Thursday, February 13, 2014

Saponi Indians from Fort Cristanna to the Melungeons of Southern Appalachia

Saponi Indians from Fort Cristanna to the Melungeons of Southern Appalachia
There are people online who think the Melungeons said they were "Indian" because they did not want to be thought of as mixed with Negro. NO! This is a LIE! The reason some said they were Portuguese was so they would not be subject to the Jim Crow laws! But they are recorded as being American Indian. I hope the writing below will show the EXACT ROUTE the Saponi took from Fort Christanna to the lands where the Melungeons were first found, and the word first used. We will show the word came from the French "melangeon (meaning "we mix").

Dr. Richard Allen Carlson wrote his Ph. D. dissertation on the Melungeons, a people of Saponi Indian descent. I intend to quote a part of it, with comments.

As a result of the Treaty of Middle Plantatin of 1677, the Saponi were one of several tributary tribes of Virginia. On page 59, Carlson talks of Virginia Governor Spotswood long desiring to educate the Indians.

A copy of the treaty is located at . From, we know there are some signers of this treaty that are not listed at the above link. The names of the signers of the treaty are below:
Governor Spotswood had settled several hundred Saponi Indians at a place called Fort Christina, located on the Meherrin River. In 1716, Governor Spotswood made a trip to Christanna with French Huguenot clergyman, Rev. John Fontaine. Rev. Fontaine is surprized that some of the Indians can speak good English.

Carlson reports (p 64); Fontaine spent a considerable amount of time conversing with the instructor of the Sapni Indian school, Rev. Charles Griffin. Frustrated at the repeated denials from the Virginia Council to fund a missionary schoolteacher for the Saponi, Spotswood still personally employed the English Clergyman. Fountaine found Griffin enthusiastically carrying out his mission “to teach the Indian children and bring them to Christianity”. Besides running the Fort’s church, Reverend Griffin’s work among the Saponi involved teaching their children to read the Bible and repeat “common prayers”. He was also teaching broader skills in speaking, reading, and writing English, and Fontaine noted he “hath had good success amongst them.” One evening Fontaine attended a common prayer reading and noted that the eight Indian boys participating “answered very well to their prayers and understand what is read.” [133]

Carlson speaks of several attacks from the Five Nations Indians and others, upon the Saponi and mentions the killing of some Catawba’s, who are allies of the Saponi. He says (p 69) despite the peace made in 1718, the Iroquois attacked again in 1722. [150]. Recall the Indian slave trade and how most of the wars were started by traders who wanted captured Indians for the slave trade. It was about this time that the Indian slave trade came to an end. They were simply running out of Indians to enslave. On page 52, Carlson speaks of the Saponi, mentioning how in 1732, William Byrd III spoke of the Indians at Fort Fort Christanna, saying they were really a consolidation of several tribes; and “each of these was formerly a distinct Nation, or rather several clans or canton’s of the same Nation, speaking the same language, and using the same Customs.”

More about Rev. John Fontaine

Rev. John Fontaine wrote a memoir entitled “Journal of John Fontaine: An Irish Huguenot Son in Spain and Virginia, 1710-1719”.

At there is a section on the Huguenots. Several paragraphs ane dedicated to this Rev. John Fontaine. Quoting from it, we have;

John Fontaine's father and grandfather were Huguenots who suffered official persecution by the Catholics in France. In 1693 John was born in England, to which his father had fled as a refugee. His father then migrated to Ireland, and succeeded in getting John a commission in an Irish regiment in 1710. John Fontaine served briefly in Spain, then investigated Virginia in 1715-19 before returning to England.

Learn more about Virginia’s Huguenot peoples at the link above.

There are some interesting comments about the Indians way of life. First is the mention of corn. Carlson is paraphrasing Byrd. When talking of the colonists he calls “borderers”, meaning the people that lived on the Virginia/North Carolina border (P. 82), Byrd also decries the “borderers” means of economy and subsistence; especially in North Carolina where he contemptuously stated they raised Indian corn instead of tobacco and fruit orchards which he blamed on laziness. Indian corn, he noted; “. . . is of so great increase that a little pains will subsist a very large family with bread . . .”

Concerning sex between races, Carlson again turns to Byrd, saying; Byrd and a few other ex-traders of the survey team would make a side trip into Virginia in hopes of finding some “entertainment” in the Nottaway Indian Town. The entertainment the surveyers sought out among the Nottaway turns out to have been sexual in nature. After mentioning two “pretty English women, the narrative continues; . . . we could find it in our hearts to change these fair beauties for the copper coloured ones of Nottaway Town.” Continuing to quote Byrd, Carlson writes of him; He wrote in that evenings journal entry that the Nottaway “offered us no bed fellows, according to the good Indian fashion, which we had reason to take unkindly.”

Continuing on this theme, Carlson writes (P. 85), quoting Byrd, “. . .one way of converting these poor infidels, and reclaiming them from barbarity and that is, charitably intermarry with them according with the modern policy of the most Christian King in Canada and Louisiana.” He continues saying that had the English done as the French, the country would be swarming with more people than it has insects, and . . . even their copper coloured complexion would admit of bleaching, if not in the first, at the farthest in the second generation . . . it is strange, therefore, that any good Christian should have refused a wholesome, straight bed-fellow, when he might have so fair a portion with her, as the merit of saving her soul.[210].

Byrd had a Saponi guide, Ned Bearskin. It was said this was his hunting name. Ned it was said, was a great hunter and kept them fed. It was said that Ned spoke English very well. Mention was made of seeing the smoke of Northern Indians, enemies of the Eastern Siouan Indians, as they were “firing the woods”, as was the Indian custom. Rev. Peter Fontaine brother of Rev John Fontaine who had visited Fort Christanna years earlier, both French Huguenots, was also on this journey with Byrd and Ned Bearskin. Notice they are talking of mixed race Saponi. Notice also Byrd being upset because when visiting the Nottaway, they were not offered any 'bedfellows' as was the 'good Indian fashion'. It is possible some of these Indians were already of mixed blood heritage.

Troubles with Neighboring Tribes

There is a story of an Indian named “Sawney” who had recently returned to Virginia from Canada. He had been captured by the “French Indians”. Somehow he escaped about 1724 and returned to Virginia, with aid from John Collins. Once in Virginia, he was arrested and was accused of threatening the inhabitants with incursions from his former allies, the “French Indians” from Canada.

Well, the Northern Indians did continue their attacks in Virginia. Carlson says; “More Virginia settlers were killed by Iroquois in the winter of 1725-1726 . . . the sachems of the Five Nations replied . . . it was some of their warriors operating without authority in conjunction with some French Indians and Tuscaroras who committed the killings.”[151] The sachems of the Iroquois defended their warriors, saying the killing of the Virginians was a mistake, and that they were really after “enemy Indians”. It was recorded that about this time, seven Saponi (other sources call them Catawba) were killed or captured by some Tuscarora warriors. They could capture and sell “enemy Indians” to the English. By custom, they would kill the men and sell the women and children. The era of selling Indians was coming to an end, as there just were no more Indians left to enslave.

In 1727 the Saponi came to the Virginia Assembly in Williamsburg and asked for satisfaction. The Saponi said in the Virginians took no action on the Tuscarora, they would take the matter into their own hands. Well, Virginia did nothing, so the Saponi went to the Catawba, who did take action.

There was an attack on the Meherrin Indians, who complained to the same Virginia Assembly the Saponis had complained to the pevious year. They blaimed the Occoneechi’s and Saponis. And the Nottaways complained the Meherrins had attacked them. The Saponis with the Catawba attacked the Tuscarora, of King Blount’s Town. North Carolina officials meanwhile, blamed the Catawba and the primary instigator of these feuds, also holding the Saponi and Occoneechi responsible.

