Them Fought In the Civil War ~But Are Now Moonshiners~
a Characteristic~Also Fondness For Firearms and Firewater~
Owensboro, Tenn., Aug. 14.--
While much has been written from time to time about the "poor whites,"
mountaineers and the "Georgia Crackers," yet there is a still more
peculiar class of southerners who have until lately escaped notice.
These people are called the Malungeons. They are copper colored with
high cheek bones, straight noses, black hair, rather coarse, black
eyes, and have more intelligence than the average mountaineers.
A great deal of trouble has come to them because of their color and
customs. The Malungeons number between 400 and 500. They live on Black
Water Creek, in Hancock County, which section they have inhabited for
more than 100 years. (2)
The records of Hancock County
show that the Malungeon ancestors came to Powell's Valley as early as
1789, when they took up lands on the Black Water. Tradition says
that they held aloof from the white settlers and spoke a strange
language which not one of the pioneers could fathom. Some of them could
speak broken English, and by this means communicated with the white
merchants to the extent of buying arms, ammunition and other supplies
which could not be procured in the valleys of their mountain homes.
Before the war the Malungeons had a hard time in obtaining the right to
vote in the elections. The white citizens declared that they were
negroes and the matter was
finally carried into the courts. It developed that the ancestors of
these people immigrated to this country from Portugal, about 150 years
ago, and has spent considerable time in South Carolina before going to
Tennessee. They proved on the witness stand that there was not a
drop of negro blood in their veins, and, after long and tedious
litigation, were allowed to vote and exercise the full privileges of
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the Malungeons espoused the cause
of the Union. They fought in the usual mountain
fashion--bushwhacking--and many a Confederate soldier was killed by the
unerring bullets of their riflemen. Whenever the Confederates captured
one of them he was shot on the spot without mercy. After the war
terminated and the Malungeons returned to their old pursuits, they
found that the government was interfering with one of their chief
They had been distillers back in South Carolina and some of the
earliest stills in Tennesse were brought by their ancestors--over the
mountains from their original settlement. they killed revenue officers
just as the other mountaineers did, for disturbing their stills. Of
late years, however, the revenue men have been so persistent in the
work of destroying the illicit traffic that the Malungeons have sold
but small quantities of the whiskey openly. They still make moonshine
whisky, but have adopted the artful, dodging tactics of the other
moonshiners of the Tennessee and Kentucky mountains, and it is rare
that one of the race is caught. So far as it is known not one of the
Malungeons has ever ridden on a railroad train.
The deep religious nature of these southerners is the most striking of
all their characteristics. During their meetings they will sing and
shout until almost frantic with religious fervor. One of the old
patriarchs of the Malungeons was Uncle Vard Collins. Many years ago
noted church bishop (8) was traveling through the Black Water district.
He accidentally went to Uncle Vard's house and asked to stay overnight
with him, a privilege readily granted.
When the churchman told the old man he was a bishop, the patriarch said
he would like to hear him preach. The visitor inquired where the
congregation would come from. For an answer the host took a long dinner
horn from his rack, and, going outdoors, blew several shrill blasts.
Within an hour 100 people had assembled, and showed great interest in
The Malungeons were Whigs before the Civil War, but since then have had
no direct affiliation with any movements of a political nature. Their
social customs have not changed in 200 years. They still live in one
roomed cabins and use the old fashioned long barreled rifle.