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Lake Erie Islanders: John Mitchell of Catawba

 

Sketches from the 1917 History of Northwest Ohio 

(reference 4a in the Bibliography)

 

HON. JOHN MITCHELL. Probably no citizen of Ottawa County ever had a stronger hold on the affection of its citizens than the late John Mitchell, who was best known over the county as “Captain Jack” a title and term of endearment which had come to him through his service as leader of a company of Ottawa County soldiers during the Civil war. He also represented his county in the State Senate, and was easily one of the foremost citizens.

Born at Ithaca, New York, October 14, 1833, he died at his home in Port Clinton, April 29, 1903, in his seventieth year. His father, Patrick Mitchell, a native of Ireland, was an English soldier and came to Canada with his regiment. On leaving the army he took up his home in Ithaca, New York, and soon afterward enlisted in the regular United States army and was in service both in the Seminole Indian and in the Mexican wars. While in the Seminole campaign he was accompanied by his wife and their young son, who later became Capt. Jack Mitchell.

It was in his early manhood that the late Captain Mitchell came to Ottawa County. He was with a party of workmen engaged in building a cement mill at Ottawa City on Catawba Island. When that work was finished he became a sailor on a lake boat, and also engaged in fishing with pound nets around Catawba Island. He was well known over the county before the Civil war, and early in 1861 he raised Company I in the famous Forty-first Ohio Regiment. His comrades elected him captain of the company, but through some intrigue he was reduced to the ranks. Colonel Hazen gave him the privilege of coming home, but Jack Mitchell was never a man to sulk, and instead he told the colonel that the boys had come largely at his personal solicitation and that he would not desert them. Colonel Hazen subsequently learned the truth of how he had unconsciously injured the volunteer captain and was prompt to make reparation. An order was issued relieving him of all guard duty, he was advanced to lieutenant, and not long afterwards was made captain of the company which he had raised. He was a fearless and intrepid leader, and his company was the very first to scale the heights at the battle of Missionary Ridge.

After the war Captain Mitchell bought a farm and located on Catawba Island. He was soon prominent in public affairs, was elected sheriff in 1866 and re-elected in 1868. After the second term he engaged in the lumber business from 1870 to 1874, and in the latter year was again elected sheriff and again served two successive terms. He held many municipal offices at Port Clinton and in other towns of the county. For a number of years he was associated with A. Couche in the business of exporting logs. He also operated a flour mill at Oak Harbor, and a hotel in that village, and for a time was proprietor of the Lake House at Port Clinton. Toward the close of his long career he was elected, in 1897, a member of the State Senate and returned to that body in 1899. As a senator his support and vote were always given to measures that deserved them, and seldom does a man in public life deserve more thoroughly the esteem and admiration of his fellows than was true of the late Captain Mitchell. His last public service was given as a member of the Shiloh Battlefield Commission. Governor Nash appointed him to that place at the request of the entire Senate. He had a very accurate knowledge of the Shiloh battlefield, and was able to assist in marking the various positions held by his regiment and brigade

On February 8, 1858, Captain Mitchell married Miss Nancy A. Napier. Captain Mitchell was survived by Mrs. Mitchell and eight children. The names of the children are: Jennie, who married C. Hennessey; John; Dr. Catherine (Bainbridge) Cass, a practicing physician in the State of Washington; Delia, who married F. J. Highhouse; Clarence; James; Alpha, who is the wife of George F. Meyer; Frank J.; and Robert. Captain Mitchell and family are members of the Catholic Church at Port Clinton, and his body was laid to rest in the Lake View Cemetery.

From the columns of a local paper are quoted words that are in a measure a proper tribute to the late Senator Mitchell: “Captain Jack was one of nature's noblemen. Lacking a college education, he acquired one of the world, and was easily a leader in all movements for the advancement of his fellow men. Personally courageous, he always espoused the cause of the just and defended the weak. His many acts of kindness to people are told daily throughout the county and he did more than his share for his town, his county and his country.”

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