Saturday, July 31, 2010

Knox County Kentucky History by Elmer Decker


As early as 1779 Virginia authorities felt need of a road instead of a trace, to the Kentucky settlements. In that year two commissioners were appointed to locate a road through Cumberland Gap. They reported the advantages to be derived from making a good wagon road. The project was commenced and completed in 1781. Whether it was a good wagon road or not is the question.

Guards had to be employed to protect workers from the Indians. By act of the General Assembly of Virginia, November 27, 1790, Mercer, Lincoln and Madison Counties were empowered to give aid to guard companies. These counties were to furnish thirty men each during the months of October and November. Officers received six shillings per day, while privates were paid four shillings per day. Certificates for these amounts were given, and some were not redeemed until after Kentucky became a state.

Before the State Road was established by Kentucky, an effort had been made to improve the Old Wilderness Road by private enterprizes. Colonels John Logan and James Knox acted as commissioners. In 1792 men worked the road for Twenty-
two days. They received two shilling per day. Guards continued to be kept on the road during this time and afterwards. As late as November 16, 1799, there were two companies of troops from Lincoln County guarding the road. These troops were kept at the stations erected in the wilderness.

Governor Shelby, November 6, 1793, in an address to the legislature, stated that he had been authorized by the President of the United States to establish two blockhouses on the Wilderness Road leading to the Holston Settlements, provided they could be garrisoned by militia, to be continued in service not longer than six months and who would be entitled to the considered, the rendering of this road safe so important to the State as to make the establishment of these posts a serviceable object, but has found it very difficult to establish and relive the garrisons with militia under the existing militia law, and almost impractical to procurement to engage in such service voluntarily for the pay and rations allowed the United States Troops. He therefore had appointed two officers to enlist the number of men necessary for such service, for the term of six months, giving up his opinion that volunteers would be allowed by the State Militia into the service of the United States Troops. He recommended the payment of same because the importance of the service rendered. It a savings as compared to calling out the militia, and owing to the impracticability of keeping up the posts with militia. An act of December 19, 1793, granted the additional pay to those men whom the Governor had deemed to expedient to enlist with expectation of the allowance, and also authorized the Governor to enlist any number of men, not exceeding thirty, to serve for not more than one year from the end of the Legislature then in session.

In 1793 Hood had a station at Hazel Patch, mentioned by Bishop Asbury, by 1795 there were two, and possibly three, other stations; Moddrell's between the Rockcastle and Laurel Rivers, probably Wood's Blockhouse; Thomases, on a branch of the laurel River and Middleton's, not between Turkey and Little Richland


Creeks, but between Turkey Creek and Stinking Creek at Woodson's. To show the exact location of Middleton's Blockhouse the following deed from George Smith of Jessamine County, Kentucky to Wade N. Woodson of Cumberland County, Virginia is cited. The description of the tract of land conveyed reading as follows:

(May 2, 1805) Beginning at a red oak, hickory and ash standing on the side of a hill 200 poles east of Stinking Creek where a north line from. the road crosses said creek at the distance of two miles; thence west 200 poles to the creek, 760 poles to the road near Middleton's Station, 840 poles to Turkey Creek---

Thomases Station was called old by Knox County authorities in 1800, when Nimrod Farris was granted a tavern license by the county court.

The State Road was established by act of the General Assembly in November 1795. Governor Shelby had recommended it. Two thousand pounds was appropriated to build a wagon road thirty feet wide from Crab Orchard to Cumberland Gap.

It was understood that the Old Trace was to be enlarged and improved. Upon proposals being advertised for, the original trail blazer, Daniel Boone wrote Governor Shelby a letter, as follows:

feburey the 11th 1796

After my Rest respts to your Excelancy and famyly I wish to inform you that I have sum intention of undertaking this New Roade that is to be cut through the Wilderness and I thank My Self initeled to the ofer of the bisness as I first Marked out that Rode in March 1775 and Never re'd anything for my trubel and sepose I am no Statesman I am a Woodsman and think My Self as Capable of Marking and Cutting that Roade as any other man Sir is you think with Me I would thank you to wright me a Line by the post the first oportuneaty and he will Lodge it at Mr. John Miler son Hinkston fork as I wish to know Where and When it is to be Last So that I may attend at the time I am Deer Sir your very omble servent.

(signed) Daniel Boone

To his Excelancy governor Shelby

Boone did not receive the business.

The new road was opened to traffic in 1796. It followed the direction of the Boone Trace, but by taking a more direct route, lessioned the distance between Crab Orchard and Cumberland Gap.

