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)

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