Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mildred Watlington Jeffers/Jeffreys (1829-1926) Obituary

Aged Caswell County Woman Died Sunday
The Bee (Danville, Virginia) 27 September 1926

Mrs. Mildred Mitchell, said to be the oldest resident of Caswell county, passed away on Saturday night [25 September 1926] at her home, "Aspen Hall," at the age of 97. She was claimed by the infirmities of old age after preserving her health, strength, and faculties in an unusual way. Last December she began to fail and throughout the year had steadily declined in health and strength. Mrs. Mitchell is believed to be the last surviving slave owner of Caswell county. She was born September 30th, 1829 -- the same year that President Andrew Jackson was inaugurated and she lived to see the administrations of 24 United States presidents. She was a daughter of the late Thomas Jeffress [Jeffreys] and Mrs. Keziah Jeffress [Jeffreys], being married in 1849 to James Thomas Mitchell who died many years ago. All of her life was spent in Caswell county where she was widely known and greatly respected. Her surviving children are James G. Mitchell, Blanch; R. L. Mitchell, Blanch; C. H. Mitchell, of Lynchburg, and Mrs. Dora Hunt, Ringgold. She also leaves nineteen grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. The funeral is being held from the home place at three o'clock this afternoon, interment to be in the family burial ground.

Mrs. Mitchell made many sacrifices while the war between the north and the south was being waged. Her husband away at the front, the Aspen Hall farm was left in her absolute charge. There were 35 slaves on this farm and to her was left the sole responsibility of their management, [a] difficult task. The farm was kept self sustaining, and from [it] much food was contributed for the upkeep of the southern armies. Mrs. Mitchell is perhaps the only living woman in Caswell who owned slaves. After the war and during the troublous days of the reconstruction period, Mrs. Mitchell was an outstanding figure in Caswell county. She gave much of her time and effort to help put the returned Confederate soldiers on their feet, and she often related her remarkable experience during the days when the Invisible Army of the K. K. K. saved this county from innumerable hardships, and was one of those Caswell women who stitched the garments, which were worn by the mysterious riders.

At the age of 11,she became a member of the New Hope Methodist church, and for 84 years had been one of its most loyal communicants. First to respond to the call of all needy objects, her familiar figure in the New Hope congregation has given, many say, a real spiritual uplift to more than three generations.

That her husband, James Thomas Mitchell (1828-1898) was the same person who participated in the murder of Senator John W. Stephens has not been confirmed. However, the reference in the above obituary to the KKK makes this a reasonable conclusion. Note the following:

In the confession of John G. Lea he implicated a Capt. James T. Mitchell as a participant in the 1871 murder of Senator John W. Stephens in the Caswell County Courthouse, Yanceyville, North Carolina:

A democratic convention was in session in the court room on the second floor of the courthouse in Yanceyville, to nominate county officers and members of the Legislature. Mr. Wiley, who was in the convention, brought Stevens down to a rear room on the ground floor, then used for the storage of wood for the courthouse. I had ordered all the Ku Klux Klan in the county to meet at Yanceyville that day, with their uniforms under their saddles, and they were present. Mr. Wiley came to me and suggested that it would be a better plan, as Stevens had approached him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff and he had told him that he would let him know that day, to fool him down stairs, and so just before the convention closed, Wiley beckoned to Stevens and carried him down stairs, and Captain Mitchell, James Denny and Joe Fowler went into the room and Wiley came out. Mitchell proceeded to disarm him (he had three pistols on his body). He soon came out and left Jim Denny with a pistol at his head and went to Wiley and told him that he couldn't kill him himself. Wiley came to me and said, "You must do something; I am exposed unless you do." Immediately I rushed into the room with eight or ten men, found him sitting flat on the floor. He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood-pile, and he asked me not to let them kill him. Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. Stevens was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek.