by Larry Upthegrove
The Mitchell family has deep roots in our local history. From the Edgefield district of South Carolina to South River below Panola or Flat Shoals in Rockdale County came the young man, William Mitchell, with his wife, Eleanor Thompson Mitchell, in 1835. They settled and established a farm where they remain to this day, in a family cemetery on the property, about 12 miles southeast of Decatur.
Among the children were two sons, Alexander Weldon Mitchell (1812-1891) and Isaac Green Mitchell (1810-1881). A. W. was a cotton dealer in the firm of McDaniel, Mitchell, and Hulsey, one of the most important establishments in early Atlanta. It was in the upper floor of their brick building at the NE corner of Whitehall and Hunter (Currently Peachtree and MLK) that the early city court was held and the location of the beginning of the “Rowdy” insurrection of 1851. One of the Rowdy elements of the town threatened the Mayor (Jonathan Norcross) with a large knife when the Mayor found him guilty of a minor infraction in City Court. The Rowdies further threatened the Mayor with death later that night by placing a small cannon that they had stolen from the City of Decatur in front of Norcross’ store and firing several rounds of sticks, stones, and mud at the front facade. They also left a note threatening to kill the Mayor if he was still in town the following night. The following night, about one hundred heavily armed men mostly led by Alexander Weldon Mitchell came to the Mayor’s rescue and managed to disperse the Rowdy force, arresting the leaders and destroying the area within the City Limits (Murrells Row) where most of the vice within the city limits occurred. Two nights later the same treatment was given to the two areas outside the city limits (Slabtown and Snake Nation) by a similar sized force wearing hoods and masks because of the lack of City authority in these areas. I do not know that A. W. Mitchell participated in this illegal attack, but whoever led the group had the same courage and conviction of the preceding night. This was the beginning of Effective City government in Atlanta due to the validation of authority, albeit of shadowy origins.
Isaac Green Mitchell was a farmer and later a minister of the Methodist Protestant Church. He rode circuit for some years and founded a Methodist Protestant Church in 1856 at the northwest corner of Garnett and Forsyth streets. He was pastor there for many years. Russell Crawford Mitchell was the fourth son of Isaac and Mary Anne Dudley Mitchell. Isaac Green Mitchell is not buried at Oakland, but in the family cemetery, in an unmarked grave, with his parents.
Isaac’s son, Russell Crawford Mitchell was born in Madison County, GA and raised in Henry and Dekalb counties. He was educated in Bowden Ga. and taught school for a short time. He moved to Alto Texas where he studied law and was admitted to practice in that state. When the Civil War began, he enlisted and fought in several engagements including the battle at Sharpsburg (Anteitham) where he received a head wound. After the war he married Deborah Margaret Sweet and moved briefly to Florida, the land of his new bride. The two then returned to Atlanta, entered the lumber business and built their home on the northeast corner of Boulevard and Forrest Ave. This was the birthplace of their first child, Eugene Muse Mitchell.
Eugene Mitchell studied law and promptly took a place of leadership in his profession and in the community. In his profession, he became a charter member of the Atlanta Bar Association. In the community, he utilized his experience as president of the Young Men’s Library Association to help influence Andrew Carnegie’s gift to the City of $100,000 to establish the Carnegie Library. He was to be one of the first six trustees of Atlanta’s first free library. In 1926, he was one of the charter members and organizers of the Atlanta Historical Society, and he became its second president. In 1895 his son Stephens was born, who was to take his place as a leader of the Historical Society; and on November 8, 1900 he became the father of Margaret Mitchell, our beloved author of “Gone with the Wind”.
Margaret Mitchell was born to write. Sharing her life through the written word enhanced her living. She wrote about all things, real and imagined. When it became apparent that her book would be published, she was frantic to make sure that the parts that were not purely hers were accurate. Both she and her older brother shared a sense of the importance of the past, through their Daddy’s influence, who was one of the founders of the Atlanta Historical Society and its 2nd President.
All her life, she had Stephens’ as her older brother and her “Ace in her hold”. Upon her death it, was Stephens that John Marsh leaned on to uphold the responsibilities of management of such an important work as “Gone with the Wind” and the Mitchell Foundation. He was capable of the task.
Today, Eugene Mitchell, one of Stephens Mitchell’s sons lies under the peaceful soil of Historic Oakland, making five generations of the Mitchell family represented here.
by Larry Upthegrove