Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Decoration Day

The silence of the standing stones
That rise above a box of bones
Made glorious on a springtime day
When chiseled words have had their say
As weathered rock does speak at last
To wandering souls who crave the past
And says that those below knew love
When they trod on the sod above.
They lived and laughed, and cursed, it's true,
(In short, they acted just like you),
And that they lived and loved and fought
Should never ever be forgot
By those whose turn has come to dance
Amid the stones and flowering plants
That mark the passing of the dead,
A path that they one day must tread.

On Memorial Day you find pictures of Arlington National Cemetery everywhere, but every military cemetery is an Arlington. Here are some pictures of Camp Nelson Military Cemetery, Jessamine County, Kentucky:

Photographs courtesy of MHS board members Penny Ferguson and Elizabeth Bunch Smiddy. Pictured: Vietnam combat veteran Bobby D. Smiddy who served in the Mekong Delta.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The First Memorial Day

The title of today's blog entry is something of a double entendre: Today, May 30, is the original and traditional Memorial Day, and there is considerable debate as to when and where the first Memorial Day observance took place.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

For more on the origins of Memorial Day: Click Here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bluegrass Lyrics

This is the ultimate bluegrass lyrics site.

To find the lyrics to almost any bluegrass song you know, and countless ones you don't know: Click Here.

Note: Although there is a user login form on the right, it is not necessary to login to see the lyrics or to use the site's lyrics search engine.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Russell County History and Genealogy

Russell County is located in the far southwestern part of Virginia. In 1745 the area now contained in Russell County was formed as a part of Augusta County. Between the years 1769 and 1785 it was contained in Botetourt, Fincastle and Washington Counties. Russell County was formed in 1786 from Washington County.

The area which became Russell County contained about 3000 square miles or 1.9 million acres. The boundary lines extended northward from Clinch Mountain to Cumberland Gap on the Kentucky border and eastward to a point near present Bluefield, Virginia. In 1790, the population of the county was 3,338, which included 190 slaves.

Other counties were then formed from Russell County. In 1793 Lee County was formed. In 1799, Tazewell County. In 1815 Scott County was formed from a portion of Russell and Lee Counties. In 1855 Wise County was formed and in 1858 Buchanan County was formed. In 1880, Dickenson County was formed from a portion of Wise and Buchanan Counties.

By 1858, Russell County had been reduced to an area of 483 square miles or 309,120 acres. The crest of Clinch Mountain is currently the southern border. Sandy Ridge is the northern. Clinch River meanders down near the center of the county from Mill Creek at the Tazwell County line to St. Paul in Wise County. The county seat is in Lebanon.

To visit Russell County's excellent USGenWeb site: Click Here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Womack's Fort Militia Roll, 1776

Capt. Jacob Womack's Company
Fincastle County, Virginia
(now Sullivan County, Tennessee)

Transcribed by Jim Maroon
Annotated by C. Hamnett

According to Oliver Taylor's Historic Sullivan (1909), "In the spring of 1767, two years after the first settlers made their homes in the county, Jacob Womack built a fort two miles east of Bluff City on the land once owned by Sam Miller [not further identified]."

Womack's Fort was located in what is now Sullivan County, Tennessee, but was originally considered part of southwest Virginia. The Fort is also mentioned in Goodspeeds' History of Sullivan County, which states "Fort Womack, which stood two miles east of Bluff City, was built by Jacob Womack. It afforded protection for the people who lived in the territory now covered by the Fourth, Sixteenth, Ninth and Twentieth Civil Districts. It is said that when on one occasion its people were forted here a marriage took place between Hal [Henry] Massengill and Penelope Cobb. From this union have sprung a large number of descendants. many of whom still reside in the county."

In 1776, however, Womack's Fort was part of Fincastle County, Virginia, and that same year, upon war having been declared against the English, became part of the newly-created Washington County, Virginia, both of which counties are named in the following muster roll of Jacob Womack's Militia Company. By 1778, however, upon erection of Washington County, North Carolina (now Tennessee), Jacob Womack was one of the justices of the new county court (Washington County Court Minutes, 23 Feb 1778), with the 1778 Washington County, North Carolina Tax Return of Jacob Womack including a number of the following men in addition to himself, many of whom are also on the 1796 Sulivan County tax lists:

To consult the roll: Click Here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shelby's Fort and Squabble State

The "squabble" over the western Virginia-North Carolina boundary . . . probably had its origins as early as 1749, the year that the tract of land, then known as Sapling Grove and in the Virginia County of Augusta, was surveyed for Col. James PATTON, and "The Line between Virginia and North Carolina, from Peters Creek to Steep Rock Creek, being 90 Miles and 280 Poles, was Survey'd in 1749 By William CHURTON (4) and Daniel WELDON of North Carolina and Joshua FRY and Peter JEFFERSON of Virginia."

The 1665 King's charter for the Proprietorship of Carolina specified its boundary as "All that Province, Territory, or Tract of ground, situate, lying, and being within our Dominions of America aforesaid, extending North and Eastward as far as the North end of Carahtuke River or Gullet; upon a straight Westerly line to Wyonoake Creek, which lies within or about the degrees of thirty six and thirty Minutes [36° 30'], Northern latitude, and so West in a direct line as far as the South Seas; and South and Westward as far as the degrees of twenty nine, inclusive, northern latitude; and so West in a direct line as far as the South Seas." In 1728, the Virginia-Carolina line had been surveyed from the sea to the above-noted Peters Creek, following which, in 1729, seven of the Lords Proprietors sold their interests in North Carolina to the Crown whereupon North Carolina became a royal colony. (The eighth proprietor, Lord Granville, retained economic interest and continued granting land in the northern half of North Carolina. All political functions were under the supervision of the Crown until 1775.)

