Sunday, October 25, 2015

The First Chief Justice of Maine's Supreme Court - 52 Ancestors #42

"PrentissMellen" by John Brewster, Jr. -
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
The first Chief Justice of the Maine State Supreme Court was my 1st cousin, 7X removed.

Prentiss Mellen, son of Rev. John & Rebecca (Prentiss) Mellen, was born on October 11, 1764, in Sterling, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard College with his brother, Henry, from 1780-1784. After graduating from Harvard, he worked as a tutor and studied law with Shearjashub Bourne. He was admitted to the bar at Taunton in October 1788 and practiced in Sterling and Bridgewater, Massachusetts. However, he was still struggling to find his place. In July 1792, he moved to Biddeford, Maine and began his rise through the ranks of Maine's top lawyers, eventually settling in Portland and joining an active group of lawyers.

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Maine of the Nineteenth Century states that:
      When pleading at the bar, Mr. Mellon was fervid and impassioned. His countenance gleamed with bright intelligence. His intuitions were quick, and of necessity not always accurate...His client's cause he made his own. He never forgot or neglected it, nor failed to avail himself of an antagonist's errors or weakness to achieve a victory. His musical voice, tall and imposing appearance, and fascinating manner were all elements of professional power that he well knew how to utilize.

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Prentiss Mellen was involved in the political arena. He served on the Executive Council of Massachusetts in 1808, 1809, and 1817. In 1817, he was also Elector-at-Large to the Electoral College. He was a Representative from Massachusetts from 1817-1820. In 1820, he was appointed the first Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court. He served as Chief Justice until October 1834 when he was constitutionally forced to retire at the age of 70.

"Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (1795)"
 by Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) and either William Hackwood or Henry Webber;
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons 
In 1833, he became the president of the newly formed abolitionist society of Portland. The vice-presidents were Samuel Fessenden and Rev. Gershom Cox.

Prentiss wasn't done, though. In 1838, the Governor of Maine appointed him to be the chairman of the committee overseeing the revision and codification of state laws. This work produced 178 chapters under twelve titles. Once adopted by the Maine Legislature, it became the first volume of the Revised Statutes.

Again The Biographical Encyclopedia of Maine of the Nineteenth Century gives a glimpse into his character.
     Deeply religious, devoutly attendant upon public worship, faithful, and conscientious in the performance of every duty, and true in every relation of life; of cheerful and gay temperament, overflowing with wit and anecdote, social and benevolent - he was a welcome guest in every company, and one of the brightest ornaments of the society in which he lived. Possessed of vivid imagination and nice literary taste, he himself cultivated a seidisant acquaintance with the muses. Poetry, or rather rhyming, was the sport of leisure hours to the very evening of his life...Judge Mellen met death with all the composure that might have been expected from one of his sincere faith and firm religious principles. Perfectly submissive to the Divine will, he was wishful to depart, and yet content to stay. When the silver cord was at last loosened, the golden bowl broken at the cistern, his spirit triumphantly ascended to its celestial home.

Prentiss Mellen married Sarah "Sally" Hudson in May 1795 and they had six children.

Children of Prentiss & Sally :

  1. Caroline A. was born on February 24, 1796, and died on August 25, 1800.
  2. Augusta S. was born on December 27, 1797.
  3. Grenville was born on June 19, 1799, and died on September 5, 1841. He was a lawyer and a poet. He married Mary Southgate. 
  4. Caroline M. was born on March 26, 1801. 
  5. Sally S. was born on January 14, 1803, and died in 1874. She married Nicholas Gilman. 
  6. Frederick was born on December 3, 1804, and died in 1834. He was a graduate of Bowdoin College and practiced law. 

Sally (Hudson) Mellen died on September 10, 1838. Prentiss Mellen died on December 31, 1840. They are buried in Western Cemetery in Portland, Maine. His Findagrave Memorial

Henry & Abigail (Pratt) Mellen
Thomas Mellen - brother of Rev. John Mellen, uncle of Prentiss Mellen
Mehitable (Mellen) Freeland
Frances (Freeland) Carter
Elias Mellen Carter
Augustus Mellen Carter
Edward Mellen Carter
T. Richard Carter - my grandfather

Biographical Encyclopedia of Maine of the Nineteenth Century. Boston: Metropolitan Pub. and Engraving, 1885. print. Accessed on Internet Archive, 25 Oct. 2015.

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