This is a story, I think, from the Knoxville News- Sentinel, or maybe the Knoxville Journal. I don't know why the dats isnt on it. What was I thinking. I dont know about Gordon's theory, but he evidently took it seriously.
Brandeis professor's theory on the Melungeons...
From 'the land of Judah' to Bat Cave, TN?
The origin of the Melungeons, a people living mostly along Newman's
Ridge in Hancock Co., Tenn., has been hidden in Mystery for
Now a Brandeis University professor steps forth with a theory that
the Melungeons came from the Mediterranean, were possibly of Jewish
origin, and may have discovered America 1,000 or more years before
Cyrus H. Gordon, professor of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis,
said the evidence is in the appearance and legends of the Melungeons
themselves and in an inscription on a stone found in a burial mound in
Tennessee in 1885.
Gordon said the inscription found in a burial mound in Bat Cave,
Tenn., in 1885, points to an early Jewish incursion into the Western
Hemisphere. He translated it to read "for the land of Judah."
The inscription was photographed but the photograph was published
upside down and it's significance was missed, Gordon said. The stone is
now at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
"This group of people are neither Indian nor Negro, and are
Caucasion but not Anglo-Saxon," Gordon said.
The legend of the Melungeons, for most of it is legend, goes back
nearly 300 years. Before 1700, French explorers reported finding men,
not Indian but not white, in the mountains of what is now East
The French called them "Melungeons", from the French "melange",
The census of 1795 listed 300 "free persons" in the East Tennessee
mountains. These, apparently, were the Melungeons.
Historians and others have advanced many theories about the origin
of the Melungeons.
One theory is that a band of shipwrecked Portugese sailors wandered
from the North Carolina coast into East Tennessee, married Indian
maidens and lived undisturbed until the white man drove westward.
Another is that they are descendants of a band of men with the
Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto who became seperated during the trek
through the area of the Mississippi and moved eastward hoping to reach
Still another story is that Sir Walter Raleigh's colony of Roanoke,
beset by Indians and wilderness hardships, moved west, settled with the
Indians and became the forebearers of the Melungeons.
Adding some weight to this theory is the fact that the Melungeons,
from their first discovery, are said to have spoken an English dialect.
Their most common family names are Collins, Mullins, Gibson, Brogan.
"Sure, I'm a Melungeon and proud of it" says W.C. Collins, a
supervisor in the county school system.
There is now no accurate count of the number of Melungeons living
the remote valley, although some county officials and local historians
say the number may still be somewhere between 200 and 500 out of a
Hancock County population of 7,000.
It has been only in recent years that the Melungeons have begun to
admit outsiders to their circle and legends. They retreated into their
mountain caves as the white men came to the mountains of east Tennessee
imposing near-slave restrictions on them.
For many years they could not vote, could not own property and were
not allowed to file suits in court.
Sneedville is a place where a person has to want to go to get
It is 65 miles from Knoxville at the end of a road which winds up and
around towering Clinch Mountain and down to the valley floor.
But whatever their origin, the Melungeons have been here for years,
tilling the hilside farms of this mountainous country.