MARRIAGE. ELECTION TO PROFESSORSHIP IN MERCER UNIVERSITY. ORDINATION
On the 29th of June, 1840, Mr. Mell was married to Lurene Howard Cooper, daughter of George Cooper, a resident of Montgomery county, Georgia. Miss Cooper attended Mr. Mells school at Ryals, where he first became acquainted with her. This acquaintance soon ripened into strong affection, and this companion of his young manhoods days lived for twenty years as his most devoted wife, who deeply sympathized with him in all the adversities and successes that lined his pathway, and who was able to intelligently aid him in all his plans for the future, because she was blessed with a mind filled with fertile resources, well stored with useful knowledge. This union was blessed with eight children, four sons and four daughters, five of whom are now living. The chair of Ancient Languages in Mercer University, at Penfield, Georgia, becoming vacant, P. H. Mell was strongly endorsed by his friend, Ex-Gov. George M. Troup, before the Board of Trustees, and on the 17th of February, 1841, he was elected to fill the position. He entered at once upon the discharge of his duties in this University. As soon as he became settled in Penfield he removed his membership from the church at North Newport to the Baptist church in his new home; this occurred on the 2d of April, 1842. He did not stop preaching but each Sabbath he visited some destitute place in the neighborhood that was too poor to secure the services of a regularly ordained minister. His work was largely gratuitous and the proclamation of the glad tidings of salvation to lost sinners was so greatly blessed by his Master that the attention of the Greensboro church was called to him, and in October, 1842, they requested the brethren at Penfield to ordain P. H. Mell for the ministry in order that he might accept the pastorate of the Greensboro church. In response to this request the brethren at Penfield met in conference October 29th, 1842, and the following minute was recorded:
“Moved and carried that the request of the Greensboro church to put Brother Mell forward for ordination be agreed to; and that Saturday before the third Sunday in November be the day; and that the candidate and Pastor elect the Presbytery. The Brethren Brooks, Stokes. Harris and the Pastor were named. Directed the Clerk to give written notice to the Presbytery.”
“PENFIELD, November 19th, 1842.
At the call of the church for a Presbytery to ordain Brother P. H. Mell, our Pastor, Brother B. M. Sanders, with Brethren Otis Smith and Win. H. Stokes, attended. Brother Stokes preached from II. Tim. 4:2Preach the Word. Brother Sanders examined the church and the candidate; Brother Smith made the ordaining prayer, with the imposition of hands, by all the Presbytery. Brother Sanders gave the charge and Brother Smith gave the right hand of fellowship, and the benediction was pronounced by Brother Mell.
B. M. SANDERS, Moderator.”
“PENFIELD. November 19th, 1842.
To all whom it may concern, greeting:
We, the undersigned ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Baptist Denomination, at the request of the church at Penfield, and with their concurrence and cooperation, having duly examined Brother P. H. Mell, one of their members, in reference to his call and qualification for the Gospel ministry, and being fully satisfied in relation thereto, have with one accord, by prayer and the imposition of hands, set him forth to the full discharge of the duties of the Christian ministry, and do hereby recommend him to the confidence and fellowship of the ministry and the churches.
Given under our hands:
B. M. SANDERS.
W. H. STOKES.
Rev. P. H. Mell accepted the call to the pastorate of the Greensboro church and entered at once upon the work. He served this church faithfully until 1852, when he became pastor of the Antioch church, as is stated further on in this biography.
In 1844 Dr. John L. Dagg was elected President of Mercer University to succeed Rev. Otis Smith who had served since 1840. >From this date a friendship was established between Dr. Dagg and Prof. Mell which was not severed even during the long years of their lives. Dr. Dagg did not enjoy vigorous health and he found it quite difficult to attend to the discipline of the Institution for want of the necessary strength demanded by the duties. Professor Mell therefore offered to relieve him of these duties when- ever his services would be useful to the President. His youth, health and vigorous body enabled him to fill the position of disciplinarian with marked success. Many of the mischievous boys came to grief because of the vigilance of the young Professor; and from this frequent contact with the students many amusing and sometimes serious adventures were experienced by him. He soon received from the students the appellation of “Old Pat,” and it was said by them that his presence pervaded the entire town of Penfield, where the University was located. On account of his excellent knowledge of boys and keen appreciation of their propensities he became cognizant of many of their pranks before they were performed and this fact made the students fear him very much. At the same time they greatly respected and admired his wonderful power. Their experience taught them he was just and merciful in treating every case that came under his control. Some of the strangest friends and bitterest enemies that he made during his life were college boys who were under him at this time.
