Mellon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Mellon Surname Meaning

There are three possible origins of the Mellon surname, one English, one Scottish, and one Irish:

  • The English (and also possibly Scottish) origin of the name is the place-name Malaville in Normandy, with Mellon being a Norman name as an alternative to the more common Melville surname.
  • Mellon could also be a corruption of the MacMillan name where MacMillans were far from the home base in NW Scotland.
  • and the Mellon name found in Ulster can be a shortened anglicized form of the Gaelic O’Meallain, descendant of Meallain.   Meallain is a personal name, a diminutive of meall meaning “pleasant.”

The Mellon family of Pennsylvania who emigrated from northern Ireland were said to have been Scottish in origin. There was a Millan coat of arms which clearly claimed a connection with the 18th century MacMillans of Dunmore.

Mellon Surname Resources on The Internet

Mellon Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland and Ireland (Ulster)
  • to America and Canada

England and Scotland.  A Norman de Melville family apparently made their way to Scotland by the 13th century.  The family held lands in Midlothian and later in Fife.  Mellon was one corrupted form of Melville as that was how Melville was pronounced in NE Scotland.  Some Mellons found in the Cumberland registers in the north of England in the 1700’s seem to have been MacMillans with the “Mac” lopped off.

There were Mellons in the 1881 census in Scotland, but not many of them – less than 200 – and most of them around Glasgow.  England had a few more, mainly in Lancashire.

Ireland.  The O’Meallain surname originated near Dungannon in SE Tyrone.  O’Meallain was generally anglicized as Mellon in north Tyrone and county Derry and as Mallon in south Tyrone and county Armagh.

Redmond Mellon, a Catholic from county Derry, emigrated with his family to Pennsylvania in 1847.  Patrick and Bridget Mellon from Maghera in Derry moved to Newcastle in 1860.  Other Mellons from Maghera were to be found in Glasgow.  Robert Mellon left home at 14 to join the Navy and ended up in the small mining village of Kilsyth in Scotland.   

One Mellon family in Tyrone was Scots Irish.  These Mellons had come into Ireland from Scotland in the middle of the 17th century and settled in Castletown.  In 1816 Archibald Mellon emigrated to the United States and his son Andrew and family were to follow two years later.  Other Mellons, it is thought from this family, crossed back to Scotland.  Descendants here were the diplomat Sir James Mellon, the son of a Glasgow schoolteacher, and his son, the fund manager and entrepreneur Jim Mellon.

America.  Judge Thomas Mellon, the son of emigrant Andrew Mellon from Tyrone, was the patriarch of the Mellon family in America.  He it was with his two sons who founded the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh in 1869.  

Mellon Bank was to be the driving force in the financing of the new industries that sprung up in America in the next fifty years – in oil, aluminium, consumer electronics, and financial services.  The Mellon family often used the bank as a proxy for their own investments in these companies:

  • Thomas’s son Andrew Mellon became one of the richest Americans of his time.  He is remembered not only as an industrialist and financier but also as an art collector.  He served as US Secretary to the Treasury from 1921 to 1932.  Andrew Mellon’s marriage, however, turned out to be disastrous.
  • his brother Richard Beatty Mellon was also a major financier and his line has continued to be important in Pittsburgh’s civic causes.
  • while their nephew William Larimer Mellon co-founded the Gulf Oil company in Pittsburgh in 1907.

Thomas Mellon’s descendants comprised one of America’s wealthiest families.  They built their palatial estates outside Pittsburgh.  Burton Hersh’s 1978 book The Mellon Family chronicled the family history.

Another Mellon from Tyrone – Edward Mellon – emigrated to Milwaukee in 1833.   He was a seaman on the Great Lakes and a survivor of the Lady Elgin disaster on Lake Michigan in 1860.

Canada.  John and Mary Mellon left Tyrone in the early 1830’s for Lennox and Addington county in SE Ontario.  Lake Mellon there was named after them.  The family history was recounted in Russell D. Jones’s 1993 book Mellon Family of the 19th Century.

Australia.  Mellons from Tyrone also came to Australia, settling in Queensland in the 1850’s.

Mellon Surname Miscellany

The O’Meallain/Mellon Surname in Tyrone.  Mellon has Irish as well as Scots Irish roots in county Tyrone. The origin is the Gaelic word meall, meaning attractive or pleasant, and its diminutive form meallán, little pleasant one, which gives the name its basis.