Governor Spotswood had retired and was replaced by Governor Gooch, and he was not as friendly towards the Saponi as his predecessor. The Virginians had done nothing to help the Saponi when they asked for help after seven of their men were killed, while the Catawba did come to their aid. To add to this mistrust, three Saponi men were accused of killing two Nottaway’s. Three Saponi chiefs were held in jail until those guilty of the killings were brought forward. The killing of the son of the Tutelo chief also added fuel to the fire. A report came in (page 76) that John Sauna (Sawnie) and a fellow named Ben Harrison (apparently an Indian named after the White trader), went south to bring up one hundred Catawba warriors to protest the incarceration of the three Saponi men . . . the Saponi said that if Captain Tom was hung, they would take their wives and children over the Roanoke, and then return to drive the Whites and Negroes to the James River, and go to war. [181]

The Tutelo king, grieving over the death of his son, threatened the life of the governor, saying then he’d go off to some foreign Indians. The old Tutelo king was ordered to be arrested, but Carlson says he found no evidence that this ever happened. Acording to Carlson, Byrd stated (p 93) that the executions by the colonists of three Saponi caused the Saponi to remove to the Catawba’s.

From Saponi to Melungeon

The next section covers the migrations of the Saponi Indians until one branch migrated to Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee, where they will become known as “Melungeons.” They are NOT Portuguese or of Mediterrainan origin, they are not mixed White and Blacks, with no Indian component as some suggest. In fact the only reason they migrated together was because of their American Indian blood.

(P. 91) Speaking of March 1729, Carlson writes; “. . .most of the Saponi were still at Christanna in June, although some families had already left to join the Catawba and/or other Tutelo now living far from the Christanna reservation.” One of the main reasons that the Saponi left Christanna was the hanging of a Saponi elder. A drunken Saponi leader had earlier killed an Englishman. (P. 93). Carlson states “. . . the Sapony’s took this so much to heart, that soon after quitted their settlement and moved in a body to the Catawbas.[233]

By late in the summer of 1729, the Saponi and confederated bands and families that remained with them finally departed the Christanna Reservation. This abandonment of the Reservation would begin a diaspora of the people that once resided there. Comments later made by John Mitchell in 1755 stated that, in 1729, both the Saponi and the Tutelo “had removed further South upon the heads of the Pee Dee”at the Northern end of what was known as Catawba Territory. Byrd also noted that the Saponi removed to Catawba Territory that year. He explained that this people is now made up of the remnant of several other nations, of which the most considerable are the Saponey’s, Occoneechi’s, and the Steukenhocks,, who not finding themselves separately numerous enough for their defence, have agreed to unite into one body, and all of them now go under the name of the Sappony. . . A French map published late in 1729 reveals that one faction labeled labeled the “Sapon Nahisan”had removed far west from the extent of settlement far up on the headwaters of the Roanoke River. [233, 234]

So by going to 'the headwaters of the Pee Dee' in 1729, you will see the Saponi went back to where they were about 1700 (see map 7), before they went to Fort Christanna. Maps put them near the present vicinity of Salisbury, North Carolina. The report that they went to the head waters of the Roanoke River is somewhat ambigious, without seeing the map itself. The Roankoe River divides in two. The southern branch being the Dan, the northern branch being the Staunton. It seems this band was about half way between where the Melungeons ended up in Southwestern Virginia, and the modern Monacans of Amherst County.

As for the Tutelo, (P. 94) Carlson says they wondered up and down the Appalachians until by 1740 they joined their old enemies, the Iroquois. In 1730 (P. 95) the Catawba and Saponi living with them, asked to make a treaty with Virginia. Nothing came of it. In 1732, Byrd, speaking of the Catawba, said “their population of more than 400 fighting men was spread through six towns on the Santee River in Carolina along a 20 mile stretch.” [240, 241].

This agrees with the two maps dating back to about 1750 (maps 17 annd 18). I have no maps dating to the 1730s. With the end of Indian slave raids, there is a little stability apparently, from the 1730s to the 1750s. But the bands are still weak, and in an uncertain state of stability. Since they left Fort Christanna, they were no longer considered “Tributary” Indians. Yet they had to leave Fort Christanna. The English didn't seem to understand they were forced to live next door to their traditional enemies. They were safer nearer the Catawba.

Dr. Carlson speaks of a third band. One, the Tutelo, went North to live with Six Nations. A second that went south to live with the Catawba. And a third, that went to live on ex-Governor Spotswood's lands, in Orange County, Virginia, by the N. Anna River. Later he will talk about others who went to live near the headwaters of the Flatt River about 1732, the Occoneechi. This is the group from which the Melungeons descend. According to Carlson, this band was called the “Christian Band” of the Saponi. They are the ones that more closely listened to the Reverend Charles Griffin. Being Christian, they would also have been more likely to have listened to the French Hugeunot ministers, the Fontaine brothers, Rev. John and Rev. Peter Fontaine. Much of the rest of this study will refer to this “Christian Band”.

The map below shows the Saponi movements from Fort Christanna to several locations. These are called Aconatzy (Occoneechi) on maps, per Carlson. One going towards Flatt River by 1732, a second towards the Appalachians (called Tutelo) who are in Canada by 1740. A third band are near Salisbury, North Carolina, just to the North of the main Catawba cities, by 1729. A fourth will arrive on the lands of ex-Governor Spotswood by 1738.

Also note the location of the Catawba, Cheraw, and Waccamaw. The Catawba (federally recognized) and Waccamaw (state recognized) are located in the same places as they are to this day, and the Cheraw of the 1720s and 1730s were located where the Lumbee are located today.

Please forgive the quality of the maps. I found the map and had a printer, a scanner, and a pen. . .

Saponi on ex-Governor Spotswood's Land

Orange County records from 1738-1743 refer to several Saponi living in the area. They include Alex Machartion, John Collins, John Bowling, Charles Griffen, and other “Christian Indians.” The following names are also mentioned – Manincassa, Foolish Jack, Little Jack, Isaac, Harry, Captain Tom and Blind Tom. Charles Griffen appears to have taken his name from Rev. Griffin, a former school teacher at the Fort Christanna school. Captain Joseph Collins negotiated the release of Sauna from the “French Indians” in 1722. Carlson speculated the Machartion surname might have evolved into McCarty and McCarta surnames associated with the Collinses in the next century. Carlson speculates p 107, “evidence available from written records made subsequent to 1743, it is quite possible to surmise that John Collins is the son of “Captain Tom”, for an elder named Tom Collins is shown living with John and the rest of the Christian Saponi in the years immediately following their expulsion from Orange County. If this is so, one might further speculate that Blind Tom is Tom’s father.” Remember one of the three Saponi chiefs mentioned earlier at Fort Christanna, one of the three who was killed, was named 'Captain Tom'. These three deaths generated the departure of the Saponi from Fort Christanna.

Carlson suspects the Bowling surname came amongst the Christian Band of the Saponi in the 1730s while living in Amelia County. The well known Powhattan mixed-blood family had for generations operated a trading house at the Falls of the Appomattox.

Per Carlton, “Exactly when and how the treaty obligations stemming from the 1677 and subsequent agreements with the Saponi were abolished, ignored or forgotten by Virginia authorities is not known. After 1733 no mention of the colony recognizing any treaty obligations to the Saponi appears in Virginia records. Regardless, by at least 1738, the Christian Saponi were being treated as Individual Citizen Indians a opposed to the political entity of ‘Tributary Indians’. I suspect the Indians, once they left Fort Christanna, lost their status as 'Tributary' Indians.