The 1749 westward extension was much needed, but the halt at Steep Rock Creek (in present-day Johnson, Tennessee's northeasternmost county) was clearly short-sighted given Colonel James PATTON'S 1,946 acre grant. (Augusta Co, VA Surveyors' Book) In fact, the abrupt stop at Steep Rock Creek was the beginning of hundreds of legal disputes over land claimed by Virginia and North Carolina (that part that later became East Tennessee), spanning more than a century and a half, many of them not settled until over a decade after the matter was finally taken to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1890.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Louisa County Chancery Records Now Online

The Library of Virginia has announced that chancery records for Louisa County, Virginia covering the years 1753 through 1913 are now online. The chancery records for 43 Virginia counties and independent cities are now online at the Library of Virginia.

To access the library's Chancery Records Index: Click Here.

For an explanation of chancery records and how they may be genealogically useful: Click Here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Very First US Census

Early Census Is Found in a New Jersey University’s Files

New York Times, May 18, 2010

Talk about being late with your census forms. Curators at Kean University in New Jersey recently found a population count of the United States from an “actual enumeration” conducted at least four years before the country’s first official census in 1790.

The handwritten tally was found among the papers of John Kean, a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia and gave birth to the Constitution. A central issue delegates tackled was how to configure a new Congress that would more fairly represent the disparate populations of the 13 states. Kean was later appointed by President George Washington as the first cashier, in essence president, of the Bank of the United States.

Bill Schroh, director of museum operations at Kean’s Liberty Hall Museum, was perusing a ledger a few weeks ago when he came across the census results.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

More on the Origins of Popular Country Music

1927 Bristol Sessions –not the ‘Big Bang’ of country music?

Part 1 of 2

In 1984, the Tennessee General Assembly recognized the town of Bristol, with one foot in Tennessee and one in Virginia, as the “Birthplace of Country Music.” The Commonwealth of Virginia followed in 1995, with both the State Senate and the House of Delegates passing identical resolutions honoring Bristol.

The Bristol Sessions of August 1927 are commonly acknowledged as the event that gave rise to the professional country musician and recording star. Releases from the Sessions put both the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers on the country music map.

Ralph Peer, the Victor Talking Pictures A&R man responsible for organizing the Bristol Sessions, often gets the credit as the recording industry visionary who single handedly brought Appalachian music to a national audience. He was only too happy to promote that position himself; in a 1958 interview he stated bluntly “I went to New York and worked for OKeh Records. That’s where I invented the hillbilly and the nigger stuff.”(he didn’t join Victor till 1926.)

As it happens, three other records companies had held or were scheduling auditions to record musicians in Bristol concurrent with Peer’s trip.

Why Bristol? Along with Johnson City, TN and Kingsport, TN, it formed the Tri-Cities, then the largest urban area in the Appalachians. Ernest Stoneman, whom Ralph Peer had recorded on location in Asheville, NC in August 1925, was the one who’d recommended that Peer set up shop in Bristol; ironically from our point of view, Peer had blown through Nashville in 1927 before settling on Bristol, but had dismissed it as a location.

Nor was the Bristol undertaking the first attempt by the recording industry to codify and capture this (to the general public’s ears) new musical style.

So then, what was the precise moment hillbilly music began? Was it with fiddler Eck Robertson’s 1922 New York recordings? These were done at Victor, quite likely produced by Nat Shilkret, who was head of Victor’s Foreign Department.

To continue reading Part 1: Click Here.

To read Part 2: Click Here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Birthplace of Country Music

Nashville? Well no. Bristol

Yes, Nashville has the Grand Ole Opry and the big name recording artists. But Bristol, the town that straddles the Tennessee/Virginia border, stakes its claim as the birthplace of country music. And lately Bristol’s been working hard at capitalizing on that fact.

Victor Talking Machine Co. was the first record producer to catch wind of the (to them!) fledging “hillbilly” music scene (it wasn’t called country music in the 1920s). In the spring of 1927 they released a single by Delaney, AR fiddle player Eck Robertson. On the heels of its success, producer Ralph Peer spearheaded the push to tap the market for rural mountain music, and in July and August he set about to discover and develop the area’s musical talent.

“In no section of the south have the pre-war melodies and old mountaineer songs been better preserved than in the mountains of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, experts declare, and it was primarily for this reason that the Victrola company chose Bristol as its operating base.” — Bristol Herald Courier, July 24, 1927.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Second Annual Melungeon Historical Society Conference

Revised and Expanded Program

Melungeon Historical Society
2nd Annual Conference
Saturday June 19th & Sunday June 20, 2010
Hancock County High School
2700 Main St. Sneedville, Tn.

9:30 am: Registration welcome committee. No admission charge, donations.

9:50 am Jack Goins MHS President Introductions.
9:55 am: Mayor Greg Marion will welcome everyone to Sneedville.

10:00 am: Dr. Scott Collins-Foremost Melungeon researcher who has shared his research with others for over 40 years. Sharing some thoughts today.

11:00 am: Katherine Tucker James, MELUNGEONS: Who will tell their story? Using dna with traditional and reverse genealogy to tell the Gibson and Collins Story.

Noon-lunch break.

