Hancock County, Home of the Melungeons

The name Melungeon refers to a people of mixed descent who, according to one theory, are descendants of early Spanish and Portuguese explorers who made settlements in Georgia and the Carolinas prior to the historic Jamestown establishments of 1567 or 1607. Genetic studies give rise to the belief that the Melungeons were originally from northwest Africa who, known as Moors, moved into Spain and Portugal around 710 A.D. Exiled during the Spanish Inquisition, these people may have come to the New World in the 16th Century. Subsequent generations, apparently unaccepted legally or socially by their new country, retreated to the mountains where today some 500 Melungeon descendants still live where their ancestors settled in northeast Tennessee and extreme southwest Virginia.

In Hancock County, Newman’s Ridge is one of the most famous of Melungeon territories. From here came the the 18th Century patriarch, “Vardy” Collins. The 19th Century gave us the unique and immortal Mahala Mullins, better know as “Big Haley,” famous for her size (over 500 pounds) and her moonshining.

The actual origins of the Melungeons is still the subject of controversy and conflicting genetic theory. Melungeon genealogy continues to be extensively explored here in Hancock County, the ancestral and current home of so many of these unique people.

Kennedy, N. Brent, with Kennedy Robyn V. The Melungeons, The Resurrection of a Proud People. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1950.

Scott Collins, Clerk and Master, PO Box 426, Sneedville, TN 37869

For further research into Melungeon history search for "Melungeon" at GOOGLE

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