Carlton says . . . in 1743 the Christian Saponi went south to live near Catawba lands, however by 1745 they were back in Virginia, in Louisa County, near to their former lands in Orange County (p 111), in the mountains south of Rapidan Station. The Christian Saponi would reside in the area for some time and would be noted as “Nassayn” (Saponi for ‘the People’) on 1749-1750 era maps.[285] Names listed living in this area are Sam and William Collins, along men named George and Thomas Gibson, Sam Bunch, Ben Branham, and a few others were charged with by Louisa County court of ‘concealing tithables’. . . . [286]. The surname “Branham” is associated with the state recognized Monacan Tribe of Amherst County, Virginia, today. Bunch is associated with the Catawba and other bands. Below is a second map of the the movements of these Christian Saponi.

On page 112, “The likely source for the charge . . . was Virginia law that stipulated that, in addition to all adult males,all Indian, Negro and Mulatto women over 16 years of age were also tithable, unlike white women of the same age. . .The Christian Saponi may have felt they should be free from taxation a rightful heirs of the Tributary Nation. But as far as the Virginia government was concerned, ‘tributary status no longer applied. This being the case, they would now have to be subject to the Virginia Act of May 1723. The act stipulated that ‘all free Negroes, mulattos, Indians, (except tributary Indians to this government) male and female, above 16 years, and all wives of such Negroes, mulattos, or Indians (except Indians tributary to this government) shall be accounted tithable. . . . Social and economic barriers based on race labels would become a greater concern for these Christian Indians now that they had lost their political status as tributary Indians. [287]. So for those who claim that these tithables in these households meant these were mixed race Negroes – well, no it doesn't. They could always be American Indians, or mixed race Indians, as well as Free Negroes or mixed race Negroes. Also know a mixed race Indian, as well as a mixed race Negro, was considered a “Mulatto”.

We have followed the documentation of the Saponi Indians from 1729-1743. The presense amongst them of a "Charley Griffen" ties them back to old Fort Christanna, and the teacher Reverend Griffin. Once they left Christanna, they lived for a time with the Catawba, and for a time with former Governor Spotswood. They wondered, like the Hebrew of old, in search of new homes, with tribal unity disappearing, as a few remote families are gradually being absorbed into the frontier lifestyles of their white neighbors. In 1743 families again started to return to the Catawba. They simply didn't know where to go or what to do. The next section covers the timeframe when these Christian Saponi Indians became known more commonly a "Melungeons." Later we will see a known Melungeon named “Griffen Collins”, completing the circle from this bunch of Collins known as Saponi Indians, through this same line to the Melungeons. In fact I don't think any bunch of state recognized Saponi peoples has as much proof of their origin as do the Melungeon peoples, and the Melungeons are not state recognized.

By 1747, Thomas Collins obtained some land in Louisa County, Virginia. Gilbert Gibson’s land was adjacent to Collins’ place. Carlson believes Thomas Gibson and Gilbert are closely related. This is the same Thomas accused of concealing tithables in 1745 in Louisa County.

Tom Gibson, here is what Carlson says pertaining to him and the migration of these Saponi (p. 115); “later in 1751, Tom Gibson received a noticeably large grant from the prominent ‘Earl of Glanville’ of 640 acres on the Flatt River adjoining John Collins . . . the Christian Saponi’s choice of resettling at Flatt River must be more that in interesting coincidence . . . documents produced during the decade would show that these had settled among or immediately adjoining the remaining band of Occoneechi Indians who had removed here somewhere around 1732. Carlson paraphrasing Ramsey, saying; “up until the late 1750s, John Eaton, Ephraim Osborne, William Harrison and other colonists using the Trading Ford as a place to trade with the Saponi, Cherokees, and Catawba. . . .” Carlson adds; “Mitchell’s map also identifies the Aconeechy living on Flatt River. Bowen’s 1752 map also shows the ancient title of Occoneechi was being applied towards the Indians living at the junction of the Flatt and Little River where the trading Path crosses them. Mitchell’s well known 1754-1755 map [299] of North America then adds to the complexity of the picture. He shows one band of the Occoneechi where Bowen did three years prior at the mouth of the Flatt exactly where the Christian Saponi from Virginia settled in 1750. But Mitchell also shows yet another Aconeechy Town [300,301] a dozen miles upstream at the headwaters of the Flatt. . . .

(p. 116) The cartographic division of the Occoneechi bands on the Flatt from one village in 1752 to two in 1755, coincides perfectly with the immigration of the Christian Saponi families from Virginia to the area. . . . following a sickness epidemic and a series of attacks on the Catawba towns to the southwest in 1753, which prompted a portion of the Catawba Saponi band to temporarily move into this part of North Carolina. Primary documents cited by Tilley show that from 1753-1758 this band of about 30 Saponi were living just North of the Flatt River in Granville County. Their location was reported to be on the lands of William Eaton, and is thought by one local historian to be those lands Eaton held just north of present day Henderson. . . unlike the Christian Saponi, these Saponi still required an interpreter . . . William Eaton filled this position . . . the Christian Saponi had not used an interpreter for more than fifteen years. Carlson continues; . . . Granville County authorities reported that about ’12 or 14 Sapona men and as many women and children’ were living among William Eaton’s regiment in Glanville County in 1753-1754, and these Saponi had newly come up from Cheraw (Sara) Town in the Catawba Nation. . . . In a 1755 document citing figures used by the governor, Moravian Bishop A. Spangenburg claimed that 28 Saponi had recently moved to Granville County from Virginia. Because Granville County embraced Orange County just prior to that Bishop’s publication, it is clear that the Bishop was referring to the Christian Band of Saponi ...

Carlson begins; “From 1750 to the Revolution, the Christian Saponni families remained split between the Louisa County mountains in Virginia and the more distinct Flatt River Community down in North Carolina”.He says other mixed race families joined there on Flatt River – the Sizemore’s and the Ridley’s, or Riddle’s. After the proclamation of 1763, he speaks of the Flatt River Indians moving again, further west in North Carolina and Virginia. Carlson mentions Tom Gibson again, saying he obtained more land, bordering lands obtained by Tom Collins and George Gibson, and an Indian man named Moses Ridley/Riddle. [314, 315, 316, and 317]

Carlson reveals (p. 120); “Documents such as tax records reveal that, in the first few years on the Flatt, the people of the Christian Saponi Band were enumerated as “White tithables”. [ 309] Soon after Orange County was formed from Granville in 1753,new county officials chose to count the citizen Indians . . . as Molatas . . . Virginia and North Carolina law stipulated that individuals of half Indian and half White heritage to be labeled ‘mulatto’, while individuals less that half Indian could be deemed ‘White’. [310] In Virginia, any person that was of 1/16th African heritage or more was to be recorded as ‘mulatto’, regardless of the character of the remainder of their blood quantum.

The author talks about a Sizemore man being recorded as a ‘mulatta’. Then the author gets interesting, as far as I am concerned. He says; . . .three years prior [meaning abt 1750] Ephriam [Sizemore], George Sizemore,and William Joiner were counted among ‘an old Indian man’s list’ of Indian and/or mixed blood families living at the time in Lunenburg County, Virginia. [312].  . . one may surmise that these men were counted as ‘citizen-Indians’ at that time, and no tribal identification was shown.”  

