Monday, August 12, 2013


In the summer of 1992 I was searching for old church records in the Palmer Room of the library in Kingsport, Tn., because my 5th great, grandfather Zephaniah Goins Joined Blackwater Church via letter from another church recorded in the minutes of Blackwater Church.

I found a book containing the minutes of the old Stony Creek Church located in Fort Blackmore Virginia 1801-1814. I didn’t find grandpa’s name, but I did find the word *Melungin* which to date is the oldest written record of this word. I first wrote about this in Families of Hawkins County, Tennessee and in the Gowen Research Foundation Newsletter 1994.

This book was perhaps the first book of Stony Creek Baptist Church and was in the possession of Scott Boatright whose grandfather was once a minister of this church. The handwriting is very good and the ink has lasted well. Copied August , 1966 by Emory Hamilton, Wise Virginia, with a copy filed in the archive of Southwest Virginia Historical Society at Clinch Valley College. Notice this date 1966 which was before the outdoor drama Walk toward the sunset, before the internet, at this time frame Melungeon was a forgotten word. At this time the word used in Wise County to describe tri-racial people was Ramp.

Book 1 ends with July 1811, Book 2 starts with what seems to be the Nov.meeting 1812, was copied at the same time by Emory Hamilton, copied from Hamilton copy in 1970 by Bobbie Baldwin.

Book 2 transcribed by Bobbie Baldwin became an issue with one person on her Melungeon blog and website, simply because it no longer fit her new agenda, while in the past she praised the find. Only The part involving the word Melungin simply because she did not want the oldest written record to be involved with the Newman Ridge, Blackwater, settlement who were recorded in these minutes as some of the first members beginning 1801.  The word Melungin was recorded in 1813 book 2 by Emory Hamilton who placed a copy in the library at Clinch Valley College in Wise Virginia, which is now the University of Virginia at Wise.

Emory L. Hamilton (1913-1991) was a historian and educator in Wise,County Virginia. The collection contains books, photographs, articles written by Mr.Hamilton, and personal letters pertaining to the history and genealogy of Southwest Virginia the word melungin was transcribed from original by Hamilton in 1966.

I learned from this trip that a lady named Garnell Marshall of St. Paul,Virginia had all 4 of these books for sale I purchased 3 of them, but before I bought these I ask her if they were from the original books and she said yes. This removed the possibility of an error in transcribing the book by Baldwin. This first known written reference to the word "Melungin" is recorded on 26 September 1813, page 37 in minute Book two of Stony Creek Church by Baldwin and Page 40 in Garnell Marshall Stony Creek Church minutes. The record reads: Brother Kilgore, Moderator

          “Then came forward Sister Kitchen and complained to the church against
           Susanna Stallard for saying she harbored them Melungins."

Thomas Gibson family was  originally from Louisa County, Virginia, and Orange County, North Carolina, moved to Wilkes County from the Flat River circa 1770. Most of the Collins left Orange County in 1767. This family moved to Fort Blackmore, Virginia before 1800. And joined Stony Creek Church as recorded in the minutes:

Feb. 26, 1802 Church came to order, Thomas Gibson excommunicated, Sister Vina Gibson obtained a letter of dis-mission by letter of recommendation from  Blackwater Church, sister Mary Gibson obtained a letter of dismission.

July 1802 Ruebin Gibson, Fanny Gibson, Henry Gibson, Thomas Gibson Jr, Vina Gibson, Judith Moore, Fanny Gibson, received by experience.

Charles Gibson and his wife Mary were received by experience at Stony Creek Church 26 June 1802.194

In 1802 Some of these Melungeon  families had left for Blackwater, as per the following request: Sept. 25, 1804 Ruebin Gibson excluded from membership of this church he lives down at Blackwater, and has our letter of dismission and keeps it, and has joined another church. In those days people traveled several miles for  church meetings which were held once a month. Some folks stayed all night on their long journey, which seems to be the disturbance caused between two ladies of this church when one accused the other of harboring the Melungins.

This first known written reference to the word "Melungeon" is recorded on 26 September 1813, page 37 in minute Book two of Stony Creek Church: Church set in love. Brother Oaks, Moderator.

“Then came forward Sister Kitchen and complained to the church against Susanna Stallard for saying she harbored them Melungins."

Sister Kitchens used the given name Susanna in her complaint filed with the church, rather than the nickname Sook, for Susanna Stallard as used by the church clerk in her testimony:
“Sister Sook said she was hurt with her for believing her child, and not believing her,and she won’t talk to her to get satisfaction, and both is " pigedish," one against the other. Sister Sook lays it down and the church forgives her." Interpreting the above church record, I believe the church forgave Susanna Stallard (Sister Sook) for saying Sister Kitchens was harboring Melungins and possibly agreed it was her child who spread the rumor. They could not solve this because they were "pigedish" (Pig Headed, an old expression for stubborn.) The way this word "Melungin" was used in these minutes, suggest it was a common known word at Stony Creek Church in 1813 because no other explanations were given.

