Dr. John Mitchell

Pastor FBC Hillsborough, 1857 - 1862
The church called John Mitchell as pastor in October 1857.  He was received into full membership on September 30, 1858 and two months later was appointed as a delegate to the NC State Convention.  In December 1858 he was re-elected as pastor and along with H.C. Stroud and John Cheek, was appointed to a building committee to erect a “Baptist Edifice” on the land purchased from W.G. Freeland on West King Street.  The church left it up to the committee to decide if a basement should be added or not. Therefore, he was pastor when the corner stone of the new building was laid in 1860.  He remained at Hillsborough until February 13, 1862 when his “letter of dismission” was granted by the church.1     

A biography of Mitchell written in 1881 gives a brief glimpse of his stature as a Baptist minister and leader.  He is described as follows:
“This gentleman, known as “the beloved disciple," was born in Bertie Co., NC, in 1829; professed faith in Christ at Wake Forest College in 1851; graduated in 1852: studied theology at Greenville, S C; was agent for the endowment of Wake Forest College in 1856-57; was pastor at Hillsborough and Greensborough; settled as pastor in Chowan Association after the war; took charge of the Asheville church in 1875; returned to Murfreesborough in 1879, where he now resides. Dr. Mitchell is a trustee of Wake Forest, and also of Chowan Female Institute, and was made a D.D. by his alma mater in 1876.”2

Mitchell was the eldest child born to James S Mitchell and Mary Thomas on January 14, 1826. He had two brothers and one sister.  His father was a devout Christian farmer, active in the Chowan Association, who was eulogized in the Biblical Recorder upon his death in October 1869. In the article, his son John Mitchell is described as being “known all over the state of NC and all a Christian minister can be.”3    As an agent for Wake Forest College, Mitchell reported in 1857 that forty-five thousand dollars had been collected; leaving $5,000 of the amount they set out to raise.  The same year, he became pastor of the Hillsborough church.  While pastor at Hillsborough, he preached in Greensboro as a “Missionary of the Board,” and established a church with fifteen members in 1859.  He served as the church’s first pastor for two years.  At the beginning of the Civil War, the Board was able to support only two missionaries.  John Mitchell was one, for his work in Greensboro; the other was R. H. Griffith in Charlotte.4 He resigned his pastorates at Hillsborough and Greensboro to move back to the Chowan Association to become pastor of the Colerain Baptist Church.  He served there from January 1862 to January 1867.5

While preacher at Murfreesboro, NC in 1870, Mitchell lived on campus at Chowan in Hope Cottage. Locals jokingly said that the cottage was called that because several of the spinsters at the college hoped to live there as his wife.6 In 1875, Mitchell left his home community in Bertie County for Asheville.  In 1876, the mission board reported having issued commissions to nine missionaries, two of whom, Rev. John Mitchell, of Asheville, and Rev. Geo. W. Greene, of Alexander County, had declined to receive any salary.7

In 1885, the Baptist State Convention appointed a committee to explore building an orphanage. Although opposed by some at first, the idea grew and took shape and became an objective of the convention.  The committee reported that 171 acres of land had been purchased near Thomasville and that one house, “the gift of Elder John Mitchell,” had been completed; another house gifted by Mr. John Watson was soon to be finished and that a third house gifted by Mr. Noah Biggs would be built as soon as possible.4 Mitchell had been appointed president of the Baptist Orphanage Association the prior year.  His residence at the time was listed as Powellsville, a small rural village in Bertie County.  In addition to his gift, the Chowan Association gave $1,250 in 1885 to help establish the orphanage, the first association to do so.  On November 11, 1885 Mitchell, then pastor of Ahoskie Baptist Church (now First Baptist), escorted nine-year-old Mary Presson of Hertford County 200-miles by train to her new home in Thomasville. John H. Mills, the orphanage’s founder, greeted her at the home’s first cottage, which came to be known as the Mitchell House.9,10  Mitchell not only provided the first cottage but also the first child to be admitted to the institution.  November 11, 1885 is considered the beginning date for the Baptist Children Homes.

Mitchell served as Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Education of the NC Baptist State Convention in 1894.11 There is no record of his ever being married.  It appears he died on May 3, 1906 making him 76 years old at his death.6   It seems reasonable that he died and was buried in Bertie County with other family members, but this is not recorded on the Internet.

  1. Minutes of First Baptist Church Hillsborough, NC from November 19, 1853 to December 2, 1953.
  2. Cathcart, William.  The Baptist Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Published 1881 in Philadelphia.  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL22877448M/The_Baptist_encyclopædia
  3. Biblical Recorder of Raleigh, NC October 20, 1869.  From film at NC Baptist Archives at Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem NC. Transcribed by Jim Vosper.  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at: http://www.sallysfamilyplace.com/Neighbors/MitchellJS.htm 
  4. Livingston Johnson. History of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton, 1908. Accessed on February 25, 2011 at: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101055829491
  5. Delke, James A.  History of the North Carolina Chowan Baptist Association, 1806-188. Published by order of the association in 1882 by Edwards, Broughton & Co. in Raleigh.  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at:  http://openlibrary.org/works/OL7667722W/History_of_the_North_Carolina_Chowan_Baptist_Association_1806-1881
  6. Sally’s Family Place: Genealogical Database.  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at:  http://www.sallysfamilyplace.com/Neighbors/MitchellJS.htm
  7. Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention, 1876. Baptist State Convention of North Carolina(Creator).  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at: http://www.archive.org/stream/proceedingsofann1876bapt/proceedingsofann1876bapt_djvu.txt
  8. American Baptist yearbook: 1884.  American Baptist Publication Society, American Baptist Convention.  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at:  http://books.google.com/
  9. Ragsdale, Blake. BCH breaks ground in Ahoskie. Biblical Recorder. BCH Communication, May 5,2010 issue. Accessed on February 25, 2011 at:  http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/post/BCH-breaks-ground-in-Ahoskie.aspx
  10. Wiltgen, Erin. Mitchell House marks start of Baptist Children’s Homes. Thomasville Times, issue May, 26, 2010.  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at: http://www.tvilletimes.com/view/full_story/7700807/article-Mitchell-House-marks-start-of-Baptist-Children%E2%80%99s-Homes
  11. Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention, 1876. Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (Creator).  Accessed on February 25, 2011 at: http://www.archive.org/details/proceedingsofann1894bapt  

Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian, FBC Hillsborough
Last Updated: February 25, 2011