Saturday, May 18, 2013

Carson VII -- Trying to Maintain an Indian Identity


Carson VII -- Trying to Maintain an Indian Identity
Many of the families Carlson studied repeatedly asserted their claims that the were Indian. Attacks that they were NOT Indian came from various sources, from primary of these was the clam that they were Portuguese instead. This is erroneous. Others tried to maintain their Indian heritage by moving to Indian Territory, to be nearer other Indian peoples. There was a third group, those who tried to take andantage of the United States Claims court ruling in the early 20th century in favor of the Eastern Cherokee. One catch for this option, is that many of these people were not Cherokee. Their rsponses nontheless t4ells us a lot of their origins.
           Still NOT Purtuguese!
          Carlson also speaks documents mentioning “the Melungeon Indians”. He says (p. 192); “From 1813 to 1830 the large citizen Indian population around Greasy Rock and Stone Mountain was typified by extensive intermarriage between the primary families . . . This composite Indian population thus began to be referred to as “Melungeon Indians”. He speaks of a ‘Griffen Collins’ who enlisted for service in the War of 1812, but was discharged , Carlson says ‘probably due to his advanced age’. [524] Remember the Rev. Charles Griffin who was a school teacher at Fort Christanna? Remember the Saponi Indian named “Charles Griffen” a generation later residing near a Saponi Indian named ‘Thomas Collins’? Now, more than a half a century after that, we have an elderly ‘Melungeon’ named Griffen Collins! This is a straight line from Fort Christanna, a former Saponi Reservation in Virginia, to the Melungeons found in Hancock County, Tennessee and Scott County, Virginia. He also mentions other surnames, Bunch, Collins, Bolen, and Sizemore.
          Carlson also says (p. 194) “ . . . More revealing is a map of the region made in 1820 which labels the Greasy Rock Indian Community as the “Melungeon Indian Village [534, 538].” We have (p. 200) Carlson saying; “Also a part of the greasy Rock Indian population, but geographically located further down the Clinch Valley into the jurisdiction of Grainger County, was the 'Indian Creek Indian Village' and a few other isolated households of citizen Indians and mixed-bloods.
          Interestingly, Collins says (p. 204); “Local deeds, for example, of newly in-migrating whites buying land adjacent to 'an Indian Village'. As late as 1837, the Hawkins County Land Books, for instance, recorded the survey of James Livesay for 500 acres of land as bordering ‘an old Indian Village' on the waters of Painters Creek on the North side of the Clinch River.”
          Was this an ancient Cherokee village? NO! On page 199 Carlson also mentions the following; “A number of other Greasy Rock Indian families are shown in 1830 . . . living scattered . . . in Hawkins County, either in isolated households or I small clusters of extended family relations.” Carlson mentions several families listed as “free colored” (most of these people have also been enumerated as “white” on other census records) on 1830 census records. Surnames include Gibson, Boling, Goodman, Moseley, Jones, Collins, Minor, Goin, Hale, Cold, Bear,, Anderson and Fish. Carlson says; “. . . families lived in a cluster of homes on Painter’s Creek [which] was also sometimes referred to as an “Indian Village” by local Whites [546]). So the “Indian Village” mentioned was actually a Melungeon Indian Village dating to the Melungeon Settlers in Hancock and Hawkins Counties, only, maybe back to the 1790s or 1800s. It was these Saponi settlers for whom the ‘old Indian Village on the waters of Painter’s Creek’ was named. Some have suggested this account of an old Indian Village on Painter's Creek is proof of a Cherokee Village on that spot. NO IT ISN'T! It is the EXACT SPOT some Melungeon/Saponi families decided to settle! Theirs was the old Indian Village!
          Carlosn says the term “Malungeon” was NOT derogatory, originally; but that by the 1840s, this was the case. Carlson comments how (p. 210) the term “Melungeons” by the 1840s was already being misused, to describe others not part of the original community. Carlson says; “In another newspaper article published in 1848 and reprinted in Littell’s Living Age a year later under the title The Melungeons, is an early example of how the derogatory Malungeon label would be used in print for generations to come.
