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PELL MELLERS. Miss Leatha Bazemore’s fourth and fifth graders, Askewville Elementary 1934-35. Pell Mellers : Race and Memory in a Carolina Pocosin By K. Paul Johnson. Pell Mell Pocosin on 1918 soil map. Dunlows and Johnsons in South Norfolk. Lillie, Paul, and Bert Dunlow .

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pell mellers


Miss Leatha Bazemore’s fourth and fifth graders, Askewville Elementary 1934-35

Pell Mellers: Race and Memory in a Carolina Pocosin

By K. Paul Johnson

dunlows and johnsons in south norfolk
Dunlows and Johnsons in South Norfolk

Lillie, Paul, and Bert Dunlow

Ulysses Johnson family

butler land now dunlow and johnson

Dunlow family cemetery

Butler Land, now Dunlow and Johnson

“220 acres of poor barren, piney, marshy, wet, flat land valued by the assessors at 50 cents per acre” John Butler, 1820

1792 John Butler buys 150 acres from the Cader Bass estate, inherited from Cader’s grandfather Henry Bunch

Butler, Bunch, and Bass are all mulatto families which became white after the American Revolution

Dunlow family cemetery on “the John Butler land” purchased in 1792 from heirs of Henry Bunch, who had bought it in 1727

Josiah’s mother Susanah Butler is daughter of John Butler and Keziah Pritchard, both of whose families were taxable as mulattoes in colonial Bertie lists; his wife Nancy White is granddaughter of mulatto taxables Nathan Cobb and Winifred Mitchell

Josiah Dunlow, 1840-1906

core melungeon dna project shows bertie hancock connection
Core Melungeon DNA project shows Bertie/Hancock connection



  • Former owner of the land inherited by grandson Cader Bass, bought in 1792 by John Butler and still inhabited by his Dunlow and Johnson descendants today
  • Direct ancestor of many Collinses in the Melungeon community of Newman’s Ridge, Hancock County, Tennessee
pell meller marriage as described by a windsor resident
Pell Meller marriage as described by a Windsor resident
  • They were known for usually marrying other Pell Mellers and staying isolated in that area. People outside of that area looked down on Pell Mellers and made fun of them…Pell Mellers intermarried for land reasons…not wanting to lose family land that had been owned by the same families for generations and generations…Pell Mellers have the reputation of having children out of wedlock, a lot of extramarital affairs, divorce, etc.
a child s impressions of pell mellers
A child’s impressions of Pell Mellers
  • My mother used to make remarks about Pell Mell. For instance, if someone had a lot of junk in their yard or say a sofa on their front porch she would say it looked like Pell Mell. Also, when I was a child and would come in from playing and had gotten dirty, she would tell me to go get cleaned up…that I looked like a Pell Meller. (grew up in Bertie County 1950s, left many years ago)
pell meller isolation in the 20 th century
Pell Meller isolation in the 20th century
  • …people from Askewville even speak differently from those in other parts of the county…They have, in the past more than now, had a reputation for not welcoming outsiders, and for keeping to themselves---not given much to southern hospitality…They didn’t believe much in hard work, but would do just enough to allow them to do what they really loved, which was hunting and fishing.
  • ---lifelong resident of Bertie County, 2007
evidence of mixed ancestry in pell mell family photos
evidence of mixed ancestry in Pell Mell family photos?

l- Whit Johnson, d1898 r- unknown Butler photo found in Askewville house being demolished

autosomal testing identifies non european ancestry inconsistently
autosomal testing identifies non-European ancestry inconsistently

No Native American or Asian

Asian greater than African

  • 99% European, 1% African (
  • 96% European, 4% African (Dr. J. Douglas McDonald analysis)
  • 93% European, 4% Asian, 3% African (
  • 94% European (57% Northern European, 35% Mediterranean 8%South Asian, 8%), 6% East Asian
  • (
analysis of kpj genome by dr j douglas mcdonald u of illinois
Analysis of KPJ genome by Dr. J. Douglas McDonald, U. of Illinois

Latest explanation of non-European ancestry as indicated by DNA


Family cemetery near Will’s Quarter Swamp

The Hawkins-Johnson cemetery on Bull Hill Rd. north of Windsor, NC

POCOSIN: “Swamp on a hill”-- Algonquian


Father of eight sons; all left Bertie County by the time of his death

Marcus Ryan Johnson, 1831-1916

melungeon heritage in northeastern north carolina
Melungeon Heritage in northeastern North Carolina



  • Arwin D. Smallwood’s forthcoming book on the diaspora of the Tuscarora tribe from their homeland in eastern North Carolina will include evidence of possible Melungeon origins
  • Marvin T. Jones’s research on the Winton Triangle of Hertford County reveals a community with similar ethnic diversity to that of Melungeons, and likely ancestral links
melange applied to goinstown indians in wpa cemetery index
“Melange” applied to Goinstown Indians in WPA cemetery index

Other WPA references to the same community refer to alleged East Indian origins