MALUNGEON TOWN






Judge Lewis Shepherd, who has made a close study of the Melungeons, extending over a period of years, says that in a case of law in which he represented a Melungeon girl the question arose as to whether the Melungeons had negro blood in their veins. He said:

"A colony of these Moors crossed the Atlantic before the Revolutionary War and settled on the coast of South Carolina. They multiplied rapidly and by this industry and energy they accumulated considerable property. The South Carolina people, however, would not receive them on terms of equality. They refused to recognize them specially and would not allow the children to go to school with them.

"In fact they believed they were free negroes and treated them as such. By the laws of South Carolina a per capita tax was levied against free negroes and the tax authorities continuously harassed them by efforts to collect the tax. Under this rigid proscription of the proud people of South Carolina their condition became intolerable and so they migrated in a body and settled after a long and wandering journey through the wilderness in Hancock County, Tennessee." 

 Kingsport Times- 1923



LEBANON, WILSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE




When Will Allen Dromgoole published her first two articles on the Melungeons in 1890 a series of Letters to the Editor appeared.  Two of them stand out as they appear to be written by two very credible gentlemen who resided at Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee in 1850.

In the AMERICAN of Sept. 15, 1890  Dan W. Baird wrote of the Malungeons, in part, as follows:

"Several families are still to be found in Smith, Wilson, Rutherford, and Davidson Counties. There is nothing in their family names to give the student of ethnology a clue to their origin. In a locality in Wilson County known forty years ago as 'Malungeon Town', the most common names were Richardson, Nickens, and Collins. In Rutherford County not far from Lavergne, the principal Malungeons were Archers, Lanterns, and Blackmans. One of the latter family has sold fish in the north end of the market house in this city (Nashville) for many years, and some of the same family reside a few miles out on the Nolensville Turnpike. "A pretty fair speciman of the Malungeon tribe is a young fellow named Bernice Richardson, now serving a life sentence in the state prison for self-confessed complicity in the murder of M.T. Bennet of Lebanon.

From Saundra Keyes Ivey;

''Baird expresses surprise that writers of recent article on the Melungeons had not 'referred to the state records or called on any of the many old citizens still living who are familiar with all that is known of the history of the people called Malungeons......

 ...........
And it is then that Baird writes of the Sevier letter and cites the speech of McKinney. He goes on to write; "All they seem to know of themselves is that they are 'Malungeons' and of Portuguese descent. These two points have been agreed upon for more than three-fourths of a century, and it appears that any one who undertakes to investigate the matter will be forced to accept them as established facts. "



Dan Baird was founder of the  SOUTHERN LUMBERMAN in 1881 in Lebanon, Tennessee and later moved to Nashville,  in connection with publishing the magazine.


In a later exchange  written by R. M. Ewisng to the Editor;
DAILY AMERICAN Sept 21, 1890 p. 4.

R. M. Ewing, wrote that when he attended law school at Lebanon Tennessee, in 1851:
" there was a colony of people residing within a few miles of Lebanon who were locally, and so far as I know generally, called Malungeons. They seemed to be a hard working, harmless, inoffensive people, a dark red or copper color, and jet black, straight hair... these people claimed to be of Portuguese descent.

The  1850 census shows R. M. Ewing
in the  Ninth Civil District of Williamson County, Tennessee -- Student at Law. The Cumberland University School of Law was located in Lebanon, Tennessee.





In 1830 Wilson County census  James and Permelia Nickens, John Brown, George and Elisha  Collins, Gideon Goins,  Jacob and Hezekiah Archy or Achy family appear as  Free Colored Persons.   Shadrack Goins and members of the Gibson family are also residing in Wilson County but their families are listed as white.


If there had been no Nickens or Collins in Wilson County we might assume Baird made this up but Baird AND Ewing both have the same story -- 1850, Lebanon, Tennessee, called Malungeons, said they were Portuguese. And the 'mulatto' Nickens, Goins and Collins family are living there. 

From Paul Heinegg;

William Nickens , born say 1750, died in Wilson County, Tennessee, in 1820 leaving ten children [Wilson County Quarterly Court Minutes 1830, 34]. In 1833 his sons Marcus, Andrew and Calvin presented a petition to the General Assembly of Tennessee stating that their parents were from Portugal, had settled in the United States many years since and that "their colour is rather of the mixed blood by appearance." They asked to have the same rights as other citizens of the state. One supporting statement said that their grandfather was from Portugal and another that their father bore the name "of a desent of the Portagee" [Tennessee Legislative Petition 77-1831]. In the 1880 census two of their siblings listed North Carolina as the place of birth of their parents.



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