John Knox Mitchell – 2009 Inductee

“John Knox Mitchell was one of the most influential men “behind the scenes” in Osborne County history.  A resident of Osborne city for more than forty years, he died at his home early Saturday morning, March 4, 1922, after an illness of ten weeks, aged 78 years.  He was born in Hart County, Kentucky, on June 17, 1848, and was the son of James and Mary (Masters) Mitchell.  After his school days were over Mitchell engaged in teaching, then studied law and graduated at Columbia law school in 1875.  Three years later he came to Osborne and entered into a partnership with Attorney Zachary T. Walrond, his cousin, who was one of the very earliest settlers in Osborne County [and later fellow member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame].  Mitchell was admitted to the Osborne County bar in 1879 and was considered one of the best posted lawyers in this part of Kansas.

Mitchell was a lifelong Presbyterian and soon after his arrival in Osborne he subscribed his name to the charter roll of 21 members when the Osborne Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. J. M. Batchelder.  He was an ardent Sunday School man, teaching for many years and serving as superintendent of the Sunday School.  He was elected ruling elder of the congregation in 1885 and held that office twenty years.  As a Mason he was well known in Kansas, affiliating with the three branches of the order in Osborne, and being a member of Cyrene Commandery Knights Templar of Beloit.

On April 15, 1891, he married Sarah Frances Brown of Natoma at the Knebworth Farm.  They had four children, two of which died young, and raised to adulthood daughters Dorothy (later Mrs. George Bailey) and Muriel.

The John Knox Mitchell family. Clockwise from left: J. K. Mitchell; daughter Muriel; wife Frances; and daughter Dorothy. Photo courtesy of the Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society.

Mitchell was a successful and influential attorney in Osborne for over 40 years.  In addition to being a lawyer he was also a Notary Public in 1878-1879.  In terms of public offices Mitchell served on the Board of Directors of the Kansas State Historical Society from January 1909 to December 1912.  In 1917-1918 he served as Osborne County Attorney, and in 1919-1920 Mitchell served as Osborne County District Court Judge.

For more than forty years Mr. Mitchell practiced law in this city and was devoted to his profession.  He was not considered a great advocate but was well versed in the fundamentals of law, and a large familiarity with court reports so that he was a good counselor.  He also had an extensive knowledge of history, biography and literature.  Perhaps no one in this county had a library covering so large a range of subject.  He was a man of pronounced individuality; strong convictions with courage to defend the right as he saw it, he was often misunderstood, and in political campaigns and times of agitation on other subjects in the community he was criticized, and being with an intimate acquaintance with him of nearly half a century I seldom heard him speak an unkind word to anyone.  Often times he would come, deeply wounded, and his only comment would be, “Why did they want to do that?”  He was public spirited, interested in and contributing so far as he was able to the improvements in his city.  He had an abiding faith in things unseen, was devoted to the church of his choice as one of the avenues through which Christianity would triumph, in the world.  A number of people (some locally and elsewhere) have been the recipients of his generosity.  Some years ago he became interested in two young men and through his instrumentality they went to college in Kentucky.  One of these, Henry Buell, is pastor in a Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, California; the other, Frank Duffy, has been successful.  Although born and reared in the South, he was for the Union one and inseparable, and always an American.

From December 14th until the time of his death Mitchell was confined to his bed.  Almost a constant sufferer during all that long siege he was in an eminent degree, kind, gentle, courteous to his attendants.  To suffer in silence, without murmur or complaint is an evidence of a great soul, with a deep underlying faith.  Those of us who knew him intimately and understood the nature of his life will, as the days go by, miss good fellowship and counsel.

Last Saturday just before dawn his spirit took its flight.  Bryant describes his last moments.  “Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.” – written by Robert R. Hays [fellow member, Osborne County Hall of Fame].

*  *  *  *  *

When John Knox Mitchell passed away three brothers and one sister were left to mourn his departure – M. L. Mitchell of Columbia, Kentucky; W. H. Mitchell of Sterling, Kansas; James Mitchell, who home is in Missouri; and Mrs. Mary Murrell of Canton, Oklahoma.

John Knox Mitchell’s funeral services were held at the Presbyterian Church on Monday afternoon, March 6, 1922,  at 2:00 o’clock, conducted by the pastor, Rev. E. M. Scott, assisted by all the pastors of the city and Rev. Joel Mitchell of LaHarpe, a cousin of the deceased.  Special music was furnished by the choir composed of Mesdames Woodard, Lee, Cady and LaBore, and Messrs. Zimmerman and Walker, with Mrs. W. P. Gillette at piano.  The Masonic fraternity, of which deceased was a member, attended in a body.  The sermon by Rev. Scott was very beautiful and touching and a fitting eulogy on the life of one who was ever faithful to his trust.  The casket bearers were from the Masonic Fraternity, and the lifelong friends of the deceased, as follows:  S. P. Crampton; C. W. Baldwin; C. W. Eckman, Harvey Bottorff; L.E. Woodward; and S. D. Botkin.  The floral offerings from friends, relatives, and the various organizations were many and very beautiful.  The services at the grave were in charge of the Saqui Lodge No. 160, A. F. & A. M., and were very impressive.  The oration was delivered by Worshipful Master D. C. Roy and interment was made in the family lot in the Osborne Cemetery.

The Mitchell family home in Osborne, Kansas. Photo courtesy of Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society.


The Mitchell family at the train station in Osborne in 1914, saying goodbye to youngest daughter Muriel, who was leaving for college. Photo courtesy of Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society.

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