Origin of the term Melungeon

The next map has the greatest concentration of Eastern Siouan peoples at about the time of the American Revolution. You can click on the map to enlarge it.

In a letter dated March 30, 1757, Rev. Peter Fontaine, the brother of Rev. John Fontaine (both French Huguenots who spoke the French language fluently) who had visited Fort Christanna several decades earlier. Peter was said to have commented that the colonist’s “ought to have intermarried with the Indians [more frequently], thereby allowing [them to be] more easily convert[ed] to Christianity. . . . The French Reverend derided English Colonial authorities for discouraging marital liaisons between Indians and Whites. He also noted his concern with physical appearance by claiming that would result in ‘Indian children as white at birth as Portuguese or Spaniard.’ From early days, early colonists realized that mixed race children looked somewhat like Spaniards or Portuguese.

Throughout the Seven Years War, the Catawba and their allies were courted. But the Flatt River Indians, per Carlson (p. 128), were also being treated poorly, with several law suits against them. By about 1770, many of them had started to return to Virginia. Carlson says, “By 1770, most of the Flatt River Indians had removed back to the mountains of Virginia. It appears debts, stricter hunting and tax laws, in combination with the passing of the infamous Proclomation of 1763 and a growing non-Indian population around Flatt River, would all be factors that played a role in prompting this move.”[338,339]

I suspect it was the Reverend Peter Fontaine, or some of his family members, might have been the origin of the term “Melungeon”. His words might also explain why some non-Indians considered the possibility that these mixed race peoples might be Portuguese or Spanish instead of Indian-mixed. Also please note the location of these Flatt River communities. They were very near the exact locations of several of the state recognized Eastern Siouan tribes, as they exist today. We first find the word “Melungeon” recorded about a half century after this, but this appears to be the most likely origin of the term. I can easily see Rev. Fontaine smiling when he might have seen this band of the Saponi, and saying, “Ah, some mixed race Indians! We have mixed!” In French, “melangeon” literally means, “we mix”, in English.

Small Pox

On page 129 Carlson says; “Compared to the Cherokee, the Catawba and their confederates were a relatively small population to start, and the war and recent small pox epidemics had taken their toll on adult Catawba males.”

The war referred to was called in Europe The Seven Years War, but in America it was referred to as the French and Indian War. Chistopher Gist played a prominent role in that war. I am also a Gist descended from the same line of Maryland Gist’s. The best book documenting them is Christopher Gist of Maryland and Some of His Descendants 1679-1957; by Jean Muir Dorsey and Maxwell Jay Dorsey. There is a more recent four volume set, “A Face to My Name”, by Sheri McNeil Savory that is also excellent. Christopher and Nathaniel Sr (whom I descend from) are recorded as being brothers.

But Carlson also refers to a small pox epidemic. I am reminded of what the Dorsey’s said; p 28 -- "Christopher Gist died of Small Pox on the road from Williamsburg to Winchester on July 25th, 1759. He was conducting 62 hand-picked Catawba Warriors to Winchester to help guard the western frontier of Virginia ((ibid., series 21664, part 1, , pp 216-217). It continues to say that these Catawba were urged to continue "but they said their father Capt. Gist (as they called him) was dead at it was better for them to return home (ibid., p. 302)."The Dorsey’s were referring to "The Papers of Colonel Henry Boquet". Other books on the Catawba refer to this 1759 epidemic as something similar to the straw that broke the camel’s back. One writer says or implies two-thirds of the Catawba died during this tragic epidemic. What was six Catawba towns moves down stream a few miles, and only two Catawba towns are remaining afterwards. Carlson also states, . . . in 1764, a large contingent of Catawba who could muster 150 warriors were reported to be found wondering on the frontiers of North Carolina and they too had made peace with the Cherokee and the colonists. [343, 344]. If the Catawba could muster only 150 warriors, this means they had perhaps only 600 Catawba in total. A contingent of these were discovered “wondering” on the frontiers of North Carolina. This means the western parts of North Carolina. Now they had to have made some agreement with the Cherokee, to move to this region, as they were a far more powerful nation, and they too lived in the far western parts of North Carolina. Were some of these people later described as “Melungeons”?

Carlson speaks of some of the Louisa County and Flatt River Saponi communities moving back together on the frontier by the end of the 1760s. He says – They would consolidate into a new community right at the New River boundary between Virginia and North Carolina and the lands of the Cherokee Nation, technically beyond the settler zone. Carlson states families from both Louisa County, and the Flatt River Community, came to live on New River, and are recorded as living there in 1770 and 1771. On the map, you will see “White Top Mountain” is the location where the New River passes over the North Carolina/Virginia border. Recall the people known as “White Top Mountain Cherokees”. They were largely descendants of Ned Sizemore. They attempted, in mass, to enroll in the Cherokee Nation in the Guion-Miller Roll, early in the 20th century. But some of their applications even said that they came from “the Catawba Reservation”.

By page 133, Carlson is talking about Forts in southwestern Virginia, from 1770 on. These forts were manned by local farmer/hunter/militiamen. Some of these were the Christian Saponi. He mentions 1773-1774 “Delinquent Tax List” of Boteourt and Montgomery Counties, saying; “These lists show the names of over a dozen adult males of the Christian Saponi and families residing primarily on “Indian Lands” off the New River and Reed’s Creek.”[352,353]

Of these forts, Carlson also discusses those that would be locations associated with Nathaniel Gist. He says; “Some of these early fromtier forts and the people who occupied them would later enter into the history of the Christian Saponi of New River. These would include the fort that the Moore brothers of Castlewood, not far to the northwest of the New River in 1769. In 1772, Mathias, Jacob, and Henry Harmon emigrated from near Salisbury in North Carolina and established a defensive family compound on Carr’s Creek off the Clinch River. The most significant of such forts to later Saponi history however, would be Blackmore’s Fort, which was also established in 1772. This fort was constructed on the lands acquired by Captain John Blackmore located at the mouth of Stoney Creek on the Clinch River. [351]

Now Castlewoods, mentioned above, was where the Moore brothers lived.

We the Commissioners, certify that John Dickerson, heir-at-law to Humphrey Dickerson, who was assignee of Joseph Blackmore, who was assignee ofNathaniel Gist is entitled to 310 acres of land lying in Washington county on the north side of Clynch River in Cassell's Woods, to include his improvement. Surveyed the 28th day of May, 1774. [Vance’s note: when discussing the Melungeons, recall Jarvis words, where he said the whites “with the friendly Indians” built Fort Blackmore. OUR Nathaniel Gist – not the famous Nathaniel Gist, but his first cousin — KNEW Joseph Blackmore. Again, interesting.]

At the above link we have “The above writer is referring to the children of Joseph Blackmore, for Captain John Blackmore, builder of Blackmore’s Fort, had in the year 1779, left for the area for settlement on the Cumberland in Tennessee. Joseph Blackmore was a brother of Captain John, and owned the adjoining farm to the old Fort tract to the south and down Clinch River.” Joseph and John Blackmore were brothers, and John Built Fort Blackmore, famous in the history of the Melungeons as having been built by the “friendly Indians” who seem to have been relatives of the Catawba, NOT the Cherokee. Those Catawba keep popping up, even here with respect to Nathaniel Gist. It makes me wonder when the Cherokee themselves say his paternal grandpa was White implying his father was half Indian. What if his father was half Catawba, not Cherokee? Well that changes things a bit . . . The Nathaniel mentioned above was killed in 1780 at The Battle of Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War. The Nathaniel mentioned below is either his son, or the son of his brother, Richard Gist, who was also killed at Kings Mountain.

