1890 CROATAN TRIBE CALLED THEMSELVES MELUNGEONS - MALUNGEANS
Congressional serial set
By United States. Government Printing Office 1915
INDIANS OF NORTH CAROLINA
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,
Jno. H. Oberlt, Commissioner.
LETTER OF W. L. MOORE TO INDIAN OFFICE, JULY 2, 1890.
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.
W. L. Moore.
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
LETTER OF HAMILTON McMILLAN TO INDIAN OFFICE,
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)
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.
THE NORTH CAROLlNA BOOKLET
Vol. X JANUARY. 1911 No. 3
THE CROATANS BY HAMILTON McMILLAN.
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.