Jacob Melyn, the anglicized version of Jakob Melijn, was born April 17, 1640 in Amsterdam to Cornelius Melijn and Janneken Adriaens. The family immigrated to the colonies in 1641 aboard the Den Eyckenboom, or The Oak Tree. The family moved from Staten Island to New Haven due to political upheavals that his father faced. He was an educated, successful business man who, with his wife Hannah Hubbard (they married in 1662), lived in both the Dutch and English worlds in Puritan New England. As a young man he had some run ins with the law including flirting “scandalously” with Hannah before they wed. Once married, he had no other legal problems.
Jacob, being safely ensconced in Boston, was safe when the political issues that destroyed many of his friends due to Jacob Leisler being named a traitor and he and some of his compatriots were sentenced to death due to the Glorious Revolution. Melyen himself was exempted from the pardon that other of Leisler’s supporters had received. To protect himself, Jacob maintained a book of all of his correspondence, this Letterbook, originally written in Dutch, has helped those who study Colonial America, especially the Salem Witch trials. He also held a number of elected positions in Boston and his son Samuel was a Harvard graduate and author, he also copied many of the letters in his father’s Letterbook.
His business related letters to Cotton and Increase Mathers along with others of his era discuss his unease with the use of Spectral evidence in the Salem Witch trials and how he, and others, did not see pacts with Satan as something that occurred. He saw the witch hunt as, “another punishment of God has come among us” and believed that the magistrates were gullible in their belief in the accusers.
Jacob died December 13, 1706 in Boston.
Norton, Mary Beth, In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (September 10, 2002)