The line of the old road between London and Flat Lick extended via the Laurel River, Lick Creek and Knox Fork of Richland Creek into the valley of the Richland. Then the course, known as the old State Road cutoff, with a grade of seventy-nine feet per mile


for six thousand, one hundred feet, ascended to a path in the Kentucky Ridge and descended with a grade of sixty-six feet per mile for six thousand, four hundred feet into the valley of Collin's Fork. It passed over a low ridge into the valley of Little Richland Creek, which it followed for three miles, crossing a low ridge into the fighting Creek Valley, which it traversed for two miles. Crossing Turkey Creek and Stinking Creek to Flat Lick, it continued via the right bank of the Cumberland River to the crossing near Pineville and on through Pineville Narrows (3000 feet) via Patterson's Branch to Cumberland Gap.

In 1814, the following distances were given:

Crab Orchard to Hazel Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 miles
To Riceton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 miles
Raccoon Spring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 miles
Middleston's . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 miles
Flat Lick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 miles
Cumberland River . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 miles
Cumberland Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 miles

The above description is accurate and due to the sinuously of the road the distances may be correct.

Numerous changes were made in the original route throughout its entire course. The same authorities, quoted above, are again cited to show the route after such changes;

The new line, noted in 1822, was identical as far as Richland Creek, but it passed down that stream into Barbourville and continued along the right bank of the Cumberland River, which it abandoned after crossing Fighting and Stinking Creeks, and passed along the cut off bend to Flat Lick.

Another and far more important change was made, which the following Knox County order, dated February 22, 1864:

In pursuance of an act of Assembly, passed 25th day of January 1864, giving to the County Court the right to sectionize the Turnpike and Wilderness Road in Knox County, and to appoint overseers to work the same, it is ordered that H.B. Campbell be, and he is hereby appointed, overseer of that portion of the road commencing at Cumberland Gap to the Widow Davison's, known as Section No. 1, and also that Wm. H. Baughman, be and he is hereby appointed, overseer of that portion of road from the Widow Davison's to the foot of Log Mountain above Mrs. Moor's house, as Section No. 2, and that Rufus M. Moss be, and he is hereby appointed, overseer of that portion of road from the foot of Log Mountain as Section No. 3 also that G. Hendrickson be, and he is hereby appointed, overseer of that portion of road from Cumberland River to Spencer Ball's, known as Section No. 4, also that James Ingrum. be, and he is hereby appointed, overseer of that portion of the road from Spencer Ball's to the forks of the road at A. Hunter's known as Section No. 5, and that Anthony Hinkle be, and he is hereby appointed overseer of that portion of road from the fork at Hunter's to Uriah Smith's

known as Section No. 6, and that Uriah Smith be, and he is appointed, overseer of the road from said Smith's to Barbourville Court House, known as Section No. 7, and that L.G. Dickinson be appointed overseer from the Court House to the top of the ridge the other side of Arch Brittain's, known as Section No. 8, and that Elijah Trosper be, and he is hereby appointed overseer of that portion known as Section No. 9, and that Alex Cole be and he is hereby appointed, overseer of that portion of road from Brafford's to the County Line, known as Section No. 10.

The above change in the old route was made effective in 1839. The road passed to the north of Grays, and over the waters of Lynn Camp Creek. Most of the traffic through Barbourville continued over this route until the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company built a line to Woodbine in 1883.

In 1861 a local change was ordered ratified and confirmed as follows:

On motion of the commissioners an the Wilderness Turnpike Road, satisfactory proof having been made that it is difficult and expensive to keep a bridge across Clear Creek where the said road crosses said stream and that with very little expense the road could be so changed as to avoid said bridge and have a shallow ford across said stream, and that said change could be beneficial to the traveling publick, and Rufus Moss, the present occupant and owner of the land, having given his consent and having bound himself to be responsible for all damages to all the other owners of said land and the said change having been made, as follows: leaving the State Road at the foot of the bluff on the south side of Clear Creek near the old bridge, running thence up said creek about one hundred yards to a shallow ford in the bend of the creek, running thence along a ridge to the foot of the Pine Mountain, and running thence with the foot of said mountain to the State Road.

