Select Mellon Miscellany

Here are some Mellon stories and accounts over the years:

The O'Meallain/Mellon Surname in Tyrone

Mellon has Irish as well as Scots Irish roots in county Tyrone.  The origin is the Gaelic word meall, meaning attractive or pleasant, and its diminutive form meallán, little pleasant one, which gives the name its basis. 

The O’Mealláin family has particular ties with the area around Donaghmore, near Dungannon, where they were hereditary keepers of the Bell of St. Patrick.  Terlagh O’Meallain, a friar of the Franciscan Order in Brantry, kept a journal (which has been preserved) of events during the 1641 rebellion when he was chaplain to some of the Irish soldiers. 

O’Meallain often became Mallin or Mullin, but sometimes Mellon.  Ryan Mellon, for instance, was a recent Gaelic footballer from

Scots Mellons in Tyrone

Archibald Mellon was the first of the Mellons from Scotland to settle in Tyrone sometime in the mid 17th century.  Samuel, one of Archibald’s three sons, inherited a farm on the Fairy Water near Omagh; while the two other sons, Archibald and Mark, were given the family Castletown homestead.  Samuel’s descendants later purchased Mark’s property and it was they who emigrated to Pennsylvania, with a young Thomas Mellon later in tow, in 1816.  Other Mellons from this family had migrated twenty years earlier to America and settled in Crawford county, Pennsylvania where they farmed. 

Harriet Mellon, the famed actress who married a wealthy banker and later became the Duchess of St. Albans, was said to have been of the Fairy Water branch in Tyrone.  Her putative father here was Matthew Mellon, a man who had enlisted with the East India Company before returning to England to recuperate from his exertions.  There he married, but died soon afterwards.  Other sources have her born illegitimately to Matthew Mellon, a Portsmouth theater manager who started her out on her acting  career.

Thomas Mellon's Presbyterianism

Thomas Mellon was born into a Scots Irish Presbyterian household in Ireland. Coming to America in 1818 with his family when he was five, he worked his way through law school in Pittsburgh to become a lawyer specializing in debt foreclosures. 

He became a wealthy man when he married Sarah Jane Negley, the daughter of John Jacob Negley who himself had married into wealth.  With his wife's funds he purchased substantial Pittsburgh area real estate holdings and later served ten years as a county judge with a reputation for issuing stern punishments. 

However, despite his new-found wealth, the austerity of his Presbyterian upbringing remained with him.  His country home at 401 Negley in East Liberty was gloomy and forbidding inside.  He disdained the vulgar ostentation which he feared was "common among those grown suddenly rich," whom he dismissed as the "shoddyocracy," and his house was devoid of any elaborate ornamentation.  The blinds were often drawn and the interior was a drab amalgam of Brussels carpets, heavy draperies and somberly papered walls, with no pictures of any artistic merit. 

In 1869 with two of his sons Andrew and Richard, he established the family business T. Mellon & Sons Bank.  This bank was to finance railroads, fund the first oil gushers in Texas, and underwrite the new wonder metal, aluminum.

Thomas Mellon and His Descendants

Thomas Mellon (1813-1908), the founder of Mellon Bank

- Thomas A. (Tom) Mellon (1844-1899), his eldest son

- James Ross Mellon (1846-1934), banker and philanthropist
  - William Larimer Mellon Sr (1868-1949), he founded Gulf Oil company in 1907
     - William Larimer Mellon Jr (1910-1989), founder of the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Haiti

- Andrew (AW) Mellon (1855-1937), one of the longest serving US Treasury Secretaries in history
  - Alisa Mellon Bruce (1901-1969), prominent Pittsburgh socialite
  - Paul Mellon (1907-1999), philanthropist and horserace breeder

- Richard Beatty (RB) Mellon (1858-1933), prominent banker and philanthropist
  - Richard King Mellon (1899-1970), active in Pittsburgh's urban renewal
  - Sarah Mellon Scaife (1903-1965)
    - Richard Mellon Scaife (born 1932), owner and publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Andrew Mellon's Marriage

Andrew Mellon comes across in David Carradine’e 2006 biography Mellon as a cold, isolated and taciturn banker and businessman. 

His one act of impulsiveness turned out to be disastrous.  At the age of 43, he repudiated his father’s training, abandoned all pretence of good sense, and proposed marriage to a woman half his age.  Nora McMullen of Hertfordshire and Andrew Mellon of Pittsburgh were married in September 1900. 

However, Nora “was appalled and bewildered by Pittsburgh,” unprepared for domesticity, and angry that her husband spent more time at the bank than at home.  When he was at home she was frustrated that he had so little to say to her.  After four years, Nora demanded a divorce so that she could live with the man she had been seeing for past two years. 

Andrew tried to talk her out of her “‘madness” and for a short time she was placated.  But in 1909, she repeated her demands, threatening to make Pittsburgh “ring with scandal.”  She would accuse him of being infected with venereal disease, of having procured an abortion for a young girl, and of keeping a woman in New York. 

Mellon, now in his mid-fifties, chose to do battle in the divorce courts.  The divorce proceedings became, as Nora had threatened, “the talk of Pittsburgh and an utter embarrassment for Andrew,” as well as a burden that their two children, Ailsa and Paul, would have to live with for the rest of their lives.  In the end, the divorce decree was granted and Andrew was given custody of the children for eight of the twelve months of the year.

The Mellons and the Olmsteds

The Mellons turned to the Olmsteds to help design their palatial new homes in the Pittsburgh area.  William Larimer Mellon, the founder of Gulf Oil, asked their firm to landscape his residence in Squirrel Hill in 1901.  Ben Elm was designed in the Arts-and-Craft style and stood there until 1951. 

Subsequently two even more wealthy Mellon uncles turned to the firm.  First there was Richard B. Mellon’s estate at Fifth & Shady, which is now Mellon Park; while his daughter Sarah Mellon Scaife’s home next door at 1081 Shady, re-landscaped by the Olmsteds in 1931, was named Rolling Rock Penguin Court. 

“Sarah imported some penguins with the idea of breeding and raising them; but unfortunately, being inhabitants of the arctic regions, they did not take to the Pennsylvania climate.  Too far removed from their native habitat, they all died." 

Sarah’s house is now the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.  Meanwhile Andrew W. Mellon’s own house on Woodland Road has become the centerpiece of Chatham University.

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