This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Melungeons

MalungeonsWill Allan Dromgoole, as noted earlier, had a very special vocabulary for the Melungeon people. Good or bad, she is still considered an authority on them. Here are a number of infamous quotes from her book The Malungeons:

“The most that can be said of one of them is, ‘He is a Malungeon,’ a synonym for all that is doubtful and mysterious — and unclean.”

“But to the people of the foot hills and the nearer valleys they [Melungeons] became a living terror; sweeping down upon them, stealing their cattle, their provisions, their very clothing, and household furniture.”

“At the breaking out of the war [Civil War], some few enlisted in the army, but the greater number remained with their stills, to pillage and plunder among the helpless women and children.”

“‘A Malungeon,’ said he, ‘isn’t a nigger, and he isn’t an Indian, and he isn’t a white man. God only knows what he is. I should call him a Democrat, only he always votes the Republican ticket.'”

“The Malungeons are filthy, their home is filthy. They are rogues, natural, ‘born rogues,’ close, suspicious, inhospitable, untruthful, cowardly, and, to use their own word ‘sneaky.'”

However, if you have the stomach to search beyond the bigoted hyperbole, there are some valid insights into the community.

“The laugh of the Malungeon woman is the most exquisitely musical jingle, a perfect ripple of sweet sound.”

“On the Ridge proper, one finds only the pure Malungeons; it is in the unsavory limits of Black Water Swamp and on Big Sycamore Creek, lying at the foot of the Ridge between it and Powell’s Mountain, that the mixed races dwell.”

“They resort to a very peculiar method of distinguishing themselves. Jack Collins’ wife for instance will be Mary Jack. His son will be Ben Jack. His daughters’ names will be similar; Nancy Jack or Jane Jack, as the case may be, but always having the father’s Christian name attached.”

“The Malungeons are very careful for their dead. They build a kind of floorless house above each separate grave, many of the homes of the dead being far better than the dwellings of the living. The graveyard presents the appearance of a diminutive town, or settlement, and is kept with great nicety and care. They mourn their dead for years, and every friend and acquaintance is expected to join in the funeral arrangements. They follow the body to the grave, sometimes for miles, afoot, in single file. Their burial ceremonies are exceedingly interesting and peculiar.”

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