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Grace Mellen journals, 1897-1958.
1 box (0.42 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0570 (LD 7092.8 Mellen)

Mellen, Grace Temple, b. 1877; Housewife. Papers consist of journals commenting on her life as a mother and living on a farm. Chiefly describing the work of her husband on the farm owned by Joseph Skinner and the mental illnesses of her mother and husband, Archie C. Mellen.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Grace Temple was born in 1878. She married Archie Mellen in January of 1897, with whom she had five daughters and two sons. Archie worked for his father until 1911 and then worked on Mr. Skinner's poultry farm. In 1939 they bought a house in New Lebanon, New York, moved there in 1940, and set up a garden from which they sold strawberries.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Grace Temple Mellen Journals primarily concern her experiences as a wife and mother from the time of her marriage in 1897 until her death in 1958. As a new wife, Mellen writes infrequently, fretting about becoming a "better girl" and describing the births of her children-five girls and two boys. As her children grow older, Mellen writes more frequently and discusses the health of her family members and the family's financial situation during the economic depression in the 1930s. She also refers to the time that her husband, Archie C. Mellen, spent in the Clifton Springs Sanitorium in Clifton Springs, New York after he suffered a nervous breakdown. She associated his breakdown with overwork on Joseph A. Skinner's farm in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Mellen mentions her enjoyment of social life in South Hadley, where many of her friends and family also live. She later laments her boredom when she and her husband move to New Lebanon, New York, where her husband raised hens and grew strawberries. The journals also reflect Mellen's reactions to World War II. She discusses her disapproval of United States assistance to Great Britain through the Lend-Lease Program. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, she expresses her continued condemnation of United States participation in a foreign war, stating that the economy at home is not strong enough. She also frequently worries about her sons and grandsons being drafted and about the future of the world. Mellen also consistently comments on aging and her health, anticipating her own death. She emphasizes not wanting to live to be as old as her mother, who died at age ninety-three after many years in the Northampton State Hospital where she suffered from senility. She frequently discusses her mother's illness throughout the journals. The journals also contain a copy of Archie C. Mellen's obituary and a number of Mellen's poems.

Chronologically arranged.

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Preferred Citation

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Grace Mellen Journals, Mount Holyoke, College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts

History of the Collection

Summary of Correspondence

Grace Temple's journal, which she started on February 6, 1897 when she was 19, describes her wedding just 1O days earlier. She thought 19 was young to be married but she doubted she would ever regret the step although it was not "love at first sight." She continued to write over the next 58 years until Archie's death in November 1955. Sometimes there are several entries in a year, other times there are long gaps. There are no entries at all, for instance, between 1920 and 1927.

The journal is a record of married life - the birth of five girls and then two boys, all but the last born at home. Archie told the doctor after five girls (1907) that if they kept up they would soon have enough to stock a female seminary. Archie first worked for his father on his milk route in South Hadley, then after it was sold in 1911, he ran a poultry farm (1500 chicks in 1928) for Mr. Skinner, a "wonderful man to work for." After boarding with Archie's family for a number of years, they bought a small home and then a few years later, they moved into one of Mr. Skinner's rental houses. Having her own home meant a great deal to Grace; she wrote in 1949 she hoped all her children would be able eventually to own their own homes. Archie worked long hours*and rarely took any time off; his health broke in 1928 and he went to Clifton Springs, New York, to recover. Grace boarded nearby at $25 a week to be near him.

Finally in 1939 Archie resigned from the poultry job and they bought a house in New Lebanon, New York, for $2400 furnished. It needed a lot of repair but by 1940 they were in their own home. Archie tended the garden and his new hen house with 300 chicks, and Grace took tourists, "took in washing", and helped with the strawberry crop; she pedaled 500-600 quarts "all over town!' in July of 1950.

Grace rarely referred to current affairs but she did mention the First War and then there are frequent comments about World War II when some of her grandchildren were in service. Neither she nor Archie voted for FDR in 1944 - Archie thought Roosevelt wanted to be dictator.

Over the span of almost 60 years Grace recorded the ups and downs of married life - the birth, childhood and marriage of her 7 children, the arrival of grandchildren, illnesses, the inevitable heartbreaking disappointments. It was a never-ending struggle to make ends meet through the Great Depression, two major wars, and natural disasters like the Flood of '36 and the hurricane of 1936 or the hailstones which ruined the strawberry crop in 1954.

