Friday, March 18, 2011

Federal researchers declare eastern cougar extinct

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The "ghost cat" is just that.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday declared the eastern cougar to be extinct, confirming a widely held belief among wildlife biologists that native populations of the big cat were wiped out by man a century ago.

After a lengthy review, federal officials concluded there are no breeding populations of cougars — also known as pumas, panthers, mountain lions and catamounts — in the eastern United States. Researchers believe the eastern cougar subspecies has probably been extinct since the 1930s.

For more: Click Here.

For more on eastern cougars in general: Click Here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The world’s largest free genealogy search engine,, provides genealogists access to the best free genealogy content on the web including billions of names, dates and places worldwide. seeks to index and make searchable all of the world’s free genealogy information. While discovers new sites every day, some of the existing sites searchable on include genealogy message boards, family trees, state and local historical societies, the Library of Congress, National Archives, Ellis Island, Find A Grave, the Internet Archive, various U.S. state archives, and many tens of thousands of genealogy sites built by individuals. Similar to other search engines, honors site owners by linking directly to their content.

Unlike such search as Google, Yahoo and Bing, endeavors to search only sites of genealogical interest.

To try it: Click Here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Black and White World of Walter Plecker

This link, the last in the current series of three Melungeon Studies Blog entries dealing with Dr. Walter Plecker, Registrar of the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, is to an article reviewing the life, character and motivations of this truly evil man.

To read the article: Click Here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Plecker Letters Pertaining to Melungeons

This is the second of a three-part series on the infamous Dr. Walter Plecker, Registrar of the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946. During the course of his documentary war on Virginia's Indians and on those whites he deemed not white enough to satisfy his racist ideals, the Melungeons and those of Melungeon descent did not escape his malevolent notice. The link below presents a number of his letters touching on the subject, including his list of "mongrel" surnames. Of particular interest, however, is his exchange of letters with the Tennessee State Archivist and Librarian specifically asking about the Melungeons and their origins. Note that he did not like the answer he received and made it clear he would ignore it.

To read Plecker's letters: Click Here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924

This begins a three-part series on the infamous Dr. Walter Plecker, Registrar of Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, who for decades conducted a racial inquisition in Virginia which resulted in all Virginia residents previously classified as being Indian and some previously classified as being white being reclassified, against their will, as "colored." Plecker's reign of documentary terror, which brought untold anguish and suffering to its victims, was buttressed and expanded by passage of the equally infamous Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an act largely inspired by Pecker himself, the full text of which follows below.

The next article in the series will deal with Plecker's efforts to ferret out and reclassify as "colored" Melungeon families in Virginia (along with many other families he regarded as "passing for white") and include his notorious list of "mongrel" surnames. For now it is worth mentioning that the activities of Dr. Plecker and the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 were cited at the Nuremberg war crimes trials in defense of Nazi racial laws and activities.

The Virginia Racial Integrity Act was declared unconstitutional in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in an unanimous decision, Loving v. Virginia, and was formally repealed by the Virginia legislature in 1975.

To read the Virginia Racial Integrity Act: Click Here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters

These online records are extensive and free. While the site allows you to dive right in by surname, do be sure not to miss the site's search engine, a link to which is at the top of the page.

To go to the database: Click Here.

This site is brought to us by the American Revolution Association located in Camden, South Carolina.

To go to its homepage: Click Here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Old Photographs of North American Indians

A collection of thousands of public domain photographs from many different photographers, representing North American Indian from many tribes and nations, taken from 1847 to the early 1900s.

To see the photographs: Click Here.

Note: You must have a Facebook account to access this site. Facebook accounts are free.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Which George Gibson?

Data Compiled by Joanne Pezzullo

There is much confusion over the George Gibsons in the many different counties. Some researchers have published that George Gibson, son of Gilbert went to Orange County, North Carolina and died there in 1776 with a wife Mary. It would appear however that George, son of Gilbert, stayed in Louisa County and was married to Susannah. So who was George Gibson charged with concealing titheables in Louisa County in 1745 and appears to have went to Orange County, North Carolina? He may have been the son of John Gibson of Bertie County, North Carolina who married to Elizabeth Lowe and died in 1776 with a wife Mary.

If the above is correct then what happened to George Sr., and George Jr., of Charles City County records in the 1750s? Is George Senior the brother of Jane the Indian woman? Who is George Gibson who is found in records with the Dodsons in 1733 and later in 1760s on Crooked Creek in Pittsylvania County?

