chipping at the brick wall

Genealogists often speak of “brick walls,” a block in their research that seems impossible to clear away. For a while now, my brick wall bears the name of Atchison Mellen. Here is a photograph of the headstone of my great, great grandfather who was buried in Reading, Hillsdale County, Michigan.

Headstone from Maplewood Cemetery, Reading, Hillsdale, MI
Headstone of Atchison T Mellen, Maplewood Cemetery, Reading, Hillsdale, MI

 Atchison T. Mellen served as a Private in the American Civil War, the 4th Michigan  Infantry (Reorganized), Company F. His military service record confirmed that he was born on January 9, 1822, in Ellery, Chautauqua County, New York. He married Livonia Meigs on November 14, 1849 in Jordan, Onondaga County, NY and remained there until the late 1850s when they moved with their 3 sons west, to Hillsdale County, Michigan. He worked as a carpenter throughout his adult life.

Headstone of Atchison Mellin, Warners Cemetery, VanBuren, Onondaga, NY

Now, take a close look at this second photograph, a headstone for Atchison Mellin, a Revolutionary War veteran, buried near Jordan, Onondaga County, NY.   He had enlisted in Paxtang, Pennsylvania in 1775, and fought in the First Continental Line. He marched across New York and up to Montreal, and for a while was taken prisoner by the British. I have a copy of his military records and of his narrative of those years.

In 1820, this Atchison petitioned for a change of address for his military pension to be removed from Pennsylvania to be nearer his children in Camillus, Onondaga County, NY.  In 1822, he was a member of the Masonic Lodge in Baldwinville, NY, the same town where my great-grandfather was born. Later records indicate that he too, was a carpenter by trade.   Same trade, same area, same name.

The name is not common; Atchison was found to be a Scottish name. The surname of Mellin was also written as Melyn, Melon, Mellen, etc..  His home of Paxtang was a frontier town in colonial Pennsylvania, populated by many “Scots-Irish.”  That group of people had emigrated from Northern Ireland but their origins were in Scotland; a plan by the King of England to quiet the troublesome Catholic areas with Protestant believers, beginning in the 17th century.   In the early 18th century, many of those Protestants began migration into the American colonies in search of their own farms and lands.

I strongly suspect that the two men were grandfather and grandson, but I have no proof…yet.   I have not been able to identify the spouse(s) nor the children of the latter Atchison; Federal census records began only in 1790. I also suspect that the line is of Scottish descent. To that end, I did locate a direct male descendant of the latter Mellin who consented to a DNA test for me, but so far nothing solid has been found (that is another story for another day).

My next step in the plan to break through this brick wall is to travel to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to conduct research in their Archives and to visit the area around Paxtang.   If you have any hints, please let me know!