Backintyme Publishing


HomePell Mellers, Race & Memory in a Carolina Pocosin, Paul JohnsonPell Mellers, Race & Memory in a Carolina Pocosin, Paul Johnson

Pell Mellers, Race & Memory in a Carolina Pocosin, Paul Johnson






This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Check Out Books Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Backintymedotbiz on BlogTalkRadio

Airtime: Thursday Dec 18th 3:00-5:00pm CST

Show Line Up & Talking Points:

Introduction: Author and historian

Associates; MHA,,

  • Other Publications: Carolina Genesis, Backintyme, chapter “Dismal Swamp Quakers on the Color Line”; State University of New York Press, Edgar Cayce in Context (1998), Initiates of Theosophical Masters (1995), and The Masters Revealed (1994); forthoming in 2015 from Typhon Press, Sarah Stanley Grimke Collected Writings, editor, and Con Artists, Enthusiasts and True Believers (chapter author.)
  • Pell Mellers:
    • A Genealogical Quest in the Triracial South
    • What began as genealogical research into the author’s ancestry soon grew into a fascinating tale with lessons for us all. Among his ancestors, Johnson uncovered: unpunished murderers, infidelities that produced stronger families than formal marriages, entire units of North Carolinians who fought and died to preserve the Union in the Civil War. The tale holds enough plot twists for a half-dozen novels.

But most of all, it reveals in a personal way what molecular anthropologists have been trying to explain all along. The fact is that we are all of multiple ancestries. Inhabitants of the New World are a genetic mix of three great populations, Native Americans, European colonists, and African slaves. Nowhere is this more vivid than in Pell Mellers, the story of one man’s search for his tangled roots.

    • “Johnson’s quest to understand his father becomes a discerning and sensitive historical inquiry that roots the near-present organically in the remote past. Johnson’s deeply personal search for his own roots illuminates surprising, forgotten ways of life in a fascinating part of the South.” — Melvin Patrick Ely, author of Israel on the Appomattox
    • “This fascinating memoir about the Pell Meller community of northeastern North Carolina reads like a murder mystery. What has been murdered is the truth about their ancestry, and Paul Johnson sets out bravely to discover the corpse, the murderer, and the motives. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the many isolated southeastern groups with odd names, like the Redbones and the Melungeons, who descend from our nation’s earliest settlers, in all their ethnic diversity.” — Lisa Alther, author of Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree
    • “In Paul Johnson’s engaging journey into his roots in Bertie County, North Carolina, he discovers an intriguing family of pocosin dwellers who personify the South’s multiracial heritage and its political minorities, including Unionists and the original Buffalo Soldiers. Pell Mellers is a solid contribution to the history of the “other South” that complements the well-traveled mainstream, illustrating our rich and textured past.” — Lindley S. Butler, author of Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast



  • My ancestral families of documented mulatto status in the Pell Mell region of Bertie County: Butler, Pritchard, Cobb, Mitchell, Cale. English families that intermarried with the above: Johnson, Dunlow, White, Miller, Perry.
  • There was a persistent legend identifying Charney Cale as son of an Indian chief named Cucklemaker, but varying claims about tribal identity. Bertie County was home to a Tuscarora reservation on the Roanoke River, but the Meherrin tribe was among those located along the Chowan River on the opposite side of the county. Some colonial mulatto surnames of Bertie overlap with neighboring Hertford County’s Winton Triangle Community (James, Mitchell) and others with neighboring Halifax County.


  • The couple of greatest interest in Pell Mellers was Josiah Dunlow and Nancy White. Josiah was great-grandson of John Butler and Keziah Pritchard, both of whose families were classified as mulatto in colonial tax lists. Nancy was great-granddaughter of Nathan Cobb and Winifred Mitchell, who had the same status. My paternal grandmother was a Dunlow and granddaughter of Josiah and Nancy. My paternal grandfather was a descendant of the mysterious Charney Cale, subject of a recent breakthrough regarding his legendary Indian chief father.

Future Goals

    • Incorporating recent research findings on Sarah S. Grimke and her family from a Mary Baker Eddy Library Fellowship of three weeks in Boston, and a return trip to the Grimke collections at the Moorland-Spingarn Center at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
    • Continued updates to my Backintyme blog at
    • Contributing a brief preface to the forthcoming Backintyme collection on the Goins family with demographic information about Goin, Goins, and Goings family migrations and crossings of the color line

© 2014: Backintyme Publishing | Easy Theme by: D5 Creation | Powered by: WordPress