Melville W. Chase - Civil War Veteran
Originally from Maine, Melville's education focused on his skill as a pianist and music teacher. As the Civil War approached, he was exposed to a complicated view of abolition, the Fugitive Slave Law and states' rights because Maine shipped large quantities of southern slave-raised cotton, resulting in conflicting loyalties. In 1863 the federal government instituted a draft for all men between 18 and 45. By the end of the war many towns in Maine were without eligible men and forced to raise money to hire substitutes. Melville became one of them and was assigned to be the regimental clerk when his regiment joined The Army of the Potomac.
With the war over, Melville could return to his music. In 1869 Ransom Dunn, one of the most respected and assertive professors at Hillsdale College, hired Melville and his wife Olive, a gifted vocal music teacher, to join the staff at the college. Thus began a career that lasted over 62 years. Under conditions that were barely adequate, Melville and Olive transformed the college music program. Olive taught from their home, while Melville immediately began to drill the choir. He was assigned a very small room with an old upright piano for his classroom. Undeterred, he found private homes in which his students could practice.
Melville eschewed public office, but was active in the C.J. Dickerson G.A.R. Post #6. He was the last living member of that branch of the Grand Army of the Republic.
JoAnne P. Miller