The O’Mealláin family has particular ties with the area around Donaghmore, near Dungannon, where they were hereditary keepers of the Bell of St. Patrick. Terlagh O’Meallain, a friar of the Franciscan Order in Brantry, kept a journal (which has been preserved) of events during the 1641 rebellion when he was chaplain to some of the Irish soldiers.

O’Meallain often became Mallin or Mullin, but sometimes Mellon.  Ryan Mellon, for instance, was a recent Gaelic footballer from Tyrone.

Scots Mellons in Tyrone.  Archibald Mellon was the first of the Mellons from Scotland to settle in Tyrone sometime in the mid 17th century.  Samuel, one of Archibald’s three sons, inherited a farm on the Fairy Water near Omagh; while the two other sons, Archibald and Mark, were given the family Castletown homestead.

Samuel’s descendants later purchased Mark’s property and it was they who emigrated to Pennsylvania, with a young Thomas Mellon later in tow, in 1816.  Other Mellons from this family had migrated twenty years earlier to America and settled in Crawford county, Pennsylvania where they farmed.

Harriet Mellon, the famed actress who married a wealthy banker and later became the Duchess of St. Albans, was said to have been of the Fairy Water branch in Tyrone. Her putative father here was Matthew Mellon, a man who had enlisted with the East India Company before returning to England to recuperate from his exertions.  There he married, but died soon afterwards.  Other sources have her born illegitimately to Matthew Mellon, a Portsmouth theater manager who started her out on her acting  career.

Thomas Mellon’s Presbyterianism.  Thomas Mellon was born into a Scots Irish Presbyterian household in Ireland. Coming to America in 1818 with his family when he was five, he worked his way through law school in Pittsburgh to become a lawyer specializing in debt foreclosures.

He became a wealthy man when he married Sarah Jane Negley, the daughter of John Jacob Negley who himself had married into wealth.  With his wife’s funds he purchased substantial Pittsburgh area real estate holdings and later served ten years as a county judge with a reputation for issuing stern punishments.

However, despite his new-found wealth, the austerity of his Presbyterian upbringing remained with him.  His country home at 401 Negley in East Liberty was gloomy and forbidding inside. He disdained the vulgar ostentation which he feared was “common among those grown suddenly rich,” whom he dismissed as the “shoddyocracy,” and his house was devoid of any elaborate ornamentation.  The blinds were often drawn and the interior was a drab amalgam of Brussels carpets, heavy draperies and somberly papered walls, with no pictures of any artistic merit.

In 1869 with two of his sons Andrew and Richard, he established the family business T. Mellon & Sons Bank.  This bank was to finance railroads, fund the first oil gushers in Texas, and underwrite the new wonder metal, aluminum.

Thomas Mellon and His Descendants

  • Thomas Mellon (1813-1908), the founder of Mellon Bank
  • – Thomas A. (Tom) Mellon (1844-1899), his eldest son
  • – James Ross Mellon (1846-1934), banker and philanthropist
  • – William Larimer Mellon Sr (1868-1949), he founded Gulf Oil company in 1907
  • — William Larimer Mellon Jr (1910-1989), founder of the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Haiti
  • – Andrew (AW) Mellon (1855-1937), one of the longest serving US Treasury Secretaries in history
  • — Alisa Mellon Bruce (1901-1969), prominent Pittsburgh socialite
  • — Paul Mellon (1907-1999), philanthropist and horserace breeder
  • – Richard Beatty (RB) Mellon (1858-1933), prominent banker and philanthropist
  • — Richard King Mellon (1899-1970), active in Pittsburgh’s urban renewal
  • — Sarah Mellon Scaife (1903-1965)
  • — Richard Mellon Scaife (born 1932), owner and publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Andrew Mellon’s Marriage.  Andrew Mellon comes across in David Carradine’e 2006 biography Mellon as a cold, isolated and taciturn banker and businessman.

His one act of impulsiveness turned out to be disastrous. At the age of 43, he repudiated his father’s training, abandoned all pretense of good sense, and proposed marriage to a woman half his age.  Nora McMullen of Hertfordshire and Andrew Mellon of Pittsburgh were married in September 1900.