1:30 pm: Dr Richard A. Carlson Jr.,Senior Associates. Anthropology/Humanities, “Who’s your People.” Questions and answer session following presentation.

3:30 pm: Roberta Estes, "DNA Testing: Everything You Need to Know", which includes an introductory overview to DNA testing, the new Family Finder test, the current status of the Melungeon project and what we need to move forward. (Time may vary + or – 30 minutes.)

Vice-president Penny Ferguson and MHS Board Member Elizabeth Bunch Smiddy will have a table set up to answer any questions on the various DNA tests, kits from FTDNA will be available. We do not charge or receive money from DNA testing. Our purpose in using DNA with family genealogy is to locate ones kinfolks and common ancestors.

Sunday June 20, conference schedule.

10:00 am: Registration welcome committee. No admission charge, donations.

10:15- John Zachary, Old campaign card display, campaign cards of people running for various offices in Hancock County, The oldest one is 1929, they cover about all Melungeon names, including Goins, Collins, Gibson, Mullins.

10: 40 am: A panel discussion, questions from audience on everything arranging from genealogy to DNA. MHS members and board members who are present may volunteer to sit on this panel. Our present MHS board members are; Becky Nelson, Beverly Walker, Roberta Estes, Dennis Maggard, Janet Crain, Dr. Jill Florence Lackey, Jack Goins, Joy King, Tamara Hogshead, Kathy James, Kevin Mullins, Penny Ferguson, Elizabeth Bunch Smiddy, Tari Adams, Cleland Thorpe, Wayne Winkler, Connie Barber and Dave Gibson.

11:00 am: Jack Goins A few words about the latest Stony Creek Church minute books 1,2 and 3, which will be shown.

11:15 am: Bob Davis will set up his display depicting his Melungeon Grandparents and give a presentation on them.

Noon- Lunch Break

1:30 pm: Kevin Mullins a descendant of the Newman Ridge Mullins family gives a presentation on the legendary Mahala Mullins.

2:30 pm: Summing it all up. Also, some previous speakers may wish to add final thoughts to their presentations.

Disclaimer: All presentations, or opinions expressed at this conference are not necessarily the views of the Melungeon Historical Society, or its members.

Speakers' Vitae:

Dr. Scott Collins Educational Doctorate in "Educational Leadership" from ETSU. Served as a Court Administrator for 32 years here at the Hancock Courthouse. Now serving as Vice-President and Branch Manager for The Citizens Bank of East Tennessee here in Sneedville. Actively involved in the Chamber and Community Partners. Has shared with others his heritage and Melungeon Research for over 40 years.

Katherine Tucker James of Spartanburg, SC. is author of family histories, church histories, technical books and material. She is an avid genealogist, researching Hawkins and Hancock families for over 40 years (particularly Gibson, Collins, Sexton, Roberts, Mullins, Bunch, Bells, etc.)She is Vice-Regent and chair of the Genealogy Committee of the Kate Barry D.A.R. Chapter in Spartanburg, is one of the founding board members of the Melungeon Historical Society, and a member of many historical and genealogical societies. She has a B. S. Business Administration, Summa Cum Laude, from Limestone College and is a retired Senior Human Resource Manager with Milliken & Co. She has recently published a book “From Newman Ridge to the Carolina Foothills.”

Richard Allen Carlson Jr. Ph.D.,Senior Associates. B.S. Anthropology/ Humanities, University of Maryland. M.A. Cultural Anthropology/ Ethnohistory, Michigan State University. Dr Carlson is author of several legal reports and journal articles, as well as author of “Who’s Your People?:Cumulative Identity Among Salyersville Indian Population of Kentucky’s Appalachia and the Midfield Muckfields, 1677-2000.(2003, Ann Arbor, Mi:Proquest Information-UMI Press).Since 1994, Dr. Carlson has worked as the primary researcher in support of expert witness testimony for Aurora Associates, Inc.,led by renowned ethnohistorian Dr. Charles Cleland (Professor Emeritus). Working for both Aurorora Associates, as well as leading CARLSON & ASSOCIATES, Dr. Carlson has worked on behalf of over a dozen federally recognized tribes in the United States and Canada pursuing treaty rights in court. Contact at: CARLSON & ASSOCIATES 1015 Braman Street, Lancing, Mi 48910.

Roberta Estes founded and owns DNAeXplain, a company providing individual analysis of DNA results and genealogical assistance ( She produces the Personalized DNA Reports for Family Tree DNA. Roberta is a founding board member of the Melungeon Historical Society and DNA advisor of the Core-Melungeon DNA program. In addition, she is the founder of the Cumberland Gap and Lost Colony DNA Projects, along with others. Her specialty is early colonial, southern and mixed-race research.

Johnnie Rhea . A native and current resident of Hancock County. She has assisted many researchers with genealogical and other information. She is the author of two books “The Alexander Goins Family of Newman Ridge.” and co-author with Dorothy Cameron of “Our Stories from The Depression Years.”

Bob Davis a resident of Hamblen County, Tennessee is a descendant of Newman Ridge Collins and Biggs family. He holds a BS degree from Carson Newman College and attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee. Bob is now retired after teaching in the Hamblen County school system for 30 years.

Kevin Mullins is a descendant of the Newmans Ridge Mullins family, and has been researching Melungeon families for well over a decade. Employed by the Knoxville News-Sentinel for 25 years. And a founding MHS board member.

