These Appalachian Mountains?
Facts And Myths
Throughout the Centuries
By Helen Campbell
is a term whose origin is still debatable to this
very day. No one knows with certainty where and how
the term came about, and perhaps we never will.
At the present, modern science is trying to unlock
the DNA of people who claim to have inherited the
Melungeon culture from their mixed ancestry.
The photo on
the right is of Newmans Ridge, Tennessee nearby the
town of Sneedville. This area is just one of many
places where Melungeons still exist to this very
day. Melungeons have lived and died in these
majestic mountains ridges for centuries. You can
find hundreds of old family cemeteries scattered
throughout the isolated Appalachian Mountain peaks
and valleys. Each cemetery is filled with clues that
reveal a community. Each grave holds a unique story
of a life that once existed at some moment in time.
We can learn a lot from these aged family
cemeteries. Time and weather has taken a toll on the
oldest headstones, each years hundreds of
inscriptions are no longer legible.
the county seat of Hancock County. The tucked away
town has an elevation of 1169 feet and an estimated
population, in 2003, of 1,328. Hancock County was
formed in 1844 from Hawkins and Claiborne Counties.
Unfortunately, the older records documenting the
area's history was lost to a fire. Recently efforts
to save historical documents were taken to task by
local historians and genealogists. Volunteer
archivists on treasure hunt through Hawkins County
TENNESSEE PHOTO COURTESY OF
photo on the left was published in
The Tennessee Alumnus
Did the American Eugenics Movement, a social,
political, and scientific phenomenon in the first
half of twentieth century, sterilized people
of mixed "race" ancestry, causing the Melungeons'
extinction? This photo on the left was taken about
seventy eight years ago, during the time of the
American Eugenics Movement. Who was the
'designators' that marked them as Melungeons? What
happened to these "designated" Melungeon families?
Where are they today? Are their grandparents buried
in America? Where are their descendents? What does
this photo say about who they are?
For over one
hundred years journalist have embellished their
stories to attract the reader's attention, everyone
loves a mystery. "Mysterious," is a common word in
numerous writings during the twentieth century. What
do archeologist and anthropology divulge about the
Melungeons? The term "Tri-racial Isolates" became
associated with the Melungeons during end of
twentieth century. Did the word "Melungeon" derive
from the Angolan-Kimbundu word malungu which
originally meant "watercraft? Can this century's
Anthrogenealgy reveal the enigma of
Melungeons? Where does one begin to sort the facts
In the next
months melungeons.com will be bringing forth the
research done by both scholars and common people.
Hopefully, people everywhere will have a better
understanding of the evolution of human kinship.
In the summer
of 1977, a journalist, Pam Vallett, wrote about a
C. McCurdy Lipsey,
University of Tennessee who was doing research on
the Melungeons. Vallett wrote that
C. McCurdy Lipsey told her "..the Melungeons of
East Tennessee, a people thought for many years to
possess unique racial and cultural characteristics,
may not be so unique after all." She also wrote that
Lipsey said "Additional research will need to be
done on the term "Melungeon" itself. There are
several theories as to its origin and meaning."
Read Pam Vallett's,
THE MELUNGEON MYSTERY: THE
MAKING OF MYTH?