Wow, it’s been a super long time since we’ve posted anything on here. Sorry! We’ve been busy researching and writing the first book in our new Brown Mountain Lights series. We don’t have a title yet and are hoping one will come to us as we’re writing. This one doesn’t have Southern sayings as the chapter headings. Instead, we’re using lines from 60’s songs–mostly Bob Dylan–but we’re only about 8 chapters in and who knows who we’ll throw in there.
But that’s not what we’re here to tell you about today. This requires a little bit of backstory–or I should say a lot of backstory so I hope you’ll bear with me.
First, remember the Melungeon character from Whistling Woman? Her name was Druanna. We got the name from a newspaper article in the September 2, 2007 Living Section of the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper written by Rick McDaniel and titled “Melungeon Mystery”. I happened to see the article and found it so interesting that I cut it out of the newspaper and held on to it.
The next month (October 2007), Christy and I were in Florida on our annual visit to see our dad. One night we went to his house to have dinner and he told us some family stories while we were eating. After we got back to the house we had rented for the week, Christy and I were sitting out on the screened-in porch and that was when we decided to write Whistling Woman to honor our dad and to keep the many stories he’d shared with us throughout our lives from being lost forever.
We met in Hot Springs a few times, talked and plotted the book, and somewhere in there I happened to come across the article again and showed it to Christy. We decided we would try to put a Melungeon character in the book and the next time we talked to Daddy we asked him if he’d ever heard of them. That’s when he told us the story of how Bessie’s mama used to say, “You better behave or the Melungeon boogie-man will get you.” We took it as a sign that we had to include a Melungeon character in the book. DruAnna Williams Overbay is quoted in the article and since we both found the name unique and beautiful, we decided to use it for our character.
Fast forward to earlier this year. Christy heard about a fundraiser for a young girl who had terminal cancer and decided to put together a basket and contribute it to the auction. Among a bunch of other things, she put in the four Appalachian Journey books.
As it turned out, Steve is the sister of DruAnna Williams Overbay whose name we chose for our Melungeon character. When Steve unpacked the basket and opened the book, it fell open to page 151 and the first thing he noticed was his sister’s name. So he started reading and found out the Druanna in the book was Melungeon. He immediately called his sister and told her about it.
In May 2007, DruAnna was invited to speak at the Henderson County Public Library and met Brenda, the woman who asked Christy and I to speak at the first author’s night at the library. While DruAnna was here, Brenda happened to mention our book and the Melungeon character named Druanna and later she sent us DruAnna’s contact information. That’s DruAnna and her husband Fred in the picture.
Okay, long story short (I know, I know, it’s much too late for that but I’m almost finished, I promise!) we met DruAnna for lunch a few weeks ago in Knoxville and she asked us to attend the Melungion Heritage Association’s 20th Union and give a presentation which we did last Friday.
We spent the afternoon meeting a lot of very nice and interesting people who are members of the association and learning more about the Melungeon people. The Union took place in the Vardy Community Historical Museum in Vardy, Tennessee, which is sort of a birthplace of the Melungeon people–not a birthplace really but the place they all went to get away from the bias and unfair treatment back in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The museum is housed in the Vardy Presbyterian Church and the cabin of legendary Melungeon moonshiner Mahala Mullins is across the street. The church is filled with intriguing artifacts and pictures of Melungeons throughout the years and the cabin in beautifully restored. Both are open with a guide to the public each Saturday, 11:00 to 3:00 P.M. from May to September and on the third Saturday from October to April.
We had a wonderful time meeting all the people and signing books in Vardy and want to thank DruAnna for inviting us. There are much better pictures on the Melungeon Heritage Association website if you’d like to take a look. Also, DruAnna has a great book about the history of the Melungeons in East Tennessee, Windows on the Past, available on Amazon.