          Speaking of Littell’s article, Carlson says (P. 211), “Due to this lasting effect, this Jonesville writers willingness to forward erroneous facts and descriptions should become obvious to the present reader . . . Carlson says Vardy Collins was a respected businessman, with a resort and hotel, as well as a religious man. Carlson says the article in Littell’s would undermine the image of the local community. Carlson says (p. 211); “If enhancing their civilized status through economic and material or religious means was the intentions of Vardy Collins or others, the anonymous author of the article in Littell’s would undermine that accommodating image. His representation is centered on his brief visitation to the Indian Village at Blackwater Springs (aka Vardy’s Springs) where he stayed in Old Vardy’s public Resort and Hotel. In a few strokes of the pen,, his descriptions and assertions undermined the Christian and civilized characteristics of the community that Vardy and some of the others tried so hard to outwardly maintain.”
          This article reads in part (p. 212); “The legend of their history is this. A great many years ago these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese adventurers, men and women, who came from the long shore parts of Virginia, that they might be freed from the restraints and drawbacks imposed upon them by any form of government. These people . . . freed as they were from every kind of social government, they uprooted all conventional forms of society. . . . trampling on the marriage relation,, despising all forms of religion. . . . These intermarried with the Indians and subsequently their descendants with the Negroes and Whites, thus forming the present race of Melungeons.” Although no emigration records mentions a ‘Society of Portuguese Adventurers' – both men and women came by the way, according to this article – arrived in America to be free from government. Carlson says there might be some truth to an early day Spaniard intermarrying with some Indians, but by page 213-214, Carlson says; “The erroneous idea of the so-called Melungeon Indians as wholly descending from a lost Portuguese community of ex-pirates and Spanish adventurers would be accepted by many Whites as fact.” So people who knew no better would fall in this trap, and a whole host of faulty scenarios would emerge. Everyone from lost Portuguese adventurers (both male and female), to Turkish 'lost souls', to ancient Welshmen and the lost tribes of Israel, would emerge as the ancestors of the Melungeons -- a tragedy. I have no idea why these insane ideas, some straight out of the x-files, get so much press.
          The article calls Vardy as chief cook and bottle washer, rather that a smart business man and a community leader. Littell says his hosts are almost without the knowledge of a Supreme Being. To the crontrary, they were God fearing folk who attended church regularly. The article goes on to paint this little community as nothing more than ignorant hillbillies. He paints a very derogatory description of them. Yet White readers ate it up, and wanted more.
Carlson concludes (p. 219); “If nothing else, this article indicates that in the case of the Greasy Rock Indians living at Vardy’s Village, despite generations of attempts to peaceably maintain a civilized image, they could not change the derogatory lens through which many non-Indians would continue to perceive them.”
I can't help but know his name was VARDEMAN Collins, and know that a Mr. Vardeman (who became a Baptist Minister) was the principle witness that got a relative of mine, Aaron Gess/Gist, hung as a horsethief in 1801 at Knox County, Tennessee, Court House. One day, maybe, I'll tell that story.
          And p. 220-221; “Despite their attempt to cultivate a Christian and Civilized image through church membership, participation in county civil affairs, maintaining land ownership, and even operating a hotel and resort, some outsiders perception of these Indians was not favorable. . . . and described them as “poor drunkards” with “no knowledge of a supreme being.”
          Here is where Carlson ends the topic.
          The usual reason listed for proclaiming a Portuguese identity when there was none, is the Jim Crow laws of the day. A Portuguese was a White man and therefore could vote. A mixed race Negro could NOT vote. It was as simple as that. And this is true with respect to the court cases. But I can’t help but remember the French Huguenot Reverend who said the offspring of an Indian and a White person looked like a Spaniard. Now these people who, out of the blue, wrote derogatory accounts of the Melungeons, also said they descended from “Portuguese adventurers”. They were simply gussing, and it made for good press.
