Mendon's Renaissance Man of the 1800s
many 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
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