Parson William G. Brownlow ~ Frederick A. Ross
And the Malungeons




It has been reported many times over the years that the first time the word Malungin was used was at the Stony Creek Church minutes in what is now Scott County, Virginia in 1813, however it is based only on a 'transcript of a transcript' and whether the original even exists is debatable.  It is possible a member of the church was 'harboring a Malungin' but it is just as possible they may have been harboring a member of the Malugin or Mclaglin family. I think we all know the headaches that bad transcriptions can cause, especially those pesky census takers.

This church record is essential in establishing the true and correct story of the Melungeons. Without it we are left wondering if it was in fact first time Melungin was  used in 1813 or was it used first in 1840 by Parson William G. Brownlow, editor of The Whig.  In that piece Brownlow wrote of the Malungeon of Washington City which is of course no where near Newman's Ridge.  [ See  Brownlow's Whig]

William G. Brownlow, after becoming a Methodist Minister in 1826,  first appointment was the Black Mountain circuit in Western North Carolina [Buncombe] in the year 1826, he spent the next year on the French Broad circuit above Ashville, North Carolina and in 1828 was appointed to travel in charge of Washington Circuit, a small circuit in the lower end of East Tennessee. He visited an uncle residing at the head of Muscle Shoals in Alabama and traveled through the Cherokee Nation where he spent the night.

In 1829 he was appointed to the Athens circuit and 1830 to Tellico in Hiwassee District and 1831 he was back in Western North Carolina, the Franklin circuit.  He attended the conference in Philadelphia in 1832 traveling through Abingdon, Fincastle, Staunton, Frederick,  Baltimore and Washington City where he spent a week.  That year he was appointed to Tugaloo circuit in District of Pickens County, South Carolina.

The 1833 conference was held in Kingsport and he was appointed to the Dandridge circuit on the fork between Holston and French Broad. His last year on the traveling circuit took him to Scott County, Virginia.  Did Brownlow pick up this word in South Carolina, North Carolina, Washington, Richmond, or any of the other cities and take it to Scott County?  [See Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History  Chapters 9 & 10 for more on Brownlow]



In 1856 Parson William G. Brownlow wrote in his book "
The great iron wheel examined: --", page 161

  ''You have alluded, classically enough, to the "sable leader" of the Athens Synod, in this work of falsehood and     detraction. The fact of the copper color, the woolly head, and other similar appendages of the negro, which cling to this Rev. Malungeon, notwithstanding his Caucasian features, in the general, should be kept prominently before the proud, spirited, and high-minded Virginian. Let the distinction of color be kept up, and let our identity as a race of white men be preserved. Let the Presbyterians of Marion trample upon marriage relations, despise the distinction between white and colored people, and bid defiance to the powers of enlightened society, if they choose; but let us, my friends, have more self-respect than to imitate their example.'' 

Who is this "Rev. Malungeon" that Brownlow is writing about?  Frederick Augustus Ross, Presbyterian and arch enemy of Parson Brownlow. He was the son of  David Ross and 'according to Brownlow' his mother was a slave of Governor Page that David bought and set free. David Ross was one of the largest land holders in Virginia when he died owning land in some twelve counties and several other states.  He also owned the Oxford Iron Works at Lynchburg, Virginia and over 400 slaves as well as 1000s of acres in Sullivan and Hawkins County, Tennessee where he built the iron furnace in 1790.  When David Ross died in 1818 his son Frederick moved to the Hawkins County area where he had inherited the Tennessee lands of his father.


Christopher Humble the Presbyterian Minister who visited the Melungeons at Newman's Ridge in 1890 wrote;

A writer says:
"One night in June, many years ago, Dr. Frederick A. Ross, a noted Presbyterian minister, of Eastern Tennessee, was traveling through the Blackwater country. He accidentally came upon "Uncle" Vard's house and asked if he could stay all night. 