Jack Goins is president of the Melungeon Historical Society and founding board member. Author of two books “Melungeons And Other Pioneer Families.” and “Melungeon, Footprints From the Past” As the Hawkins County Archivist, he initiated the restoration of the county records and the formation of the Hawkins County Archives. Coordinator of the Core Melungeon, Goins and Minor DNA projects with Family Tree DNA. These projects are listed on his website and on Family Tree DNA public sites.

Registration Welcome Committee:

MHS board members Penny Ferguson, Tamara Hogshead, Elizabeth Bunch Smiddy, and Tari Adams. A table will be set up for book sales. MHS Board member Johnnie Rhea will oversee the book sales.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Search of the Mozingo Family - Part 3 of 3

A Mozingo hears the tale of two clans

He wonders how each family — one black, one white — would react to the long-buried fact that their common forefather was black, and that their surname probably was Bantu.

By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
Part three of three
May 18, 2010

The June air in the Northern Neck of Virginia was humid and electric, almost delirious. Big blue dragonflies bobbed over the tall grass, and cicadas sputtered in the forest. A thundercloud was waking up in the distance, and a restless breeze set the entire landscape in motion.

I had first come here in March investigating the origins of my family name. The place then had no color, no life. My mood was equally bleak as I pored over court archives and had terse meetings with Mozingos who didn't know or care about the name.

By now, though, I'd met all manner of Mozingos — white, black, racist, tolerant, generous, loathsome, loner-ish, loyal, tragic — and seen shards of our buried history surface in their stories. Many had been curious about the name all their lives.

I returned to hear the tale of two clans: Rhodie Mozingo's in Virginia and Wiley Mozingo's in North Carolina.

Rhodie's was white. Wiley's was black.

I wondered how each would react to the long-buried fact that our common forefather, Edward Mozingo, was black, and that our surname was Bantu.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This three-part series recounts a fascinating genealogical odyssey. Some authors have linked the name Mozingo to the Melungeons. There is no basis for this in fact, so far as I can determine; however, the parallels with Melungeon origins -- the difficulty of the search for them, the abundance of fanciful origin myths tenaciously clung to by many, and the resistance to the truth -- abound.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Search of the Mozingo Family - Part 2 of 3

An old diary throws him a curve

He could grasp having a black ancestor way back in the 1600s. But in the 1800s? A slave? It had to be a mistake. What would his family think?

By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
Part two of three
May 16, 2010

On the 19th page of the diary, I saw it.

"Spence Mozingo came to . . . get boards for covering the Tob[acco] house."

I clasped the back of my head in disbelief.

Francis Taylor, a close cousin of James Madison, had kept a journal of their family's daily life in Virginia. And there was my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, picking up lumber on a June day in 1786.

Just seeing the word "Mozingo" in the sphere of the Madisons had the feel of a fantastic anachronism — like seeing my own face among the Founding Fathers on the $2 bill.

I was in Virginia, picking away at the enigma of my family name — thought to be central African and now possessed largely by whites in the South and lower Midwest. I had holed up in old courthouses and libraries, straining to read handwriting so impenetrably florid I found myself cursing town clerks who died two centuries ago. I had met and spoken on the phone with Mozingos whose lack of interest in our origins verged on hostility.

What I knew was this: Every Mozingo in America probably descended from Edward Mozingo, a "Negro man" who lived in the Tidewater region of Virginia in 1644. I could trace myself only as far back as Spencer, who first showed up as a white adult in a 1782 census in the Piedmont, about 80 miles west. Who his parents were, whom he married, where he came from were mysteries

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This three-part series recounts a fascinating genealogical odyssey. Some authors have linked the name Mozingo to the Melungeons. There is no basis for this in fact, so far as I can determine; however, the parallels with Melungeon origins -- the difficulty of the search for them, the abundance of fanciful origin myths tenaciously clung to by many, and the resistance to the truth -- abound.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Search of the Mozingo Family - Part 1 of 3

In search of the meaning of 'Mozingo'

Curious about his unusual name, a journalist and father traces his lineage to the 1600s — and unearths a conflicted past.

By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
Part one of three
May 16, 2010

My father's family landed in 1942 Los Angeles as if by immaculate conception, unburdened by any past.

Growing up, I knew all about how my mother's grandparents came to California from southern France and Sweden. But my dad's side was a mystery.

All I heard were a few stories about my grandfather as a youth in Hannibal, Mo., how he found a tarantula in a shipment of bananas at his dad's corner store, how he and a friend once rode motorcycles out west. But no one talked about Mozingos further back, or where they came from.

I might never have given the subject any thought except for a strange word: our name. All my life, people had asked me about it.

I began to look into it, and the more I learned, the more I realized our history had been buried. My curiosity turned to compulsion. I had to unearth the truth about our origins and the forces that had obscured them for centuries. I wanted to know my forebears and feel myself among them, to see if their forgotten personalities and struggles and secrets somehow still lived within us.

I set out last year to learn our story, traveling from the Tidewater of Virginia to the hollows of Kentucky and southeastern Indiana and beyond. At times, I struggled to absorb what I was finding, and I met Mozingos who were skeptical of it, or ambivalent, or fiercely resistant.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This three-part series recounts a fascinating genealogical odyssey. Some authors have linked the name Mozingo to the Melungeons. There is no basis for this in fact, so far as I can determine; however, the parallels with Melungeon origins -- the difficulty of the search for them, the abundance of fanciful origin myths tenaciously clung to by many, and the resistance to the truth -- abound.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Tennessee Blue Book

The Tennessee Blue Book is a publication which serves as a manual of useful information on our state and its government, both past and present. This edition contains information on the makeup of Tennessee state government. It also contains an expansive history section, the constitutions of the United States and Tennessee, the state’s symbols and honors, the most recent election returns, and census information.