The following are some of the incidents related of him while he was connected with the University:
During a dark night he was called out by the continued noise of the students on the streets. The parties who were creating the disturbance had threatened to injure him that night because he had so often exposed their mischief and brought the condemnation of the college authorities upon them. Some of them had prepared sticks with loaded heads to use on him when he should expose himself to their anger. They were drinking also and were in an unusually boisterous condition. Prof. Mell walked the streets some time before he was able to get in the group of young men and detect their faces. But at last he succeeded, and after finding out who they were, announced his name, ordered them to return to their rooms and in the morning to report to the Presidents office. Turning on his heels to walk off, one of the party gave him a severe blow on the head with a loaded stick; fortunately the dark night made the aim uncertain and the heavy felt hat which he had hurriedly thrown on his head as he was leaving his home, acted as a protection, and the stick glanced to his shoulder, only slightly bruising his scalp, but paralyzing his arm. Although the pain was intense he had the presence of mind to turn quickly and recognize the boy who committed the deed. Returning to his home he was confined to his room for a number of days. The boy who made this violent attack upon his Professor, becoming sober next morning and fully realizing what he had done, justify college without waiting to be dismissed. The others were all brought up before the authorities, charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and were expelled from the Institution.
On another occasion while the air was moist and a heavy fog hung over the little village of Penfleld, Professor Mells attention was attracted by pistol firing and great disturbances on the main street of the town, and he immediately went out to put a stop to the noise. Threats had been made by several young men for a month past that they would take his life before they justify college. But no attention was paid to these threats by Prof. Mell, because he did not believe they would be carried out. Near the Ciceronian Society Hall, on the night mentioned, he came upon the young men, three or four in the party, and accused them of creating the disturbance, when one of the boys pointed a pistol at the Professors breast and snapped it several times, but the rain had dampened the charge and it refused to fire. The boys then took to their heels, but not before they were fully identified. They went to their rooms in the college building and one was heard to brag that he had snapped his pistol at “Old Pat” three times, and that if he had not been interrupted he would have continued to snap until it had fired for he was determined to kill “Old Pat.” The faculty expelled these rioters from college and Prof. Mell had them presented to the grand jury for assault with intent to murder. One of them fled the country and the law was unable to place its hands on him. The others were indicted, and the case was going hard with them, when, through sympathy for their parents, who were excellent people, Prof. Mell withdrew the prosecution and the young men were allowed to go free without further punishment. Judge J. H. Lumpkin pleaded in their behalf and his appeals induced Prof. Mell to withdraw the case from court. In reply to Judge Lunipkin he wrote as follows:
“I appreciate your disinterestedness in the endeavor you make to settle the case without bringing it before a jury, and I am willing to do all in my power to aid you in the attempt to save the reputations of the young men, and the feelings of their parents. I should be much pleased to stop proceedings could a way be pointed out to me by which it could be done with safety. Though I am constrained to confess the difficulties in the way are so great that I see not how I can do so without causing greater evil.
I commenced the prosecution in the first place not to gratify any persona] resentment, but from, I think, a sense of duty to the public and the students of the college. Such outrages had become common to an alarming extent in our colleges, and several valuable officers had lost their lives. It seemed to me at the time, and subsequent reflection has not changed my conviction, that the duty which I owed not only to all literary institutions, but to parents who had sons to educate, required me to establish the principle that students cannot with impunity draw deadly weapons upon college officers.”
The two instances mentioned show how prompt Prof. Mell was to detect the mischief of the students at Mercer and how quickly they were brought to punishment if he felt they deserved it and the interest of the Institution demanded it. Yet at the same time he was not unmerciful, but often dismissed the offender to his room without reporting him to the authorities, if he saw by the repentance of the boy that the demands of discipline had been subserved. A number of instances might be given to prove this point but it is unnecessary to recite them here. It must not be forgotten in talking of this period that the students who attended college in those days were often more inclined to violate rules and discipline than are the students at the present time. Although Prof. Mell made some boys fear him, because of his success in finding out their mischief, still today there are many men scattered over the country who were students at Mercer during his connection with the Institution, and remember him with the warmest admiration and the most lasting friendship. He was the boys friend and protected him in all his rights.