It must not be thought, however, that the original route was abandoned. A Knox County Court order, dated April 25, 1864, reads as follows:

Ordered that Elisha Howard be, and he is hereby appointed, overseer of the Old State Road from the fork of the toll gate to the top of the Paint Hill, Section No. 1, and that Isaac Hawn be and he is hereby appointed, overseer of the Old Road from the top of Paint Hill to the bridge on Little Richland Creek, being Section No. 2, and the F.G. Burnett be, and he is hereby appointed, overseer on that portion of the Old State Road from. Richland Bridge at Section No. 2 to the bridge over Big Richland Section No. 3, also that William Gilbert be appointed overseer of that portion of the Old State Road from the bridge on Big Richland to the County of Laurel Line.

The Paint Hill referred to must not be confused with the Paint Hill on the Barbourville road at the head of Smoky Creek. This Paint Hill is the one on which Ewing Callahan now lives between Barbourville and Baughman. Between 1793 and 1800, when guards were stationed at Middleton's, the hill received its name.

Renegade whites, painted like Indians often held up and robbed travelers on the sides of the hill. Thus it became known as the Painted Hill, later shortened to Paint Hill. The house now occupied by Mr. Callahan is only a part of the original, which was operated first as a tavern by David Johnson in 1807.

During the Civil War in 1862, the county court complained of the damages to the Old State Road made by Federal Forces as follows:

It appearing to the satisfaction of the Knox County Court that the Government wagons have greatly injured and nearly destroyed the Wilderness Turnpike Road running from Cumberland Gap to John Pitman's, as well as the bridges on said road; that said road is a State Road; that there is a toll gate on said road established by law and that none of the Government employers have paid toll on said road. It is ordered that the Clerk of this Court certify those facts to the Senators and Representatives in Congress from this state request of them to urge immediately the passage of an act making an appropriation of twenty thousand dollars for the benefit of said road, not as an internal improvement measure, but as a matter of justice.

There is one remarkable fact about the management of the Old State Road. Although, several miles of the road were within the limits of Harlan County, from its establishment in 1819 until 1867, date of the erection of Bell County and toll gates were later built across the road in Bell County, and that portion of the road from the Knox Line to John Pitman's was in Laurel County, the Knox County Court continued to control and manage it.

To show the location of the road during this time, above mentioned, the following report of commissioners was submitted to the Knox County Court:

In pursuance of an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, approved December 16, 1823, to run the dividing line between the Counties of Knox and Harlan, the undersigned met at Cumberland Gap on the 19th day of July 1824, and after ascertaining the course of said line agreeably to said act we proceeded from the mouth of Straight Creek, thence S. 15 W. 320 poles on the clift opposite from the Turnpike Gate, 474 poles crossing Clear Creek, 812 poles crossing the road leading up Clear Creek, 2720 poles crossing the Dick Fork of Yellow Creek, 3520 poles crossing Beam Fork of Yellow Creek, thence over the Fork Ridge, a spur of Black Mingo Mountain, passing a point five miles west of Cumberland Gap, 4200 poles to Bemett's Fork of Yellow Creek, in all 4300 poles to five hickories, two lynns, three buckeyes, a poplar, a black and a white walnut trees standing on the north side of Black Mingo Mountain on the State Line between Kentucky and Tennessee. This 29th July 1824

(signed)George W. Craig
Benjamin Tuggle



An act, passed by the General Assembly March 1, 1797, provided for the erection of a turnpike gate, or toll gate. The gate was erected in 1798 in the Narrows above Cumberland Ford on the Pineville side of the Narrows at the present bridge across Cumberland River, and was the only one until 1830.

Tolls were as follows:

All persons except post riders, express, women, and children
under ten years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 pence
Horse, mule or mare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 pence
Carriage with two wheels. . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 shillings
Carriage with four wheels . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 shillings
Head of meat cattle going eastward. . . . . 3 pence

Six shillings made one dollar and three pence made four and one-half cents.

Robert Craig was the first toll gate keeper, in the place of John Thurman who had refused to serve. His duties were to keep the road in repair, make bridges and etc. All the profit was to be given to him. On wheel carriages the toll was reduced one-half in 1798 and the toll gate was farmed out to the highest bidder for one year only.

In 1799 the Governor was enpowered to lease for any term of years, not to exceed five, the gate to the highest bidder. The successful bidder had to furnish $500.00 bond.

December 20, 1802, the Governor authorized to appoint a commissioner of the Wilderness Road. The one so appointed was to receive two dollars per day for the time he actually worked. The gate keeper, also appointed by the Governor, was to receive two hundred dollars per year.

