other civilized tribes.

I am obliged to you for calling my attention to the matter, and have been very much interested in the information furnished by Mr. McMillan regarding this very interesting tribe. Very respectfully,

T. J. Morgan, Commissioner.



The North Carolina booklet: great events in North Carolina history, Volume 10
By Mrs. E. E. Moffitt, General Society of the Daughters of the Revolution.

Vol. X JANUARY. 1911 No. 3


Geologists tell us that running through North Carolina is an ancient coast line, stretching from Northeast to Southwest and nearly parallel with the present Atlantic coast. West of this line is the hill country, gradually rising in elevation till we reach the mountains. Beginning at the Catawba River, this ancient coast line runs north of Cheraw and Bennettsville in South Carolina, east of Laurinburg, north of Maxton, east of Red Springs, west of Hope Mills and Fayetteville, crosses the Cape Fear River at Averasboro and trends in a northeast direction to the Virginia State line.

In the remote past there was a time when the ocean covered all that part of North Carolina east of this line, when the waves beat upon Haymount at Fayetteville and great whales sported in the shallow ocean. The survey of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad developed the fact that the roadbed at Fayetteville and Hope Mills was about 176 feet above sea level.

That this ocean bed was once elevated and again depressed is abundantly proven by the buried forests on Rockfish Creek, and in Pender County at Rocky Point, and by a brick building found buried under many feet of stratified earth at Cronly, in Brunswick County. We once saw a human skeleton exhumed at Hope Mills at a depth of sixteen feet beneath stratified earth.

The elevation of the land was not sudden, as the lowlands and second lands on the Cape Fear evidently mark great pauses in the elevation.

Along the beach of this ancient coast line runs what is known as the Lowrie Road. This road in the early settlement of this country was only a great Indian trail, which became the great route of travel towards the Southwest . This road was straightened in 1817 by General Bernard, who was employed by the United States to superintend the mail routes through North and South Carolina, The location of this road along the beach of this ancient coast line would indicate its great antiquity.

John Lederer, a German traveler in the employment of Governor Berkeley, of Virginia, after traveling across the western portion of our State and visiting the Saura Indians in South Carolina, on his return evidently traveled the Lowrie Road on his return to Virginia through the "pine barrens" of our State.

The Cherokee Indians, embracing numerous tribes, had their principal seats in the mountains, and various tribes, acknowledging their supremacy, occupied the eastern part of our State as hunting grounds, and in some instances made permanent settlements. These Indians had many roads leading from the mountains to the Atlantic coast. One of these roads extended from the mountains through the present counties of Buncombe, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union, Anson and Robeson, and uniting with the Great Lowrie Road at or near Fayetteville, and from its junction extending towards "Roanoke," the region adjacent to Pamlico Sound. Another great road led from the mountains and united with the Lowrie at Fayetteville, and now known as the Yadkin Road.

Commencing with the Saura Indians, and extending along this ancient trail leading to "Roanoke," there were the Cheraws, Chickoras, Mellattaws, Croatans and Tuscaroras.

All the tribes along this line, so far as we can ascertain, acknowledged the supremacy of the Cherokee nation, with the exception of the Tuscaroras. The Mellattaws had also a great trail leading from the mountains towards the Southeast, coming down through the present county of Randolph, where a branch road led towards the Roanoke River and another passed through Moore, Cumberland and Robeson counties, crossing the Lowrie trail near the present town of Maxton, and reaching the coast near Lockwoods Folly in Brunswick County. This Mellattaw tribe emigrated to the Southwest and gave our army serious trouble about the time of the Fort Mims massacre. (Vide Pickett's His. of Ala.) From the earliest settlement in Robeson County the Croatans have occupied a large territory, principally along the Lumber River. They are evidently of Indian origin, possess Indian traits, and claim that their ancestors were originally Cherokees, who dwelt in Eastern Carolina, or, as they express it, in "Roanoke, in Virginia." It was first supposed that they lived on Roanoke Island, but later developments show that the region they call Roanoke embraces all the territory adjacent to Pamlico Sound. It is worthy of note that the chronicles of the tribe call the sound Pamteeco, with the accent on the penult syllable.