          In the next chapter Carlson discusses the movement of certain families to Magoffin County, Kentucky. He says, as early as the 1790s some families made seasonal hunting trips into Eastern Kentucky. By 1840, these people had become know as the “Salyersville Indians”. He mentions some family surnames for some of these families. These surnames include Nickels, Perkins, Sizemore, Brown, Hale, and he says “others”. He continues to say his Coles are Cherokee, but as far as I can tell, has no proof of it. In all other entries and genealogical information, Dr. Carlson is meticulous in providing them. I can understand as I have done that in the past without proof as well. We want to believe so strongly that our family stories are true, but we cannot prove them. In mentioning some surnames in Eastern Kentucky, he mentions on p. 239-240 the surnames Mosley, Allen, Nickolls, Howard, Castile (note: now that IS a Spanish surname! However it is NOT, repeat NOT -- a Portuguese surname -- sorry folks, good try though.) Moore, Steele, Perkins, and Cole. On page242 he adds Sizemore, Grant, and White. Of course we have Gibson and Collins. They are everywhere! Carlson mentions that these families were all mixed-bloods, and were in Floyd County, Kentucky. Some of these families, the same families designated “W” for white in Tennessee, were designated “M” for mulotto, in Kentucky. On p. 259 he mentions the Dale surname. He says by the 1860s most of the families were in the newly created Magoffin County, and says they were, for the most part, classified as “M” on census records.. Page 263 mentions 2 new surnmaes – Auxier and Musgrove.As the years pass, he continues to add more and more surnames, presumably Whites who have married into these families.
          On page 288, he mentions some families moving to Ohio, 125 miles north of Saylersville, to Highland County, Ohio, to the town of Carmel.
          Chapter 8 starts on page 292,and describes the migrations of more and more families from Magoffin County, Kentucky to Carmel, Highland County, Ohio. These people are now often called “Carmel Indians”. Census records of these people do exist and they are easily discovered through mundane genealogical methods. It is the earlier lines that Carlson so skillfully pieced together. I simply think this material needs to be out there for Melungeon researchers to discover their roots, that they DO go back to the Saponi and Fort Christanna, and they should be proud of their ancestors.
Please note we have not found a single reference to ANY Portuguese people AT ALL. There is NOT A SINGLE DOCUMENT ANYWHERE ON THIS PLANET that ties a single Portuguese adventurer, either male or female, to the Melungeon. There is not a singl document that ties a ship wrecked sailor, nor a servant, norany kind of Portuguese man or woman, to the Melungeons -- that's all done with smoke and mirrors, and a gullible public.
Migrating to Oklahoma
          Carlson begins chapter nine, p. 333 by saying; “In the last half of the 1800s, small groups of families and individuals of the Salyorsville Indians had been periodically moving out to the Cherokee and creek Nations in Indian Territory.” Since this is what my family did – I am listening. He continues; “Coincidently, years later in an unrelated matter, many Salyersville Indian families remaining back in Kentucky would get involved in a court claims issue regarding all ‘Eastern Cherokee.’ In the process, they would provide letters, testimonies, and interviews which reveal the size and strength of their families as they addressed the government as a group.” Apparently the people of Magoffin County only heard about the interviews for Eastern Cherokee descendants, ow known as the Guion Miller Rolls, until 1907, and the court of claims would make its decision in 1905.
          Carlson says, p. 334; For nearly two decades prior to the Court of Claims decision, many people from Magoffin County, both Indian and non-Indian had been sporadically moving in small family groups out to ‘the Nations’ in ‘Indian Territory’. I can add a little something to this. After the Civil War thousand of ex-Confederate soldiers and officials moved to Indian Territory. Parts of the Choctaw Nation even became known as ‘Little Dixie’ because of all these immigrants. Speaking of Louanna Cole, Carlson says (pp. 334-335); “Most of her children out to the Cherokee Nation right before and after the Civil War.” Carlson speaks of a grandson of Louanna who attended school in Vinita. I mention this because there was a short article in the Vinita Newspaper talking about an attempt to create ‘a Western Catawba Tribe’ in the 1880s-1890s. Another member of this family moved to Bedford, Oklahoma. Carlson says; “The rest of Siss’s children (Siss was a daughter of Louanna living in Oklahoma) in 1908 would report to the Special Commissioner of Indian Affairs that while they knew the names of Siss’s half brothers and sisters through Louanna (Louanna never left Magoffin County), they did not know their present place of residence, or even if they were still living. [896]
          “Around 1880 a number of the Indians and mixed-bloods from Magoffin County . . . would set their sights on removing to the Indian Territory. . . most would go in large family groups. Carlson specifically mentions three families, Daniel and Jahaza Cole, James Jackson Shephard, as well as Shep and Mary Cole’s son, Lewis Cole.”
