Peculiar Race of East Tennessee
A Remarkable Woman

May 27, 1897
'The State"



To The Editor of The State:

In east Tennessee there lives a very remarkable race of people known as Melungeons, a race which appear to be somewhat similar to the "old issues" or "Redbones" found scattered about in our State.

Several years ago Dr. Swan M. Burnett of Washington read an interesting paper on these people before the Anthropologist society, which paper was afterwards published in a magazine.  The following extracts from that paper doubtless be of interest to many of your readers:

No one seemed to know positively that they or their ancestors had ever been in slavery, and they did not themselves claim to belong to any tribe of Indians in that part of the country. They resented the appellation Melungeon, given to them by common consent by the whites, and proudly called themselves Portuguese.

The current belief was that they were a mixture of white, Indian, and Negro. On what data that opinion was based I have never been able to determine, but the very word Melungeon would seem to indicate the idea of a mixed people in the minds of those who first gave them the name. I have never seen the word written, nor do I know the precise way of spelling it, but the first thought that would come to one on hearing it would be that it was a corruption of the French word melangee—mixed.

It appears that the Melungeons originally came into east Tennessee from North Carolina, and the larger number settled in what was at that time Hawkins County, but which is now Hancock.

They are known generally by their family names, as the “Collinses,” &c., and on account of the caste restriction, which has always been rigorously maintained, they do not intermarry with the Negroes or Indians.

They are dark, but of a different hue to the ordinary mulatto, with either straight or wavy hair, and some have cheek bones almost as high as the Indians.

During the present month I have received a letter from a gentleman in east Tennessee, relating to the Melungeons and in it he speaks of a remarkable woman of this race.  This woman he supposes to be the largest in Tennessee and says that "she weighs about 500 pounds."

McDonald Furman
Ramsey, Privateer Township, May 25th.






FRONT PAGE