Will Allen Dromgoole

(1) Land of the Malungeons ~     (2) A Strange People ~   (3) The Malungeons  ~
(4) The Malungeon Tree and It's Four Branches~  
 (5) Mysterious Tribe Known as the Malungeons    - Scan Includes Pictures
 A Novel by Will Allen Dromgoole
From Two Tales


Will Allen and the Malungeons

While Ms Dromgoole has been severely criticized for her articles on the Malungeons in the 1890s, they do provide us with much valuable information that cannot be found anywhere else.  Many of todays articles and books are being written by people who have never even visited the locations of the Malungeons and I have seen many things written in the last ten years that far exceed the 'bad things' Ms Dromgoole wrote.  Yet they go unchallenged and for the most part aren't mentioned but here and there on a few blogs or message boards.

Some writers have said Ms Dromgoole lost her clerking job because she 'wrote against the Malungeons' this article dated September 1889 was written almost a year before her first article on the Malungeons was published.  Either there is an earlier article or Ms Dromgoole lost the election because of the story on 'Old Hickory.'

San Jose Mercury
Friday- Sept 20, 1889

Miss Will Allen Dromgoole, says report, is a literary lady who has cut her official throat with her little pen.  Some of her recent magazine sketches of life in the Tennessee Mountains carried a sting to the denizens of that section, and when Miss Dromgoole recently sought an election to a Senate clerkship, a big, rough-bearded Solon from an up county arose and roared out;  "She wrote agin the mount'ns! I war be known'st ter it, and I'm agin her!"  The Senate sat petrified and Miss Dromgoole incautiously giggled.  It sealed her fate.  Another hill-country legislator was hoisted to his feet by his indignant colleagues to second the objection.  He did it tersely and effectually.  "She 'lowed the wimmen folks went b'arfoot an' ther men talked a diurlec.  I'm agin anybody as is agin the mount'ns."  The issue was joined and on the ballot being taken Miss Dromgoole was beaten.

Born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee., Oct. 26, 1860, she was the  daughter of John Easter and Rebecca Mildred (Blanch) Dromgoole; granddaughter of the Rev. Thomas and Mary Dromgoole and of Ezekiel and Mildred (Cook) Blanch of Virginia; and great-granddaughter of Edward Dromgoole of Sligo, Ireland, and Rebecca Walton.

She was graduated from the Clarksville female academy, Tennessee in 1876, studied law with her father although the laws of Tennessee did not allow women to practice in those days.  She also studied  at the New England School of Expression in Boston. 

She was appointed assistant engrossing clerk of the Tennessee house of representatives in 1883, was elected engrossing clerk of the state senate, 1885; was re-elected in 1887; served an extra term, and was defeated for re-election in 1889.

Her first published story appeared in Youth's Companion in 1887, while she was serving as engrossing clerk, "Fiddling His Way to Fame" was about the Tennessee Governor, Bob Taylor. She had a best selling novel in 1911, "The Island of the Beautiful, " taught school in Tennessee one year, and one year in Temple, Texas and founded the Waco Women's Press Club. During World War I, Ms Dromgoole was a warrant officer in the United States Naval Reserve, lecturing to sailors on patriotic topics.

She is the author of:
Heart of Old Hickory (1891); The Farrier's Dog and His Fellow (1897); Further Adventures of the Fellow (1898); Valley Path (1898); Three Little Crackers (1898); Hero Chums (1898); Rare Old Chums (1898); A Boy's [p.312] Battle (1898); Cuich, and Other Tales of Tennessee (1898); A Moonshiner's Son (1898); Harum-Scarum Joe {1899); and The Battle on Stone River (1899); besides many magazine articles. Before her death she  had published thirteen books, 7,500 poems and 5,000 columns of essays, making her one of the most prolific of Tennessee writers.

From the preface of HEART OF OLD HICKORY  by B.O. Flower

''As the personality of a famous writer is always interesting, I propose to give a brief descriptive sketch of the little woman of whom the South has just reason to be proud before speaking of this book. She is small of stature, fragile in appearance, intense in her nature, and of a highly-strung nervous organism. I seldom care to dwell on the ancestry of an individual, as I think that  sort of thing has been greatly overdone, and I believe with Bulwer that " not to the past but to the future looks true nobility, and finds its blazon in posterity." And yet the ancestry of an individual may sometimes prove a helpful and interesting study.
I have frequently noticed in the writings of authors who exhibit great versatility, no less than in the lives of individuals who seem to present strikingly contradictory phases of character, the explanation of these phenomena in their ancestry. In the case of Miss Dromgoole we find an interesting illustration of this nature. Her great-grandfather Edward Dromgoole emigrated from Sligo, Ireland ; as he had accepted the tenets of Protestantism and his people were strong Catholics, it was unpleasant for him to longer remain in his native land. He became a prominent pioneer Methodist minister in Virginia. One of his sons, a well-known orator, represented the Petersburg district in congress. Her maternal grandfather was of Danish extraction, while her great-grandmother on her father's side was an Englishwoman, and her great-grandfather on the mother's side married a French lady.

 Here we have the mingling of Irish, Danish, English, and French blood, with some striking characteristics of each of these peoples appearing perceptibly in the person and works of Miss Dromgoole. Though she repudiates the English * in her blood, her sturdy loyalty to high principles and an ethical strength wedded to a certain seriousness, almost sad- * In a personal letter Miss Dromgoole says : " I do not know what I am. I claim the Irish and the French. I feel the Danish blood in my veins at times, but the cold blood of the English I repudiate."


John Easter Dromgoole, father of Will Allen served as Mayor of Murfreesboro during the Civil War and refused to surrender the city making it one of a few that were actually 'captured.'  In  1870 he was a member of the Tennessee Constitutional Convention that dealt with many of the 'free people of color' laws, along with John Netherland who had represented many of the Melungeons in court.

William Ewing Beard (1873-1950), son of Richard Beard and Will Allen's sister Maria Dromgoole was  soldier, journalist, war correspondent, naval historian and long-time officer of the Tennessee Historical Commission and member of the Tennessee Historical Society.  His grandfather Beard was head of the theological department of Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee where one of the early settlements was called 'Malungeon Town' in 1850.

George C. Dromgoole was married in Rutherford County, Tennessee to Nancy Gibson, daughter of Malcolm B. and Sarah Jameson Gibson.  Malcolm B. Gibson was born  1815 in Alabama and married 1833 in Lawrence County, Alabama.  Although I have searched many years I have not been able to identify the ancestry of Malcolm Gibson but is it possible Will Allen had knowledge of the Malungeons before she went to Newmans' Ridge or even 'distant relatives'?

Perhaps the most important things that came out of the articles Ms Dromgoole wrote was not what she wrote but what it prompted others to write.

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.  He was an early contributer to Tennessee history writing of the Civil War, some of his stories can be found in the  SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

In a later exchange  written by R. M. Ewing 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 [Randall 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 the The Advance-guard of Western Civilization: Life of James Robertson and Early  James Roberts Gilmore writes that "Randall M. Ewing is one of "three gentlemen who are undoubtedly better acquainted with the early history of the Southwest than any others now living"

This poem speaks to the responsibilties
that our generation owes to our descendants to come.


An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim-
That sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when he reached the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head.
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."






















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