THE INDIANS OF PERSON COUNTY NORTH CAROLINA
HISTORY OF A PROUD AND HANDSOME TRIBE OF INDIANS NEAR ROXBORO MAY BE CONNECTED WITH LOST COLONY MYSTERY; ABOUT 70 FAMILIES LIVE IN EXTENDED FARMING COMMUNITY
By Tom MacCaughelty Taken from:
Durham Morning Herald, March 21, 1948
Straddling the North Carolina border in the secluded hills east of U.S. Highway 501 is a community of American Indians whose history has remained as much a mystery as the fate of the Lost Colony.
Commonly termed a "mixed-blood" group, these proud people are probably the product of marriages long ago of whites and Indians, and, in fact, have a tradition among themselves which says they are remnants of the Lost Colony.
In color they vary between blondes and even red-heads with grey or blue-gray eyes to tawny and sometimes swarthy brunettes with hazel, brown, or black eyes. Some have the straight black hair associated with pure Indian, while others have differing shades of brown hair, either straight or wavy.
In general appearance they are well- dressed and clean. They are a handsome people.
Their history is mysterious. 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.
Unfortunately, as far as settling the question goes, not a single Indian word had been passed down to the present group. If their former manner of speech could somehow be resurrected, there would be a good clue to their identity; for then experts could judge with some degree of accuracy whether they indeed originated among the coastal Algonquin language tribes. If so, there would be a good argument for the Lost Colony theory. If their language were Siouan or some other branch of the inland tongues, the score would be against the Lost Colony tradition.
Dr. Douglas LeTell Rights, author of "The American Indian in North Carolina," (published by Duke University Press in 1947) says that there is a possibility that the people, officially designated as Person County Indians, are descendants of the Saponi, originally a Siouan tribe. He notes that Governor Dobbs reported in 1755 that 14 men and 14 women of the Saponi were in Granville county. Person County was once a part of Granville county. ( Dr. Rights also suggests that these Indians in Person County may be a branch of, or have mixed with, the Indians of Robeson County. The people
themselves deny being a branch of the Robeson County Indian, but say that there have been a few marriages between members of the two groups.)
The Person County Indians, if they are of the Saponi, couldn't choose a more highly regarded tribe. (Col. William Byrd, in his History of The Dividing Line describes this tribe.)
Whether a remnant of the Lost Colony, or of the proud Saponi, or of some other group, these people have lived in the rolling hills and high plains northeast of Roxboro for countless generations. No one knows how long.
According to E. L. Wehrenberg, for 17 years principal of the community school, it was not until 1920 that they were officially recognized by act of the North Carolina legislature as Person County Indians. Before that, however, they had always insisted upon being treated either as Indians or whites. Back in the days of subscription schools, they hired their own white teachers; and under the present county school system have always had white or Indian teachers.
Wehrenberg estimates that there are about 70 families in the group. and that about two-thirds of the people live in Person County and the rest across the line in Virginia. This proportion has changed from time to time he says.
recieved 11/3/01 )
Indians of Person County, is a tribe of about 850 members are
located in a remote community on the North Carolina and
Virginia border in the countries of Halifax in Virginia and Person
in North Carolina. The area is referred to as the "high
plains". Our community, located in the secluded area called
the High Plains Community of North Carolina and Virginia has been
home for over 225 years. We settled into the area when most of the
sapony Indians were being driven north to join the Iroquois in New
York. Since the Iroquois had been our traditional enemies for
centuries, some of the Sapony chose to move south and west back to
lands that were inhabited by the Sapony prior to European contact
. The area was first written about by William Byrd in the
Histories of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina
. Also if you look under Collin Mess you will find some of the
names you are looking for . I have some of the marriage listing
when they get married.
(received 11/10/01 )
Person County are state recognized and working on federal
recognition. We are on the North Carolina Commission Of Indian
Affairs Board. Also on the United Tribes of North Carolina. We go
by the name of Indians of Person County . I also found some of the
names you were looking for . like Elisha Collins, Thomas
Collins, Jeremiah Collins, James Collins, Daniel Collins. In the
book I have , about who they married.
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(BRENDA COLLINS DILLON )