Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mahala Mullins' House

Mahala Collins was born in 1824 and died in 1898 in Hancock Co., TN. She married John Mullins. Mahala was probably the most famous Melungeon in the Newman's Ridge area. Haley, as she was called, openly sold moonshine in her log house high on Newman's Ridge. Legend has it she weighed about 600 pounds, but most people agree her weight was actually around 400 pounds. Another legend tells that, since her house was built on the Tennessee-Virginia line, when the Tennessee authorities came looking for her she would go to the Virginia side of the house and when the Virginia authorities came she would go to the Tennessee side. In reality, her house was in Tennessee about two miles from the Virginia line. She undoubtedly was too large to be taken out of the house if the authorities tried to arrest her. One deputy reportedly told the sheriff, "She's cetchable, but not fetchable."

When Haley died, she was carried from the house through an opening left in the wall for a chimney. According to one source, she was buried in her bed which had the legs removed and boards added to the sides to form a coffin. Another source claims she was buried in a piano crate. She now rests in a small cemetery that had been started with the deaths of some of her infant children.

According to an affidavit signed by Haley's son, Reuben, Solomon D. Collins (Haley's father) was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. The affidavit states that "Solomon Collins is said to crossed into Tennessee and married Jincy Goins and settled there because he was afraid the chief would kill him if he returned to the tribe."

Mahala Mullins' house was moved to the Vardy community and is now open to the public. Newman's Ridge can be seen behind the house in the photo above. Haley's brother, Bailey Collins, was my g-g-grandfather.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Clinch River Bluff

In April 1777, a group of young Indian men devised a plan to lure the militiamen from Blackmore's Fort in southwest Virginia. They climbed Copper Ridge and the bluff (shown here) across Clinch River from the fort. They could see inside the fort from this vantage point. One of the men climbed a cedar tree while the others hid in smaller shrubs. At daybreak, the brave in the tree cupped his hands and gobbled like a male turkey. He repeated this call every five or ten minutes. When the militiamen heard this, they imagined how good that turkey would taste for breakfast.

As they were planning how to climb the bluff and retrieve their meal, an older, wiser man named Matthew Gray advised them to leave the turkey alone if they wanted to keep their scalps. He took some of the militiamen to the river and had them splash around to distract the Indian party. While this was going on, Gray took his long rifle and one that belonged to another man and sneaked down to the river. He forded the Clinch, climbed Copper Ridge and the bluff behind the Indian party where he waited until the next 'turkey' call from the young man in the tree. At that moment, his shot rang out and the Indian crashed to the ground with a lead ball in his head.

With the Indian party in pursuit, Gray ran for his life to the ford where he crossed the Clinch back toward the fort. The militiamen gave him cover as he dashed up the river bank and through the gate. The war party, unable to besiege the fort, turned toward Castle's Woods (modern-day Castlewood). Gray grabbed two rifles, jumped on a fast horse, and headed off toward the party. Firing a shot to confuse them, he sped past the war party and made it to Castle's Woods in time to warn the settlers who sought shelter at Moore's Fort.

Source: "Benge!" by Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.