Toll rates at this time had been changed, as follows:

Each wheel per carriage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 1/2 cents
Each person above ten years . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 cents; 2 1/2 miles.
Each horse or beast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 cents; 2 1/2 miles.
Each head of meat cattle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 cents
Each hog or sheep . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 cent

The General Assembly, December 19, 1804, divided up the road. The Knox County Court was given supervision of the part of the road from the Forty Mile Tree to Cumberland Gap. The commissioner, appointed by the court, was to receive three fifths of the total gate receipts after Madison County's share had been deducted.

John Alsup Jr. was appointed the first commissioner of the turnpike road leading from the top of Cumberland Gap to the Forty Mile Tree an the State Road by the Knox County Court in 1804. It was ordered that he receive for his services nine shillings


per day as commissioner while employed.

At the March 1805 term of the Knox County Court he made the following

May 26th to cash received . . . . . . . . . $404.00
June 10th to cash received . . . . . . . . . 44.00
July 20th to cash received . . . . . . . . . 40.50
Sept. 19th to cash received . . . . . . . . . 124.00
Oct. 30th to cash received . . . . . . . . . 62.00
TOTAL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $674.50

CONTRA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Credit

by cash paid John Dougherty for 11 3/4 steel pr.,
16 lbs. iron at 2-6 and iron at 9 pence . . . . . . . . . .Ll-9-4 1/2
By John Ballinger for 457# iron at 9 pence. . . . . . . . . 1-2-0
By d. for oxen and driver, 2 Nos. at 25 d., l5by
John Barbour. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15-0-0
By John Barbour for 69 lbs. Iron at 9 pence . . . . . . . . 1-3-9
By Thomas Graham for smith work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-11-0
By David Webb for work at 10:00P.M .. . . . . . . . . . . . 7-2-6
By Willian Webb for work at 10:00 P.M . . . . . . . . . . . 4-11-10
By Wm. Freeman for work at 10:00 P.M. . . . . . . . . . . . 4-11-10
By George James for 200 bacon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-11-10
By Moses Brown for three days work. . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-1-0
By Stephen Smith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-9-0
By Richard Ballinger for sundries . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-6-0
By James Bates for work at 10d . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-11-0
By Joseph Girffith for b-smith work . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-1-0
By William Sam for sundries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-9-0
By James Lyons for pork . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-13-0
By James Allsop for pork. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-10-0
By Moses Dorton for sundries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-15-0
By Shite & Daugherty for sundries . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9-0-0
By William Hogan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-3-0
By Charles Stewart for beef and pork. . . . . . . . . . . . 2-10-0
By Charles Stewart for beef and pork. . . . . . . . . . . . 2-10-4 1/2
By William Robenson for meal at 2-6 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-10-9
By Joseph Ballow for 1 1/2 months . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-0-0
By Jacob Baughman for work and beef . . . . . . . . . . . . 6-0-0
By Wm. Tinsley for cart wheels, etc . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-12-6
By David Webb for work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-12-0
By Keyton Murry & John Holcomb blacksmith . . . . . . . . . 0-16-7
By Richard Davis for provisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-0-9
By Joseph Ballow for 170 lbs bacon at 10p . . . . . . . . . 5-3-0
By Nat Herberd & Daniel Miller for sundries . . . . . . . . 0-12-0
By Wm. White & George Thornsbury for sundries . . . . . . . 0-11-3
By John Gordan for work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-10-0
By Thomas Begley for beef, etc .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-12-6


By Moses McSpadden. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-3-0
By Joseph Perce for work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-12-2
By Richardson Herdon for work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-0-0
By Isaac Martin for cart and oxen . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-6-0
By Daniel Alsup for 3 3/4 months work at $12. . . . . . . . 13-5-0
By Arthur Neil for 2/3 of a month's work. . . . . . . . . . 2-8-0
By act. for 336 lbs of beef at 18-8 per 100 . . . . . . . . 2-15-9
By Wm. Alexander for work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-13-9
By Joseph Riley for sundries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-2-0
By Old Mr. Hammons for sundries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-15-2
By Obadiah Payne for work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-10-3
By Reason Wheat for work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-12-0
By Hugh Hales for one deed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-6-0
By Gidian Smith for 5 months, 10 days . . . . . . . . . . . 16-0-0
By Richard Pierce for 12 days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-6-6
By Reynolds for four days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-10-0
By 3 bushels corn furnished . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-9-0
By 1 horse furnished 72 days. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-10-0
By John Walker for 129 lbs of beef at 16-8. . . . . . . . . 1-1-6
By John Barbour for packing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-4-6
By Thomas Johnson for sundries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-10-0
By Moses Hignight for 1 bushel salt . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-12-0
By Wm. Spencer for 2 lbs steel at 2-9 . . . . . . . . . . . 0-5-6
By his services for 4 months, 12 days at 9. . . . . . . . . 59-8-0
TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . L 236-7-5

The above account was sworn to in open court and ordered to be recorded. It will be noted the gatekeeper collected his tolls in dollars and cents but paid his expenses in pounds, shillings and pence.

