Mendon's Renaissance Man of the 1800s
capacities. Moving to Mendon in 1826, he took over the practice of the recently deceased Dr.
Alexander Thayer at 9 Main Street. He conducted his business there until 1832, when he
purchased a house at 3 Hastings Street from Mrs. Sarah Prince, a Revolutionary War widow.
He lived there and conducted his business there until his death in 1892. He served most
diligently as the town's physician, historian, and ultimate public servant.
Dr. Metcalf served the town's and region's medical needs for over sixty years. He graduated
from Brown University in 1822 and Harvard Medical School in 1826. His wish to join the field of
medicine seemed natural, as both his father and grandfather were also physicians. As a
country doctor, he treated fevers, set broken bones, and delivered babies. His special field of
medical proficiency was in the practice of midwifery. In 1856, he addressed the Massachusetts
Medical Society about this topic and published a pamphlet of 123 pages as a resource for his
colleagues. Known for his good judgment, success at curing diseases, and his expertise in
midwifery, he was regarded as one of the most reputable practitioners in the vicinity.
Dr. Metcalf has been Mendon's foremost historian. Because of his academic brilliance,
excellent organizational skills, and his enthusiasm for the study of the town's great history, he
was asked to serve on committees to examine and transcribe town records. He researched
and summarized important events that took place year by year and included details that made it
clear of the impact the events had on the town. The summary of his work is included in the
book that he wrote, Annals of the Town of Mendon from 1659 to 1880. His work has been a
valued resource for the many people who have researched the town's impressive history.
Though an accomplished physician and historian, Dr. Metcalf was also an extraordinary public
servant. He was a member of the school committee for forty years and town treasurer for
twenty-five. He served briefly as a selectman and town moderator. As an amateur architect in
1840, he provided the design for the Town Hall. He served two terms in the Massachusetts
State Senate as an abolitionist and temperance candidate. He was co-chair of the town's
200th anniversary celebration in 1867. He was vice-president of the Massachusetts Medical
Society and secretary of the Worcester County Agricultural Society. His enthusiasm to serve
others was admirable.
Many people have regarded Dr. John Metcalf as Mendon's renaissance man of the 1800s. He
devoted his life to medicine, history, and service to his fellow man. He and his wife Abigail and
their four children lived in a modest federal cottage. He had the professional capabilities and
reputation that would have enabled him to live a lifestyle of wealth and fame. He chose instead
to live simply in a life of serving others in the town that he loved. His legacy is a great
inspiration to us all.
Metcalf House - 3 Hastings Street