Mysterious People Inhabit Northeastern Part Of Tenn.
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."