(Mr. Jarvis was born in 1829 and lived with the "Melungeons" in Hancock
County. In the census records you will find him living just doors away from the
Gibsons, Collins and other families called Melungeon. He was a schoolteacher in
1850 and knew Vardy Collins and wife Peggy Gibson.)
Much has been said and written about the inhabitants of Newman’s Ridge
and Blackwater in Hancock County, Tenn. They have been derisively dubbed with
the name “Melungeons” by the local white people who have lived here with them.
It is not a traditional name or tribe of Indians.
Some have said these people were here when the white people first
explored this country. Others say they are a lost tribe of the Indians having no
date of their existence here, traditionally or otherwise.
All of this however, is erroneous and cannot be sustained. These people,
not any of them were here at the time the first white hunting party came from
Virginia and North Carolina in the year 1761-- the noted Daniel Boone was at the
head of one of these hunting parties and went on through Cumberland Gap. Wallen
was at the head of another hunting party from Cumberland County, Virginia and
called the river beyond North Cumberland Wallen’s Ridge and Wallen’s Creek for
himself. In fact these hunting parties gave all the historic names to the
mountain ridges and valleys and streams and these names are now historical
Wallen pitched his first camp on Wallen’s Creek near Hunter’s gap in
Powell’s Mountain, now Lee County, Virginia. Here they found the name of Ambrose
Powell carved in the bark of a beech tree; from this name they named the
mountain, river and valley for Powell, Newman’s Ridge was named for a man of the
party called Newman. Clinch River and Clinch valley--these names came at the
expense of an Irish man of the party in crossing the Clinch River, he fill off
the raft they were crossing on and cried aloud for his companions to “Clench
me”, “Clench me,’ and from this incident the name has become a historic name.
About the time the first white settlement west of the Blue Ridge was made
at Watauga River in Carter County, Tennessee, another white party was then
working the lead mines in part of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge. In the year
1762 these hunters turned, coming through Elk Garden, now Russell County,
Virginia. They then headed down a valley north of Clinch River and named it
Hunter’s Valley and buy this name it goes today. These hunters pitched their
tent near Hunter’s gap in Powell’s mountain, nineteen mile from Rogersville,
Tennessee on the Jonesville, Virginia road. Some of the party of hunter went on
down the country to where Sneedville, Hancock County, now stands and hunted
there during that season.
Bear were plentiful here and they killed many, their clothing became
greasy and near the camp was a projecting rock on which they would lie down and
drink and the rock became very greasy and they called it Greasy Rock and named
the creek Greasy Rock Creek, a name by which it has ever since been known and
called since, and here is the very place where these Melungeons settled, long
after this, on Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater.
“Vardy Collins, Shepherd Gibson, Benjamin Collins, Solomon Collins, Paul
Bunch and the Goodmans, chiefs and the rest of them settled here about the year
1804, possibly about the year 1795, but al these men above named, who are called
Melungeons, obtained land grants and muniments of title to the land they settled
on and they were the friendly Indians who came with the whites as they moved
west. They came from the Cumberland County and New River, Va., stopping at
various points west of the Blue Ridge. Some of them stopped on Stony Creek,
Scott County, and Virginia, where Stoney Creek runs into Clinch River.
The white emigrants with the friendly Indians erected a fort on the bank
of the river and called it Fort Blackmore and here yet many of these friendly
“Indians” live in the mountains of Stony creek, but they have married among the
whites until the race has almost become extinct. A few of the half bloods may be
found-none darker- but they still retain the name of Collins and Gibson, &c.
From here they came to Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater and many of them are here
yet; but the amalgamations of the whites and Indians has about washed the red
tawny from their appearance, the white faces predominating, so now you scarcely
find one of the original Indians; a few half-bloods and quarter-bloods-balance
white or past the third generation.
The old pure blood were finer featured, straight and erect in form, more
so than the whites and when mixed with whites made beautiful women and the men
very fair looking men. These Indians came to Newman’s Ridge and Blackwater. Some
of them went into the War of 1812-1914 whose names are here given; James
Collins, John Bolin and Mike Bolin and some others not remembered; those were
quite full blooded. These were like the white people; there were good and bad
among them, but the great majority were upright, good citizens and accumulated
good property and many of them are among our best property owners and as good as
Hancock County, Tennessee affords. Their word is their bond and most of them
that ever came to Hancock county, Tennessee, then Hawkins County and Claiborne,
are well remembered by some of the present generation here and now and they have
left records to show these facts.
They all came here simultaneously with the whites from the State of
Virginia, between the years 1795 and 1812 and about this there is no mistake,
except in the dates these Indians came here from Stoney Creek.