Sunday, January 30, 2011

Person County Indians

Submitted by Jack Goins


In the April Newsletter I wrote about our need to research some areas where our ancestors lived prior to migrating to the Clinch River Valley beginning in 1795. When a large group of our Melungeon Progenitors left The Pamunkey River area of Louisa and Hanover County, Virginia they migrated to the Flat River which at that time was Granville County, North Carolina. This research is about the Flat River area and the people who lived here and the ones who stayed. Person County, North Carolina is bounded on the north by Virginia, on the south by Durham and Orange counties, on the west by Caswell, and on the east by Granville. My wife and I visited the Flat River area in Person County, North Carolina in 1997 and took the pictures that are in my books of the Flat River and the Flat River Primitive Baptist Church established in 1750. This area in Person County was then Granville County, became Orange in 1752. This was the location of the Melungeon Progenitors after selling their land in Louisa County, Virginia they migrated to this area and lived here for at least 17 years (1749-1767), they were sometimes enumerated as mulatto on land records and also on a 1755 tax list.

In this area there is a tribe of Indians and I wrote about them in the first chapter of my book, Melungeons Footprints From the Past. In the Person County Indian Group, a school census taken in November 1936, listed 346 persons in the community representing 76 families and the families averaged 6 to 8 children. (2-May 1937 Louise V. Nunn-A comparison of the social situation of two Isolated Indian Groups in Northern North Carolina. Submitted in partial requirements for a degree of Master of Arts, Columbia University, New York, New York-.80 pages.)

Who were the 76 families of Person County Indians and who are they today ?

By Tom MacCaughelty
Durham Morning Herald, March 21, 1948

“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.”

29 March 2003 – Courier-Times

State House OKs request from
Indians of Person County to change official name to ‘Sappony’

The Indians of Person County has been recognized under North Carolina law as the "Sappony" tribe. after the House passed a bill effecting a formal name change for the Indians of Person County, who have been officially known by that name for the past 90 years.

Caswell County was formed from the Northern part of Orange County, North Carolina in 1777 it included part of the Flat River, it was bounded on the North by Pittsylvania & Halifax Counties, Virginia. From looking at land and tax records John Collins on the Rocky Branch was still there.

1777 list Paul Collins 1 Martin Collins 1 Middleston Collins 1, Obadiah Collins 1, John Collins 1

Most of the Flat River Collins began migrated to the New River area in 1767, both John Collins Sr. & Jr. were on the 1771 tax list of Fincastle County, Virginia.

Person County was formed from Caswell County in 1791 and the Flat River was in the new county. I didn’t find any Collins on the 1800 census of Person County but did find an old Thomas Gibson, Edward Goin a family of 4 free colored, Enoch? Goin 7 free colored, Allen Goan 7 free colored. Johnson is the most popular surname on the census and is also a name among the Person County Indians.

A Startling Discovery

I received some valuable information from Sappony tribesman Stuart who told me there was a Rolen Collins who hung out with the Person County Indians at Woodsdale, late 1800s. Stuart also told me several from their group migrated to Hawkins County, Tennessee, including his great grandfather Thomas Stewart who married Eliza Epps daughter of Peter Epps, others in this group with the Stewarts were Johnson,Shepherds, Epps and Martin. He also told me many from this group are buried in the Jaynes/Shepherd Cemetery near Rogersville. I found it listed in our cemetery books at the archive. It is located off Hwy 66 on the Webb Road in the Choptack Community near Rogersville, Tennessee. I found the cemetery and took this picture Tuesday September 7, 2010.

Thirty nine people are buried here, five in unmarked graves. 5 Shephard, 7 Stuart, 3 Martin. They migrated to Hawkins County area in 1800s, their headstones are their witness that they died in Hawkins County: John H. Stuart b 7 April 1865, died 11 June 1898; Eliza R. Stuart born 16 March 1826, died 21 May 1893.

In my conversation with the caretaker of this cemetery, a Martin, was not aware of the Indian connection, but he did tell me years ago when the cemetery began, the land was owned by a Shephard family. I need to find someone in this area who knows about their ancient Person County Indian Ancestors.

Like their website reads the Person County Indians now Sappony have never been positively identified. And their school was equally financed by Virginia and North Carolina. The first school was built on Green Martins land in 1888 and the cemetery in Hawkins County is run by a Martin 122 years later. I don’t find a connection or association between this mysterious group and the Melungeons except for the fact they lived on the same land around the Flat River in 1750. Maybe the answer to some of this will come from the Hawkins County descendants as this research continues.

Jack Goins


  1. Do you have a list of the names of the individuals buried in the Rogersville cemetery?

  2. From another source.

    Jaynes Cemetery, Rogersville, Hawkins County, TN: Turn left (North- West) off Hwy 11W (SR-1) onto SR-66 (Hwy 66N) to Webb Road. The cemetery is located on a hill top at the intersection of Webb Road and Flatwood Lane. The Jaynes Cemetery is located in a large pasture with a gated fence around it.