An act of December 21, 1805, provided for a redivision of the road. Knox County was apportioned that part between Cumberland Gap and the Sixty-one Mile Tree, and was to receive one-half of the toll, the remainder to be divided between Lincoln and Madison Counties in proportion to their respective road mileage.

To show that gate keepers and commissioners were held strictly accountable for the up-keep of the road it is recorded that in 1802, Thomas Moor (Moore) keeper of the Turnpike Road leading to Cumberland Gap was presented (indicated) for not keeping it in repair. At the October term of Circuit Court in 1807, John Alsup was also presented for not keeping the State Road in repair.

In 1810 the General Assembly exempted citizens of Knox County and their property from the payment of tolls. This law was repealed February 24, 1824.

By 1816 ferries instead of bridges and fords were being used. Ferriage rates were as follows:

Wagon and team . . . . . . . . . $0.50


Two wheel carriage . . . . . . . 0.25
Man and horse. . . . . . . . . . 0.12 1/2
Single horse, mare or mule . . . 0.06 1/4
Head of cattle, sheep or goats . 0.01
Foot passengers. . . . . . . . . 0.06 1/4

Click here to read it all!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Will of Joseph Gibson - 1790

Will of Joseph Gibson - 1790
In the Name of God Amen, I Joseph Gibson Senior of Rockingham County in the State of North Carolina, being very sick and weak of body, but of perfect
mind and memory thanks be given unto God, calling unto mind the mortality of
my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and
ordain this my last Will and Testament that is to say principally and first
of all, I give and recommend my soul unto the hand of Almighty God that gave
it, and my body I recommend to the earth, to be buried in decent Christian
Burial at the discretion of my Executors nothing doubting but at the General
Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God and as
touching such worldly Estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this
life, I give, devisee and dispose of the same in the following manner and

First I lend to my Dearly beloved wife, Elizabeth Gibson the Tract of Land
whereon I now live containing two hundred fifty nine acres to the same more
or less together with all my personal Estate of what kind so ever during her
natural life, and after her Death my Will and Desire is that my Executor or
Executrix shall sell the said Tract of two hundred & fifty nine acres of land
and all the remaining part of the said personal Estate and the monies to be
Equally divided between William Hand and part of Children to Wit, John
Gibson, Joseph Gibson, Joshua Gibson, Absolom Gibson, Hezekiah Gibson,
Elizabeth Gibson, Sarah Gibson and Thesney Gibson, to them and there Heirs

Secondly, I give and bequeath to my Daughter, Mary Field the Sum of two
pounds Current money.

Thirdly, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Ann Pratt the sum of Two pounds
Current money.

Fourthly, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Betty Williams the wife of
William Williams, the Sum of five Shillings Sterling Money.

Fifthly, I give and bequeath to my Son Randolph Gibson five Shillings
Sterling Money - to be paid them by my Executor or Executrix after the Death
of my Said wife Elizabeth.

Lastly, I appoint my two sons John Gibson, Joseph Gibson & my son in law John
Fields Executors of this my last Will & Testament revoking all former will by
me made ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my Last Will &
Testament. In Witness whereof I have here unto set my hand and Seal the
Twenty eighth Day of February in the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven
Hundred and Ninety.

Signed Sealed Published, Pronounced and Declared by the Said Joseph Gibson,
Senior as his Last will and Testament in the presence of we who in his
presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto Subscribed our Names.
Allen David? (Dode?)
Christopher Hand Joseph Gibson (seal)
George Peay, Senior

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, NC - WILLS - Index, Rockingham Co. N.C. Will Bk.

Edith Bolling Wilson: America's First Native American First Lady?

by John Powell

A partially finished beaded belt on a small wooden hand loom, purportedly the handiwork of Pocahontas, presented to Mrs. Wilson by Sarah Wilber of Shawano, Wisconsin in January 1916.

Did you know that First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson was a direct descendant of the famous Native American, Pocahontas? It's true, although not everyone is aware of the fact. Mrs. Wilson was proud of her connection to the legendary princess and surrounded herself with depictions of her illustrious ancestor. These mementos, pictured here, can be seen today on a visit to Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site in Washington, DC.

Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, the powerful chief of the Algonquian Indians who lived in the Virginia region. She was born around 1595 to one of Powhatan's many wives. Her tribal name was Matoaka ("Pocahontas" was a nickname meaning "Little Wanton.") Pocahontas first became acquainted with the English colonists who settled in Jamestown around 1607. In 1614 she converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe, a Jamestown colonist. In 1616 Pocahontas, together with her husband and their young son, Thomas, traveled to England. There Pocahontas was presented to King James I, the royal family, and the rest of London society. Before returning to Virginia, Pocahontas fell ill. She died in Gravesend, England in March 1617. Thomas Rolfe, the couple's only son, returned to Virginia in 1635 at the age of 20. His daughter, Jane Rolfe, married Colonel Robert Bolling, a direct ancestor (7 times removed) of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. The descendants of Jane Rolfe Bolling, including Edith, were known as "Red Bollings" as opposed to "White Bollings," because of their Indian heritage.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Artifacts from Vardy,

Digital Library of Appalachia

Artifacts from Vardy, Hancock County,Tennessee

Katherine Vande Brake
Professor of English and Technical Communication
King College, Bristol, TN

The items from Vardy that E. W. King Library at King College contributes to the DLA collection restate the themes so clearly outlined in Michael Joslin's introductory essay to the digital library project--community, isolation, religion, literacy, and hard work. However, these photographs, records of the Vardy Presbyterian Church, and other documents also expand the collection in an important way. Many of the people who lived in the Vardy community were descendants of the Melungeons and can trace their family lines back to the first Melungeons in Tennessee--Vardiman Collins, Shepherd Gibson, and Irish Jim Mullins who came to take up land grants in what was then Hawkins County shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. So the Vardy artifacts provide an opportunity to see and understand how a significant Appalachian minority group lived and worked in the first half of the twentieth century. They also show the effect of missionary work in the southern mountains.

To visit this online essay and photographic exhibit: Click Here.

To view all recent posts click here:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Claiborne County Genealogy

Claiborne County Genealogy and History

We often speak of Hawkins County, to the east and southeast of Hancock County and Newmans Ridge because Hancock County was created from it and many old records pertaining to the Melungeons are located in its archive. However, Claiborne County, Tennessee, immediately to the west of Hancock County and Newsmans Ridge, may also be of interest to you.

To visit its GenWeb site: Click Here.

To locate GenWeb sites for other counties of interest: Click Here.

Melungeons Ways Are Passing

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

By Willard Yarbrough
News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Sneedville, Tenn
April 26, 1972

Spring air was nippy along Blackwater Creek in Vardy Valley. So chilly, in fact, that Howard Mullins lifted his hands with palms exposed to coal fed flames of the open fire. Such delicate hands, calloused from field work and 110 winters spent in isolated hill country where necessities of life long since have become luxuries to a mysterious people to whom Mullins belongs. He is one of the last of the Melungeons, oldest of them all in Hancock County, which has been home to the Melungeons for 200 years.

Those left in Snake Hollow, Blackwater, Vardy and Mulberry - are few in number, Most have left the hills for jobs in cities far and near. And time is catching up with those remaining. In 1931 there were 40 Melungeon families living on Newman's Ridge above their ancestral home. Today, only two families remain on the steep ridges. Genealogist William P. Grohse Sr., who lives near Mullins, estimates there may be under 200 families left in the country.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Geographic Location of the Melungeons

The Melungeon Historical Society blog editor, Dennis Maggard, has been ill recently and while recovering is without Internet access. In order that the regular subscribers receive some of the excellent posts previously published here, we will re-post some of the best.


by Joanne Pezullo

Beginning in 1849 and to this very day the researchers have headed to Newman's Ridge to find the Melungeons.


You must know that within ten miles of this owl's nest, there is a watering-place, known hereabouts as 'black-water Springs.' It is situated in a narrow gorge, scarcely half a mile wide, between Powell's Mountain and the Copper Ridge, and is, as you may suppose, almost inaccessible. A hundred men could defend the pass against even a Xerxian army. Now this gorge and the tops and sides of the adjoining mountains are inhabited by a singular species of the human animal called MELUNGENS.


It appears that the Melungeons originally came into east Tennessee from North Carolina, and the larger number settled in what was at that time Hawkins County, but which is now Hancock. I have not been able to hear of them in any of the lower counties of east Tennessee, and those I have seen myself were in Cocke county, bordering on North Carolina.


