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Rev. Daniel P. Mitchell was one of the founders of Methodism in Kansas, and for nearly twenty years was the most prominent leader in that church in the state. His was a life of service, not only to his church but to humanity. His name belongs in every history of Kansas, and his good works follow him in the careers of his children. He was the father of Charles Bayard Mitchell, who during his early pastorate was well known in Kansas and was recently elected a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Doctor Mitchell’s daughter Mrs. George T. Guernsey, of Independence, is one of the most prominent women of Kansas and is a national figure in the councils of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
A Virginian by birth, Rev. Daniel P. Mitchell was born near Phillipi in Barbour County in what is now West Virginia, February 2, 1821. His parents were among the solid yeomanry of that mountainous district, and from there he inherited a strong physical organization and endowments of brain and heart which promised for him a prominent position among men. Under the preaching of the pioneer Methodist preachers of that day he was in early life led to Christ, and at the age of twenty-three entered the Pittsburg Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In that conference of strong men he soon became known as a young man of promise, and in a brief period took a formost place in the church. His appointments were Kingwood, Murraysville, Johnstown, Salem, Coshocton two years, Norman two years, Cadiz two years, Carrollton two years, South Common Church in Allegheny City two years, and presiding elder of Allegheny District two years. The appointment of presiding elder was a mark of distinction in those early days. His last appointment in that conference was Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Bishop Ames, who knew him best of any of the older bishops, selected him for the Kansas work, and charged him to come to Kansas and help build up the church in this new state. He came to this state with this commission in 1863. He was first appointed to Leavenworth, where he attracted the leading men of the state, preached to large audiences, conducted large revivals and built up the property interests of his church in that city. The next two years were spent as presiding elder in the Leavenworth District, followed by two years as pastor of the Second Methodist Episcopal Church of that city and as chaplain of the state penitentiary. In 1870 he was reappointed to the First Church in Leavenworth. Following this he was pastor of the First Church of Topeka two years, then presiding elder of the Fort Scott District four years, then for four years presiding elder of the Emporia District, for four years presiding elder of the Independence District, and finally took his last charge, Hutchinson, where he completed his thirty-eight years of active service and left a record of work accomplished that few men have equalled. While returning from New Mexico to Kansas in 1881, he died suddenly on the train near Newton, Kansas, August 24, 1881, in his sixty-first year.
He had attained a foremost place in his church in America. He was a member of the General Conference, the law making body of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at four different times, representing each of the three conferences with which he had been connected, and was for several years the representative of his general conference district in the Missionary Society of the church.
Not only was he distinguished as a churchman but as one of the foremost leaders of thought and action in Kansas. He was a prominent candidate for governor of Kansas and for Congress. At one time he received the solid vote of his party for United States senator against his own wishes and best interests. He was universally recognized as the head of the national greenback party of the state, and when the head died the body died also. In all his political career there were no opponents to his views who were disposed to meet him in debate. Some of the strong men who were opposed to his political position, testify that his career was in no wise derogatory to him, either as a man or as a minister of the Gospel. Coming to Kansas during the period of the Civil war, he soon afterward volunteered to assist in repelling Price’s raid.
As a preacher he was marked by the unusual mixture of keen logic and glowing imagination. As a reasoner he was clear and concise. As a debater, he had but few equals whether on the conference floor, the platform, the pulpit or in the open field, warding off the sophistries of infidelity. He was a constant worker and literally worked himself to death.
He left a wife and eight children. His wife, whose maiden name was Ann Eliza Baker, born in Pennsylvania, and died in Emporia, was a helpmeet in all his itinerant toils. She was a woman of deep piety and marked intellectuality. She was the daughter of Rev. Henry Baker, a prominent member of the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
A brief record of the children of this worthy couple is as follows: Henry B. was a civil engineer and died in Idaho. Jennie M., now deceased, was the first woman admitted to the practice of law by the Supreme Court of Kansas, became a practicing attorney in Emporia, and afterwards married Judge L. B. Kellogg, who at one time was attorney general of Kansas and is still in practice at Emporia. Joseph T., the third child, is a civil engineer living at Tacoma, Washington. Annie Eliza is the wife of C. H. Aull, who is connected with the Cudahy firm at Omaha, Nebraska. Dr. Charles Bayard, now Bishop Mitchell, having been elected to that office in the General Conference at Saratoga May 19, 1916, was born in 1857, was educated in Allegheny College at Meadville, Pennsylvania, was ordained to the ministry in 1882, and filled numerous pastorates in Kansas and elsewhere. He had been pastor of the St. James Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago, the largest Methodist church of that city, prior to his elevation to the bishopric. Bishop Mitchell has long been a distinguished figure in his church, has attended many conferences and conventions in America and abroad, and is a well known lecturer and the author of several books. His home as bishop is at St. Paul, Minnesota. The next younger than Bishop Mitchell is Mrs. George T. Guernsey of Independence. Dove E. is an unmarried daughter and lives at Omaha. Dannetta P. is a teacher of art in the Kansas State Normal School at Emporia and is the wife of Jonas E. Eckdall, proprietor of a bookstore at Emporia.