Archie was content to be at home while Grace always craved a little excitement. Archie was a stern taskmaster about social occasions, but no matter how much Grace complained in her journal about the grind and lonesomeness and her wish for friends and company, she always ended by saying what a good man he was and how very hard he worked. * (i.e. out at 1 a.m. to peddle milk in 1900).

The journal touches Mount Holyoke history in four places. Mr. Skinner, College Trustee and benefactor of the College, was Archie's employer for over 25 years. Claire, the second daughter, worked in the College laundry (May 1918) at $11 week (in the office) and Thelma, the oldest girl, at $9 week. Aileen worked as a college telephone operator before her marriage, sometime around 1927. And Jim, the oldest son, married Elinor Dunnel, member of the Class of 1937, in May of 37.

Dates of Interest:
June 19, 1871 Archie Mellen is born
April 10, 1877 Grace Temple is born
April 9, 1898 Thelma Theresa Mellen is born
August 1899 Grace has a stillbirth
November 15, 1900 Claire Erna Mellen is born
September 27, 1902 Hilda Carmena Mellen is born
September 12, 1904 Aileen Mellen is born
May 1, 1907 Beatrice May Mellen is born
June 14, 1910 James Colister Mellen is born
August 26, 1911 George Edward Mellen is born (died October 12, 1911 - age 6 weeks)
July 15, 1914 George Temple Mellen is born
January 1916 Grace suffers a miscarriage
January 27, 1897 Grace Temple (19) marries Archie Mellen (26)
February 6, 1897 First entry in Journal
January 15, 1910 Archie's mother buried
October 1919 Thelma marries Dick Dowd
April 1927 George has appendicitis
August 6, 1927 Note that Grace's mother is now 72, 2 or 3 months older than father
Spring 1928 Aileen (pregnant) is hit by a truck
June 22, 1928 Claire has twins
June 1928 First mention of Archie's depression
September 1928 Archie in Sanatorium (6 weeks) with nervous breakdown
October 16, 1928 Thelma has Herbert Sidney
July 1928 Aileen has Janice
February 23, 1929 Hilda marries Holger Lerche
August 20, 1929 Beatrice has Shirley Louise
April 12, 1930 Aileen has another girl
January 1932 Beatrice diagnosed with TB (2 years in Hosp.)
March 1934 Grace has surgery for Gall stones
February 29, 1936 George marries Ethel Gravlin
February 4, 1936 Aileen has another girl
1935 Thelma & Dick move to Limona (near Tampa)
March 1936 Grace's father dies at 79
May 22, 1937 James Mellen marries Elinor Dunnell
August 1939 Thelma's husband in hospital; Gerry's daughter almost dies
July 24, 1939 Archie & Grace buy house in New Lebanon
November 1942 Aileen's twins born
December 1943 Grace's mother to Rest Home (briefly)
April 15, 1945 Archie (87) hospitalized with pneumonia
May 27, 1946 Grace's mother (89 or 90) to insane Hospital (When Thelma had Gerry, Gerry had 5 grandmothers)
January 27, 1947 Grace & Archie's Golden Anniversary (50)
January 6, 1947 Jim & Elinor have Elizabeth
January 23, 1947 Janice has Daniel Kenneth (she married Floyd Locke)
January 1946 Jim's Elinor has a nervous breakdown
June 30, 1948 Grace's sister Florence dies of "shock" [stroke]
August 1948 Janice & Floyd move to mango
April 8, 1949 Grace's mother dies at 93
August 1950 [or 51?] Archie (80) hospitalized- prostate cancer
October 28, 1953 Archie's sister Minnie (Mrs. John) Day dies
January 1951 Grace & Archie go to Florida
August 1951 Archie hospitalized in Tampa
Christmas 1957 Grace's sister Maud dies
June 1955 Archie's cancer spreads to throat and stomach
November 16, 1955 Archie (85) dies [Grace notes Mother 93 at death, Father 83 at death]
November (?) 1955 Grace suffers a stroke about the same time Archie dies
March 15, 1958 Last dated entry in the Journal
April 1958 Last believed entry as Grace states that she is "81 this month"

By: CR Ludwig

April 1993

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8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

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Fax: (413) 538-2370

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