Page 149 - Richard Moor...390ac...Commissioners Certificate...on the waters of Beaver Creek, north branch of Holston River...Beginning on the north side of the big ridge...corner to Cornelius Carmacks land he now lives on...corner to Carmack & Nathaniel Gist...June 6, 1782 - Richard Moore...390 ac on a branch of Beaver Creek, surveyed on January 12, 1775, includes improvements, actual settlement made in 1774...August 17, 1781 Page 151 - Nathaniel Gist...200 ac...Preemption Warrant #1972...on the waters of Beaver Creek, north branch of Holstein River...Beginning corner to Cornelius Carmacks land he now lives on...corner to Richard Moors land he now lives on...June 5, 1782

Now this Nathaniel Gist (p. 149) is the son of either Richard or Nathaniel II, both sons of Nathaniel I, b. 1707. He may very well be the Nathaniel found later near Somerset, in South central Kentucky, or the two might be first cousins, one the son of Nathaniel, the other the son of Richard. AT any rate, notice the “Moor” surname that Carlson also mentions. Also note the Moores lived at “Castlewood” and that Joseph Blackmore was assignee of Nathaniel Gist, for the lands of Cassal's Wood, later known as Castlewood. Since I descend from these Gist's, and from the Waylands also mentioned living in a Melungeon community (we will get to them later) in the 1790's, I have some interest in these things.

Other families Carlson associates with the Christian Saponi living on/near the New River are the Bunches, Colins, Gibson’s, Sexton’s, Bowlings, Aicee/Sicee, which Carlson says was Anglicized to “Thomas”.

The fact these families were said to have settled on “Indian Lands” has cause some comments by Carlson’s. he says; “It might be assumed that the Indians had settled beyond the 1763 Proclamation Line. This would be in error, for the Cherokee boundary was reset in 1767-1768, and then again in 1770, placing the Cherokee boundary west of the entire New River watershed.[357] Additionally, if the Christian Saponi were being considered squatters on non-ceded Cherokee territories, then Colonial law would have mandated that the be removed back into ceded lands, and thus they would not be openly taxed on Cherokee lands. [358] Yet neither the Virginians nor the Cherokees ever accuse the Christian Saponi of establishing a squatter settlement in any document I have found so far. . . . taxable Whites were living much further west . . . than were the people of the New River Indian Community. And none [of the taxable Whites] are noted in 1773 as living on “Indian lands”, like John Collins and the rest. Carlson speculates as to whether the Virginia government might have given some sort of land grant to these Christian Saponi. Maybe it later reverted into private property and thus to a taxable status. Carlson concludes on this topic; “Regardless of the 1771 status of these Indian lands, no list after 1774 shows the Christian Saponi as residing on "Indian Lands", although the community remained right where it was.”

Dunsmore’s War broke out shortly after the New River Indians were said to be living on “Indian Lands”. Carlson says (p. 135-136), “A list from the Draper Manuscripts, thought to reflect Captain Herbert’s Company, reveals one of the militia units comprised of the New River Indians, their mixed blood relations, and numerous Virginia backwoodsmen mustered into duty that summer [the summer of 1774]”.

Carlson says this unit originally had plans to fight the Shawnee, but attacks by the Cherokee warriors on Virginians living in the Clinch and Powell River valleys made them change their plans. He states that “Men from Herbert’s company were quickly ordered to the Chinch River and Powell’s Valley forts to deflect any further attacks from hostile Cherokee-Shawnee alliances, and were among the reinforcements noted as being placed at Fort Blackmore late that summer when Daniel Boone would serve briefly as captain upon his return from Kentucky in 1774.”

Getting personal again. The link above mentions several early day forts, including Fort Blackmore, and Guest's Fort. We have shown in my other book, “Finding Our Indian Blood”, where Guest's Fort was the home of MY family, my branch of the Gist's. Here is part of what it says; Charles B. Coale, in "Wilburn Waters" tells of the Indians going to this station in 1777, after their capture of Jane Whittaker and Polly Alley, and finding it well defended make no attack upon it. Now they went on and attacked the next fort. I have wondered if there were other reasons this fort was spared, but we may never know. Wilburn Water's was 1/4th Catawba.

We have the following about him from “The Life and Adventures of Wilburn Waters, The Famous Hunter and Trapper of White Top Mountain Embracing Early History of Southwestern Virginia Sufferings of the Pioneers, Etc., Etc.” by Charles B. Coale . ” Chapter 2 starts with the following words; Wilburn Waters was born on what is called Ready's river, a branch of the Yadkin, in Wilkes county, North Carolina, on the 20th day of November, 1812. From the best information that can now be had, his father, John P. Waters, was a French Huguenot, who emigrated to America in early life, about the beginning of the present century, and settled in South Carolina. He was a man of some education and liberal acquirements, of strong prejudices and passions, restless, reckless and fond of adventure. Being remarkably stout, fearless and passionate, he was considered dangerous when excited or laboring under a sense of injury, and was supposed by those with whom he communicated most freely, to have been a refugee from South Carolina, if not from France, from some cause he never revealed to others. He settled down, without any apparent calling, among the simple and obscure people on Ready's river, where, after a time, he married his wife the mother of Wilburn, who was a half-breed of the Catawba Indian.

Note Wilburn Waters I.] Lived on/near White Top Mountain (where according to Carlson, these Saponi who would become known as Melungeons, who were a band of the Catawba, had moved) ii.] Was mixed race Catawba, and iii.] His father was French Huguenot. So Wilburn Waters could have honestly said of his family in the French language, “melangeon.” meaning “we, meaning his family, was of mixed blood.


Most Melungeon researchers know about the Lewis Jarvis writing. In Carlson’s words (p. 141-142); “In 1903 a local lawyer from Hancock County, Tennessee named Jarvis published a brief history in the county newspaper regarding the Christian Saponi and other Indians and mixed-bloods who would move from New River into Northeastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia at the turn of the century. . . . it is significant to note here that Jarvis’ short newspaper article is the earliest printed history of these citizen Indians accurately relating their residence at New River.” Quoting Jarvis, “they were originally friendly Indians who came with the Whites . . .from Cumberland County [sic] and New River, Virginia” and “they had already lost their language and spoke English very well.” Jarvis mentions several surnames, Bowling, Collins, Gibson, and Bunch, saying there were others not remembered who’d left the area.

But what else did Jarvis say? He entire article quoted from above, is below.

Lewis Jarvis article 1903; As transcribed by William Grohse, historian of Hancock County, Tennessee, from the Hancock County Times, Sneedville, Tennessee, 17 April 1903, Transcription Copyright ©2005, William Grohse, all rights reserved.

Much has been said and written about the inhabitants of Newman's Ridge and Blackwater in Hancock County, Tenn. They have been derisively dubbed with the name "Melungeons" by the local white people who have lived here with them. It is not a traditional name or tribe of Indians.

Some have said these people were here when the white people first explored this country. Others say they are a lost tribe of the Indians having no date of their existence here, traditionally or otherwise.

All of this however, is erroneous and cannot be sustained. These people, not any of them were here at the time the first white hunting party came from Virginia and North Carolina in the year 1761-- the noted Daniel Boone was at the head of one of these hunting parties and went on through Cumberland Gap. Wallen was at the head of another hunting party from Cumberland County, Virginia and called the river beyond North Cumberland Wallen's Ridge and Wallen's Creek for himself. In fact these hunting parties gave all the historic names to the mountain ridges and valleys and streams and these names are now historical names.

