Sand Mountain Melungeon Families A DNA Perspective

From When Scotland Was Jewish and Jews among the Indians by Donald N. Yates

Sand Mountain is a flat-topped extension of the Cumberland Plateau stretching over a hundred miles along the Tennessee River in the states of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. Its twin, Lookout Mountain, lies across the valley, where Interstate 59 runs from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Fort Payne and Boaz, Alabama, near Blountsville. In ancient times, a mixture of Cherokee, Yuchi, Koasati, Creek and other Indian tribes inhabited the area, and the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto visited its towns in 1539/1540 (see map). In the census of 1950, Jackson County (which constituted the first white county formed in Alabama from the Cherokee Cession of 1816) had 70 persons identified as Melungeon, making it a notable location for this ethnic group. This article will survey the genealogies and ancestry of some of these families, based on the author’s own family tree, and incorporating research about to be published in a recent book titled When Scotland Was Jewish. Surnames include Adkins, Beam(er), Black, Blevins, Brown, Bunch, Bundren, Burke, Burns, Cooper, Davis, Fields,  Gist, Gunter,  Keys, Lackey, Lowrey, Redwine, Riley, Shankles, and Sizemore.


The Adkins (also spelled Atkin, Atkinson, Aiken, etc.) were multiply intermarried with my pioneer Cooper, Blevins and Burke families from Wayne County, Kentucky. Before settling as one of the leading families in Watauga, they came from Pittsylvania County, Virginia, suspected to be an important staging area for the movement of Melungeon families onto the northern and eastern boundaries of the Cherokee.


William Atkinson 200 A on both sides Pig River Survd Mar.  31  1747 at a gum on the Lower side of Pig River and thence N10E 90p. to a red Oak  N65 W137p  to a Beech on a branch S10 W204p. crossing a branch to a red oak S10E110p. to a red oak on Pig Riverand thence down the same & across it to the beging.

William Atkinson  150A on both sides Pig River Survd 31Mar. 1747 beginning at a red oak on the upper side  driver thence N81W48p.  crossing sd River to a maple on Harping Creek S89W184p. crossing sd Harping Creek & the River to a white Oak  N8W96p. crossing a Branch to a pine N60E70p. to a  red oak E98p to a red oak  S64E70p. to a pine S10E103p to the begin.

Transcribed by James Burnett

From notes of Mrs. Anderson, Dec’d

These Adkins are traced to a James Atkinson, a Quaker who came to Philadelphia in the 1600s, probably from a Welsh port. His great-grandson William Adkins left a will dated Jan. 22, 1784, probated March 15, 1784 (D&W Bk. Vol. 11 p.136), and was buried near Cooper’s Old Store, Pittsylvania Co., Va. William’s son Owen was born about 1750 in Lunenberg County, Virginia (the parent county of Pittsylvania) and died in Watauga, Hawkins County, Tennessee about 1790. He married Agnes Good/Goad, from the same family that provided the spouse of Valentine Sevier (1701/02-1803). They were the parents of John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, and one of his sons, Valentine, married Sarah Cooper. The Seviers go back to Don Juan de Xavier of a Sephardic family that took refuge in Narvarre during the Spanish Inquisition.

In 1836, Benjamin Adkins built a log mill on the Little South Fork of the Cumberland near Parmleysville, Kentucky, made of huge squared logs. This mill, with rifle slits on two levels, is still standing. He left a will in 1839 showing $10,000 in debts owed him and an estate of great value. Numerous family members moved first to Sequatchee (Marion County, Tenn.) and subsequently to Sand Mountain and to a hidden cove at the foot of Fox Mountain  called Anawaika, or Deerhead, on the Georgia state line, about 1835, when the Trail of Tears began. Some proceeded west to Arkansas. William E. Adkins (about 1828-1862) married Susan E. (Sukie) Cooper (about 1831-1901), the daughter of Isaac and Mahala Jane Cooper, April 20, 1847, in Henry County, Tenn. Descendents filed unsuccessful applications to be enrolled as Cherokee in Indian Territory.

William Adkins enlisted in the 1st Arkansas Union Cavalry (Company M) on September

17th, 1862 in Marion County, Arkansas. His muster-in roll is dated October 1st, 1862 in Springfield, Missouri. He served under Brigadier General J. M. Schofield in the Army of the Frontier and was killed during a battle at Crane Creek, Stone County, Missouri on November 20th, 1862. His “Inventory of effect of a Deceased Soldier” signed by William S. Johnson, 1st Lieutenant, Company M, 1st Arkansas Union Cavalry stated: William was 5 feet 7 inches tall with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He was

buried in his clothes where he died. Susan Adkins applied for and was granted a military pension on June 2nd, 1863.

“When I was little my Great Grandma Adkins (Virgie Stanley) use to tell me stories about my Great Grandfather’s (Arthur ‘Aud’ Adkins) Grandmother. She said her name was Sukie and she was a Cherokee Indian. I later found out that ‘Sukie’ was a nickname for Susan. She also mentioned the name Mahala Blevins. –Steve Adkins, Arkansas.

Atkins (R1b DNA) is thought to be derived from “one of Aix/Aachen,” the capital of the Frankish empire under Charlemagne and an important Jewish mercantile center (WSWJ).


In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” ~ Alex Haley, Roots