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In taking up the personal history of Frank L. Mitchell it is unnecessary to tell to Racine and her people the place that he occupies, for his position has been established by the consensus of public opinion, and in considering his career one is led to the reflection that opportunities slip away from the sluggard, tauntingly play before the dreamer, but surrender to the individual with high purpose, undaunted courage and indefatigable determination. It is through the wise use of his opportunities that Frank L. Mitchell has reached the prominent position which he now fills. Born in Kenosha on the 4th of December, 1852, he is a son of Henry and Margaret (Mitchell) Mitchell, natives of Scotland and representatives of one of the old families of that country. Henry Mitchell’s parents, William and Elizabeth (Jackson) Mitchell, were of that Scotch type of earnest, industrious people who held to the Presbyterian faith and guided their lives according to their strong religious convictions. The father carried on an express business between Edinburgh and neighboring towns. To him and his wife were born eleven children, seven of whom reached adult age and became heads of families.
Henry Mitchell was born in Fifeshire. Scotland, March 10, 1810, and early was thrown upon his own resources, for it was necessary that he aid his father in the support of a large family. His education was therefore largely acquired in night school. He possessed natural mechanical ability and early displayed much efficiency in drafting. When a youth of fifteen he entered upon a seven years’ apprenticeship to the wheelwright’s trade and at the close of that period was made foreman of a large shop in Edinburgh, occupying the position for a. year and a half. In 1834 he sailed for New York and made his way at once to Chicago, then containing a population of only three hundred white people. He at once began work at wagon making and also took a contract in connection with the building of the Illinois canal. In Chicago he became acquainted with L. S. Blake, a pioneer citizen and prominent manufacturer of Racine. Not liking Chicago, Mr. Mitchell removed to Southport, now Kenosha, in 1838 and there opened a wagon shop, continuing in business in connection with a partner until 1853, when the plant was sold to Edward Bain. Two years later Mr. Mitchell began wagon making in Racine, establishing a modest plant which he gradually enlarged. In 1864 he was joined by his son-in-law, William T. Lewis, under the firm name of H. Mitchell & Company and after two years the name was changed to Mitchell, Lewis & Company. In 1880 the plant was destroyed by fire, but was immediately rebuilt and in 1884 the business was incorporated as the Mitchell & Lewis Company with Henry Mitchell as president; W. T. Lewis, vice president; Frank L. Mitchell, secretary; C. D. Sinclair, treasurer, and Henry G. Mitchell, superintendent. The plant was increased to meet the growing demands of the trade until it covered twenty acres or more, devoted to the manufacture of wagons and lighter vehicles, which sold extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America. With the growth of the business it soon overtopped any similar enterprise in the state. Into other fields Mr. Mitchell also directed his energies, being one of the organizers of the Artesian Well Company, furnishing Racine’s water supply. He likewise became a director of the Manufacturers’ National Bank. His political allegiance was given to the Whig party until the Republican Party was formed to prevent the further extension of slavery into the north. at which time he espoused the cause and afterward remained a loyal republican. During the war his influence and assistance were given to the support of the government and several times he was sent as a messenger to the armies in the field. Fraternally he was a Mason and he belonged to the Calumet Club of Chicago, while he and his wife held membership in the Baptist church. As one of the early manufacturers of Racine he contributed in large measure to the development and upbuilding of the city as well as to the promotion of individual success, his efforts being at all times of a character that promoted public prosperity. He reached the age of -eighty-three years and passed away in 1893, while his wife died in 1896.
On the 7th of January, 1832, near Edinburgh, Henry Mitchell wedded Miss Margaret Mitchell, who was born in Fifeshire, December 18, 1811, and they became the parents of eight children: Margaret, who died in Chicago; William II., a resident. of Portland. Oregon; Elizabeth A., who became the wife of T. O. Wallis, of Racine; Margaret, who died in Kenosha; Mary I., the wife of William T. Lewis; Martha A., the wife of C. D. Sinclair; Henry G., and Frank L.
The last named was not yet three years of age when the family home was established in Racine and in the public schools he pursued his preliminary education, supplemented by a commercial course in Howard’s Business College. When seventeen years of age he accepted the position of bookkeeper with the firm of B. B. Northrup & Company, hankers, and upon the organization of the Manufacturers’ National Bank in 1871 he was retained as private bookkeeper to Mr. Northrup until the books of the old concern were closed up. He was then made correspondent for the new bank and acceptably filled that position until 1873. In that year he was offered the position of bookkeeper for the firm of Mitchell, Lewis & Company and after seven years was admitted to a partnership in the business. In 1884 he became secretary of the Mitchell & Lewis Company and has since been identified with this concern through all of its development and changes. The business was organized under its present form as the Mitchell-Lewis Motor Company in 1903. The Mitchell & Lewis Company, wagon manufacturers, had continued in business and developed a mammoth enterprise of that character. In 1910 the two companies were consolidated as the Mitchell-Lewis Motor Company and today they have a plant covering twenty-five or thirty acres and employing two thousand or more people. Of this concern Frank L. Mitchell is the treasurer and he is also the president of the First National Bank of Racine, thus being most prominently connected with its industrial and financial interests. His opinions carry weight in business connections, for he has proven that his judgment is sound, his insight keen and his enterprise unfaltering.
On the 13th of December, 1876, Mr. Mitchell was married to Miss Emer C. Goold, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and a daughter of John F. and Sylvia (Martin) Goold, natives of Orange County, New York, and Medina County, Ohio, respectively. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell have become the parents of two children. Mabel is the wife of J. E. White, of Sacramento, California, and they have two sons. Olive A. married John H. Dwight, who is general manager of the Belle City Malleable Iron Company of Racine, and they have one daughter.
Mr. Mitchell has always given his political allegiance to the Republican Party since age conferred upon him the right of franchise and upon its ticket he has been called to public office. He was the first native of Wisconsin ever honored with the office of mayor of Racine, to which position he was elected in the spring of 1889, and as chief executive he stood for law and order, for reform and progress. He belongs to the Christian Science church and is prominent as a Mason, a Knight of Pythias and an Elk. In the first named organization he has taken the degrees of the lodge, chapter, commandery, consistory and the Mystic Shrine. He represents an old and prominent family. The name of Mitchell has long been associated with Racine’s upbuilding and the work instituted by his father has been carried on by Frank L. Mitchell, who in the changing conditions has broadened and developed the scope of his interests and business connections. His worth as a man and a citizen is widely acknowledged and his contribution to Racine’s business life has been one of great and permanent value.