Mysterious People Inhabit Northeastern Part Of Tenn.


Bill Sanders
Times-News Writer
October 16 1949

On Newman's ridge in Northeastern Tennesee live an unknown people. Only one fact about them is undisputable, that they are strange people.  From there fact turns to legend.
 
These people are called Malungeons. their characteristics are like those of the Indian in many ways -- an olive colored skin, straight black hair, small hands and feet, and high cheek bones.
 
Many stories have been told abou twhere they originated.  About the time of the Portuguese revolt agains Spain Portuguese ships plied the Carribean Seaa nd many times marooned unwanted crew members.  It is possible that these people could have been marooned on the South Carolina coast and made their way to the Clinch Valley.
 
When white men started moving down the Clinch River they found a group of people already settled on the rich farmlands.  Even then as now they didn't associate with other people and eventually were driven off their farms and took refuge in Newman's Ridge, and many of them turned to distilling whisky as their main source of esixtence.
 
The most popular story about their moonshining is that of Big Haly Mulling.  Sam Mullins, her nephew, says that she really existed.  Weighing between 600 and 700 pounds she was too big to get outside her cabin, so she sat inside and shouted orders to workers at the stills.  Many times revuneu officers came to her cabin on the highest point of Newman's Ridge and each time officially arrested her and each time left the ridge without her.  Big Haly was too much of a load for any combination of men and too big for a mere mule to take her down the narrow mountain trails.  She lived to be 105 years old.  the fireplace in one side of her cabin was knocked out in order to get her out for burial.
 
Other legendary stories told about the Malungeons related that they could have been remnants of Negro slaves or Indian tribes that had taken refuge in Newman's Ridge.  But the fact that they are there is not legendary.
 
Sam Mullins, a Malungeon who has left the ridge and settled in Rogersville, laughed as he told the story of Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson.  It seems these two had worked up a profitable enterprise in the Negro slave trade before the Civil War Vardy would cover Buck with dark stain and take him to the nearest plantation and sell him as a Negro slave Vardy would make off into the forest and Buck would wash the stain off at his first chance and walk off the plantation without making explanations to anyone.
 
In Malungeon country nobody uses the word ''Malungeon.''  Ask a man about them and the answer will usually be, '' Yes, I know about them but Mr. ---------, could probably tell you more than I could." So you see Mr.--------------------- and he says, "I have heard of them but this fellow across the railroad tracks is the authority on them."
 
Occasionally someone will talk aboutt hem but one thing holds true with everybody.  One word will never be hear, "Malungeon."
 


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