Biography of George Mitchell
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George Mitchell was the son of Rev. John Mitchell and his first wife, Catherine Margaret Teter. John Mitchell was born at Dawston, Lancashire, England, May 1, 1763, and came to America in 1774. He lived in Hampshire, Rockingham, and Harrison (later Lewis) counties, Virginia. He died April 29, 1840, and his tombstone is still standing in the old Harmony churchyard near Jane Lew, Lewis County, West Virginia, where he had “preached the Gospel forty years.” This John Mitchell, Mrs. Guernsey’s greatgrandfather, according to the records in the War Department and Pension Office, served as a private in the Virginia militia and also in Capt. James Pendleton’s eompany, First Continental Artillery. He was in battle at Petersburg and was present at the siege and surrender of Yorktown.
On her father’s side Mrs. Guernsey is also descended from the Rev. Anthony Jacob Henkel, who came to this country in 1717 as one of the founders of the Lutheran Church in America. He settled in Pennsylvania and became pastor of the church at Faulkaer’s Swamp, the oldest existing Lutheran Church in the United States. Mrs. Guernsey’s ancestors on her mother’s side were pioneers in the early settlement of Maryland and Western Pennsylvania, and in addition to the Rev. John Mitchell, the following are among Mrs. Guernsey’s Revolutionary ancestors: George Teter from Virginis, Patrick McCann from Maryland, Anthony Altman, Christopher and John Harrold from Penusylvania. As elsewhere told, Mrs. Guessnsey’s father, Rev. Daniel P. Mitchell, went out to Kansas to organice Methodism throughout that part of the country, and was well known and beloved for his broadmindedness and keen sense of justice as well as for his knowledge and deep sympathy in his chosen profession.
Mrs. Guernsey was born in Salem, Ohio, and came with her parents to Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1863. She is a graduate of the Kansas State Normal School of Emporia, and after graduating taught school four years, coming to Independence in 1879 as principal of the high school. She was married in 1881.
Concerning some of her varied activities the writer already quoted goes on to say: “With her marriage to George T. Guernsey, then an ambitious young bank clerk and now one of the leading bankers and influential citizens of the state, Mrs. Guernsey entered into a partnership which resulted in the splendid business training she possesses. Side by side she and her husband built both home and fortune on a solid basis of loyalty, mutual understanding and good fellowship. Inheriting, doubtless, from her pioneer ancestors, her strong sense of right and wrong, her independence of thought and power of concentration, she had entered into those interests of her town and state and is identified with every movement for eivic betterment. Wherever she had taken the leadership she had won and retained a devoted following. She could not be petty or small for her mind had been centered on the main object in view, and self had never entered into her plans. Before the days of the Federation of Women’s Clubs, she was an active member of the Social Science Club of Kansas, and was prcsident of the Lodies’ Library Society of Independence. The library founded through the efforts of this society is now a Carnegie institution, but Mrs. Guernsey still sclects the books for this flourishing institution, which is larger toan that in many cuties of equal population. She was at one time president of the school board. She is a member of the United States Daughters of 1812, a member of the National Council of Women’s Section of the Navy League, National Society of the Patriotic Women of America, vice president of the National Star Spangled Banner Association, Eastern Star and many other societies which tend toward the higher education of women. She had traveled extensively both in this country and abroad and had read deeply. Her taste in music is cultivated to a marked degree and she is exceedingly well informed in the history of her own country and in current events. Her summers, except for several spent abroad, she had passed at Chautauqua, New York, where she had a cottage always filled with family and friends. She is president of the class of the Chautauqua. Literary and Scientific Circle of 1891, and the present prosperous condition of the Daughters of the American Bevolution Circle of Chautauqua is largely due to Mrs. Guernsey’s influence while president.
As it is with all great natures, so it is with Mrs. Guernsey. She is truly charitable and her philanthropy is far reaching. Deeply sympathetic and tender hearted though she is, generous to a fault, if such can be a fault, her gifts take that wise and yet most difficult philanthropy which consists in helping people to help themselves. She also follows the policy of keeping her left hand in ignorance of the doing of her right hand in work of this kind.
Her beautiful home Ridgewood at Independence was planned and the work superintended entirely by herself. It is one of the handsomest houses in Kansas. She drew the plans, selected the materials and saw that they were obtained and fitted into the appropriate place. The interior carries out many of the ideals of Mrs. Guernsey, and she had a wonderful selection of beautiful things gathered many of them while she was abroad. It is a home in every sense of the word and a very united family enjoys its beauty and comforts.
Mr. George T. Guernsey was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in August, 1859, and is descended from sturdy New England stock. His father, Jesse Guernsey, was a minister of the Congregational Church and a native of Connecticut, whilc Mr. Guernsey’s mother belonged to the celebrated Eaton family of Massachusetts, her grandfather and great-grandfather Eaton having both fought in the Revolutionary war. Jesse Guernsey was sent out to Iowa in the early days in the interest of his church, and carried on much the same work in Iowa as Rev. Daniel P. Mitchell did in Kansas in the interests of Methodism. Both these men occupied very high places in their respective denominations. Jesse Guernsey had charge of the whole state of Iowa for his church and was one of those who planned and assisted in bringing about the founding of Grinnell College.
Coming to Independence in 1876, George T. Guernsey found a clerkship in the bank of W. E. Otis, a cousin. By strict application to his chosen profession he rose steadily, and for a number of years had been president of the Commercial National Bank of Independence, one of the largest and strongest banks in South Kansas. He also had extensive oil and gas interests, owned farm lands in Montgomery County, but banking is first and last his profession and the business which had-received the best of his energies. He is an active republican, a member of the Independence Commercial Club and had worked consistently during the forty years of his residence there for the making of a greater and better Independence.
Mr. and Mrs. Guernsey’s only living son is George T., Jr., who graduated from Colorado College, from the State University of Kansas, and from the law department of Yale University, where he received the degree LL. B. Instead of the law he had followed the example of his father and become a banker and is now vice president of the Commercial National Bank of Independence. The junior Mr. Guernsey married Miss Joyce H. Taylor, daughter of Rev. Artbur Taylor, a minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church at York, Pennsylvania. Both George T., Jr., and his wife are members of the Episcopal Church. Their children are: Bonnie Bell, born in July, 1908; Jessie Elizabeth, born in December, 1909, and George Thacher hI, born in July, 1916.
Mr. and Mrs. Guernsey had another son, Harold Mitchell, who was born in 1886 and died in 1901. Their only daughter, Jessie, graduated at Miss Somers’ Mount Vernon Seminary of Washington, District of Columbia, and is now the wife of Mulford Martin, Jr., of Independence. Mr. and Mrs. Martin have one daughter, Sarah Elizabeth.