Lee County Biography


It would be difficult to find within the city of Amboy a more pleasant home than the residence occupied by Mr. Mellen, which is located on East Main Street and surrounded by grounds comprising fifteen acres. In retirement from the active duties which formerly engaged his attention, he is enjoying the fruits of his labors, and in his beautiful home, with the loving care of his family to contribute to his happiness, he is passing his declining years in peace and contentment. In the course of a long and honorable business career, many varied business experiences have been his, and heavy losses have occasionally met his enterprises, but the losses have been more than retrieved through shrewd investments, so that now he has sufficient of this world's goods to free his old age from the cares of poverty. The ancestors of Mr. Mellen originally came from Scotland (the family name being McMellen) and were among the first settlers of the Massachusetts Colony. By occupation they were farmers, and were industrious and honorable members of society. Grandfather William Mellen was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and, in connection with farming, was extensively engaged in fruit­growing, and made as much as four hundred barrells of cider annually. The father of our subject, John L., pursued farming, and after his son came West, made him a visit, and being pleased with Amboy, remained there seventeen years, until death claimed him at the age of eighty-two years.

The mother of our subject, whose maiden name was Mary Hyde, was born in Hampshire County, Mass., and there died. Her union with John L. Mellen brought to them eight children, only three of whom attained to their majority: Mary I. married Samuel Davis, and died in Massachusetts; Franklin II was a soldier in the Eighty-ninth Illinois Infantry, and was mortally wounded at the battle of Stone River. Our subject is the only surviving member of the family and was born in Hampshire County, Mass., February 5, 1818, receiving his education at the Wilbrahain Academy in his native town, Greenwich. In his early manhood, he engaged in teaching school, and was also a music teacher, traveling in New Jersey in the pursuit of the same employment.

In connection with his father, our subject was interested in a farm in Massachusetts, and during the summer season he tilled the soil, but made the most of his money during the winter when the farm was buried with snow and he was educating the children and teaching singing school. In 1854 he started to see the Great West, and coming to Amboy on a prospecting tour, was well pleased with the young town and invested some money in village lots. In the spring of 1855, he removed his family hither, and, erecting mills, engaged in the manufacture of lumber, sash, doors, etc. He was appointed Postmaster in 1861, and in that connection began selling books and stationery, and later added musical instruments.

After continuing for some time alone, Mr. Mellen associated his son Walter with him in partnership, the firm being R. II. Mellen & Son, and continued in that way for some years. The business is now conducted by the son. For twenty-one consecutive years, Mr. Mellen retained the office of Postmaster, and in that position was very popular with his fellow-citizens. During the course of a long and active life, he has met many famous men, among them being personally acquainted with President Lincoln. His first ballot was cast for Gen. Harrison for President in 1840, and since the formation of the Republican party he has been one of its stanch supporters. Besides holding the office of Postmaster, he has been City Clerk and Alderman, and has been prominent in the public life of the county.

In 1842 Mr. Mellen was married to Miss Laura E. Patten, who was a native of Hampshire County, Mass. Their union has been blessed by the birth of four children, namely: Ella Frances, wife of D. W. Slauter; Walter Clayton; Florence Virginia; and Mary Georgianna, wife of Howard S. Hazen. Since he was fifteen years old, Mr. Mellen has been a member of the Congregational Church, to which the other members of the family belong. Not only has he witnessed, but has assisted in, every change which has worked out the wonderful transformation apparent in Lee County today, compared with its condition forty years ago. No one takes greater pride than he in the prosperity of Amboy, and not only is he liked by the rich and fortunate, but by the young and needy, and those who are struggling for recognition,

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL 1892

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