Studying the Stony Creek Church Minutes,tax records, and oral history from this area the word "Melungin" used in this church record appears to apply to one group who had moved away. Although several Melungeons, were excommunicated from Stony Creek Baptist Church, this act does not prove they were discriminated against by white members, because whites were also excommunicated for the same reasons.

The first member excommunicated was William Nolen on October 23, 1802. In these first minutes of Stony Creek Church, the Thomas Gibson family, who joined in 1802, were excommunicated a few months later. In almost every case the reason given was drunk, rowdy and fighting. Why were they fighting? Was it because of their dark complection and were not socially accepted by neighbors in the Fort Blackmore area? This was a church that accepted blacks as members, and voted to give them equal rights in the church, and they accepted the Melungeons as long as their behavior was according to church bylaws which was very strict.
Stony Creek Church records point to the Thomas Gibson family as the ones who were returning from Blackwater for meetings at Stony Creek Church. This family is later classified as Melungeon on Newman Ridge. Former members from this family may have been the ones referred to in the 1813 church minutes as "Melungins." Valentine Collins, who joined in 1801 and  moved his letter to Blackwater Church. He may have also returned to visit friends at Stony Creek.

In 1755 The Thomas Gibson family, Thomas Collins family, Moses Riddle family and William Bollen family had adjoining farms on the Flat River in North Carolina. According to family tradition, some of the Collins and Gibsons in Virginia claimed Portugese and Indian blood. In the 1740s these two families lived near the Pamunkey River, then moved to the Flat River in Orange County, North Carolina, before migrating to the New River. According to church minutes, most of the Thomas Gibson Sr. family had moved to the Blackwater Tennessee area before 1813. Valentine Collins probably migrated with the Thomas Gibson family from Ashe County, North Carolina. According to a Dec. 1801 church record, Valentine Collins joined Stony Creek Church. He and his wife received a letter of dismission 23 April 1803, and on the same day Charles Gibson and his wife received a letter of  “dismission”(dismissal), but Charles later returned to Stony Creek Church and he was excommunicated on 25 January 1806. Most of these members of Stony Creek Church migrated from the New River.

“Aug.1807 Valentine Collins' case laid over. Sept: Valentine Collins neglected to hear the church, non-fellowship with him and will inform the church on Black Water. Isaac Denton, Wm Goodson, Harden Williams to write a letter to that church”.

Valentine Collins was a member of Stony Creek and Blackwater Baptist Church. He may have gone to Cumberland County, Kentucky with Micajer Bunch, or Joseph and Isaac Riddle, sons of Tory Captain William Riddle. Valentine Collins was on the move. He didn't stay long as a member of Clear Fork Baptist Church, but came back to Hawkins County where he is listed on the 1810 tax list.

 “State of Tennessee, Hawkins County vs Valentine Collins, Benjamin Collins, Jordan Gibson and Charles Gibson on a plea of debt by merchant John M. Preston May 1,1811”-Then on the 14th day of June 1811 they were summoned to Rogersville to pay John M. Preston eight pounds and thirteen shillings on beef cattle by the first day of August next. Valentine Collins owed 2 pounds 15 shillings, Benjamin Collins 1 pound 18 shillings, Jordan Gibson 1 pound 16 shillings and Charles Gibson 2 pound, 4 shillings totaling 8 pounds, 13 shillings.

Valentine Collins is on a delinquent tax list in Claiborne County 1812. “ Thomas Gibson, Sherod Gibson and Valentine Collins.”  It appears they moved there from Hawkins and then moved from Claiborne owing taxes. According to a descendants Y-DNA test, Valentine Collins was E1b1a. He was obviously white enough to be listed white in most records. He was a member of Stony Creek, Blackwater and Clear Fork Baptist Churches. Valentine Collins obviously left descendants in Hancock County, proven by the FTDNA Family Finder test.

“ James Williams allowed to keep the horse which was pro-vided by this church and Beaver Creek Church for the use of paying Bro Bunch to Bro John Lee, and making Bro Bunch’’s coffin. Letter of dismission to Anne Lee and Wm Bond and his wife.”

The Melungeons actually told us where they come from. Charles Gibson was probably the oldest Melungeon on Newman Ridge when he filed his pension at Rogersville on 19 Jan.1839. Application # R3995 he gave his age as 92 (b. 1747), but according to a tax record in Orange County, NC. He was more than 100 yrs old. He gave his place of birth as Louisa County, Virginia. He enlisted near Salisbury, North Carolina. Benjamin Collins, Jonathan Gibson, and Jordan Gibson swear that Charles Gibson is reputed to be a Revolutionary War soldier in their neighborhood. Charles Gibson and wife Mary, believed to be the daughter of Moses and Mary Riddle, lived on Newman Ridge. Now we know for a fact this Gibson family came from the Pamunkey River. How about the Collins, Bunch and the rest of these ole pioneers who were labeled Melungeons? Who was in this group, and who was the head and source of the Newman Ridge Melungeons?