Wallen pitched his first camp on Wallen's creek near Hunter's Gap in Powell's mountain, now Lee County, Virginia. Here they found the name of Ambrose Powell carved in the bark of a beech tree; from this name they named the mountain, river and valley for Powell, Newman's Ridge was named for a man of the party called Newman. Clinch River and Clinch valley--these names came at the expense of an Irish man of the party in crossing the Clinch River, he fill off the raft they were crossing on and cried aloud for his companions to "Clench me", "clench me", and from this incident the name has become a historic name.

About the time the first white settlement west of the Blue Ridge was made at Watauga River in Carter County, Tennessee, another white party was then working the lead mines in part of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge. In the year 1762 these hunters turned, coming through Elk Garden, now Russell County, Virginia. They then headed down a valley north of Clinch River and named it Hunter's Valley and buy this name it goes today. These hunters pitched their tent near Hunter's gap in Powell's Mountain, nineteen mile from Rogersville, Tenn. on the Jonesville, Va. road. Some of the party of hunter went on down the country to where Sneedville, Hancock County, now stands and hunted there during that season.

Bear were plentiful here and they killed many, their clothing became greasy and near the camp was a projecting rock on which they would lie down and drink and the rock became very greasy and they called it Greasy Rock and named the creek 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.

Vardy Collins, Shepherd Gibson, Benjamin Collins, Solomon Collins, Paul Bunch and the Goodmans, chiefs and the rest of them settled here about the year 1804, possibly about the year 1795, but all these men above named, who are called Melungeons, obtained land grants and muniments of title to the land they settled on and they were the friendly Indians who came with the whites as they moved west. They came from the Cumberland County and New River, Va., stopping at various points west of the Blue Ridge. Some of them stopped on Stony Creek, Scott County, and Virginia, where Stony Creek runs into Clinch river.

The white emigrants with the friendly Indians erected a fort on the bank of the river and called it Fort Blackmore and here yet many of 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; but the amalgamations of the whites and Indians has about washed the red tawny from their appearance, the white faces predominating, so now you scarcely find one of the original Indians; a few half-bloods and quarter-bloods-balance white or past the third generation.

The old pure blood were finer featured, straight and erect in form, more so than the whites and when mixed with whites made beautiful women and the men very fair looking men. These Indians came to Newman's Ridge and Blackwater. Some of them went into the War of 1812-1914 whose names are here given; James Collins, John Bolin and Mike Bolin and some others not remembered; those were quite full blooded. These were like the white people; there were good and bad among them, but the great majority were upright, good citizens and accumulated good property and many of them are among our best property owners and as good as Hancock county, Tenn. affords. Their word is their bond and most of them that ever came to Hancock county, Tennessee, then Hawkins County and Claiborne, are well remembered by some of the present generation here and now and they have left records to show these facts.

They all came here simultaneously with the whites from the State of Virginia, between the years 1795 and 1812 and about this there is no mistake, except in the dates these Indians came here from Stoney Creek.

Jarvis, who knew some of these families personally, was born in 1829 and could recall what these people looked like in his youth. He speaks about the War of 1812 and says some of the Indians alive at that time 'were quite full blooded'. He says they had already lost their original language. He says some of them came from Cumberland County, Virginia, a county not mentioned by Carlson.

While residing on New River (p 144), Carlson says other non-Saponi Indian surnames became associated with these Christian Saponi. These surnmaes are Cole, Clonch, Minor, and Sizemore. I however, suspect these ar Saponi/Catawba as well. One Sizemore, in his application for Miller-Guion acceptance on the Cherokee Rolls, states someone said (paraphrasing) “Old Ned” Sizemore came from the Catawba River, or the Catawba Reservation as he called it. I think it is a mistake to say the Catawba and Saponi and Saura are different tribes, but rather they are different bands of the same tribe loosely confederated together. On pages 144-145 he adds the surnames Williams, Nickells, and Moore. By page 146 he mentions some families in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He covers the 1790s. To confirm these are the descendants of the Indians at Fort Christanna, there is a “Griffen” Collins mentioned on page 147. Rev. Charles Griffin was the name of the old school master at Fort Christanna. Recall the Indian also named “Charles Griffin” on ex-Governor Spotswood's lands in Orange County, Virginia. The Melungeon named “Griffen Collins” completes the circle. We know these are the same families. So Carlson has masterfully followed the same families on a migration from Fort Christanna to New River and Scott County, Virginia. This leaves virtually no doubt that the same families that are at Fort Christanna are found at New River, near White Top Mountain. By the 1790s we have these Saponi families, the same families that Jarvis calls “quite full blooded” upon their arrival in the Southwestern corner of Virginia.

My family also lived in Scott County, Virginia at this time, by the way, and two of their nearest neighbors were named John and James Gibson. When my family, the children of William Wayland, moved to Arkansas, they also had a next door neighbor also named James Gibson, as I said, in Arkansas. This is probably as close as we will ever get to tracing our family back to Fort Christanna. But it is much closer than we might have expected.

By P. 149, by the 1790s, Carlson notes these Christian Saponi and their mixed blood relatives had learned to buy and sell land, to negotiate contracts, and for all intents and purposes were living pretty much like their White neighbors. He mentions by 1803 they are recorded buying land from White land owners rather than obtaining lands from the government. By the 1790s the non-Indian population in the region had increased so much that a new county was created, Ashe County, in Western North Carolina. On page 153-4 Carlson provides another list of surnames on the Virginia side of the New River– Collins, Gibson, Coles, Clonches, Nuckolls, Moore and Perkins. He mentions some names that are missing by the time of the 1800 census. Collins notes a move from New River to the Clinch and Powell River Valleys in what will soon be called Scott County, Virginia.

Carlson ends his chapter three by talking about the population of the New River Indian community growing through intermarriage with White families, and says (p. 155); “Politics and status were linked s being racially classified as ‘White’ or ‘free colored’. . . while the ‘friendly Indians’ of New River were being taxed as ‘Whites’ for nearly 20 years, by 1800 North Carolina authorities reverted to placing them under the socially and economically restrictive political definition of ‘free colored.’”

On page 156 Carlson speaks of isolated Catawba families living upon the New and Yadkin River Valleys, as they separated from the Catawba Nation and made their way as citizen Indians. He mentions the Snow family as one of these families, and also mentions the Wilburn Waters family. He discusses the Sizemores, Bunches and Hales. There were many Indian families living in this are. Some may never be known.

Carlson quotes a James Woody of Laurel Springs, North Carolina, calling him an elderly White person (p. 157-158); “There used to be some full blood Indians that stayed up here in the woods, and when we were boys we would go to work in the mountains, occasionally two or three Indians would come out of the woods, and father would make us something to feed them. We could not understand one thing they said, and we did not know their names. There was not a word said as to what kind of Indians they were. I got acquainted with one enough to know that his name was Bill Hale. He stayed in the country a good long while. I do not think he was a full blood, but some of the others were. They stayed here a while – they seemed to stay in the woods. They just stayed here through some of the summer season. . . [423]

Carlson speaks of these other families, saying that although they interacted with the Christian Saponi, they were separate from them. Also note the Christian Saponi spoke English very well, whereas of these other Indian families it was said that the English could not understand one thing they said.