"The old mountaineer told him he could, and after he had fed his horse and the guest had eaten supper the old man asked him his business. He told him he was a preacher. The old man told him he would like to hear him preach. ' Where is your congregation?" asked the minister. 'I'll get one in a few minutes,' replied 'Uncle' Vard. He took a long dinner horn from its rack over the door and going outdoors blew several shrill blasts. Within an hour fifty people had assembled, and Dr. Ross said that he never preached to an audience which showed greater appreciation and deeper religious feeling than did that little band of copper- colored mountaineers on Black water."

"Uncle" Yard is Varday Collins, the chief of the first settlers who came to this valley as early as 1789. He lived to be 101 years old, and the springs, post-office and hotel are called by his name. (2)



David Ross is listed in the estate sale of Gilbert Gibson in Louisa County, Viriginia in 1763  and in Pittsylvania County during the Revolution David Ross was accused of instigating the Indians in the area to attack the white settlers but was later proved to be not guilty. (3)

In 1791 Thomas Gibson aka Mingo Jackson won his freedom from this same David Ross in Richmond, proving he descended from an Indian woman of Charles City County, Jane Gibson. Other members of this family belonging to George and Jane Gibson [brother and sister] of Charles City County, some living in Louisa County, also won their freedom. (4)

    May 7, 1805

    Deposition of Robert Wills in the suit Thomas Gibson alias Mingo Jackson
    plt. against David Ross deft. taken in presence of the plt & Mr. Vannerson
    agent for Mr. Ross by consent, at the house of the said Wills this 25th day of
    June 1791, who being first duly sworn deposeth and saith; That about seventy
    years ago he was well acquainted with Jane Gibson and George Gibson her
    brother who were dark mulattoes who lived in the County of Charles City and were
    free people; that the said Jane Gibson had two children named Jane and George
    Gibson and they were also free; That the said Jane Gibson the younger
    intermarried with a certain ---- Evans of the said county, by whom she had several
    children on of whom named Francis Evans granddaughter of the Jane Gibson above
    named, that the said Francis Evans removed to New Kent county, where she
    lived and had several children, two of whom, as Francis Evans informed this
    deponent were named Tom and Francis Evans who were bound to one Lightfoot of New
    Kent. This information was made to this Depont. by the said Frances Evans
    the elder when she was on a visit to her friends in this County, who were
    neighbours to this deponent. This deponent further saith that after the great
    grandchildren viz; Tom and Francis were bound to the said Lightfoot he never
    heard anything more relative to them. That many of the descendants of the said
    Gibsons and Evans now in this deponents knowledge are alive, and enjoying their
    freedom unmolested and have remained so since this deponents first
    with the first Jane Gibson the elder; that some of them are black, some
    nearly white, and others dark mulattoes which this deponent supposes proceeded
    from a promiscuous intercourse with different colours. . . .  
    [Petition of the Slaves Held by Lewis Allen to the Superior     Court of  Richmond, Virginia May 7, 1805]






(1) Parson William G. Brownlow -  The Great Iron Wheel     Examined   Published 1856
'' At the close of this Address, the following resolutions were offered for adoption by J. W. Schoolfield; and being seconded, Rev. Gr. K. Snapp took the vote of the audience:
Resolved, That the thanks of the Methodists, and the friends of Methodism, now assembled at this camp-ground, be and they are hereby tendered to Rev. W. G. Brownlow, for his able defence of our much-loved doctrines, and of the venerated memory of our sainted founder, and of our yet more cherished and highly-prized characters, against the vile and ribald aspersions of Frederick A. Ross, and his endorsers—the members of the East Tennessee Synod—who have willingly become the tools or partners in the slanders of their more sable, yet still more able and accomplished leader, in sophistry, falsehood, and detraction.

Resolved, That the editors of the Methodist Episcopalian, the Jones- borough Whig, and Jonesborough Review, be requested to give the foregoing resolution an insertion in their respective publications.
Staley's Creek C. G., Smythe co., Va., July 9th, 1848.

