Life of Patrick Hues Mell





     In West Springfield there was a family by the name of Williams with whom P. H. Mell boarded while he was teaching in that town. He became very much attached to the members of that family and often spoke of them in after years with affection. The gentleman, Mr. L. Williams, was particularly kind to the young man by taking him into his family and extending to him all the considerate feeling and affectionate attention characteristic of such a kind hearted man. On July the 16th, 1837, just before returning to his home in Georgia, Mr. Mell wrote the following letter to Mr. Williams, from Newbury Port, which shows his appreciation of the sympathy and friendship of these noble people:


                            I have just received your very kind letter and hasten to answer it before I leave. I start from this place for New York to-morrow. I am very much indebted to you for your characteristic offer to me to make your house my home. I can never cease to remember with the liveliest emotions the kind sympathy you and Mrs. Williams have ever exhibited to me, an outcast from friends. But I will not undertake to express myself, for I know I cannot do justice to my feelings. The time I spent at your house I can never cease to remember, for it was the most gloomy and yet one of the happiest periods of my life—gloomy on account of the coolness, yea, injustice of my former friends—coolness the more cutting and oppressive from the consciousness on my part of its injustice—and the happiest from the unmingled kindness I received in a land of strangers—a kindness the more grateful to me from the consciousness that I had nothing to recommend me to it.

     I do not anticipate any very great danger in going home now, particularly if I adopt the course I think of. I designed at first to sail from New York for Charleston and then cross by railroad into the northern part of the State to my uncle’s plantation, where I will find air very similar to that I now breathe. But I am anxious to see my brothers and sisters and have, therefore, changed my determination and shall sail for Savannah, though I shall remain with them not more than a week. I think I had better not be throwing away my time in New England any longer when it is so difficult to obtain a lucrative position. My feelings are not at all changed in reference to the treatment I have received from the hands of my ‘friends.’ I go home, but I do so neither to solicit nor to accept any assistance from them. Nothing calls me there but a desire to see again my brothers and Sisters. When that is accomplished I shall shape my course for my uncles, who has given me an urgent invitation to do so. After which the world will be before me. It owes me a living and shall e’en give it me. This is what I used to say. but I wonder if it has not stopped payment too? I have been more than half induced to suspect that mother earth has followed the example of the banks. At least she protests all my drafts. I believe the world is a monster. I wish General Jackson, seeing he has nothing else to do, would look into it. One thing certain, I shall never trust any more to its ‘promissory notes.’ It has been nothing but promise. Speaking of banks reminds me of a situation I got into the other day which illustrated to me very clearly what a blessing our currency is to us. I got into a gig here with a friend, rode over to Haverhill, about fifteen miles from here. The day was pleasant, the scenery fine and the ride in every respect unexceptionable. We arrived at the bridge which crosses the Merrimac and, good honest souls, were congratulating ourselves upon its termination and our speedy enjoyment of the solid pleasures contained in the smoke of good Havanna cigars, when, horrible to relate, we could not possibly squeeze out money enough to pay our bridge toll. I offered him a $3.00 bill on a Rhode Island bank, then others on commercial banks to the amount of $70.00; not one would the good-for-nothing-fellow take. I said: Stranger, I have nine cents in full in change, you can have that and welcome, and I’ll throw my jack-knife in to boot, or if that won’t content you, I’ll make all the atonement in my power by undoing what Ire done. I’ll turn my horse round and ride back over the bridge again, provided you let me do a little business in town first, for I wish by all means to satisfy you.’ The dear fellow, (I know he was a Jackson man,) refused to take a cent, and grinning from ear to ear, (that is as near as his cheeks would allow,) told us we might pass Your friend,

P. H. MELL.”

     This letter indicates to some extent the effect reverses had produced on the mind of the young man. Troubles and disappointments had crowded rapidly along his pathway, and it was natural that in the first part of his letter a strain of sadness, and an air of gloom should pervade it. But the latter part, with its thread of humor, shows what a buoyant spirit he had and how rapidly it reacted from under the clouds of adversity. It is very evident that a man with such a character cannot be crushed. Adversity and disappointments seemed to give him renewed strength, and the severe schooling he was passing through, in this early stage of his life, was surely preparing him for the many hard fought battles of his later life.

     When this letter was written, as has been already stated, he was on his way to his Southern home. After remaining in Walthourville, Ga., a short time, he succeeded in securing a school at Perry’s Mill, in Tatnall County, Ga., and assumed charge of it the first of October, 1837.

     In October, 1838, he accepted the school at Ryal’s, in Montgomery County, Ga., where he taught until February 14th, 1839, when he received a letter from Dr. Few, President of Emory College, at Oxford, Ga., offering him the Principalship of a Female Seminary the citizens had decided to establish in that town. Mr. William H. Mell, an uncle living at Oxford, wrote to Mr. Mell urging him to accept. The position had been tendered him through the influence of Gov. Troup, who met young Mell at Dr. Perry’s, in Montgomery County, and became interested in him and gave him the strongest recommendation to Dr. Few. For some unexplained reason the contemplated school was never established. The Board of Trustees of Emory College, however, elected Mr. Mell to the position of principal of the “Oxford Classical and English School” which was a preparatory school for the college.


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