On page 161 he says; Complicating matters of tribal identification and assertions, this researcher has strong suspicions that the Indian Andersons tied to the Coles and Sizemores were origionally a Catawba affiliated family before settling down in the Cherokee Nation. . . .” Now the next part is very important. Carlton says; “It is well documented that a significant number of Catawba intermarried, were adopted, or otherwise were relocating from their residences in the Carolinas to the Eastern part of the Cherokee lands by that nation’s permission from the late 1700s up until at least the 1840s.” He provides four references –Finger (1984), Mooney (1894, 1900), Thornton (1990), and Swanton (1946). In my own personal opinion, and I might be wrong, it is these Catawba who migrated westwards who perhaps are responsible for the many records that their ancestors were Cherokee rather than Catawba/Saponi/Saura. My Gist’s might have been Catawba rather than Cherokee. Maybe the same is true of others who honestly think they have Cherokee heritage, but according to the Cherokee – NO THEY DON’T! So this is a haggling point that we may never resolve.

When Lewis Jarvis wrote that when some of the Whites and the“friendly Indians” built Fort Blackmore, Carlson says he doesn’t know if these were the “Christian Saponi” or not. But it is certain that within twenty years these Christian Saponi moved to Stoney Creek (where Fort Blackmore was located), and they were still living there when Jarvis wrote that article in 1903.

Of the New River Indians (p. 178-182), only a few remained by 1800. Joel Gibson was said to have left in 1805. George Collins claim of his lands were questioned in 1809, and he stated that he first came to that are in 1769. By 1810 he was on the Grayson County Tax list. By 1820 few families remained. Carlson mentions the Williams, Riddle and Sizemore families still residing there. By 1830 many of these families were in the “Greasy Rock” area. He speaks of the Sizemores going to Pilot and White Top Mountains. Other surnames associated with the Sizemore’s are Perkins, Baldwin and Blevins.

These families are known to have migrated to Hancock County, Tennessee, and later to McGoffin County, Kentucky, and became what is known as the “Carmel Indians” of Highland County, Ohio. I will fill in more details as I can.

Carlson adds (p. 376) Interestingly,despite the gross errors and assumptions Burnett and McMillan forwarded . . . documents cited by Gerald Sider in Lumbee Indian Histories in 1993 lends some credence to the possibiltyof some sort of connection between the two Indian populations.

Emigration to Arkansas/Indian Territory/Oklahoma

Carlson then reports about some movement for these families to remove to Indian Territory/Oklahoma. Such stories are of great interest to me, as this is where my family relocated to.

Carlson says “. . .In 1896, J. W. Perkins and John Baldwin again petitioned the Federal Government as well as the Cherokee Nation for permission to move as a body to Indian Territory, but the attempt failed.” [501]

This statement has my interest! The following thoughts are my ramblings and were not discussed by Carlson. This is the same timeframe that Bain and Williamson were attempting to get the “Western Catawba Indian Tribe” federally recognized in Arkansas and Indian Territory (Oklahoma) where 257 individuals petitioned the federal government. Another record of this organization lists 4,000 members. I wonder if these two groups knew of each other’s attempts in the 1890s, one along the Oklahoma/Arkansas border and the other on the Southwest Virginia/North Carolina border? The Catawba in York County, South Carolina had also just petitioned the Cherokee, as well as the Chickasaw, for permission to settle amongst them, and were declined by both. A few Catawba were adopted by the Creek, Choctaw, and I am not sure about the Cherokee. It was said some Catawba moved to the Chickasaw Nation. I can't help but remember that my family moved to live in the Chickasaw Nation.

From a historic perspective, the Allotment Act had just been passed by Congress whereby all the Indian lands in Oklahoma were to be divided up into individual family allotments, with the excess sold off. The more land that was sold off, the more money the individual tribes would probably obtain from that sale. On the Cherokees behalf, they knew who was Cherokee and who wasn’t. It was a small tight knit community, only about fifteen thousand strong (this is my very wild guess, but they were few in number). When someone unknown says they are Cherokee, and no one in the community has ever heard of them, red flags are thrown. So when these families who had never, as far as anyone’s recollection, lived in the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokee didn’t believe them. They thought these people just wanted free Indian lands. Maybe a trip to Oklahoma and a visit with local tribal leaders would have helped the situation, I don’t know. It didn’t help the Western Catawba organization.

Remember, these groups had to have the approval of the federal Government, as well. Remember they wanted lands to settle on, too, and since they had been living as Whites, the government decided they had already assimilated, why run the risk they’d revert back? Again this is just my guess. So the tribes didn’t want to share their lands with descendants of the Catawba, Saponi and Saura, and the government wanted ALL THE INDANS to assimilate, and gradually disappear, as these Eastern Siouans were in the process of doing. So these attempts were doomed to failure, from the start.


The map above covers the last known migrations of these increasingly mixed race peoples. It is known that many mixed race peoples migrated to the vicinity of Wayne County, Kentucky. The majority of these families claim a Cherokee heritage. However I have traced one of these families (the family of Jessee Brock) that thinks it is Cherokee back to the Scott County Melungeon families. But my Gist's also lived in this Wayne County area, and we too have a family tradition of a Cherokee heritage. I simply don't have enough information to determine which is the truth. I have included it on this map just in case.

Admitedly I am not finished, but this is what I have now. I still need to list citations, and add details to the movements from Scott Co., Va to Hancock Co., Tn, to Magoffin Co, Ky and Highland Co., Oh. I also need to cite the mention of the “Lungeons” in Arkansas. So this report is not finished. There are other migrations that need to be fleshed out as well.

But we have made the difficult connections between Fort Christanna and the first place the Melingeons are known to have lived – Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee. These people were not Portuguese nor were they mixed Negro-White ONLY – there was an Indian component that was the olny reason they traveled together. Melungeon is a French word, not Angolan. These things will be fleshed out, as well, in time.

But for now, this is it . . .


  1. I am a graphic designer...and a Saponi Native American. I would love to help you with your maps. Contact me through the PM on the Melungeons FaceBook board.

    1. I have no idea what/where the Melungeon facebook page/board, is. If you will provide a link to it I'd be happy to go there. You can reach me at I work 40-50 hours a week, am 61 years old, and have very little time, at present. I only have a little time on most (not all) weekends. Would live the help, though. :) Vance

    2. hmmm...have clarks in my dna matches also..grandfather was listed as melungeon in 1901 census in ark..rose/moss...cant find much info on him touch with a clark in louisiana though that is connected to my massey family there..joseph massey and lettie smith?? and a hawkins through my eason, garrison, johnson line.. wildlife photographer

    3. There were a lot of Saponi Indians who lived on lands owned by a Mr. Eason -- I might have that confused with someone else -- so hold off on that. :) Love to contact you. I am vahce Nawkins,

  2. Very interesting as I have traced my great grandmother s family living in Lee Co VA in 1870. She was a Williamson and very beautiful. You can see a Native American appearance in her picture. But in my DNA it shows 28% Southern European no Native American.

  3. 1870 was fairly recent. There were Williamson's in Arkansas/Indian territory who tried to start a "Western Catawba Association" and they hoped to receive lands per the Dawes Act, in the 1890's and 1900s, but they were never recognized. There was also a Williamson family living at the border of the Catawba Reservation in South Carolina. As more people with American Indian mixed-race heritage come forward to take the various DNA tests, we will get more positive results. Don't worry about that. I know nothing about your family, or surnames. Do you have known Italian, Greek, or Hispanic (Southern European) heritage? You can email me at Thank you for your comment

  4. the only way to determine native dna is on am a hawkins and 23 and me, ftdna, ancestry all do not show accurate results for ndn must submit raw data to gedmatch and run eurogenes k9 test for true ndn dna results..many people i have sent there did and discovered they did also as per family history..dna tech has not advanced enough for the regular 99 dollar tests to have accurate ndn dna proportions..hello vance, cousin..micheal hawkins and agness eaton my 7th greatgrandparents..