For more, including a George Gibson timeline: Click Here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Graysville Melungeons

Tennessee Anthropologist
Vol. IV, Number 1 (1979)

The Graysville Melungeons
(A Tri-Racial People in Lower East Tennessee)

By Raymond Evans


Located approximately 30 miles north of Chattanooga, the community of Graysville, Tennessee contains one of the most stable Melungeon settlements in the state. Field work in the community conducted in conjunction with archival research demonstrates that the Melungeons, who now compose more than half of the local population, came from Hamilton County durning the latter half of the nineteenth century. Census records and other archival sources indicate that prior to comming to Hamilton County they had lived in Virginia and North Carolina. In Graysville, the Melungeons strongly deny their Black heritage and explain their genetic differences by claiming to have Cherokee grandmothers. Many of the local Whites also claim Cherokee ancestry and appear to accept the Melungeon claim.The racist discrimination common in Hancock County and in other Melungeon communities is absent in Graysville. Here, the Melungeons interact in all phases of community life,and exogamy with local Whites is common practice.- Goins- and the term "Melungeon" is not used by the people or by their neighbors. Recent field observations of the Graysville Melungeons differ in no way from that of any other small southern Appalachian community.

To read this paper: Click Here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Melungeons

By Bonnie Ball

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia
No. 2 - 1966, Pages 47 - 52
A Publication of the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia

A generation ago census records of certain mountainous counties of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Carolina, and others proved somewhat confusing. This was due to the presence of a strange group of people whose origin was, and has remained, one of the deepest and most fascinating mysteries of American ethnology.

The "Melungeons" who were called "ramps" in certain areas by their neighbors, have characteristics that range from those of the whites and American Indians to Orientals or Negroes. This variation prevented a definite race classification, and has also given rise to numerous theories concerning their origin.

Some had dark, oily skin, kinky hair, upturned noses and dark stoic eyes. Others, even in the same family had coarse bronzed skin, with straight black hair. Still others, close relatives, differed little from their white neighbors, perhaps having brown or light, fuzzy hair, fair or medium skin, and dark blue or gray eyes. Then there were others among them that had smooth, yellowish skin, curly brown or black hair, and dreamy, almost Oriental eyes.

It would be impossible to make any accurate estimate of how many such people were scattered throughout the mountains of the Southern Appalachians, but it can be assumed that their number fifty years ago would have run into at least five digits.

According to Bruce Crawford, a former newspaperman, and leading student of ethnology of the Appalachian area, the Melungeons were officially recognized about 1887 and given a separate legal existence under the title of "Croatan Indians" on the theory of their descent from Raleigh's Lost Colony of Roanoke Island (North Carolina), a convenient means of disposal, but hardly satisfying to the inquisitive historian.

The older Melungeons insisted that they were Portuguese. I have known the Melungeons from childhood, when three families lived as tenants on my father's farm in Southwestern Virginia. Their children have been my pupils, and I have done first-hand research on their traits, customs, and past, but can give here only the proposed theories of their origin.

Mr. Crawford's research revealed that when John Sevier organized the state of Franklin (Tennessee) there was a colony of "dark-skinned, reddish-brown complexioned people supposed to be of Moorish descent." They were neither Indians nor Negroes, but claimed to be Portuguese.

There is a doubtful theory that the Melungeon was a product of frontier warfare when white blood was fused with the Indian captor's and that of the Negro slave.

There also persist stories (that are recorded in history) that DeSoto visited Southwestern Virginia in the sixteenth century by way of a long chain of mountain leading into Tennessee. One ridge known as "Newman's Ridge" (which could have been "New Man's Ridge") was once the home of a teeming colony of Melungeons who were strongly believed to have descended from members of DeSoto's party lost or captured there.

In both Carolinas Melungeons were denied privileges usually granted to white people. For that reason many migrated to Tennessee where the courts ruled that they were not Negroes.

Traditions still persist that the Melungeons were descendants of the ancient Phoenicians who migrated from Carthage to Morocco, whenced they crossed the Atlantic before the American Revolution and settled in North Carolina. If this theory can be accepted, they were pure Carthaginians, and not a mixed race.

In weighing this last statement it is interesting to note that the Moors of Tennessee called themselves Portuguese, that the Moors of North Carolina came from Portugal, and that a generation ago the Melungeons called themselves Portuguese.

Yet there are factors that are puzzling in these assumptions. Such common surnames among them as Collins, Gipson (Gibson), Sexton, Bolen, Goins, and Mullens suggest no Phoenician background. And there is nothing about the word "ramp" to suggest a shy, usually inoffensive race of people. Neither is there any known reason for usage of the word "Melungeon" which is believed to have been derived from the French word "melange," meaning mixture.

