Sunday June 23, 2002
Left to right:Betty Griffith, Konnie Hoover, Tari Adams, Phillip Roberts, Penny Ferguson, Jack Goins, Kathleen McGowan.
"Early on Sunday morning, seven Melungeons piled into a minivan and trundled up Newman's Ridge into the heart of Tennessee's Melungeon country. The sycamores were draped with mistletoe, and many of the houses along the way had small plots of tobacco growing. Sitting at the wheel, Jack Goins joked that the switchbacks were so sharp that "you meet yourself coming back," while others made wisecracks about whose outlaw ancestors killed whose.
This was why they had come to the reunion—to see the valleys and hilltops their forebears had farmed, to share lore and take pictures of each other in front of gravestones and crumbling cabins. Others may have looked to DNA for identity, but to this group of Melungeons, a summer morning in the sweet air of Hancock County was more meaningful than any pattern of genetic blips.
In the valley below Newman's Ridge, the Melungeons clambered out and headed for the little whitewashed Primitive Baptist Church. Seven Gibson, who can trace his roots through several major Melungeon families, was preaching. In front of the church, a fountain collected the springwater that ran off the razorback hills above. It was little more than a low stone trough with a roof and a spigot, but the sign above it read: "This water will satisfy the thirst of your body. Only Jesus can satisfy the thirst of your soul."
Goins passed out some Styrofoam cups, and each of the Melungeons drank in turn."( Kathleen McGowan, reporter, was along on this trip from Rogersville, Tennessee. Kathleen McGowan wrote the above in her article on the Melungeons concerning their DNA in the May 2003 issue of Discover Magazine beginning page 58.)
We took HWY 70 to Kyles Ford, then east up the Clinch River and turned on Fishers Valley road, crossed the North Fork of Clinch River and visited near the home of Paul and Kate Hurd, which was originally the home of my 5th generation grandparents Zachariah and Aggy Sizemore Minor. We passed Walnut Grove Church and drove on to the farm where I was born, then we drove toward Sneedville and crossed Newman Ridge near Seven Gibson's home, where we took this picture. We then drove down Newman Ridge into Vardy Valley. Jack Goins