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  6. Hello, I am glad to see this history. Vardamin "Vardy" Collins had two kids. One became my grandfather's, grandmother's side of the family; one became my grandfather's, grandfather's side of the family. Vardy Collins was one of the Griffin's children so this ties me into this family tree.

    My name is Steven Ortega. My mother is Sharon Watson, and my grandfather's name is William Watson.

    I would not mind discussing what we know in order to learn more about this history for ourselves. Varty Collins is as far as we can go back, but we are 100% positive that he is tied to this line of people, as even my grandfather's mother was a medicine woman and had told my grandfather many stories from the family.

    1. Correction: My grandfather's, grandfather's line can be traced back to John Collins.

      William Watson's grandfather was Caleb Collins and had a twin brother Joshua Collins. They were born in 1844, in Russel County, Virginia. Their dad was Griffin, but he was called Griff.
      Sometime during or a little bit before the Revolutionary War, my grandfather's relatives were captured and put in stocks to await hanging. The fellow Native Americans stuck in at night and broke them out. This was right below newport, and is in the history books as the blockhouse.

    2. I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner. I can't access my gmail email account for some reason. PLease forward to any further email to You have a lot of information I bet! :) I have some ancestors who were in Scott Co (then part of Russell) on Stony Creek and another bunch at/near Coburn in Wise County.

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  8. My ancestors were the Gibsons of Castlewood, VA. Poor Tom Gibson and Jane Lucas are my direct line. However many of the Melungeon families mentioned are connected.

  9. I found a record where Castlewoods was once called Cassal's Wood Some Moore's lived there who were associated with the Melungeons, also. My Gist's were there for a short while. Why do you say "Poor" Tom Gibson? Was he related to Tom and "Mary" Gibson? When was your Tom born, when did they marry and when did they die? were they there when Fort Blackmore was built @ 1770? Or later, @ 1790s? or both?

  10. Did any of your research have information on present day Giles County Virginia along the New River.. Research is also indicating that the New River may have been the road from Ohio to Virginia of the Saponi (Eastern Siouian) if so please email me there are Perkins and Riddles there but interested in the history of Saponi becoming 'English' in their ways for safety and rights under English law.

  11. According to much of the information on Ancestry John Champness Austin married Saponi Indian Woman "Hannah Love" b. 1702 Saponia Plantation, Bertie, North Carolina. I can't confirm this union but it appears that many researchers agree it took place. any chance you might know something of this?

    1. This URL points to the AFAOA Web Site with some explaination of HAnnah.

    2. - LOVE & LOVING – Hannah Love Austin – Two possibilities:
      1. 1st Theory: The David Crawford Connection - Hannah Love (b. ~1703) was the Saponi wife of John Austin, Sr. The development of her maiden name is in doubt. Her Indian name was something quite different, we speculate. David Stephens has expressed a theory that Hannah was tied into the family of Richard Loving. Richard Loving, Jr. supposedly died in Amelia in 1767. His grandfather, Charles Loving, was a Quaker who attended the Black Creek MM in New Kent. David’s thoughts go as follows:
      “So we have proof now that Family Loving of the Pamunkey River Basin c. late 1600s purchased land from Daniel Terry, brother of surveyor James Terry, in Amelia County/Raleigh Parish, that adjoined lands of David Crawford (d. 1762/Amherst Co.) whose son‐in‐Law was Joseph Terry, yet another brother of the surveyor‐‐‐the surveyor who was granted 20,000a. on Turkeycock Creek, a watercourse that lies less than a mile from Northern Forks of Sandy River where widow Hannah "Love" Austin lived briefly‐‐‐but returned to Raleigh Parish, Amelia County! I guess that widow Hannah "Love" Austin was residing near Richard Loving & family in 1766‐71 in Amelia County. (David Stephens, Dec. 2013)”

      I’m continuing to study this theory. My thoughts that Hannah was a product of Ft. Christanna remain suspect. At one time David & I supported Hannah’s being a product of Ft. Christanna. The theory here was: “Some disheartened Saponi fleeing the chaos of Ft. Christanna and Spotswood’s ultimate strike at the Siouan found a haven with the Quakers at Black Creek MM, of New Kent, which was earlier attended by Rees Hughes (1620‐1699), Quaker and Trader, who had an Algonquin wife, Princess Nicketti. The Quakers saw the NAs as fellow human beings, rather than as a savage race. (David, Jan. 3, 2014)”

      So maybe Hannah married John Sr. in New Kent around 1720… which makes some sense. And maybe she was acquainted with (or living with) the Loving family and “took” a name “Love” in tribute to that family.

      Another related question surrounding Hannah is her return to Amelia after John’s death in 1760. Lloyd
      Bockstruck wrote the following: “I have always wondered why Hannah Austin located to Amelia County after her husband's death. Was that her childhood home? Amelia was made out of Prince George County. She refused the terms of her husband's will and took her dower. Such a gesture implies that his debts were more than his assets. His creditors would have been satisfied first after which the heirs got whatever percentage to which they were entitled. When she claimed her dower, she got her full third ahead of the creditors. She obviously knew what she was doing.”

      2. 2nd Theory: The LOVE family of MD – This is a 2nd theory and may make more sense as the 1st theory. Dr. Thomas Gerard (b. 1608) immigrated to Northumberland VA and married a Powhatan maiden before 1640. Their daughter Judith was socially stationed as Thomas’ servant. Judith married the Saponi William Love in MD ~1658. Their son was Thomas Love who married Lucy Dobson ~1680. They had a son Samuel Love who also may have married a Saponi maiden. Samuel had at least two off-springs: William Love who died in Lunenburg and Hannah Love who married John Austin, Sr. ~1720. John & Hannah were eventually residents of Lunenburg/Charlotte. We have John/Hannah with land in (69D5) near Gold Mine Cr. (Hanover/Louisa) in 1736. (See C&P Vol. IV, p104.) David thinks that John Sr. & brother Richard III may have been in Brunswick before 1740. Bockstruck reports that Richard III was in Amelia in 1738. And as we know, John Austin, Sr. was on Wards Fork (present‐day Charlotte County) in 1744 with his brother Richard following later.

  12. Hi, I thank you first for stating that the people were Native and not African. I get tired of finding people saying that as there is no way his grandsons (we have pictures) were of African descent. Not that it would have mattered as I am happy to find who and where I came from, but I knew it was not correct.

    I found your page because I am at a dead end on my line that currently ends with Moses Riddle and his mother, Margaret Redley. We have found very little and know she was in court for living with Mr. Buss. I am curious if you have any information on him or on his children. This would be a great relief as this part of the tree has become a nightmarish brick wall.

    Thank you in advance for any help,


  14. Hi, Vance...first, I applaud your research work on the odyssey/migrations of the our former native/indigenous ppl from the Fort Christanna Virginia, & Bertie County, NC area & other areas. I am a Moore, Manley, Guy, Coleman, Maclin, Hicks, Canada, Lynch, Sexton, Ramsey, Walden/Chavis & other surname descendants from the areas mentioned. I submitted a 23AndME DNA sample for both of my parents recently. To my surprise, some of your mentioned surnames populated as distant cousins were the following; Collins, Gibson, Guy, Harris, Carter, Archer, Peterson, Mitchell, Hawkins, Evans, Jeffries & others. My father's DNA sample showed admixture of 3% native/indigenous ppl. My mother who is a "Moore" direct descendant of Richard Henry Moore showed a 2% N/A admixture. Anyway, your post is so very enlightening & opens one's mind to how our ancestors lived, battled, procreated, & migrated.