On the anniversary of his 83rd birthday, Henry Brown Mitchell submitted an article to The Vandalia Union.
He wrote that he came on the scene on May 25, 1847, several miles northeast of Vandalia, in a one-room log home, 16 feet by 24 feet, with a 7-foot ceiling plastered up with yellow clay.
His parents, Albert Litell Mitchell and Jael (Jaily) Hackney Brown, died within four days of each other in October 1858 of milk sickness, leaving four children.
H.B. wrote that the milk sickness was the worst it had been up to that time. The bodies of cows, calves and dogs could be found lying along the banks of Camp Creek, dead from the dreaded disease.
He had three older sisters, Mary Ann, Elizabeth Jane and Susan Melvina, and there was great rejoicing “in the camp” when a son appeared on the scene. His oldest sister, Mary Ann, married James S. Evans, and they were the parents of Charles Evans, who gave Vandalia a library, among other things. Susan married James Monroe Benson, and I could find no record for Elizabeth Jane.
“My father owned eight acres of timber land where the house was located. He bought another 80 acres out on the prairie in the Mabry neighborhood and had timber on the ground to build when death overtook him,” Mitchell wrote.
“Soon after the death of our parents,” Mitchell wrote, “the children were shifted around from pillar to post until my father’s brother, living in Belleville, came out to the country to live with my grandmother. She was too old to care for me. He brought me to Vandalia and we stayed at the Union Tavern – that was 76 years ago.
“My father’s youngest brother had charge of it. Sometime after that, the name was changed to the Star Hotel. This was before the Vandalia Railroad, afterward known as the Pennsylvania Railroad, was constructed.
“The next day, I started to Belleville with my uncle. There was heavy timber on each side of the road and we did not arrive at his home until after dark on the second day. In Belleville, I was put in the care of a Baptist deacon. I ought to have been raised well – the deacon “raised” me often. Later we moved to Montgomery County, 10 miles northwest of Hillsboro. Here I met my future wife.
“In 1902, we bought a farm four miles southwest of Vandalia. We farmed there until my wife broke in health in September 1924. She passed away to that land that never grows old. I had a nervous smash-up and was taken in the Mark Greer Hospital. It has saved many lives. I was there 12 months with no hope of ever getting out alive.”
Henry gave us the basic information of his life in his 1940 memoir, but he left out some important family information.
Following up on the family through “Fayette Facts,” I learned that Henry’s father, Archibald Litell Mitchell, was born on Feb. 10, 1815, in Logan County, Ky., the son of Michael and Jane Brian Mitchell. The family came to Illinois in 1828, settling first in St. Clair County.
Six years later, they moved to Fayette County.
Albert L. and Jaily Brown were married in Fayette County on Oct. 31, 1847. Jaily was the daughter of Hezekiah and Delilah Currence Brown, early settlers from Logan County, Ky.
When Archibald and Jaily died, they were buried on their farm, later referred to as the Hoffmire Farm, with their bodies later reinterred in South Hill Cemetery on the lot of a nephew, Ivan Mitchell.
Henry’s uncle, Green Mitchell, was appointed guardian of the children, with the oldest daughter, Mary Ann, taken into the home of her uncle, Robert Mitchell. She was raised in St. Clair County.
Henry and Mary E. Scherer were married on Sept. 2, 1885, in Montgomery County. In
1900, they were living near Raymond, and in their home was their 15-year old nephew, Ray Middlecoff.
Mary’s obituary told that they had no children of their own but raised six orphans, one of whom, Ray, named above, died Dec. 24, 1910. Mary was buried in Ware’s Grove Cemetery, five miles north of Hillsboro.
Henry Brown Mitchell died on Sept. 16, 1940, less than four months after submitting his article to the Vandalia newspaper in celebration of his 83rd birthday. I find it touching that an orphan boy provided a home to six other orphans.