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Eliza North Mitchell

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At a Glance

According to Mary Claire Engstrom in theThe Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South [1], Eliza N. Mitchell attended the Burwell School in 1846; it is not known for how many sessions or years she attended. No records have been found to indicate that her sister, Margaret Eliot Mitchell, attended the Burwell School; however, it is possible that she did. Like several other Burwell School students, Eliza and Margaret Mitchell become educators. They formed a school for girls in Oxford, NC. The two sisters later removed to Statesville, NC and affiliated with a school which had been formed in 1856 named the Concord Female College. The school was later known as Simonton Female College in Statesville, NC. The Mitchell sisters, were joined in Statesville by their older sister, Mary Mitchell Ashe. In 1917, the name of the school was changed to Mitchell College in Statesville, NC, in honor of the Mitchell sisters. In 1973, Mitchell College joined the NC Community College System and became Mitchell Community College. Thus, Eliza N. Mitchell, together with her sisters, left behind a college of their own making [1].

Story

In a letter of January 26, 1846, Annabella Giles Norwood  states that there are only fourteen pupils at the Burwell School and that only two of those are from out of town--the daughters of Prof. Elisha Mitchell and Dr. George Moore (see Julia Rebecca Moore ). Mrs. Burwell listed  "Rev. E. Mitchel--Chapel Hill"  as one of the school's Patrons in the Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51 [2].

Prof. Elisha Mitchell, was born in Connecticut and was a graduate of Yale University, New Haven County. He became an educator, geologist, minister, and explorer. He served on the faculty of the University of North Carolina until his untimely death in 1857.

The eldest of his four daughters, Mary Mitchell, herself a prodigy of learning, married lawyer Richard J. Ashe and moved to Hillsborough, NC in January 1846. A letter from Mrs. Burwell to her friends Mary A. Kirkland and Susan Kirkland visiting in Fayetteville, NC noted in mid-January 1846:

Mr. or rather Mrs. Richard Ashe has gone to housekeeping in the  "Yellow House"  [i.e. the James A.Cheek-Houston Walker House]. She came up from Chapel Hill & went to fixing while he was in Wilmington--he came night before last. She & her sister Miss Mitchell [Eliza N. Mitchell] have been so in confusion that no one has called on them. They will be ready to receive visitors next week I hear.

Another Mitchell daughter, Ellen Mitchell married Dr. J. J. Summerell of Rowan County, NC in December 1844 and became the mother of Hope Summerell Chamberlain, author of Old Days in Chapel Hill.

Eliza N. Mitchell, who would have been the youngest Mitchell daughter, attended the Burwell School in 1846. All the Mitchell children would have been educated at home to read Greek and Latin by sight at eight years old or earlier (see Rosaline Brooke Spotswood ) and her other basic skills would have been comparable. Whether Eliza's sister Margaret Eliot Mitchell ever attended the school is not known.

On November 20, 1852, Eliza N. Mitchell married Richard S. Grant at the Elisha Mitchell Home in Chapel Hill, NC near the west gate of the campus of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Alexander Wilson of Hillsborough, NC performed the ceremony. Mr. Grant died early, as did the Grants' only child, a little boy, Richard Mitchell Grant, aged four years, seven months, very suddenly of diphtheria on October 17, 1862. His grave was originally in the rear of the Elisha Mitchell Home in Chapel Hill, NC (no longer standing). It was later moved to the Mitchell obelisk in Sec. II of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, Chapel Hill, NC.

These two deaths were utterly crushing blows to the young wife from which it seemed she might not recover; but eventually she and her sister Margaret Eliot Mitchell began a school for girls in Oxford, NC. The two sisters later removed to Statesville, NC where their elder sister, Mary Mitchell, joined them after her husband, Richard J. Ashe's death in Bakersfield, CA. For a time their Statesville school was known as Simonton Female College in Statesville, NC, but in 1917 its name was changed to Mitchell College in Statesville, NC to honor the sisters. In 1972, Mitchell College joined the NC Community College System and today, the school is known as Mitchell Community College.

Cornelia Phillips Spencer wrote of her beloved friend Margaret Eliot Mitchell in 1904:

...now sole survivor of Dr. Mitchell's family...a woman of highest character, and one of the excellent ones; my old friend, my good comrade, what shall I do without her warm sympathy, her clear good sense, her uncompromising faith in the unseen...Since Mrs. Grant's death, she has lived in her own house in Statesville, North Carolina, a useful, secluded life, hampered of late years by cataract in both eyes. Her oldest sister, Mrs. Richard Ashe, died in California.. [1].

Biographical Data

Places of Residence

Schools Attended

Relatives

References

  1. Mary Claire Engstrom. The Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South. (Hillsborough: Hillsborough Historic Commission, 2007).
  2. Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51.