The Blue Book is divided into seven sections:

The first three sections are devoted to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

Section IV features the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

Section V is devoted to the people who have been elected to represent Tennessee at the federal level of government.

Section VI contains a cumulative history which examines the development of the state from a wilderness to the present era, portraits and biographies of Tennessee’s former governors, various historic sites in Tennessee, symbols the state Legislature has selected as representative of Tennessee at its best, and the Tennessee Constitution.

Section VII details the results of elections held across the state in 2008 and 2009 and provides statistical information regarding the cities and counties of Tennessee.

The term Blue Book dates from the 15th century when the English Parliament began keeping its records in large volumes covered with blue velvet. Since that time the name Blue Book has been used to describe many forms of government manuals.

To consult the Tennessee Blue Book: Click Here.

Note: A PDF reader is required.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekly Appalachian History Blog Podcast Reminder

Sunday is a good day to remind you that although Dave Tabler's Appalachian History blog now has a new home, his weekly podcast continues. The podcast is really just an MP3 file, meaning you don't need an Apple iPod to listen to it, just an MP3 player on your computer.

To check out today's podcast: Click Here.

You can locate old podcasts by searching backward through the blog, but the easy way is to simply: Click Here.

Note: A broadband connection is highly recommended and virtually a necessity.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Beckham County, Kentucky

The only Kentucky county to be abolished

In early 1904, with the growth of the western end of Carter County, KY, residents there sought to form a new county. They broke away, along with some citizens of Rowan and Elliott counties, to form Beckham County, named for then-Governor John CW Beckham, who signed the legislative act on February 9.

GC Brooks, appointed County Judge, established formal offices, with the county seat in Olive Hill. It wasn’t long, though, before legal questions over the formation led to the county being dissolved by state action. Eighty days long, to be exact. On April 29, 1904, the Court of Appeals ruled that the new county failed to meet constitutional standards of size and population. Beckham is the only county in Kentucky to be abolished.

For the rest of the story: Click Here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Keetoowah Society and the Avocation of Religious Nationalism in the Cherokee Nation, 1855-1867

The Keetoowah Society and the Avocation of Religious Nationalism in the Cherokee Nation, 1855-1867
By Patrick Minges
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
© Copyright 1997, 1998, All Rights Reserved


Beginning this work, I am struck with two poignant observations. The first is the observation by Rennard Strickland that the writings about the Cherokee Nation have surpassed in sheer volume those of any other Native American people. [1] The second is Carter G. Woodson's profound truism that "one of the longest unwritten chapters of the history of the United States is that treating of the relations of the negroes and the Indians." [2] It is the sad truth that Professor Woodson's perception could just as easily be applied to the histories written of the Cherokee Nation. In spite of the voluminous writings on Cherokee history, few have taken seriously the presence and activities of what was as much as twenty-five percent of the inhabitants of the Cherokee Nation. A multicultural history of the Cherokee Nation has never been written.

What started me on this journey of recognition were two brief citations in works on the Cherokee Nation. The first was a comment by Wilma Mankiller in her autobiography Mankiller: A Chief and Her People that stated:

It should be remembered that hundreds of people of African ancestry also walked the Trail of Tears with the Cherokee during the forced removal of 1838-1839. Although we know about the terrible human suffering of our native people and the members of other tribes during the removal, we rarely hear of those black people who also suffered. [3]

The second was a notation made by anthropologist James Mooney describing a secret society that had arisen within the Cherokee Nation just before the Civil War:

The Keetoowah society in the Cherokee Nation west was organized shortly before the civil war by John B. Jones, son of the missionary Evan Jones, and an adopted citizen of the Nation, as a secret society for the ostensible purpose of cultivating a national feeling among the full-bloods, in opposition to the innovating tendencies of the mixed-blood element. The real purpose was to counteract the influence of the "Blue Lodge" and other secret secessionist organizations among the wealthier slave-holding classes, made up chiefly of mixed-bloods and whites. [4]

In these two brief citations, a whole new world had opened up to me. Like most whites, I had a static conception of Cherokee culture that was somewhat more advanced than that which Keetoowah Ward Churchill calls the "fantasies of the master race," [5] yet still oblivious to the dynamism and complexity of Cherokee society, culture, and history. I could not yet conceive that within the Cherokee Nation lay a marvelous story of religious patriotism, moral courage, and personal sacrifice that was ever bit as daunting and inspiring as any of those of its sister nation, the United States. Within the history of the Cherokee Nation during the turbulent years leading up to and including the American Civil War, we come to know that element which is quintessential to understanding that which best personifies the Cherokee people; it is the spirit of the beloved community known as the "Kituwah spirit."

Yet, the story is not easily told. Just as the "master narrative" of American history relegates the "other" to the back pages of history, the same holds true in the telling of Native American history. With few notable exceptions, historians have rendered African American members of the Five Nations of the Southeastern United States as passive "objects" swept along in the tides of the great drama which is Native American history. Existing solely as the reason for the struggle that led up to the Civil War in Indian Territory, they are seldom given their proper place as moral guides and political instigators in the struggle which came to define a people. This effort hopes to correct this ahistorical and immoral treatment of history.

