The Melungeon Race

Harriman Man Recalls a Family of Twenty-Nine Members

To The Editor of The Chattanooga Times:

February 16, 1941

I have read the article headed “Ancestry of Melungeon Ferry Pilot" printed in the Daily Times of Feb. 10.  It was very interesting to me.  My knowledge of the Melungeon race is limited.  They did come from Phoenicia, when Carthage fell to the Romans, and settled in North Carolina.  I once looked up this history when I wrote an article for the Times about the Melungeons along the Foothills of Walden’s Ridge.  They are inhabitants of Rhea, Roane, Anderson, Campbell and a few in Knox counties.  The live along the foot of Walden’s Ridge on the waters of he the Clinch  and Powell Rivers and their tributaries.  The families in this part of the country are known as the Goins and Cochrans.

The family of Cochrans has a little history that should be in Believe It Or Not.  Uncle Dave and Aunt Polly Cochran lived on the south side of Walden’s Ridge, near Harriman. Their family consisted of twenty-seven children, twenty-four still living,.  When Aunt  Polly was 70 years old, she walked four miles six days in the week and did washing for people in Oakdale., and walked back home at night.  I once came by Oakdale with some men from Waynesburg, Pa., and saw Aunt Polly over the wash-tub.  There were six of us.  I said to her, “ Aunt Polly, how many children have you?”  She said to me, “Twenty seven, and twenty four still living.”  One of the men said, “My God, what a family.”  And I said, “She is a Melungeon.”

There is an iron ore vein along the foot of Walden’s Ridge, through Rhea, Roane, Anderson and Campbell Counties, and many people believe that the copper color of the Melungeons comes from living along near this iron ore.  They are as a rule, honest, good workers, but never attained much property, lived by hard work and are reliable in all their promises.  There are the Goins, Cochrans, Johnsons, Bazzles, and some other families whose names I do not now recall.  They originally came to this country from North Carolina, so I am told by the old residents.  I have known them and while now and then are in this country, mixed with the Indians and Negroes, they are classed with the Negro race.  But I am sure the facts stated are true from actual investigation and my knowledge of the people.

John H. Hatfield.
Harriman, Tenn.

" The Melungeon Race " Chattanooga Times March 5, 1941 -  John M. Hatfield)

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