Prentiss Mellen

Prentiss Mellen (October 11, 1764 – December 31, 1840) was a lawyer, politician, and jurist from Massachusetts and Maine. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard, Mellen served for two years as a United States Senator from Massachusetts, and was appointed Maine's first chief justice after it achieved statehood in 1820.

Prentiss Mellen
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
June 5, 1818 – May 15, 1820
Preceded byEli P. Ashmun
Succeeded byElijah H. Mills
First Chief Justice
of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court
In office
July 1, 1820–October 11, 1834
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byNathan Weston
Personal details
Born(1764-10-11)October 11, 1764
Sterling, Massachusetts
DiedDecember 31, 1840(1840-12-31) (aged 76)
Portland, Maine
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Sarah Hudson[1]
ChildrenGrenville Mellen;[2]
Frederic Mellen[3]
Alma materHarvard University

Early yearsEdit

Prentiss Mellen was the eighth of nine children of Rev. John Mellen and Rebecca (Prentiss) Mellen, born in 1764 in the second parish of Lancaster, Massachusetts, now Sterling.[4] Mellen's father was the local minister, and his mother the daughter of the first parish minister. He graduated from Harvard College in 1784. He moved to Barnstable, where he worked as a tutor for the family of James Otis Jr., and studied law with Shearjashub Bourne. He was admitted to the bar in 1788, and established a practice in Sterling. This was unsuccessful, and he next opened a practice in Bridgewater. There he met Sally Hudson of Hartford, Connecticut, whom he married in 1795. The couple had six children, four of whom survived him.

Still not meeting with financial success, he briefly joined his brother's law practice in Dover, New Hampshire before finally settling in Biddeford in the Massachusetts District of Maine. He moved to Portland around 1806.

Senate and Chief JusticeEdit

Mellen served on the Massachusetts Governor's Council 1808–1809, 1817, and as a presidential elector in 1817. He was a trustee of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine from 1817 to 1836. He was elected to the United States Senate, representing Massachusetts, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Eli P. Ashmun, and served from June 5, 1818, to May 15, 1820, when he resigned. Maine had won admission to the Union as a separate state in 1820, and he was appointed the first chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He served until his resignation in 1834, when age disqualified him.[5] His last major act of public serve was as chairman of a commission to revise and codify the public statutes of Maine, work which was completed in 1840.

In 1833, Mellen was the first President of a newly formed abolitionist society formed in Portland. Samuel Fessenden and Methodist Rev. Gershom A. Cox were the vice-presidents.[6]

Mellen died in Portland on December 31, 1840, and was buried in its Western Cemetery.


  1. ^ Greenleaf, LL.D., S. Herbert (1841), Reports of cases determined in the Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Maine, Volume 17; Memoir of the Life and Character of the Late Chief Justice Mellen, Augusta, ME.: The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, p. 471
  2. ^ Lancey, S. Herbert (1856), The gift book of gems, Bangor, ME.: David Bugbee & Co., p. 103
  3. ^ Griffith, George Bancroft (1888), The poets of Maine: a collection of specimen poems from over four hundred Verse Makers of the Pine Tree State, Augusta, ME.: Elwell Pickard & Co., p. 107
  4. ^ Davis, William Thomas (1895), Bench and Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Volume II, Boston, MA.: The Boston History Company, p. 544
  5. ^ "Senators From the Bay State". Boston Post. Boston. July 25, 1910. p. 10.  
  6. ^ The Abolitionist, Volume 1 Page 95


  • Dictionary of American Biography; Greenleaf, Simon. "Memoir of the Life and Character of the Late Chief Justice Mellen." Maine Reports 17 (1841): 467–76.
  • Obituary in The American Quarterly

External linksEdit

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
U.S. senator (Class 1) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Harrison Gray Otis
Succeeded by
Legal offices
New title Chief Justice of the
Maine Supreme Judicial Court

July 1, 1820 – October 11, 1834
Succeeded by
Nathan Weston