At the same time, it seeks to redress one of the gravest errors in African American religious history. "Slave religion" and even the "Afro-Baptist" faith as we have come to know it did not develop solely within the dynamic matrix of the African experience of European/American colonial and ante-bellum culture. "Slave religion," and even Afro-Baptist denominationalism developed in areas where the cultural interactions between African Americans and Native Americans were at their greatest. In addition, for nearly one hundred years African and Native American toiled side by side under the shameful legacy of the "peculiar institution;" the very theology of liberation which is the cornerstone of the Black Church emerged from within the Aframerindian community. [6] From the depths of the African American encounter with the indigenous peoples of the America came an understanding of that "inescapable network of mutuality" [7] which lie at the heart of the "beloved community:"

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This is a lengthy scholarly work consisting of an introductions, five chapters and a conclusion. At the bottom of the introduction and each succeeding section, there is a table of links to all the other sections.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cherokee Nationalism and the Civil War

“Are you Kituwah’s son?”
Cherokee Nationalism and the Civil War
By Patrick Minges
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
© Copyright 1995, 1998, All Rights Reserved

Chaplain Reverend Lewis Downing of the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles awoke at the dawn of a new day, December 9, 1861. He stood amidst officers of the Creek and Cherokee Nations in what was to become the Kansas Indian Regiments of the Army of the United States of America. Among the warriors lie free Africans, maroons, and fugitive slaves from the deep south hoping to move "on to Kansas" and freedom on the border. There were many battles yet to come, but for this morning, Chaplain Downing felt safe.

Across the corn field lie what was left of the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles of the Army of the Confederate States of America under the leadership of Colonel John Drew. Behind Colonel Drew's men lie the seccessionist troops of Albert Pike's "Indian Brigades," including the 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment, the Choctaw Battallion, the 1st Creek Regiment and the Second Cherokee Mounted Rifles under Colonel Stand Watie. On the other side of the Confederate Army lie Chaplain Downing's home, his family, and the rest of the Cherokee Nation.

It was the issue of slavery that ripped the Cherokee Nation asunder leading up to the Civil War, but it was also something older and much deeper. Yet, for this moment as he looked about him, Chaplain Downing could see only the faces of those about him fleeing the racist slavocracy of the deep South and seeking “the promised land” of freedom and equality in Kansas. African faces fleeing slavery had long ago found refuge and identity among the full-bloods of the “Five Nations” of the Southeastern United States. Though the "underground railroad" which fled North was more famous, the flight South to freedom among the Seminole and Creek Nations was older and played an equally critical role in United States history.

The rich tapestry of colors found amongst those who surrounded him reminded Chaplain Downing of the gospel message of equality brought to him by the missionaries. Chaplain Downing, an ordained Baptist minister, had found confirmation in the gospels for that which the had known all along; all humanity has a common origin and ultimately, a collective responsibility. This was the message that the first missionaries had brought to the Cherokee nation in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Christian Pryber, Jesuit missionary to the Cherokee from 1736-1743 had attempted to establish a "kingdom of paradise" among the Cherokee people. Welcome in this paradise were all runaway slaves, African as well as Native American and "all others who would fly thither Justice or their Masters." It was his pursuit of a vision of a strong and independent Cherokee Nation founded upon the notion of equality that got the visionary Pryber a prison cell and death and the hands of the English governors.

John Marrant, a free African minister, also brought this message of equality to the Cherokee and the Creek Nations in the years preceeding the Revolutionary War. Marrant, converted by the preaching of George Whitefield, had fled to the Cherokee Nation after his family had rejected him and his Christian mission to them. Living among the Cherokee nation, he adopted the social and cultural patterns of the Cherokee. Marrant's story of his life among the Cherokee is one of the enduring stories of colonial history and a critical text in African American literature. Marrant went on to be a prominent member of the African-American Community, served in the Revolutionary War, and was one of the founding members of Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, a militant nationalist/abolitionist organization. Early members of Prince Hall were ministers Richard Allen and Absolum Jones.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Race, Religion, and the “Trail of Tears”

Beneath the Underdog:
Race, Religion, and the “Trail of Tears”
By Patrick Minges
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
© Copyright 1994, 1998, All Rights Reserved

In the fields and homes of the colonial plantations of the United States in the late eighteenth century, the first intimate relations between African-American and Native-American peoples were forged in their collective oppression at the hands of the "peculiar institution." The institution of the African slavery, as it developed in the New World, was based upon the lessons learned in the enslavement of traditional peoples of the Americas. In spite of a later tendency in the Southern United States to differentiate the African slave from the Indian, African slavery was in actuality imposed on top of a preexisting system of Indian slavery. In North America, the two never diverged as distinct institutions.

Vast numbers of indigenous peoples toiled to their death in the fields and mines of the European colonists from the very earliest points of contact. Many of the early explorations of the New World were quite simply slaving expeditions. The colonial predisposition to cite Indian depredations as justification for "Indian wars" were often quite simply rhetorical exercises to cover the seizure and enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the America. A Cherokee from Oklahoma remembered his father's tale of the Spanish slave trade, “At an early state the Spanish engaged in the slave trade on this continent and in so doing kidnapped hundreds of thousands of the Indians from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to work their mines in the West Indies.”

With the arrival of twenty "negars" aboard a Dutch man-of-war in Virginia in 1619, the face of American slavery began to change from the "tawny" Indian to the "blackamoor" African between 1650 and 1750. Though the issue is complex, the unsuitability of the Native American for the the colonial's labor intensive agricultural practices, their susceptibility to European diseases, the proximity of avenues of escape for Native Americans, and the lucrative nature of the African slave trade led to a transition to an African based institution of slavery.