Carlson also mentions the Howards. He says (p. 336); “Another early connection between the people from the Magoffin County area and Indian territory involved a member of the mixed-blood Howard family who remained closely tied to the Salyorsville Indians who later moved out there. This was James Jackson Shephard. . . . James left the Kentucky mountains sometime between 1872 and 1880 and sat down in San Bois in Indian Territory. [899]” Carlson mentions several places this family lived over the next few decades, including San Bois, Stigler, Broken Arrow, , and even parts of western Arkansas. Stigler was one of several towns recorded as having Catawba Indian residents. Two Catawba were said to live there, but unfortunately their names were not given, per a document published by the 54th Congress, dated 13 Feb, 1897. Interestingly, Carlson says “James would hunt deer and take the dressed mean to sell at places like Fort Smith. I must note my great grandparents also lived for a time in the 1870s near Fort Smith, but just inside Indian territory, by Sequoyah and Leflore counties. I wonder if his family knew mine. Some Howards also married into my Gist family.
Carlson speaks of James Shepard finally settling down in his old age at at Brushy Mountain near Muscogee in the Creek Nation, passing on in 1916. He adds; “by that point in time rte Brushy Mountain area near Muscogee had become the residence of a number of Saltersville Indian families who had since emigrated west. He mentions several members of the Cole and Perkins families had migrated to Indian Territory. He mentions Lewis Cole living in Stroud. He says most of the families that came to Indian Territory were members of the Cole, Perkins, and Fletcher families (p. 338).
Carlson says time and again he doesn’t know why these families came to Oklahoma just before the turn of the century, about 1900, a little before or later. I would suspect it had to do with land. Thousands, millions in fact, came to Oklahoma about that time. Parts of Oklahoma were just being opened up for non-Indian settlement from 1889 on. The Western Tribes lost their lands first to land runs and in one case, a lottery. All tribes lost their lands through the ‘Allotment Act’. All the citizens of the Nations were first given 160 acres. I believe they were given the option of land or money, and the smart ones took the land. Any excess lands were sold to Whites or those Indians not eligible to receive lands, for one reason or another. Moneys from these sales went to the tribes. So the more land they sold, the more money they made. Oklahoma went from a territory of probably, oh, I don’t know, maybe 100,000 persons in 1880 to a state with a population of three million by 1910. We became a state in 1907. People from all over the country came here to get the excess Indian lands at a cheap price. And a good number of these people were folks like my family, and like those from Salyersville, people who had some Indian blood Initially they’d hoped to receive an allotment of 160 acres. Discovering they were not eligible, they remained to purchase the excess. Carlson cites some lady who said her family lived in tents and dugouts. So did my family! My aunt wrote me a letter saying her mother (grandma) had spoken of her parents (my great grandparents) living in covered wagons and in half-dugouts. A great uncle also mentioned these things.
This is all I have for now. I will add a third part to this section where Carlson talks about their Guion-Miller claims, before I fall asleep, tonight.
On page 340-341, Carlson reveals that some of the Salyersville Indians were ‘astonished’ to discover that the U.S. claims curt had ruled in favor of al the Eastern Cherokee in 1905. Carlson says, “In January, 1908, they were perturbed that the government ha never informed them, and they were told that in less than a month the government would cut off all further enrolment of potential claimants, regardless of whether they were entitled or not. Evidence needed to begathered and sent into the Special Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Goiun Miller. . . . The court of claims decision stemmed from two decrees of the Court issued in May of 1905 and1906 which stated that the Eastern Cherokee had been wrongfully separated from their eastern lands under the treaty of 1835, and were subject to further wrongs under the Treaty of 1846. As a result, under the June 30, 1906 Act of Congress, a little more than a million dollars [was] appropriated as compensation . . . For participation in this fund it was first necessary for the clamant to ‘establish the fact that they are eastern Cherokee by blood. . . . Goiun Miller . . .would ultimately receive nearly 90,000 applicants. In the end, only 30,820 would be allowed.”
