Granville Goins Settled Among The Cherokees near Chattanooga
By Ethel Louise Goins Dunn
790 Dr. Johnson Road, Crandall, Georgia, 30711
Granville Goins, my g-g-grandfather, was born about 1810 in Grainger County, Tennessee of parents unknown, according to the affidavit of Matilda Goins of Dayton, Tennessee in the Court of Claims June 24, 1908. He joined the exodus of some of the Melungeon Goins families who removed to Hamilton County, Tennessee. Prominent in this group was David Smith Goins, Revolutionary soldier who moved about 1832 and his younger brother, Laban Goins who had preceded him in the move about 1829. They were sons of Shadrach Goins of Hanover, Halifax and Patrick Counties, Virginia.
E. Raymond Evans, an anthropologist, made a study of the mysterious Melungeons and wrote a report of his findings in “Tennessee Anthropologist,” Spring 1979. He wrote:
“Located approximately 30 miles north of Chattanooga, the community of Graysville, Tennessee contains one of the most stable Melungeon settlements in the state.
No people in Tennessee have been subjected to more romantic speculation than have the so-called ‘Melungeons.’ These dark-skinned people, living in a white world, have attempted to explain their color by saying they were of Portuguese descent, according to Swan Burnett in 1889 in ‘The American Anthropologist. Popular writers, including Thurston L. Willis in ‘The Chesapiean’ in 1941 and Leo Zuber in ‘The Melungeons’ in 1941, have elaborated on this theme They have been claimed to be descendants of the ‘lost’ tribes of Israel as reported by Jean Patterson Bible writing in 1975 in ‘Melungeons Yesterday and Today.’ and ‘old world Gypsies,’ ‘Welsh Indians,’ and Arabs by others.
Others have attempted to link their origin with established historical events. Raleigh’s ‘Lost Colony’ and the De Soto expedition are two examples suggested by Mozon Peters writing in 1970 in the ‘Chattanooga Times.’
The most common surname among the Graysville Melungeons is Goins, being so prevalent that the whites in the surrounding area call all the Graysville Melungeons ‘Goinses,’ rather than Melungeons. In fact, the term ‘Melungeon’ is rarely used anywhere in lower East Tennessee. The Goins families are so well known in Rhea County that any dark skinned person, not regarded as a black, is said to ‘look like a Goins.”
In the 1830 census, Hamilton County reported less than 400 families. Four of them were headed by “Laban Gowan, Roland Gowin, Sandford Gowin and Dodson Gowin.” Each of these families listed colored members [total of 13] and three of them listed white members [total of 6]. All were listed on Page 75 and were located just south of Graysville, Tennessee. Since Granville Goins did not appear as a householder in 1830, he may have been a son of Laban Goins.County in 1834, according to “Twenty Four Hundred Tennessee Pensioners” by Zella Armstrong. David Smith Goins died in 1840 in Hamilton County, “his pension then being paid to his children” [unnamed], according to pension records. [A meticulous examination of his pension file might reveal the names of his children.] He did not appear in the 1840 census of Hamilton County.
Granville Goins was married about 1831, wife’s name Mary “Polly,” probably in Graysville, located just across the county line in Rhea County.
Twelve households of the family were enumerated in the 1840 census of Hamilton County: Sanford Gowin, page 150; Thomas Gowin, page 150; George Gowin, page 150; William Gowin, page 150; John Gowin, page 150; Martin Gowin, page 150; G.[ranville] Gowin, page 150; P. Gowin, page 150; John Gowan page 175; Pryor Gowen, page 175, Carter Gowin, page 177 and Preston Gowen, page 178. All except the last four were recorded as “free colored.”
Granville Goins was enumerated as the head of a household No. 1339 in the 1850 census of Hamilton County. The family was recorded October 21, 1850 as:
“Goins, Granvill 40, farmer, born in Tennessee
Mary 33, born in Tennessee
Mahaley 18, born in Tennessee
Rachel 14, born in Tennessee
Noah 12, born in Tennessee
Roland 10, born in Tennessee
Dopson 8, born in Tennessee
James 6, born in Tennessee
Nancy 4, born in Tennessee
William 8/12, born in Tennessee”
Adjoining the household of Granville Goins was that of Nancy Goins. The household, No. 1340, was recorded on Page 925 as: “Goins, Nancy, 45, born in Tennessee; Elizabeth, 29, born in Tennessee and Fanney, 10, born in Tennessee”
“Granville and Polly Goins” were mentioned in an affidavit signed in 1908 by J. P. Talley of Chattanooga, according to “Cherokee by Blood: Records of Eastern Cherokee Ancestry in the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910” by Jerry Wright Jordon. In the hope of compensation, several Melungeon families claimed Cherokee ancestry. Talley stated:
“I [affirm] that I am 80 years of age and lived in James County, Tennessee [later absorbed]. I knew Polly and Granville Goins. They lived in Hamilton County, but I think they were born in upper Tennessee, probably Grainger County. Polly and Granville were a little older than myself. They have been dead 12 or 15 years. They were never on any Indian rolls that I know of.”
J. P. Talley
June 18, 1908 Chattanooga, Tenn.
At the same time, W. T. Irvin of Chattanooga, grandson-in-law of Granville Goins, and former husband of Mary Jane Goins Irvin who died in 1897, made an affidavit about the family:
“I affirm that I live in Marion County, Tennessee [adjoining Hamilton County]. I am 49 years of age. I make claim for my children. My first wife has been dead 11 years. She was about 30 or 32 when she died. Her parents were Alfred Goins and Halie Goins. She claims Indian descent on her father’s side and her mother’s side. Her grandparents on her mother’s side were Granville and Polly Goins. On her father’s side they were Thomas and Betsy Goins. They come by the same name because they were probably related. She was always recognized as an Indian in the community in which she lived. Her parents and grandparents lived in what is now James County. Her grandparents originated in Grainger County. She claimed to be a full-blood Cherokee. Her grandparents lived in Hamilton County in 1835.
W. T. Irvin
June 18, 1908 Chattanooga, Tenn”
Granville Goins and Mary “Polly” Goins died about 1914. Children born to them are believed to include:
Mahala “Halie” Goins born about 1832
Betsy Jane Goins born about 1834
Rachel Goins born about 1836
Mary Goins born about 1837
Noah Goins born about 1838
Roland Goins born about 1840
Dodson Goins born about 1842
Martha Goins born about 1843
James L. Goins born about 1844
Nancy Goins born about 1846
John Goins born about 1847
William Goins born about 1849
Francis Marion Goins born about 1853
Dodson Goins, above, was the subject of an article in the Newsletter, January 1997.