A Report on Research of Lumbee Origins by Robert K. Thomas – Part 8 – Intellectual History

A continuation of Robert K. Thomas’s Report of Research on Lumbee Origins.  This was transcribed from a photocopy of an original report at the Wilson Library, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC in June of 2012.   Any comments I have will be made at the end of these transcriptions and it will be evident that they are mine.  To see more about Robert K. Thomas, go to:  http://works.bepress.com/robert_thomas/

(P 21 of the report, his page 20)  I suppose that now that I have discussed these other hypothesis of Lumbee origins I should launch into the section of my paper in which I lay out my own hypothesis.  My hypothesis is not completely “nailed down” but I think it is fairly firm.  Before I do that, however, I would like to give a fairly short intellectual history of my own efforts up to this point because I have changed the nature of my hypothesis as evidence has come in.

(P 22) Part II – Intellectual History

I first seriously began to consider Indian communities in Virginia and North Carolina in the winter of 1976 when I did a survey for the Smithsonian in January, February and part of March, 1976.  I simply visited Indian communities in that area to see which ones were “alive and doing well,” so to speak.  I did some estimate as to numbers and present condition.  At that time, I was struck, like Price, by family names in common of these groups in Appalachia, eastern NC, and SC.  I didn’t think this could be an accident.  So what I did was look at migration patterns in general in the Carolinas and I could see four.  The first was simply a movement out from settlements on the coast, in a fan-like shape on the map.  But this was a minor pattern.  Another was a general migration from northeast to southwest; that is, people moved out of Virginia into northeastern NC and from northeastern NC in a southwesterly direction down the coastal plain and along the edges of the Piedmont into SC.  The third migration pattern was from the area of northeastern NC and southeastern Virginia straight west.  There was a fourth migration  pattern which was not significant in my research, a migration from north to south.  The Scots-Irish came south from Pennsylvania into the Shenandoah Valley, then into the Yadkin, then into Piedmont SC, but I was really only interested in the second and third migration patterns.

I took the Melungeons on the Virginia-Tennessee border (p 23) around Sneadville, Tennessee and Blackwater, Virginia and simply projected them straight east.  I took the Lumbee and projected a line northeast.  The two lines intersected at about Roanoke Rapids, NC.  Therefore, I began to look around for a group of Indians in the Roanoke Rapids area from which I thought these migrants had originated.  I didn’t think, like Price, that this was an old free black society that had scattered all over the South.  I thought it more than likely that these two groups with names in common had their origin in some Indian tribe.  The closest tribe I could find to Roanoke Rapids which might fit “my bill” was the Saponi tribe which from 1710 to perhaps in the 1740s had lived at Fort Christiana, Va.  This fort was right north of modern Roanoke Rapids, a few miles north of the Roanoke River, near present day Lawrenceville, Va.  I knew that anthropological sources stated that the Saponi went north in 1740 from Fort Christiana and joined the Iroquois Confederacy.  But I was unconvinced since the evidence was unclear and I thought that perhaps the Indian communities in the Appalachians, the Lumbees, and Indians in SC and Louisiana had a common origin in the Saponi tribe.

However, as I began to read and larn more I found out that the Tuscaroras were the largest group of Indians in northeastern NC in that period.  I then read Norment’s material in which she states that many fo the Indians in Robeson County were descendants of the Tuscaroras.  So at that time I changed my mind about the Saponi and began to consider the Tuscarora as the source of these widely dispersed communities.

(P 24) Finally, Wesley White did his very complete historical sketch of Indians in NC in the first half of the 1700s.  I began to change my mind again and to think that perhaps the Saponi were, indeed, the source of these widely dispersed communities.  Wes White found a Saponi community in Granville County in the 1740s, 1750s and early 1760s, in the general area from which Norment says that many of the Indians in Robeson County had migrated.  Now I still think that the Saponi in Granville County contributed to the formation of the Lumbee community but I do not think that the Saponi are either the largest element or the only element.

Since Michelle Lawing has completed her research the picture is beginning to look a little clearer.

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About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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