    Name Birthdate Deathdate Stone Readings
    Anderson, G. Earl 6/12/1924 9/25/1981 US Army
    Boyd, Sue Jaynes 1908 1968
    Christian, Dorthula Conrad 6/18/1873 1/4/1964
    Christian, J. P. 5/22/1900 1/29/1946
    Conard, Jacob 6/2/1878 6/21/1899
    Howe, Elizabeth 1853 1933
    Howe, William P. 1847 1900
    Jayes, Andrew J. 1862 1937
    Jaynes, James Boyd 1/6/1912 6/29/1972 SGT. Army WWII TN
    Jaynes, Mary C. 1876 1950
    Martin, Ellen Evie 4/11/1911 6/18/1996 Mother
    Martin, Jess 11/25/1892 12/27/1980 Father
    Moore, Chanie 1835 3/30/1905
    Shepard, James 1878 5/10/1905
    Shepard, Martha 10/11/1854 2/12/1936 A tender mother and faithful friend
    Shepard, Mary Jane 1875 5/1/1905
    Stewart, Bessie 10/25/1899 5/8/1922 dau of W. W. & Lula Stewart Asleep in Jesus
    Stewart, Clem L. 1851 1935
    Stewart, Lula H. 8/30/1878 5/25/1968
    Stewart, Ruth 1/3/1904 9/1/2000
    Stewart, William W. 6/22/1869 8/27/1914
    Stuard, John H. 4/7/1866 6/11/1898
    Stuard, Victoria M. 9/6/1863 10/31/1899 wife of Clem Stuard (Clem L. Stewart)
    Stuart, Eliza R. 3/16/1826 5/21/1893 Our Dear Mother
    Talley, Nannie Lou 6/26/1894 7/11/1895 dau of J.Y. & Mary E. Talley
    Wells, J. M. 2/22/1851 2/13/1907
    Wells, Lucinda 8/15/1865 11/18/1920 We will meet again

    There were a couple of grave stones that have been broken in half and we were not able to locate the missing pieces.

  3. I descend from the Person County / Hawkins County Epps family. My GG Grandfather was Alexander Epps who lived in the house of his Uncle Peter Epps (Person County, North Carolina census). We believe his father was Freeman Epps because my G Grandfathers was named Harvey Freeman Epps (but we have no conclusive evidence). I have a sketch of Alexander Epps and his wife Barabar Heck that I would love to share with you. How can I email it to you?

    1. Hi Jimmie

      You can email the sketch to

    2. Hi Jimmie

      I am wondering if could be a connection between my Daniel and your Peter Epps? I am searching for my 3x gg Daniel Eppes/Epps who migrated from VA to Spartanburg SC. I can find no record of him prior to his arrival in SC, presumably in early 1800s. Spartanburg 1860 census lists him b. 1792 in VA, wife Mary b. 1788 in NC.

      Interestingly, in Daniel's 1872 will (Spartanburg SC) he names an Elizabeth as an heir. Also named are Sally, Lucinda, Benjamin, and Allen. Benjamin W. Eppes b. 1822 in Spartanburg was my 2x gg.

      I have a photo of Daniel's great grandson William Benjamin Epps b. 1893 that I would be happy to share. Thanks in advance for any information you may have.

      Mary Epps Ellingwood

    3. Hi Jimmie

      I am wondering if there could be a connection between my Daniel and your Peter Epps? I am searching for my 3x gg Daniel Eppes/Epps who migrated from VA to Spartanburg SC. I can find no record of him prior to his arrival in SC, presumably in early 1800s. Spartanburg 1860 census lists him b. 1792 in VA, wife Mary b. 1788 in NC.

      Interestingly, in Daniel's 1872 will (Spartanburg SC), he names Elizabeth as one of his heirs. Also listed are Sally, Lucinda, Benjamin, and Allen. My 2x gg is Benjamin W. Eppes 1822-1896, b. in Spartanburg.

      I have a photo of Daniel's great grandson William Benjamin Epps that I would be happy to share. Thanks in advance for any information you can share. Email me at

    4. Sorry for the late reply. I am just now seeing this. You can email me at Will email the portrait of Alexander and Barbara soon.

  4. Some Sizemore families have relatives with this group, as well as Cherokee Tribe. A large group of "Sizemores," applied for Cherokee tribal status, some were enrolled, others were not. There is a "Sizemore Rock," in southeast Kentucky that was used as a meeting place at times as well as a tribal link for Indian band actions and reference point, somewhat like Attakullakulla Rock in western North Carolina.

  5. For the guy name Jimmie Kuehnel. Peter Epps Sr from Person County NC was sappony indian his father John Epps Jr and mother was Lucy. The Peter Epps Jr in Hawkins County Tennessee was the son of Peter Epps Sr.The Sr dried in Person County nc I have his will listing the children. Also Peter Epps Jr had a sister name Eliza Epps Stewart who married Thomas Stewart both Sappony Indians moved to Hawkins County Tennessee.Petty Epps Sr other daughter Letty married Alexander Epps.Peter Epps Sr had other children also. Peter Epps Sr brother was Freeman Epps.The seven familys that are in Hawkins County Tennessee The Stewarts,Epps,Martins,Colemans,Shepherds,Talleys,Johnsons was Indians they moved there to be white but tan well so that they could do more in white society.Indians couldn't marry whites or people wouldn't hire Indians.My name is Pat my email is