Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mahala Collins Mullins / Jesse Stuart

Mahala Collins Mullins  1824 -1898.... photo courtesy of the Hawkins County Archives
The above photo of Mahala Collins Mullins was sent to me sometime back, I'd forgotten I even had it in my files. I thought I'd find out a little about this photograph.

It was Mr. Jack Goins who sent the photo to me. Mr. Goins is the Hawkins County TN Archivist. "This picture of Malaha Mullins was recently found among the personal effects of Jesse Stuart. The back of the photograph is labeled 'Mahala Mullins' and is published here for the first time (JSF Magazine Vol 5, March 2010.)" and Mr. Goins states "the Library gave us this Jesse Stuart collection".

Mahala Collins was born March 30, 1824 in old Hawkins Co, TN, and died September 10,1898 in Hancock Co, TN. She was the daughter of Solomon D. Collins and Virginia Jane (Gincy) Goins. She married John Mullins Abt. 1840 in old Hawkins Co, TN, son of James 'Irish Jim' Mullins and Clara Martin.  He was born Abt. 1823 in old Hawkins Co, TN.

Click here to view Mahala Collins Mullins' Find A Grave page 

Mahala Collins Mullins is possibly the most famous of the people who were called Melungin, who lived on Newman Ridge. Said to be a lady moonshiner/bootlegger, she has become somewhat a 'folk heroine' and 'Melungeon celebrity' in the Southern Appalachians.

It is said Mahala Collins Mullins was the prototype for author Jesse Stuart's "Sylvania" in his novel "Daughter of the Legend."  "A regional love story set in the hills of Tennessee against a backdrop of mystery and racial misunderstanding. Dave, a young lumberjack, falls in love with Deutsia, a Melungeon girl."
"Jesse Hilton Stuart was an American writer known for writing short stories, poetry, and novels about Southern Appalachia. Born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, Stuart relied heavily on the rural locale of Northeastern Kentucky for his writings. Stuart was named the Poet Laureate of Kentucky in 1954"
I did a little research and found this interesting hand written letter, written by Mr. Stuart. In this letter to his friend (Dr. Roland D. Carter, Department of English, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga),

Mr. Stuart writes that he read "Mr. Price's 'Melungeons: The Vanishing Colony on Newman's Ridge'" and  "I think it is excellent, a document that will be around for a long time, due to the  importance of a race whose origins are unknown to man."

I often see on forums and lists, people making statements like "my Grandmother was 'part Melungeon', and she looked like a 'Melungeon'". Part Melungeon ?, personally I have no idea what the people who were called 'Melungins' might have looked like. But this important photograph shows what one person who was called a Melungin, who lived on Newman Ridge, looked like.

Also see Aunt Mahala Mullins in Folklore, Fakelore and Literature

Hat tip to Jack Goins

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