However, Nora “was appalled and bewildered by Pittsburgh,” unprepared for domesticity, and angry that her husband spent more time at the bank than at home.  When he was at home she was frustrated that he had so little to say to her.  After four years, Nora demanded a divorce so that she could live with the man she had been seeing for past two years.

Andrew tried to talk her out of her “‘madness” and for a short time she was placated. But in 1909, she repeated her demands, threatening to make Pittsburgh “ring with scandal.”  She would accuse him of being infected with venereal disease, of having procured an abortion for a young girl, and of keeping a woman in New York.

Mellon, now in his mid-fifties, chose to do battle in the divorce courts.  The divorce proceedings became, as Nora had threatened, “the talk of Pittsburgh and an utter embarrassment for Andrew,” as well as a burden that their two children, Ailsa and Paul, would have to live with for the rest of their lives.  In the end, the divorce decree was granted and Andrew was given custody of the children for eight of the twelve months of the year.

The Mellons and the Olmsteds.  The Mellons turned to the Olmsteds to help design their palatial new homes in the Pittsburgh area.  William Larimer Mellon, the founder of Gulf Oil, asked their firm to landscape his residence in Squirrel Hill in 1901.  Ben Elm was designed in the Arts-and-Craft style and stood there until 1951.

Subsequently two even more wealthy Mellon uncles turned to the firm.  First there was Richard B. Mellon’s estate at Fifth & Shady, which is now Mellon Park; while his daughter Sarah Mellon Scaife’s home next door at 1081 Shady, re-landscaped by the Olmsteds in 1931, was named Rolling Rock Penguin Court.

“Sarah imported some penguins with the idea of breeding and raising them; but unfortunately, being inhabitants of the arctic regions, they did not take to the Pennsylvania climate.  Too far removed from their native habitat, they all died.”

Sarah’s house is now the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.  Meanwhile Andrew W. Mellon’s own house on Woodland Road has become the centerpiece of Chatham University.

The Death of Edward Mellon in Milwaukee.  The Milwaukee Sentinel reported the following death in 1904:

“Edward Mellon, the oldest survivor of the Lady Elgin disaster, died yesterday at his Milwaukee home at the age of 85 years.  He was for over thirty years constable of the 4th ward and he has also held positions in the tax commissioner’s office and as a paving inspector.  He had retired from active work several years ago and had been ill for some time as a result of a stroke of paralysis.

He was a member of the union guard which made the excursion on the Lady Elgin.  He made his escape from the doomed boat on a raft and was in the water forty-eight hours before he succeeded in landing at Winetka five miles from the disaster.  His family cherishes a letter written by him shortly afterward in which he relates his experiences.

Born in county Tyrone in Ireland in 1819, Edward Mellon came to this country when he was fourteen years of age.  He was married in New Jersey to Annie Talbot and came to Milwaukee to reside in 1855. He leaves two daughters and three sons.”

The Lady Elgin was a wooden steamship which sank in Lake Michigan in 1860, with the loss of some 300 lives.  Most of those on the ship were from the Milwaukee Irish community.

Reader Feedback – Mellons in Australia.  These Mellons are all good horsemen from Tyrone.  My father deceased was John Patrick Mellon in Goondiwindi, Queensland.  His father was Robert John Mellon in Drayton, Toowoomba, also in Queensland.

When my grandfather Robert came to Queensland he had a car which he swapped for a horse and wagonette.  He married Mary Lawrence Charleville and was buried in Drayton cemetery.  It seems that the line from Robert went back to Joseph Mellon from Fermanagh who married Mary Ann Thompson and first settled in Victoria, possibly in the 1850’s.

Dawn Mellon (

Mellon Names

  • Harriet Mellon was an English actress who starred at Drury Lane in London in the early 1800’s.  She was widely celebrated for her beauty and married a wealthy banker.
  • Thomas Mellon founded the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh in 1869 and was the patriarch of the Mellon family in America.
  • Andrew Mellon was an industrialist and financier who served as US Treasury Secretary from 1921 to 1932.
  • Niall Mellon is an international property developer from Dublin who started a trust to provide homes for impoverished communities in South Africa’s townships.

Mellon Numbers Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Mellon and Like Surnames

From our selection, these are the surnames of those who have made their business mark in America – as pioneers, inventors, developers, or corporate leaders – over its long history from colonial to modern times.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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