Melungeon-L ArchivesArchiver > Melungeon > 2006-07 > 1154290690
Subject: Review: From Newman's Ridge, Tennessee to Southeastern Kentucky Highlands
Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2006 16:18:10 EDT
From Newman's Ridge, Tennessee to Southeastern Kentucky Highlands: (Trail of
the Portuguese, Indian and English Mixed Clans)
By Norm Isaac 1983
From the frontispiece map of total area of Portuguese mixed clans in this
book are the following places:
Hancock County; Newman Ridge; Sneedville; Mulberry Gap
Rose-Hill (Martins Station); Jonesville (Glade Spring); Pennington Gap; Big
Pineville; Bell County; Harlan; Whitesburg, Letcher County; Pikeville;
Manchester, Clay County; Hyden, Leslie County; Hazard, Perry County; Handman,
Knott County; Prestonburg, Floyd County; Lexington; Jackson, Breathitt County;
Salyersville; Paintsville, Johnson County; Boone's Camp; Inez, Martin County.
Nowhere in this book is the term Melungeon used, but the fact that there was
a derogatory term used to describe the earliest settlers in the mountains of
Tennessee and Kentucky is mentioned. The author uses the term "Portuguese
Mixed Clans" or "mixed Portuguese kinfolk on the Ridge."
The author begins by talking about Mahala Mullins noting a visit to her old
house on the Ridge. He notes that he "found her grave in the little cemetery
near her homestead." "The grave covered an area about six feet wide by eight
feet long and was sunken two and one-half feet deep."
His description of how he got to the Ridge is of interest. Accompanied by
Ms. Martha Collins, a descendant and Mr. Tom Zackery, (the high school
principal) he notes that he was "guided through the old barbed wire, chopping small
trees and bushes and digging out rocks to make a trail for the Jeep to the
old home of Mahala Mullens."
He says the farmstead sits directly above an almost sheer cliff of probably
one thousand feet. The house itself he reports was mostly papered with
several layers of newspaper both upstairs and down. He noted a huge fireplace at
the north end of the building with a smaller one on the south side. The bigger
of the two fireplaces was unfinished when Mahala died, so she was taken to
the cemetery from the enlarged hole of that fireplace. North of the house, and
eastward of the cemetery, the land began to be meadow-like with an apple
orchard which ran flat to the very edge of the cliff.
The author notes that in pioneer times, Newman Ridge was named for an early
longhunter named Walter Newman who hunted the area in the years from 1763-1775
and to 1785. He notes that the mixed Portuguese people were living on the
Ridge at that time, but no mention of them was made by either Newman or Daniel
Boone. How he knows this to be so, he does not explain.
He does mention Governor Sevier recognizing the mixed settlers in the
1780's. He says that the Cherokee called them "white Indians": and mentions the
huge bell they used to alert the others that strangers were in the area. He
notes that probably after 1785 and the surge of Revolutionary War veterans, the
folks farming the bottom lands were forced up onto Newman's Ridge. The author
notes that both he and Ms. Martha Collins believe that the Portuguese came
into the mountains from a Portuguese ship or shipwrecked sailors. He says this
incursion may have been as early as shortly after 1600 or a few years
before. He notes the Portuguese soldiers with DeSoto when he traveled through the
high ridges in the sixteenth century, but mostly they came, he believes, from
the Carolinas, some of them marrying into the various tribes east of Newman
Ridge as well as the white traders commonly found in the area.
The author notes that he tried everything he could to set up a memorial for
Mahala Mullens and that many of her descendants and local folks supported the
idea. He notes that he wrote to Ms. Bonnie Ball of Big Stone Gap, who also
supported the idea as did Jean Patterson Bible of Dandridge, TN. He notes that
the Park Conservation Department at Knoxville sent a representative to
Sneedville and Hancock County who wrote that not enough people were interested in
Among the surnames the author mentions as early members of the colony were
Mullens and Vardaman Collins, and Denham, a Portuguese shipwrecked sailor. An
important note here is that the author says that both Ms Bible and Ms Ball
recognized that a majority of the original residents and their descendants
migrated to more northerly sections of the country.
The author notes the possible inclusion of Basque ancestry amongst the
Melungeons (MPC) since from that area, boats traveled to America in the time of
Columbus and later. Other names mentioned were Bowling or Bowlin, Gibson,
Goins, Gilbert, Campbell, Manis, Sexton and Bell.
As to why the Melungeons migrated, the author offers up the theory that coal
mining lured them at the turn of the century. (1900)
It is at this point that the author begins to spend more time on strip
mining than Melungeons, but he lists many of the disastrous strip mining sites in
Kentucky and Virginia as places that the Mixed Portuguese Clans migrated and
notes that he fought against these in any way that he could.
The author lists the Kentucky counties of Johnson, Pike, Bell, Harlan, Knox,
Clay, Owsley, Leslie, Perry and Breathitt as having a good number of the
Mixed Clans. And he mentions Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky.
Alice Lloyd came to the area from Boston and with grit and determination began to
teach the children of the area. The author mentions that he has heard of both
oral and written biographies of the pioneers of the area, many of whom he
believes to be Melungeon. I have written an e-mail to the college to see if
indeed it has such in its archives. I will let you know when I hear from them.
The remainder of this book deals with trips and travels through the areas
that the author believes are Melungeon (Mixed Portuguese Clans). On page 90, he
notes that "I have interviewed many people and families of Portuguese Mixed
Clans from Viper to Perry County to Lilly Cornett's Woods in Letcher County,
Whitesburg, Hindman in Knott County, Salyersville, Magoffin, and Prestonburg
in Floyd. Sometimes a real true gender of a descendant of these people is
found - - mostly in the Mullens (Mahala's kinfolks, no doubt), Collins and Gibson
progeny. (These were all of the founding of the Portuguese Mixed Clans.
There are possibly thirty to forty different families of authentic individuals of
the Newman Ridge kith and kin who are found throughout the Southeastern
Many thanks to my cousin Jerry for sending me this book!!