The Ridge proper is the home of the Melungeons. These people, of whom so little is known, inhabit an isolated corner of the earth, known as Newman’s ridge, in Hancock county. First, I saw in an old newspaper some slight mention of them. With this tiny clue I followed their trail for three years. The paper merely stated that “somewhere in the mountains of Tennessee there existed a remnant of people called Malungeons,......I merely mention all this to show how the Malungeons of today are regarded, and to show how I tracked them to Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County.....


The Blackwater Valley lies between Mulberry and Newman’s Ridges, and is from half a mile to mile wide. Twenty years ago it was still a wilderness, but is now under good cultivation, and divided into small farms upon which are rather poor dwellings and outbuildings. In this valley and along Newman’s Ridge, reaching into Lee County, Virginia, are settled the people called Melungeons. Some have gone into Kentucky, chiefly into Pike County, others are scattered in adjacent territory.

OTIS 1900

These people are called the Malungeons. ................ ......The Malungeons number between 400 and 500. They live on Black Water Creek, in Hancock County, which section they have inhabited for more than 100 years. ................ The records of Hancock County show that the Malungeon ancestors came to Powell's Valley as early as 1789, when they took up lands on the Black Water.


Greasy Rock Creek, a name by which it has ever since been known and called since, and here is the very place where these Melungeons settled, long after this, on Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater. ............these friendly “Indians” live in the mountains of Stony creek, but they have married among the whites until the race has almost become extinct. A few of the half bloods may be found-none darker- but they still retain the name of Collins and Gibson, &c. From here they came to Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater and many of them are here yet....


The northern end is drained by Blackwater Creek, which winds its way leisurely northeastward through narrow strips of verdant meadow land. Here, along the banks of this sparkling stream and on the top and eastern slope of Newman's Ridge, is the home of the Melungeons.


Occasionally the student of ethnology may stumble upon a community that is a puzzle, as, for example, that one occupied by the 'Malungeons' of upper East Tennessee.


So far as is known they were first found in Hancock County on Newman's Ridge, soon after the Revolutionary War. Now they are settled in several counties, although still most numerous in Hancock County.

PLECKER 1942-1930

We have in some of the counties of southwestern Virginia a number of so-called Melungeons who came into that section from Newmans Ridge, Hancock County, Tennessee..............

August 5, 1930
Mr. J.P. Kelly.Trustee of Schools,
Gap,Lee County, Virginia

Dear Sir: office has had a great deal of trouble in reference to the persistence of a group of people living in that section known as "Melungeons", whose families came from Newman's Ridge, Tennessee.


It seems the Melungeons came into Hancock County between 1810 and 1851.


From what I gathered from Uncle Wash, the Melungeons started coming to Wise and Scott Counties about 1820. These people came in about equal numbers from Kentucky from Newmans’ Ridge and lower end of Lee County. A few came from North Carolina.


Whatever they are—the Malungeons still are on Newman’s Ridge, in Hancock, Rhea and Hawkins counties of Tennessee, and a few across the border in Virginia. Many are scattered by ones or twos miles from the isolated ridge top they occupied for so long.


The persistent folk tale, however, insists that the Melungeons are unusual racially; it identifies them as a dark-skinned people whose center is on Newman's Ridge in Hancock County. The Newman's Ridge-Blackwater area seems to be the locality where they have the deepest roots.


colony of folks in this end of Tennessee settled along Newman's Ridge, and on Mulberry Creek in what is now Hancock County, and a few miles out from Sneedville.

DAVIS 1963

Trapped in poverty, snubbed by their fair-skinned neighbors, some of them withdrew to the poor land along Snake Hollow, deep in the rattlesnake-infested gorge in the shadow of towering Newman’s Ridge. Some of them settled along the northern end of the valley, at the Virginia line, where Blackwater Creek flows, and some settled on the Ridge.

BERRY 1963

For a century and a half, the prolific Melungeons have migrated in all directions from Newman's Ridge. .... There are fifteen hundred in Lee County, Virginia....Five hundred are in Scott Count, Virginia........A thousand are found in Wise County, where they are known as "Ramps."


The only true Melungeons left, however, reside in the nearby mountainside areas known as Snake Hollow and Mulberry Gap.


they occupied Newman's Ridge---rough and steep in places, but offering some table land and numerous hollows. Here they located near springs or creeks.

S. PRICE 1968

But whatever their origin, the group eventually settled in Hancock County, along Newman's Ridge and in settlements known as Blackwater, Snake Hollow and Vardy.