REPLY.
I thank the gentlemen who have moved and seconded the adoption of the resolution just read, and for the compliment paid me therein—all of which has been without agency of mine, or previous knowledge of such an intention. But I thank this large assemblage of ladies and gentlemen still more sincerely, for the unanimity and alacrity with which they have adopted them. Their adoption has been like that of the endorsement of what I have this day made war upon, by the Athens Synod—it has been " with absolute unanimity !" I will not disguise the fact, although I am not a very vain man. that this compliment is acceptable to me; and the more gratifying, coming, as it does, from so many ladies and gentlemen of the first respectability in our county.

I beg, however, to state to the members and friends of the Methodist Church present, that they are under no sort of obligations to me for any services they may have supposed me to render the Church, here or elsewhere. I have done nothing more than my duty—nothing more than I am prepared to do at all times, in all places, and at all hazards, under like circumstances of offence, and against any combination of wicked men and devils! What I have said and done, it is the duty of every Methodist preacher to do—a duty they owe to the ashes of the venerable dead—a Wesley, an Asbury, and a host of others—whose souls are at peace with God, while their reputations are assailed by these hell-hounds of sectarian malice! Were I to sit quietly by my fireside, at home, or look tamely on at all this abuse of my female relatives and acquaintances, I should be ashamed to look one of them in the face when I might chance to meet with them!

The speech you have just responded to, is substantially the same which I have been delivering for the last two years, to so many thousand persons, in Tennessee and Virginia. And I remark, with gratitude to God, that during all that time I have been but once interrupted by rain, (at Greenville, Tenn.,) and never have had so much as a bad cold to prevent my speaking.
You have alluded, classically enough, to the "sable leader" of the Athens Synod, in this work of falsehood and detraction. The fact of the copper color, the woolly head, and other similar appendages of the negro, which cling to this Rev. Malungeon, notwithstanding his Caucasian features, in the general, should be kept prominently before the proud, spirited, and high-minded Virginian. Let the distinction of color be kept up, and let our identity as a race of white men be preserved. Let the Presbyterians of Marion trample upon marriage relations, despise the distinction between white and colored people, and bid defiance to the powers of enlightened society, if they choose; but let us, my friends, have more self-respect than to imitate their example.

Peace is desirable; and if our Presbyterian friends want it, let them choke off, and choke down, this "sable leader'' of theirs, and cease to uphold him in his outrageous course Then, and not till then, can they have peace, unless they conquer a peace, which they can never do! You will hear much said about my abuse on this occasion. I have been severe, and I intended to be severe; because I have been replying to publications which teem with the most vulgar and abusive language, and with the vilest and meanest insinuations against our entire ministry and membership. I have been replying to a slanderer, who delights in fishing up from the sewers of all the corrupt writers against Methodism, every vile slander and false insinuation that they have set afloat. This is the natural aliment on which Ross lives. His language is that of a peculiar dialect, used by the bar-room bully and street loafer. He is the embodied personification of all my conceptions of a villain. He is the living picture of moral death—a travelling monument of the wrath of an offended God, and a fearful witness to the truth of the words of inspiration, which assert that the heart of man is desperately wicked! Yes! his heart, like his complexion, is bronzed and burnt to blackness by crime; and can now be seen in his wild and fierce black eye, glowing with a fire approaching to ferocity! His voice, everywhere raised to a pitch of deadly passion, is constantly heard, like the hoarse croaking of some bird of ill-omen !

(2)Church at Home and Abroad‎ - Page 403
by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. General Assembly - Presbyterian Church - 1897 A SECOND VISIT TO THE MELUNGEONS - REV. C. HUMBLE, M.D., SYNODICAL, SABBATH-SCHOOL MISSIONARY  http://www.geocities.com/ourmelungeons/humble.html

(3)13 Jul 1763 Louisa County, Book: 2, Page: 310, Gilbert Gibson, Type: Acct, Date: 13-Jul-1763
Account of sale of Gilbert Gibson dec'd. 13 Jul 1763 David Ross one bed 2# 3s David Ross one trunk 0# 5s David Ross total due 2# 8s

(4)  Gibson Notes

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