During this period, however, the colonial "wars" against the Pequots, the Tuscaroras, the Yamasees, and numerous other Nations led to the enslavement and relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans. By the late years of the seventeenth century, caravans of Indian slaves were making their way from the Carolina backcountry to forts on the coast just as they were doing on the African continent. Once in places such as Charleston or Savannah, the captives were loaded on ships for the "middle passage" to the West Indies or other colonies such as New Amsterdam or New England. Many of the Indian slaves were kept at home and worked on the plantations of the Carolinas; by 1708, the number of Indian slaves in the Carolinas was nearly half that of African slaves.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rediscovering America’s First Frontier

Federation of Genealogical Societies
Annual Conference
August 18 - 21, Knoxville, Tennessee

Co-Hosted By
East Tennessee Historical Society
Kentucky Historical Society

The Federation of Genealogical Societies will host its annual conference August 18-21, 2010 at the Knoxville Convention Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. This year’s theme is “Rediscovering America’s First Frontier.” Co-Sponsors for the event are the East Tennessee Historical Society and Kentucky Historical Society.

Speakers from across the United States will present lectures and workshops on topics of interest to genealogists and family historians. Regardless of one’s level of experience, learning opportunities abound for those seeking to improve their research. Topics include Tennessee & Kentucky research, research in other Southern States, researching ethnic groups including African Americans, Native Americans, and the Scots-Irish, methodology, resources, technology, DNA, land platting, and much more. Wednesday’s workshops are part of the “Focus on Societies” day which ends with focus groups for different areas of society leadership.

Meals are available for an additional cost. Different organizations sponsor luncheons each day and attendees often select the one to attend based on the speaker or sponsoring group. This year’s banquet will be held at the Museum of Appalachia in nearby Norris. The fee includes bus transportation, the meal, and museum admission. You do not need to be registered for the conference to purchase meal tickets.

The exhibit hall will be filled with booths displaying print and electronic publications, software, membership opportunities, and services. Among the more popular items are books (new, used, and rare), magazines, journals, CDs, DVDs, maps, charts, databases, software, preservation supplies, and gift items. The exhibit hall opens Thursday morning following the keynote address. Extended hours are available Friday evening. The exhibit hall is open to those who are not registered for the conference.

For complete information and online registration: Click Here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Branches - A Major New Windows Genealogy Program

Review by Dick Eastman
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

At the recent conference of the National Genealogical Society, I had a chance to look at a new Windows genealogy program. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. This program has the best user interface I have ever seen in any genealogy program on any operating system. It looks like Google Earth for genealogy.

I returned home after the conference and soon downloaded the program, installed it, and have now used it for a few days. I am still very impressed with Branches.

Branches is advertised as "Genealogy Software of the 21st Century." That is in reference to the user interface. I would rate the rest of the program's features as "good" to "very good," but the user interface deserves a rating of "outstanding." But I am getting ahead of myself.

Branches is a brand new genealogy program for Windows produced by Sherwood Electronics. I published the company's press release a few days before the conference at However, that press release doesn't do justice to the program. In fact, I'll have difficulties describing the program properly in this text-based review. To full understand and appreciate what this program does, you must see it in operation. Luckily, that is easy to do. You can download the program and use it for 30 days at no charge.

To continue reading this extensive review: Click Here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The West Virginia Family that Brought Us Mother’s Day

It took the individual effort of each Jarvis, mother and daughter, over two generations to forge the Mother’s Day we recognize today. And it’s a story with a twist, so buckle up!

Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, of Grafton WV, had attempted starting a series of Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in Webster, Grafton, Fetterman, Pruntytown, and Philippi in 1858 to improve sanitation. She continued to organize women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides.

In the summer of 1865, Jarvis organized a Mothers’ Friendship Day at the courthouse in Pruntytown to bring together soldiers and neighbors of all political beliefs. The goal was to work in conjunction with local doctors to provide health care to war veterans plagued by diseases such dysentery, small pox, and tuberculosis.

The event was a great success despite the fear of many that it would erupt in violence. Mothers’ Friendship Day was an annual event for several years.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: Yesterday's MHS Blog entry and today's link to Dave Tabler's ever-excellent Appalachian History blog which has just moved to a new home, or to be more accurate, to a new web address, taking all its previous blog entries with it and acquiring a new look. It is now located at -- for now, at least, links to its old address still work but they should be updated.

To go to its front page: Click Here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How do we know it’s us without our past?

Excerpt from an address by Dr. O. Norman Simpkins, Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Marshall University, given at the Huntington Galleries Mountain Heritage Week, June 19-24, 1972:

Appalachians get their easy going way of life from the Scotch Irish. An Appalachian can sit on his porch and rock all day without getting an ulcer over it.

Most Americans have to be up and about doing something all the time.

A personality characteristic of Appalachian people that tends to get them into trouble in the big cities and sometimes in our consolidated school systems, is their ‘open faced’ outlook on life and their acceptance of strangers once they get over their initial suspicions. They’re too ready to accept them as ‘home folks.’ They haven’t learned to build up a front to protect their ego.

The smaller a kid is, the more likely he is to do this. He’ll tell things on himself, or say things that will give you insight into his behavior that will damage his ego, and he’s not aware of this because he hasn’t built up, as urban people have, this front of protection.