          The Salyersville Indians, specifically the Coles, had maintained for years they had (p. 341) “been swindledof land held by them in the old Cherokee hunting reserve around the Cumberland Gap . . .Furthermore, Salyorsville Indians were unquestionably a long-standing community of Indian people despite the ambiguity of their historic ties to the Eastern Cherokee. . . . As with past Cherokee enrollment events, Kentucky was considered by Washington officials as out of the Cherokee Nation Zone, that is, the boundaries of the cherokee nation as it existed in 1835.”
          Early claimants from the Salyersville Indian community intrigued the Special Commissioners office enough to delay the cut off day of applicants for another year. Carlson says (p. 344); “Before the Summer was out, over 120 applicants representing over 400 individuals . . . were received by Miller rom members of the Salyersville Indian community.”
          Carlson says the Collins, Gibson, and Bolling families, known as Saponi, didn’t apply. A few Indians applied who said they came from Indian families of “Old Virginia” did apply. The large Sizemore family also applied. One applicant, Shep Cole, was asked when he left the Indian nation to live in Kentucky. His reply said he went to Kentucky when he “left the Indian Nation” in 1845. Carlson says “The Indian Nation Shep was referring to was possibly the Greasy Rock Community itself.”
          Carlson’s paper suggests some interesting details about the Sizemore family as well. For instance, Steven Sizemore says that originally, the Sizemores were Indians from Eastern Virginia. We have (p. 352) Carlson saying, “This history shows that, by the Revoutionary War, most Saponi, and over two dozen other tribes eventually subscribed to the label Catawba or Tutelo.” Other Sizemores stated, per Carlson; “that Old Ned Sizemore’s and his brothers originally came from ‘he cypress swamp, back in Cherokee country, Virginia.” They had confused ‘Indian Country’ with ‘Cherokee country’. Another replied ‘the spent time in the Cherokee country on the Catawba Reservation.’ Another said, according to Carlson; “Ned Sizemore was duly enrolled upon the rolls of the Cherokee Nation and made in that year . . .in the Catawba Reservation.” Carlson, in summing up several Sizemore respondents, says; “Most of Ned’s descendants claimed that Old Ned had come from ‘the Catawba Rive of the Catawba Reservation’ . . . before coming up to New River. . . they shared a collective memory of the Sizemore’s leavind their original habitation from ‘the great swamp’ in eastern Virginia even prior to that.”
           So although through all the efforts of these families, they never proved successful in their attempts to explain their heritage, many facts made their way to the surfqace, anyhow. At least one branch, the Sizemores, look more and more like Catawba Indians, not Cherokee. The Coles are still of uncertain origin. We have foud what was called an 'Old Indian Village' was in fact a settlement of the Melungeon Indians dating back only to the 1790s, and no earlier. We know that early Indian citizens of Southwestern Virginia, Northeastern Tennessee, and Magoffin County, Kentucky resented being called 'Portuguese'. But so mich time has passed that today's generation might have forgotten that.
I hope these words are heplful to some people. It has take me many many hours to transcribe these things, and more hours yet to paraphrase it when I grew weary of transcribing it word for word. I know I have left out parts some readers might be interested in. But it is eswveral hundred pages long, so please forgive me -- I can't transcribe it all! I hope to honor Dr. Carlson's work, as it was a great efort on his part. I still need to go back, page by page, and include the citations. But besides that, I am nearly finished with this document. If there are questions, email me at


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My relatives and my husband's is from Floyd County, Kentucky. Our family names are Goodman, Cole, Perkins and Collins. When we had our DNA done we were shocked to find we had no American Indian but we DID have about 15 percent Portuguese! My mother-in-law had 1 percent American Indian. Also all of my many cousins had the same results. The Portuguese wins out.