The Melungeons were sometimes shy and reticent toward outlanders, but amiable with neighbors. They were loyal to their kin and employers. While they were fond of whiskey few were boisterous or malicious. I recall a story often told by my father, who was reared only a few miles from Newman's Ridge, about "Big Mahala Mullens" who lived on the Virginia-Tennessee state line. She grew so obese that she was unable to leave her house, and sat at the door all day selling whiskey to travelers. When she discovered the approach of revenue officials she waddled over to the Virginia side of her house if they approached from the Tennessee side, and vice versa if from Virginia. The act was probably unnecessary, since the authorities could not have removed her from the house. When Mahala died the chimney was torn away in order that she could be removed for burial.

Practically all Melungeons preferred a care-free existence with members of their own clan. For many generations they seldom married outsiders, and virtually all families in each area were related. Nearly all Melungeons, young and old chewed tobacco. They lived largely on bacon, corn pone, mush, and strong coffee. In early spring they gathered "crow's foot" from the woodlands, and "bear's lettuce" from spring branches, and ate them raw with salt. They liked wild fruits and berries to eat from the bush, but cared nothing for canning and preserving them. The holiday for Melungeon men was a week in late summer, after the crops were laid by, to be used for a ginseng expedition. No camping equipment was taken along except a water pail, knives, and a frying pan. They slept under the cliffs.

No fisherman could compete with the Melungeons. He simply waded into the stream, shoes and all, and searched with his fingers for fish hiding under stones. It no time he emerged with a nice string of fish.

Theirs was a hardy race, and seldom did they rely on a doctor. They applied many home remedies for injuries and brewed herb teas. Childbirth was a casual matter, usually attended by mountain midwife. Babies, as a rule, grew and thrived without any pretense of comfort or sanitation.

Their religion was of the simple Protestant type. They often attended their neighbors' churches, and occasionally had a patriarch-preacher in their group. They learned some of the old ballads and gospel songs from memory, for few of them could read or write. They accepted attendance at school, in most cases, an "unnecessary evil." Church picnics were always attended by Melungeon boys, but my mother once had a difficult time persuading young Willie that he must have a bath and wear a suit in order to participate in a children's day program. So he appeared, grinning broadly, in my brother's hand-me-down.

Then came industry to the Appalachians - coal, timbering, and railroads. The change was slow. World War I drew Melungeons into industry as well as military service. Coal towns grew up rapidly, and the Melungeon, like other tenant farmers, loaded up his few belongings on a wagon and headed for the "public works." A few remained behind and bought little hillside farms. For some reason their number appears to have decreased sharply in the past three decades, probably a result of long intermarriage, or perhaps many have been lost in white blood. Soon they may become just a legend - a lost race.

Note: Bonnie Ball was an early Melungeon researcher who wrote a number of books and articles about them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Founded in 1939, the Research Laboratories of Archaeology (RLA) was the first center for the study of North Carolina archaeology. Serving the interests of students, scholars, and the general public, it is currently one of the leading institutes for archaeological teaching and research in the South. Located within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's College of Arts and Sciences, it provides support for faculty and students working not only in North Carolina, but also throughout the Americas and overseas.

With one of the nation's finest collections of archaeological materials from the South, the RLA curates more than five million artifacts along with more than 50,000 photographic negatives, photographs, and slides. Over the past 60 years, virtually all of the major discoveries in the understanding of North Carolina's ancient past can be attributed to the RLA or to researchers trained there.

For more about the RLA: Click Here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Malungeon Town

Kingsport Times - 1923

Judge Lewis Shepherd, who has made a close study of the Melungeons, extending over a period of years, says that in a case of law in which he represented a Melungeon girl the question arose as to whether the Melungeons had negro blood in their veins. He said:

"A colony of these Moors crossed the Atlantic before the Revolutionary War and settled on the coast of South Carolina. They multiplied rapidly and by this industry and energy they accumulated considerable property. The South Carolina people, however, would not receive them on terms of equality. They refused to recognize them specially and would not allow the children to go to school with them.

"In fact they believed they were free negroes and treated them as such. By the laws of South Carolina a per capita tax was levied against free negroes and the tax authorities continuously harassed them by efforts to collect the tax. Under this rigid proscription of the proud people of South Carolina their condition became intolerable and so they migrated in a body and settled after a long and wandering journey through the wilderness in Hancock County, Tennessee."

To continue reading: Click Here.