Early Hamilton County Settlers - the Mitchells

Thursday, September 8, 2005 - by John Wilson

Pleasant Andes Mitchell was associated with Thomas Webster in an iron works at Chattanooga just before the Civil War. His son, William Bilbo Mitchell, hawked the Chattanooga Daily Rebel during the conflict and later became a leading businessman here.

The Mitchells trace back to two brothers, James and John, who came from England and first settled at Rockingham County, Va. At the time of the Revolution, James enlisted in Washington's army, while John remained loyal to the British and eventually returned to England. James and his wife, Mary Coffield, stayed in Virginia, but three of their sons, John, Samuel and James Coffield, were early settlers on the Tennessee frontier in Greene and Sevier counties.

James Coffield Mitchell was born in 1786, when the Mitchells were at Staunton in Augusta County, Va., in a mountainous portion near the Peaks of Otter. Developing into a celebrated stump speaker, he was “a good deal over six feet in height, had a massive and muscular frame, and a voice which, when fully exerted, was audible to a great distance round him.” He was married in 1807 to Margaret Lewis at Sevier County. He moved to Rhea County and practiced law, but he also got the contract for building a new courthouse for Rhea County at the promising river settlement of Washington. His pay was $936.25 for the two-story frame building that was 30 feet square. James C. Mitchell was solicitor general of the 2nd Judicial District and a justice of the peace. He was in the state Senate in 1813-1815 and the House in 1819-1823. Then he was elevated to the U.S. House of Representatives by the Whigs, serving from 1825-29. He moved to
Athens in McMinn County about 1827, then went to near Mississippi about 1837, where he unsuccessfully tried his hand as a planter on the Big Black River about 30 miles from Vicksburg. He re-entered law and was a circuit judge in Mississippi, He “maintained the dignity of the court,” even to the extent of fining a spectator for wearing creaky boots. He lost races for the state House and for governor in Mississippi. He died near Jackson Aug. 17, 1843.

John Mitchell, who was born in Virginia in 1778, married Sarah Andes, who was born in Virginia in 1790. They were in Greene County when their son, Pleasant Andes Mitchell, was born in 1816. They moved in 1821 to the Sequatchie Valley and entered a large tract five miles northeast of Jasper. It extended on both sides of the Sequatchie River. John was on the County Court of Marion County. John Mitchell died Sept. 6, 1841, and Sarah lived until Nov. 23, 1868. They are buried at Shiloh Cemetery in the Sequatchie Valley.

Another son was A. Preston Mitchell, who was born in 1824. A younger son was Miller Mitchell. Preston Mitchell remained his whole life in the Inman section of Marion County and was married three times. His first wife was Mary Ann, and the second was Mary Jane Hudson, who died in 1877. Preston Mitchell lived until 1908 when he was 85. He was a man “of irreproachable character and was highly esteemed by his friends and neighbors.” The children were James Andrew, John F., Sarah Elizabeth, Mary
E., Martha and Laura. John F. died in Marion County in 1939.

Pleasant Andes Mitchell married Margaret Roberson Griffith, daughter of the prominent Jasper merchant, William Standifer Griffith, and Rhoda Roberson. William Bilbo Mitchell (who was named for a family friend) was the only son. The daughters were Laura who married Josiah McNair Anderson Jr., Florence who married Napoleon Spears, and Ellen who married a Hiatt and moved to New York City. P.A. Mitchell was stationed at Bridgeport, Ala., while he helped build the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. Then he was general manager of the Tracy City Coal & Railway Co. In 1859, he joined with Webster and Thomas Mann, whose foundry was at the site of the later Freight Depot on
South Market Street. It prospered, and a leading customer was the Confederate government. The plant had to be moved to Selma, Ala., and it was eventually destroyed by the Union Army.

While living in Chattanooga, young W.B. “was a keen and fascinated observer of the exciting scenes of the Civil War, and for two or three years spent every spare moment among the soldiers in the camps about Chattanooga watching their maneuvers and preparations for war.” The day after the Chickamauga fighting, he rode for many hours over the battlefield, viewing the carnage and “taking in the ghastly scenes with the eagerness and impressibility of a boy.”

The Mitchells eventually retreated to Georgia, buying a farm at Zebulon in Pike County, then pushing on to Glennville in southern Alabama. They returned to Chattanooga at the war's close and found the foundry property was ruined and two farms they owned in the Sequatchie Valley and one near Chattanooga were devastated.

Pleasant Andes Mitchell lived until 1885. He was buried at the Hoge Cemetery in the Sequatchie Valley. Margaret Roberson Griffith Mitchell died in 1878.