Hanover County was formed from New Kent County, Virginia in 1723. These Hanover County land records show the relationship of the head Melungeon families. In 1724 Paul Bunch was granted land on both sides of the Haw River. In 1728 Gilbert Gibson was granted 400 acres on the South side of the South Anna River adjacent to Col. Meriwhether. In 1728 John Bunch was granted 400 acres (Same as above location). Paul Bunch, son of John Bunch Sr., and Gedion Gibson, probably his cousin, moved from the Pamunkey River area to the Roanoke River sometime in the 1720's.

“When Gedion Gibson migrated to South Carolina it caused a disturbance in Craven County. Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina summoned Gedion Gibson and his family to explain their presence in the area, and after meeting them reported “I have had them before me in council and upon examination find that they are not Negroes nor slaves but free people, that the father of them here is named Gedion Gibson and his father was also free. I have been informed by a person who has lived in Virginia that this Gibson has lived there several years in good repute and by his papers that he has produced before me that his transactions there have been very regular. That he has for several years paid taxes for two tracks of land and has seven Negroes of his own. That he is a carpenter by trade and is come hither for the support of his family. I have in consideration of his wife being a white woman and several white women capable of working and being serviceable in the country permitted him to settle in this Country”.

“In 1743 land on the Pamunkey River was granted to Gilbert Gibson, Thomas Gibson, and Thomas Collins, (Saint Frederick's Parish record)”.  Deeds of sale entered in this story prove the above land was on the Pamunkey River. These land entries and property transactions suggest that the older Bunch, Gibson and Collins families were related.

 According to land and tax records, the Melungeons were dark complected when they arrived in North Carolina. The 1754-55 Orange County, North Carolina tax records list them “mulatto” Also, land records such as this Orange County, North Carolina Land Grant. “1761- 700 acres to Thomas Collins on Dials Creek of the Flat River. Chain bearers: George Gibson and Paul Collins (Mulattoes)”.  We know by the Melungeon Y-DNA study this mulatto label most likely meant they were mixed African and European.

The Saponi had a settlement near Hillsboro, North Carolina. Post Revolutionary Pleasant Grove region Jeramiah Bunch, George Gibson, and Henry Bunch receive land Grants in 1785 along the Eno River just east of  Hillsboro, North Carolina. These related families had adjoining land on the Pamunkey River in Virginia in early 1700. “29 Oct 1751- Grant to William Churton, 640 acres on south side of Flat River joining John Collins on the Rocky Branch. Grant is for a warrant issued to Thomas Gibson (#3775).” “1752 250 acres to Thomas Gibson on the Flat River.”

“28 Oct 1752 640 acres to Joseph Collins on the south west side of the Flat River in St. John’’s Parish, Witness-Thomas Collins and James Lilkemper”.

William Bolen, Thomas Collins, and Moses Riddle lost their improvements to John Brown’’s survey as previously stated. ““Warrant 26 Dec 1760. 700 acres includes Bolins, Ridles & Collins impovements. Surveyed 13 April 1761" “John Brown Survey 13 April 1761 698 acres on Flat River joins Thomas Gibson, Chainbearers Moses Riddle, Charles Gibson”.

The 1755 Orange County, North Carolina tax lists identify the Melungeons as mulatto or other than white also confirms Calloway Collins statement to Dromgoole in 1790. Last paragraph page 746 “The original Collins people were Indian there is no doubt about that, and they lived as Indians lived until the first white settlers appeared among them”. From a close analysis of this story published in the Arena in 1891 it appears that Dromgoole added the tribe Cherokee, especially if she is quoting Calloway Collins which appears to be a direct quote from him, he says they were living as Indians in Virginia. This eliminates the Cherokee Indians as the Indian Tribe because the Pamunkey River was near the home of Chief Powhatan.

Not all these inter related families migrated to the New River and Newman Ridge ; Caswell County was formed from the Northern Part of Orange in 1777 it included part of the Flat River such as Rocky Branch and the following where in the new County; John Collins, Obadiah Collins 1, Middleston Collins (Millington) Martin Collins and Paul Collins.

Person County NC was formed in 1791 from the northeast area of Caswell County and the rocky branch area of the Flat River was in Person County. Roxboro is the county seat. Many of the dark skin settlers who remained became known as the Person County, Indians and they were so recognized and had their own Indian school.1790 census of Burke County North Carolina-Major Gibson, Wilborn Gibson, Stephen Gibson, Isom Gibson, Joseph Gibson, David Gibson, Wm. Gibson, Harmon Gibson.

With the help of family members and researchers, the author began this search for the Indian ancestors described by Grandpa Harrison Goins in 1950. his Indian ancestor was from his great grandma Aggy Sizemore Minor, descendants from her father George Sizemore was Q haplogroup, Native American. I talked with all the old timers in our family, gathered information from church, tax, census, court and land records. This combined documentation, and family history convinced me that our Goins family descended from Virginia’s Northern Neck, but even more convincing is the fact that our northern neck Goins foreparents were referred to as mulatto in 1724, approximately 290 years ago. Entries of mulatto, and as I later learned from the Goins FTDNA project they were African E1b1a. These findings establish this Going family as an unidentified mixture of African and European in 1724.

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