Wednesday, January 12, 2011



by Jack Goins

In the April Newsletter I wrote about our  need to research some areas where our ancestors lived prior to migrating to the Clinch River Valley beginning in 1795. When a large group of our Melungeon Progenitors left The Pamunkey River area of Louisa and Hanover County, Virginia they migrated to the Flat River which at that time was Granville County, North Carolina. This research is about the Flat River area and the people who lived here and the ones who stayed.  Person County, North Carolina is bounded on the north by Virginia, on the south by Durham and Orange counties, on the west by Caswell, and on the east by Granville. My wife and I visited  the Flat River area in Person County, North Carolina in 1997 and  took the  pictures that are in my books of the Flat River and the Flat River Primitive Baptist Church established in 1750.  This area in Person County was then Granville County, became Orange in 1752. This was the location of the Melungeon Progenitors after selling their land in Louisa County, Virginia they migrated to this area and lived here for at least 17 years (1749-1767), they were sometimes enumerated as mulatto on land records and also on a 1755 tax list. 

In this area there is a tribe of Indians and I wrote about them in the first chapter of my book, Melungeons Footprints From the Past.  In the Person County Indian Group, a school census taken in November 1936, listed 346 persons in the community representing 76 families and the families averaged 6 to 8 children. (2-May 1937 Louise V. Nunn-A comparison of the social situation of two Isolated Indian Groups in Northern North Carolina. Submitted in partial requirements for a degree of Master of Arts, Columbia University, New York, New York-.80 pages.)

Who were the 76 families of Person County Indians and who are they today ?   
By Tom MacCaughelty

Durham Morning Herald, March 21, 1948
“As Indians, they never have been positively identified. Can they be, as their tradition holds, the long sought descendants of the friendly Indians who received the colonists of John White? Strangely enough, among the approximately 350 people in the scattered farming community, only six family names are represented: Johnson, Martin, Coleman, Epps, Stewart (also spelled Stuart), and Shepherd. Stranger still, three of these names correspond closely with those among the list of Lost Colonists: Johnson, Coleman, and Martyn. But theirs are common English names long familiar in North Carolina, and intermarriage with the proximity to whites would be expected to extend such names among them. (A seventh prominent name among this group is Tally.) As far back as anyone knows, these people have displayed the manners and customs of white settlers, but in this they don't differ from identified Indians.”
29 March 2003 – Courier-Times

State House OKs request from
Indians of Person County to change official name to ‘Sappony’

The Indians of Person County has been recognized under North Carolina law as the "Sappony" tribe. after the House passed a bill effecting a formal name change for the Indians of Person County, who have been officially known by that name for the past 90 years.
Caswell County was formed from the Northern part of Orange County, North Carolina  in 1777 it included part of the Flat River, it was bounded on the North by Pittsylvania & Halifax Counties, Virginia.  From looking at land and tax records John Collins on the Rocky Branch was still there.

1777 list                                                                                                                                                                                           Paul Collins 1  Martin Collins 1                                                                                                         Middleston Collins 1,                                                                                                   
Obadiah Collins 1,                                                                                                          
John Collins 1
Most of the Flat River Collins began migrated to the New River area in 1767, both John Collins Sr. & Jr. were on the 1771 tax list of Fincastle County, Virginia.
Person County was formed from Caswell County in 1791 and the Flat River was in the new county. I didn’t find any Collins on the 1800 census of Person County but did find an old Thomas Gibson,  Edward Goin a family of 4 free colored, Enoch? Goin 7 free colored, Allen Goan 7 free colored. Johnson is the most popular surname on the census and is also a name among the Person County Indians.
A Startling Discovery

I received some valuable information from Sappony tribesman Stuart who told me there was a  Rolen Collins who hung out with the Person County Indians at Woodsdale, late 1800s. Stuart also told me several from their group migrated to Hawkins County, Tennessee, including his great grandfather Thomas Stewart who married Eliza Epps daughter of Peter Epps, others in this group with the Stewarts were Johnson,Shepherds, Epps and Martin. He also told me many from this group are buried in  the Jaynes/Shepherd Cemetery near Rogersville. I found it listed in our cemetery books at the archive. It is located off Hwy 66 on the Webb Road in the Choptack Community near Rogersville, Tennessee. I found the cemetery and took this picture Tuesday September 7, 2010.

Thirty nine people are buried here, five in unmarked graves. 5 Shephard, 7 Stuart, 3 Martin. They migrated to Hawkins County area in 1800s, their headstones are their witness that they died in Hawkins County: John H. Stuart b 7 April 1865, died 11 June 1898; Eliza R. Stuart born 16 March 1826, died 21 May 1893.
In my conversation with the caretaker of this cemetery, a Martin, was not aware of the Indian connection, but he did tell me years ago when the cemetery began, the land was owned by a Shephard family.  I need to find someone in this area who knows about their ancient Person County Indian Ancestors.
Like their website reads the Person County Indians now Sappony  have never been positively identified. And their school was equally financed by Virginia and North Carolina. The first school was built on Green Martins land in 1888 and the cemetery in Hawkins County is run by a Martin 122 years later.  I don’t find a connection or association between this mysterious group and the Melungeons except for the fact they lived  on the same land around the Flat River in 1750.  Maybe the answer to some of this will come from the Hawkins County descendants as this research continues.

Jack Goins

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  1. Jack, do you know if any of these Martins have tested yDNA? Our family legend says that we go back to the 1790's to a Williams woman and an "unknown Cherokee". Well, when I tested my yDNA it matches a Martin line. Our family shows strong Indian features. Maybe this is my Martin line. Thanks, Randy Williams

  2. My family of Shepherds came from Person County. My earliest ancestor was a Smith Shepherd born around 1831 married Ann Epps had two daughters Mary and Leah(my gggrandmother). Leah migrated to Robeson County and she was married to a Will Martin. We are Native Americans.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Phyllis
      If you see this message please reply....I'm almost sure we're related ..... I realize this is an old post..thank you, Rich

    3. Phyllis
      I know this post is very old. But if you see this message please reply....thank you Rich


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