Mr. John Mellen, Esq.
John Mellen might well have been listed as Rev. John Mellen, due to his 1783 ordination to the East Congregational Church in Barnstable. With his wife’s ill health, however, he resigned that position in 1800 and moved to Cambridge where he became active in the affairs of his 1770 alma mater, Harvard College.
For Harvard, Mr. Mellen ran the lotteries of 1806 and 1811 which built Halworthy Hall and in 1808 was chosen to represent Cambridge in the General Court. Born June 17, 1752, he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts Militia and was a member of many of the Societies of the day.
But the accomplishment for which he is best remembered was his ability to endure the total blindness that encompassed many of his later years with both grace and cheerfulness. He neither retreated from the company of others nor gave up his pursuit of learning and theological inquiry, having works read aloud to him that he might digest and discuss their merits.
After his death on Sept. 19, 1828, the Christian Examiner wrote of the days of his blindness: “The knowledge which he had laid up in former years was now an inexhaustible fund, from which he brought the materials for new processes of thought, and the aids to a constant moral improvement. The truths, and to a wonderful extent, the words even, of the New Testament were engraven on his memory, and its spirit had long been cherished in his heart. The evident pleasure with which he listened, and the judicious criticism of his remarks, converted the office of reading aloud into a privilege, and he never wanted friends who were glad to avail themselves of such an opportunity of doing and of acquiring good. He was thus enabled to maintain an acquaintance with the current literature, and with the theological writings of the day.”