John Mooney Mead

Eileen P. Driscoll – John Mooney Mead (1826 – 1831)

Despite a promising beginning, the East Hartford chapter of the story of the life of Reverend Asa Mead and that of his son, John Mooney Mead, born in 1826, is as brief as it is poignant.

Arriving, from Brunswick, Maine, along with his wife Jane, Rev. Mead assumed the ministry of First Congregational Church in August of 1830. An impressive church meeting only two months later led by this young, earnest, intense, and full of passion pastor, resulted in nearly all present pledging themselves to a spiritual church revival. Within a year with refreshed vitality, the church had 47 new members.

However, not long after, Rev. Moody’s beloved and cherished son, John, became sick. After lying in bed with his sister who was probably ill with scarlet fever, John also came down with the same illness and, after suffering a month of sickness, died.

Devastated with grief, John’s father threw himself into writing a little book titled “Memoir of John Mooney Mead who died at East Hartford, Connecticut, April 8, 1831 Aged 4 Years, 11 Months and 4 Days.” This book’s one illustration, on the very first inside page, is an engraved portrait of a curly haired, sweet-looking boy, wearing a ruffled collar.

In the memoir, Rev. Mead writes there was “no costly array of funeral apparel and no useless funeral pomp.” John’s simple marble gravestone attests to this. On the day of his burial, John’s casket was carried to the gravesite by 6 little boys to the gravesite, who were followed by Sunday school classmates, his parents, and members of the congregation.

The memoir was in the printing press when Asa himself, at age 39, died on October 26, 1831, only six months after his adored son. His brief but successful ministry of barely more than year, had came to a sudden and sad end. Appropriately, he was buried next to his beloved child.

The memoir was first published in 1832 by the American Tract Society, and was quite popular in its time. It was later reprinted in 2010 by NABU Press and a number of other publishers that specialize in the preservation of works not under copyright that they feel have historical and cultural significance. The memoir can even be downloaded off the Internet or bought on eBay. One importance of the memoir is that it goes far beyond being a merely sentimental expression of one father’s grief. It was edited and expanded before its initial printing by an unknown editor or editors with the goal of showing the characteristics of an ideal Christian child and with the purpose of serving as a parenting guide book of proper Christian childrearing.

Thus, the almost angelic behavior of this idealized little boy made so reflective of the ideals of Christian parenthood, was the measure against which all God-fearing parents of ninetieth century America should judge their own children and their own childrearing skills. For this it is a valuable document that provides great insight into certain, but broadly ingrained, sensibilities of its time.