W.B. Mitchell studied at Emory and Henry College, but he was anxious to go into business so he did not complete his course. He began teaching at age 18, but “this work was abandoned as wholly unprofitable.” He started a small sawmill operation, but found few customers except for furniture maker Charles Sundquist, who “once bought a carload of lumber out of pity for the discouraged boy.” W.B. clerked for the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad at Jasper and paid off the $100 he still owed on the lumber operation after his wages were raised to $35 per month. Also getting into farm produce,
he became the leading merchant at Jasper in partnership with his cousin, James Andrew Mitchell. The pair decided to move to Chattanooga in 1882, joining in a wholesale grocery with I.B. Merriam. They went out on their own two years later and also branched into real estate. Mitchell & Co. was closed in 1888. W.B. Mitchell was persuaded in 1891 to accept the presidency of the Third National Bank of Chattanooga. Though the bank “had accumulated much doubtful paper,” he was able to steer it through panics and depression until it was finally merged into the Chattanooga National Bank. A prolific writer with a fine library, his most famous production was the pamphlet “Dollars or What” in which he staunchly opposed the doctrine of free and unlimited coinage of silver at the rate of 16-1. It sold over 150,000 copies and was a factor in a presidential contest.

W.B. Mitchell married Minta Hall, daughter of Dr. D.H. Hall of Jasper. James Andrew Mitchell took as his wife Minnie Ragsdale, whose parents perished in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. James A. was a vice president of the Third National Bank and was an official of the Dixie Powder Company and the Aetna Coal Company. He was interested in the growth of Lookout Mountain and was a school commissioner, who led in the effort to build the mountain school. The Mitchell cousins were so close that many Chattanoogans assumed they were brothers. They built side-by-side summer homes on Mitchell Drive on Lookout Mountain at a time when the mountain was still very sparsely settled. The J.A. Mitchell house was one story, while W.B. had a larger house with intricate Victorian trim. The home was copied from a photograph of a house he had admired on a northern trip. Stables and a caretaker's house were erected across the street. There were also several storage buildings, including a stone structure used to store butane. W.B. Mitchell was the second Lookout Mountain mayor, serving from 1902 until 1908. He died in 1913. James A. was at his town residence at 617 E. Fourth St. when he died in 1927.

Mary, daughter of James A., married architect William Crutchfield, and they lived in the 105 Mitchell Drive house. Beulah Margaret, daughter of W.B., married Harold Kelso Hailey and lived in her parents' home at 119 Mitchell Drive until her death in 1977. William Kelso Hailey, son of Harold Kelso and Beulah Mitchell Hailey, also lived on Mitchell Drive.

W.B. had a son, William Bilbo Mitchell Jr., who married Marguerite Jackson. He was a machine gun instructor during World War I at Camp Hancock at Augusta, Ga. After the war, he was in real estate and was the city's leading handball player. His daughter, Marguerite, married Peyton Rowell Carter, whose family were pioneers in the tufting industry. One of their sons, William Bilbo Mitchell Carter, is a namesake of his grandfather and great-grandfather. He was the town judge on Lookout Mountain, then he was appointed as magistrate in U.S. District Court. He resides in the bluff home W.B. Jr. built in 1925 at 208 West Brow Road. His brothers are Peyton Lea Carter, a medical technician at Moccasin Bend Hospital, and Rowell Jackson Carter, who lives at Tybee Island, Ga.

Alice Lupton Montague resided in the old W.B. Mitchell home, while Dick and Alice O'Ferrall occupied the James A. Mitchell house, which was restored by the Felix Montgomerys.

ONE Of THE FIRST places of holding court in Hamilton County was on the farm of John Mitchell near Daisy. This John Mitchell apparently moved to Lookout Valley at an early date. He and his wife, Martha, were natives of North Carolina. John was born about 1790 and Martha about 1795. Their sons apparently included Samuel and Jasper. Jasper and his wife, Nancy, had daughters, Martha and Rachael, at the time of the 1850 census. These Mitchells apparently left Hamilton County in the 1850s.

ANOTHER John Mitchell here prior to the Civil War was a barkeeper in Chattanooga in 1860. He was born about 1830, and he married Elizabeth Kesterson, daughter of Abel Kesterson. Mitchell later was in the mercantile business with T.J. Lattner. At Mitchell's store at 135 Market St. he dealt in items ranging from dry goods to clothes to food and chickens. The Mitchells had two boys who died at a young age. They raised the orphan, Susan Wells.

SOLOMON P. Mitchell was an early Hamilton County settler, who had arrived by 1830. He had interests at Dallas and was one of its commissioners. In 1836, he and Edward H. Travis paid $1,000 to Daniel Rawlings for 438 acres on the north bank of the Tennessee River near Dallas. It included portions of “the Dallas and Fields and Rawlings Ferry Road” and was at “the southeast margin of the road from Dallas to Athens via Teenor's Ferry.” It was adjacent to 100 acres already owned by S.P. Mitchell. Mitchell and Travis also paid $800 to Aaron M. Rawlings for two town lots at Dallas and $1,500 for
124 acres near the Fox Taylor reservation at Dallas. Mitchell and Travis in 1838 more than recouped their investments by selling the 124 acres and the two town lots to Alfred R. Latimore for $4,000. They sold Alfred and Charles E. Latimore another 250 acres for $2,500. The investment partners bought 900 acres at Prairie Creek and Gum Swamp at Columbia Ridge for $2,300 from Asahel Rawlings. This was soon sold for $2,700 to Levi M. Churchill of Hamburg, S.C.



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