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.