Mahala Collins Mullins Cabin on Newman Ridge 1940s -
4 Children R C Mullins Standing on Right
Mahala Mullins Collins - Showing Legs Affected by Elephantitis - Which Accounted for Her Size
John MULLINS- son of 'Irish
Jim' Mullis and Clara Martin, b.1823 in Hawkins/Hancock Co., TN. m. Mahala
COLLINS, d/o Solomon Collins and Gincie Goings (aka Goins), ca. 1840. They lived
on Newman's Ridge above Vardy, in Hancock Co., TN. Mahala is probably the most
famous Melungeon individual. She was extremely obese, as a result of
Elephantiasis, and was considered the best bootlegger in the Appalachians,
though it is said that family members actually made the liquor (apple and peach
brandy were their specialties), and she only sold it. One humorous event, that
was actually documented, was when a judge sent a sheriff up the Ridge to arrest
'Haley'. Well, he could arrest her, but, because of her size, there was no way
they could get her down the treacherous ridge. After giving up, the sheriff went
back to the judge. When the judge asked him where she was, the sheriff replied,
"She's catchable, but not fetchable".
Many stories and tales have been made up about Mahala, many of
them far-fetched and untrue. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish truth from
fiction. When Haley died, it is said that they had to build a coffin around her
bed (or out of her bed), and take her out of a space in the wall, where they
were about to build a chimney. I've heard that this was untrue, but I'm not
sure. She's buried in a family plot near their cabin, which still stands today,
up on Newman's Ridge. This is not their original house. They had a house that
was burnt down by Confederate raiders, ca.1863, who came looking for 2 of her
sons, probably Larkin and Jim, and 1 son-in-law, Howard Collins, Union soldiers
that were home on leave. The story goes as follows:
Howard Collins' wife, Jane Mullins, saw the bushwackers coming
up the Ridge, and screamed to her husband, who picked up his gun and took a shot
at them. They fell back a little to size up the situation. Meanwhile, Haley's
boys escaped over a low bluff. The raiders came to the bluff, but didn't get to
get a shot off. Howard Collins sprained or broke a finger while escaping, but
they got a shot off at the raiders, and got safely away. The sons escaped, but
the house was burned, along with most of their possessions. They let the family
take their burning bed clothes, but fire broke out in them again. A light
blanket of snow was on the ground, and the children were barefooted. Old John
was so mad, he loaded up a muzzle with about all it could hold. Then, as the
raiders were leaving through the Blackwater Valley below them, he fired at them
from the bluff. But, in his anger, he left the ramrod in the gun, and loaded it
so heavily, it burst at the end of the muzzle. The ramrod, however, flew all the
way across the valley, and stuck in a rail fence, near where the Becky Hurley
house was, a short distance west of Vardy Church.
I've also read somewhere (unfortunately, I cannot find these
notes) that John Mullins was something of a 'Johnny Appleseed', and planted many
apple trees in the areas surrounding the Cumberland Gap (VA, TN, KY, poss. NC),
but I don't know how true that is, as I've only read that once. John and Mahala
had 20 children, 4 of who died in infancy. Those children are:
Howard Collins and Daughter, Docia Collins
1. Jane MULLINS b. 1841, m. Howard COLLINS s/o Simeon Collins
and Frankie Bunch. Children of Howard Collins and Jane Mullins;
i. Lambert Collins
ii. Monroe Collins
iii. Docia Collins
iv. Cora Collins
v. Kyrie Collins
vi. Carrie Collins
vii. Monleys Collins
viii. Laura Collins
2. Sally MULLINS b 1842 d about 1924 m. Gilbert "Gib" DAVIDSON (aka Jeb) s/o
George Goins. Children of Sally Mullins and Gilbert "Gib" Davidson (Goins);
i. Willie Davidson b about 1867 m. (1) Nance Gibson
d/o Keener Gibson and Betty Unknown; m. (2) Lindy Moore.
ii. Sarah Davidson b about 1869 m. Cainey Collins s/o
Runnel Collins (Runnel was s/o Robin Collins). They moved to Texas.
iii. Laura Davidson b about 1873 m. Richard Gibson
s/o Will Gibson and Patsy Williams. Moved to Texas.
3. Millie MULLINS-b.1846, described as "queer", never married. Died around
the age of 20.
4. Larkin MULLINS-b.1844, m. Sarah "Aunt Toney" COLLINS.
5. Jim MULLINS-b.1846, Union soldier, moved to middle TN (Stewart Co.?) One
source (IGI) says he m. Susan KENNEDY.
6. Burton MULLINS-b.1847, Union soldier, died at Camp Nelson, KY.
7. Eli (Elbe) MULLINS-b.1848, m. Eliza SEALS, dau. of John SEALS.
8. Richard MULLINS-b.1850, Lived with Nance (LAWSON) DULIN (DALEN?). He was
murdered somewhere out west (poss. Oklahoma)
9. Jeremiah (Jerry) MULLINS-b.1853, m. Lydia CANTOR, dau. of Tom CANTOR, in
10. Mary Ann MULLINS-b.1854, m. Haines MISER.
11. John MULLINS-b.1855, m.1.Julia Ann GIBSON, 2.Maggie LOVINS
12. Reuben MULLINS-b.1856, m. Elizabeth GIBSON
13. Ollie MULLINS-b.ca.1858, m. Olive MISER (see #1,5,2 above)
14. Calvin MULLINS-b. ca. 1860, m. Coose LAWSON, dau. of Rose LAWSON
15. 4 more children died in infancy