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Fayette County, Iowa
Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910
Author: G. Blessin
B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Vol. I, Biographical Sketches
Lyman Everett Mitchell
One of the best known men and in some respects one of the most remarkable characters in Fayette county is the subject of this sketch, who, after a lifetime of varied and unusual experiences, is now living retired at Oelwein, making his home with his sister. Mr. Mitchell is a Yankee by nativity, having been born in the town of Enfield, Hampshire county, Massachusetts, on the 3rd of January, 1837. He is descended from noted ancestry and there flows in his veins some of the best blood on the continent. He is a son of Alden and Adeline (Hodges) Mitchell. Alden Mitchell was a direct descendant from Experience Mitchell, a native of England, who was a companion in Holland of Capt. Miles Standish and John Alden and others of the historic party who came to see the New World, landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620. He, however, did not accompany this party, remaining in Holland until 1623, when he joined the party at Plymouth. Alden Mitchell's mother, who bore the maiden name of Nehitabel Alden, was a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla, the "Puritan maiden" immortalized by the poet, Longfellow. The latter and William Cullen Bryant, another of America's beloved poets, were both also descended from John Alden. Through his maternal grandmother, who was a member of the noted Drake family, Alden Mitchell also traced his lineage back to Sir Francis Drake, the great English navigator. Thus it is seen that the subject's forefathers were of that stanch New England stock which has been in many respects the very backbone of American literature and religion. Many members of these families still live in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, though some live at Worcester.
Lyman E. Mitchell was reared on the paternal homestead at Enfield and received his education in a typical New England school house of that early day. When he was seventeen years old the family moved to Illinois, but in the spring of 1855 they came to what is now known as Smithfield township, Fayette county, Iowa, where they entered a quarter section of government land. It was known as graduation land, the price being graded according to the length of time it had been on the market or thrown open for purchase. The Mitchells bought it for seventy-five cents an acre, and it is worthy of note that the same land has since been sold for one hundred dollars an acre. At that time this township was very sparsely settled, especially in the southern part, and here the newcomers built a log cabin for their first home. At that time the subject was about eighteen years old and he made that his home until 1861m, taking an active and effectual part in the work of clearing the land and putting it in shape for cultivation.
In 1861 he caught the "California fever" and he and a number of companions started in wagons on the long and tiresome trip to the land of the golden sunsets. It required seventy days to make the trip from Fayette county to Salt Lake City. When he reached Sacramento, he learned that war had broken out between the North and the South and in October, 1861, he joined Company E, Fifth Regiment California Volunteer Infantry. This command was sent into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where they were principally engaged in keeping under subjection the Indians, chiefly the bloodthirsty Apaches. They also did much scouting and convoying of wagon trains, the noted scout, Kit Carson, being a member of their command a part of the time, and the subject took part in the battle of Val Verde. During this time their common lot consisted of long and weary marches across the burning sands of the Arizona desert, ever keeping a close watch for signs of Indian trouble. The regiment remained in this service during the entire period of the war and were discharged at La Mesilla; on the Rio Grande, in New Mexico, after actual service of three years and two months. Such was the condition of the surrounding country that the subject and his companions had to practically fight their way back to civilization, it requiring forty-three days to get back to Los Angeles. Mr. Mitchell was first sergeant of his company and, having considerable talent as a drillmaster, he was given a good deal of responsibility in this direction. He was also a provost-marshall during a part of his military service in a wild western town, where he had to deal with many "bad men," with whom he dealt successfully, though at times it required an exhibition of nerve. During his military experience Mr. Mitchell escaped being wounded, but contracted malaria, from which he suffered greatly. From San Francisco he took ship and returned home by way of the isthmus of Panama and New York city. He was glad to get back to Fayette county, and here, under his mother's care and, as he says, largely her cooking, he was in due time restored to health. Had he been a man of less rugged physique he would have succumbed, but his great strength and vitality carried him through. He reached home march 11, 1865, and during the greater part of his subsequent life he continued to reside on the Smithfield township farm, in the operation of which he took an active part. He has always been a hard worker and has been numbered among Fayette county's most industrious and enterprising citizens.
In 1874 Mr. Mitchell was married to Mrs. Lydia W. (Bryer) Mitchell, the widow of his deceased brother, George Byron Mitchell, she being a native of Rhode Island. To them were born three children, namely: Jessie Alden and Charlotte Caswell, both of whom are now living in Brooklyn, New York, and Mark Milton, who lives in Massachusetts, where he is a traveling salesman for an aluminum manufacturing establishment. Mark married, in August, 1908, Lillian Bessie Moulton, of Maine. In December, 1907, Mr. Mitchell came to Oelwein, and is now making his home with his sister, Mrs. Mary Catherine Bogert.
Politically, Mr. Mitchell was at one time active in support of the Greenback party and in 1880 was a delegate to the national convention of that party. In later years he has not taken a great interest in political matters. Fraternally, he is an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1870 he became a member of the Masonic order, but is not now actively affiliated. In 1871 Mr. Mitchell was elected a justice of the peace and discharged the duties of the office until 1907, when he resigned. He is now (1910) again a candidate for that office. He has at other times also held various local offices, such as clerk, assessor, etc.
Mr. Mitchell is a wide-awake and intelligent man, and, despite his advancing years, he enjoys remarkable health, being a man of splendid physique and fine personal appearance, erect and broad-shouldered as in his prime. He is a man of linguistic accomplishment, being a fluent user of Spanish. During the war, while on the Mexican frontier, he learned to speak the language readily, but recognizing that colloquialisms had rendered the language impure as he heard it, he determined to perfect himself in the use of the language in its purest form. To this end, after his return home, he gave the language serious study and became thoroughly fluent in its use, both in reading, writing and speaking. At one time, while at Des Moines as a member of the soldiers' monument commission, he was called upon to read and interpret some Spanish communications in connection with the official business of the state of Iowa. In other lines he has been self-educated, and is considered an exceptionally well-informed man. He possesses great conversational powers and his recital of reminiscences of the early days here and in the West are exceedingly interesting as well as instructive. He is exceedingly optimistic in temperament and carries with him the buoyancy of youth. He is a delightful companion and enjoys the unbounded esteem and friendship of all who know him.
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