These people were known in the 16th and 17th centuries as Croatans from their occupation of Croatan Island, now a part of Carteret County, and were so designated in the act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1885. When first known to the early white settlers in this region they spoke English, and in many instances had English family names identical with those of the "lost colony" of Roanoke. They have in common use many English words which are now obsolete in English-speaking countries, but which were used in the days of Chaucer. In addressing a stranger they use the old Saxon word, Mon. They speak of houses as housen and use mension for measurement. They are familiar with the story of Virginia Dare, and they strenuously claim that the name was pronounced Darr; others claim that it was pronounced Dorr, and still others pronounce it Durr. The muster roll of a company from this tribe in the War of 1812 shows the name as Dorr. The Durrs of Lincoln County are claimed as descendants of Virginia Dare. The chroniclers who keep the traditions of the tribe speak of themselves as "Melungeans." This singular name is supposed to have been given them by the Swiss-French, who settled in the region adjacent to them, and as they were a mixed race they were called Melange, and the descendants of the Melange were called Melange-ans, and the change from Melange-an to Melungean would be easy.

The tribe in Robeson, according to the census of 1890, numbered 3,640. The census of 1910 will probably show an increased number.

The act of Assembly in 1885 gave this tribe separate schools and a separate school census, and in 1887 a Normal School for the education of teachers of their race was granted them, and this school, located at Pembroke, in Robeson County, is in a nourishing condition. A great change has occurred among these people during the past twenty years. Better farms, with better houses and with many improvements in their mode of living, are visible in all parts of their territory. Almost universally they are landowners, cultivate small farms, raise cotton, tobacco and corn principally, and give evidence of great improvement over their former modes of living. All their traditions point to the region west of Pamlico as the residence of their ancestors. They are very reticent as to their past history when approached by strangers, and it is only after persistent inquiry that desired information is obtained.

They have traditions leading the inquirer to infer that they once had Christian churches at several points along the great roads leading from "Roanoke" towards the Southwest. One of these churches, according to tradition, was located near the Lowrie Road, near Rockfish Creek, in Cumberland County. An aged citizen of Cumberland remembered seeing the walls of this church, known as the "Indian Walls," from 1812 till 1837, when the material was used in building the basement of the Rockfish cotton factory. In 1865 the factory was burned by General Sherman, but the present building was erected on the rock basement, which was not injured. The material used in building this church was red sandstone, but the quarry whence the material was obtained has never been discovered.

Colonel Byrd describes the caravans that left the Roanoke region as consisting of 150 to 200 horses loaded with guns, ammunition, cloth, iron tomahawks and other merchandise to trade with the Indians to the Southwest in exchange for peltries of various kinds. Ministers of the gospel frequently attended these expeditions and preached at intervals along the route.

One of these ministers was a Frenchman named De Richebourge; and ex-Governor Swain, who investigated the tradition concerning him, found that he died during one of these expeditions on the Catawba River, and that some of his descendants were then living in Buncombe County.

During the past century large numbers of Croatans have emigrated to the Southwest. A colony, consisting of about forty families, attempted to settle in Indiana, but the laws of that State did not permit "free persons of color" to settle there, and many returned to Robeson County, while others joined a tribe of Indians near Lake Michigan. Descendants of these Indians often visit their relatives in Robeson. There is communication also with the Cherokees in the Indian Territory. We have found only three family names among this people that are Indian, all others being English and French.

Along the Lowrie Road are many mounds, generally circular and raised a few feet above the general surface. Several have been examined, and in every instance the skeletons are those of adults and the skulls are Caucasian in type. Stone hatchets and flint arrowpoints are found in various places, but there is no evidence, by tradition or otherwise, that these Indians ever used them. Flint arrowpoints are found all over the American continent, in the British Isles, in the bone caverns of France and Germany, in Canada, in Italy and in China, similar to those found here. Clay pottery found here is of more recent date and was probably used by these Indians in former times. The Cherokees were an agricultural people, and it is certain that their clay pottery was ornamented by rolling ears of corn over the material when in a plastic state.