Newman’s Ridge overlooks Sneedville, a poor community of about 700 persons near the Virginia border. In the early 19th century nearly 350 Melungeons settled on the ridge, coming down into the valley only on rare occasions to forage for wild vegetables and sell moonshine whiskey. They lived apart from the whites for generations. The ridge was a hilltop sanctuary against the outside world and its prejudice.

FETTERMAN (Price) 1970

They bore the Melungeon names which appear on Newman's Ridge: Collins, Mullins, Brogan, Goins, Gibson, Bowlin. They were free of the restrictive legislation aimed at slaves and former slaves during the 1700s and 1800s.


Those left in Snake Hollow, Blackwater, Vardy and Mulberry - are few in number, Most have left the hills for jobs in cities far and near. And time is catching up with those remaining. In 1931 there were 40 Melungeon families living on Newman's Ridge above their ancestral home.

LYNCH 1973

And the white man forced them high into the Clinch Mountains, principally Newman's Ridge just outside present day Sneedville, Hancock County, Tennessee.

BIBLE 1975

In East Tennessee, they have spilled over into the neighboring counties in an extension of the Hancock County families...... ......... "Melungeon surnames were noted in southwestern Virginia as early as 1820, but the families were not classified until 1870, when the census enumerators in Lee County listed the county and state of birth of each person. Of forty-six families whos names suggest they were Melungeons, thirty had one or more members who had BEEN BORN IN HANCOCK or HAWKINS County. Eight had members born in Scott County, and at least one of these also had been born in HANCOCK COUNTY. One person was born in Letcher County, Kentucky of parents born in HANCOCK and Scott Counties. The adults of a Goins family (one of the few listed as mulatto) were born in Surry and Ashe Counties, North Carolina; their children were born in Knox, HANCOCK and Grainger Counties, Tennessee. This is the best direct evidence available to confirm the relationship between several different groups of Melungeons and the importance of NEWMAN'S RIDGE as a CENTER OF THEIR DISPERSAL, but it is evident that the secondary Melungeon localities were also fed from North Carolina and Virginia


Most of the mountain people refer to them as Blackwaters and Ridgemanites.” But even in that long gorge, winding some 20 miles in a half-mile-wide band between Newman’s Ridge and Powell Mountain there are few “pure Melungeons” left today.


The only people who were called Melungeon 100 years ago were those who lived in or near Hancock County, Tennessee--including Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties in southwest Virginia.

Historical Melungeons

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How many remember this song!

Friday, July 9, 2010

FTDNA offering special prices for Y-DNA upgrades

Y-DNA Upgrade Sale at Family Tree DNA

Those of our readers who have already Y Chromosome tested at Family Tree DNA of Houston, TX will be interested to learn of this special price on upgrades.

FTDNA is currently offering special prices for Y-DNA upgrades. The table below compares the regular surname group rates with the sale prices.

The promotion will end July 19, 2010. Kits need to be ordered and paid for by midnight on that date.

Click on the link below to go to the FTDNA web site. Then log in to your personal page and click on the special offers link in the left hand navigation bar.

Click for more info

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Known But to God" No Longer True for these Union Soldiers

No Longer ‘Known But To God’
By Joe Kirby
(July 2010 Civil War News)

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Brad Quinlin researches the identities of unknown soldiers buried in Marietta National Cemetery. (Courtesy Marietta Daily Journal)

MARIETTA, Ga. — Marietta National Cemetery is the final resting place for 10,312 Union casualties of the Civil War, 3,048 of them buried as “unknowns.” Now 16 of those men, whose identities were “known but to God,” have been identified thanks to local Civil War historian and researcher Brad Quinlin.

Quinlin said his identifications are “not guesswork — this is all from documentation.”

Over the past nine years he has used such information as where the soldiers were originally buried, where their units were from day to day, and rosters of the dead from each regiment in Sherman’s army to extrapolate the identities of the unknowns.

Even more important are records kept by the U.S. Army just after the war as it exhumed remains from the Northwest Georgia battlefields and hospitals where they had fallen and been hastily buried. Their remains then were transported to a spacious new military cemetery on 23 acres donated for that purpose by Henry Cole on a hilltop due east of downtown Marietta.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Cherokee Communities of the South

Cherokee Communities of the South

Robert K. Thomas
Cherokee Communities of the South was written by Mr. Thomas in the mid-70's. It includes a hand drawn map at the end and appears to be a result of some of Mr. Thomas' survey work in the southeastern United States during the summer of 1978 (?). It was submitted to the Consortium of American Indian Title IV Programs of Southeastern Michigan in 1979
Read the whole article here, click on "Download the Paper."