Now the reason from this is they come from an area where they know practically everybody; they don’t meet many strangers and everybody knows you. Some you can’t build up a front if everybody knows your innermost thoughts. After they go to the city it takes time for them to develop this. Some of the older ones never develop this. That’s one reason why they’re not satisfied in Detroit and Cleveland and so on.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Free Access to's Historical Newspaper Collection is allowing free access to its entire four million page historical newspaper collection for the month of May.

For the newspaper collection: Click Here.

For's front page: Click Here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Award of Distinction

The Award of Distinction was presented by Marvin Templin of the East Tennessee Historical Society Staff to MHS President Jack Goins on 4 May 2010 for leading a volunteer effort to establish the Hawkins County Archives by raising funds to purchase supplies, enlisting and training a group of volunteers to follow professional standards in organizing and cleaning records and creating databases, with 35,000 contributed volunteer hours.

For pictures of the event: Click Here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An Amazing DNA Story

DNA from letters home helps ID Pearl Harbor casualty

By William Cole, Honolulu Advertiser, April 13, 2010

Before he died at Pearl Harbor, less than a month after turning 18, Gerald Lehman sent home to Michigan letters that his mother came to treasure.

In them, the teen talked about going through Navy training in Great Lakes, Ill. — falling out of his sleeping hammock once — and how much he liked his new woolen uniform.

In graceful penmanship, he asked about the family dog, Duke; wrote about waiting to ship out from California on the battleship USS Oklahoma; and seeing the mountains and rainbows of Oahu from the doomed ship.

Unknowingly, Lehman sent home to those who loved him something else, something that wouldn't be useful until decades later: his own DNA.

Sixty-eight years after he was killed on Dec. 7, 1941, DNA lifted from the envelopes Lehman had licked helped the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command positively identify the young sailor's remains.

For the rest of the story: Click Here.

Note: Properly used, DNA testing can be a powerful adjunct to traditional genealogical methods. However, you must beware of hucksters promising more than DNA testing can possibly deliver. In particular, for the purposes of this blog, there is no uniquely Melungeon DNA and hence no DNA test for Melungeon ancestry. The only way in which DNA testing might prove Melungeon ancestry is by proving actual descent from a historically documented Melungeon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

MHS President Wins Award

Today, MHS President Jack Goins will receive the East Tennessee Historical Society's Award of Distinction for his work as Hawkins County Archivist. Jack will receive the award at tonight's Annual Meeting of the Membership, which convenes at 5:30 PM at the East Tennessee History Building, 601 South Gay Street, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Congratulations Jack!!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

One of the greatest gifts to the genealogical world comes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which microfilmed thousands of local and state records it loans out to research centers around the world.

Other tools available from the church Web site,, are worth using, but researchers must approach with caution and closely scrutinize what they find.

To go to Click Here.

But to first read an important cautionary essay: Click Here.

Note: The cautions suggested in the essay apply not just to but to all web sites which collect unverified genealogical information. Once erroneous or unproven data is entered in such sites it is impossible to get it corrected. As always, there is no substitute for documentation.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

Of Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The largest group of independent artisans in North America. This historic 8-mile loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail. Established in 1937, these artisans whittle, paint, sew, cast, weave and carve to create original collectibles such as candles, baskets, quilts, brooms, pottery, jewelry, dolls, ceramics, scrimshaw, silver smithing, leather, stained glass, wearable fashions, fine photography, frameable art, oils and watercolors, also lodging, restaurants, caf├ęs, tea room, soda fountain and candy shops. Most shops are open year round, seven days a week.

Sometime around 1937, The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, known as the Glades, got its start. John Cowden and several other craftsmen decided they'd stay home and invite the tourists to come out to see them. After years of working the streets of downtown Gatlinburg, with long hours and worn out feet, John and his friends tried something radical and just stayed home. They wanted to be near the source where their tools and supplies were, they just wanted to stay home and work... and that's just what they did. As the visitors started coming, other craftsmen and artists joined in. Opening workshops, studios, and galleries most of them right alongside their homes or even inside them.

For seventy years now people have been discovering one of Gatlinburg's best kept secrets, located just 3 miles from the hustle and bustle of the downtown city limits of Gatlinburg. See for yourself, come visit the largest group of independent artists and craftsmen in America right here in Gatlinburg. With over 120 artists and craftsmen located in a convenient 8 mile loop road all with easy free parking right outside their doors. This historic arts and crafts area has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.

For much more information: Click Here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Historic Rugby, Tennessee

Victorian England in the Tennessee Cumberlands

Time stands still at Rugby, Tennessee - the restored Victorian village founded in 1880 by British author and social reformer, Thomas Hughes. It was to be a cooperative, class-free, agricultural community for younger sons of English gentry and others wishing to start life anew in America. At its peak in the mid-1880s, some 300 people lived in the colony. More than 65 buildings of Victorian design graced the townscape on East Tennessee's beautiful Cumberland Plateau.

This would-be Utopia survives today as both a living community and a fascinating public historic site, unspoiled by modern development. Twenty original buildings still stand, nestled between the Big South Fork National Recreation Area and the Rugby State Natural Area, surrounded by rugged river gorges and historic trails. Historic Rugby has been open to the public since 1966 and is nationally recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and many others as one of the most authentically restored and preserved communities in America.

Upcoming Event:

36th Annual Festival of British & Appalachian Culture

May 15 & 16 - 10:00 am

All Day Saturday & Sunday - Continuous British Isles & Appalachian Music & Dancing Traditional Arts & Crafts..... Folk Demonstrating & Selling Their Work..... Storytelling.....Historic Building Tours....Delicious Food

For more on Historic Rugby: Click Here.