The Croatans have given Hiram R. Revels to the United States Senate. John S. Leary graduated at Howard University, and represented Cumberland County in the General Assembly, and for several years was Dean of the Law School at Shaw University at Raleigh. He was considered an able lawyer. Two natives of the Croatan tribe are now wealthy merchants in Florida, while another, who invested in mining property in New Mexico, is reputed to be a millionaire.

In matters of religion they are divided into Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. They have a sect among them known as the Indian Mission. They have about twenty churches, which are supplied by their own ministers.

Up to the year 1835 the Croatans attended the schools with the whites, mustered in the militia and exercised the right of suffrage equally with white men, but to effect a political purpose it was contended that they were "free persons of color," and in Robeson County only they were disfranchised. They were not allowed to attend the schools, and in consequence hundreds of them grew to manhood and womanhood in perfect ignorance of books. In 1868 the public schools were opened, but they preferred ignorance to association' with the colored race. Since they have had separate schools they have shown great interest in the education of their children. They retain many customs handed down from their English and Indian ancestors. In an old medical work, brought to America by someone of the early colonists, and still preserved, are found many singular remedies for various diseases, and these same remedies are used at this time by these people. They have the old English cross-bow, and oldfashioned handmills for grinding corn, which have evidently been used for many generations.

In view of the great improvement of this tribe during the past twenty years we predict a bright future for the Croatans.


Melungeons from Will Allen Dromgoole

From Will Allen Dromgoole

From Will Allen Dromgoole, journalist who wrote about the early Melungeons who frequently called her Will Allen Damnfoole:

"These two, Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, were the head and source of
theMelungeons in Tennessee. With the cunning of their Cherokee ancesters,
they planned and executed a scheme by which they were enabled to "set up
for themselves" in the almost unbroken Territory of North Carolina.

Old Buck, as he was called, was disguised by a wash of some dark description,and taken
to Virginia by Vardy where he was sold as a slave. He was a magnificent specimen of physical

strength, and brought a fine price, a wagon and mules, a lot ofgoods, and three hundred dollars in money being paid to old Vardy for his "likely nigger".

Once out of Richmond, Vardy turned his mules shoes and stuck out for thewilderness of North Carolina, as previously planned. Buck lost little time riddinghimself of his negro disguise,swore he was not the man bought of Collins , and followed in the wake of his fellow
thief to the Territory. The proceeds of the sale were divided and each chose
his habitation; old Vardy choosing Newman's Ridge, where he was soon joined
by others of his race, and so the Melungeons became a part of the inhabitants
of Tennessee.

This story I know is true. There are reliable parties still living who received it from old Vardy himself."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lewis M. Jarvis, 1903 Interview on Melungeons

Lewis M. Jarvis, 1903 Interview on Melungeons

Lewis M. Jarvis born 1829 Scott County, Virginia, son Daniel Jarvis and Mary
COLLINS, an attorney in Sneedville on the Melungeons:

1903 Interview

Much has been said and written about the inhabitants of Newman's Ridge and
Blackwater at Hancock County, Tenn. They have been derisively dubbed with the
name "Melungeons" by the local white people who have lived here with them.
*It is not a traditional name or tribe of Indians.*

"Vardy Collins, Shepherd Gibson, Benjamin Collins, Solomon Collins, Paul
Bunch, and the Goodmans, chief's and the rest of them settled here about the
year 1804,possibly about the year 1795, but all these men above named, who
are called Melungeons, obtained land grants and muniments of title to the
land they settled on and they were the very first and came here simultaneous
with the white people not earlier than 1795. They then had lost their
language and spoke the English very well. They originally were the friendly
Indians who came with the whites as they moved west. They came from the
Cumberland County and New River, Va., stopping at various points west of the
Blue Ridge. Some of them stopped at stony Creek, Scott Co., Va., where Stoney
Creek runs into the Clinch River.

The white emigrants with the friendly Indians erected a fort on the bank of
the river and called it Fort Blackamore and here yet many of these friendly
Indians live in the mountains of Stoney Creek.