Eliza N. Mitchell
At a Glance
Eliza N. Mitchell and her sister Margaret Eliot Mitchell formed a school for girls in Oxford, NC. The two sisters later removed to Statesville, NC and their school was known as Simonton Female College in Statesville, NC, later changed to Mitchell College in Statesville, NC. Today, the school, a junior college, has changed its name again and is known as Mitchell Community College. Eliza N. Mitchell, together with her sisters, left a college of their own making behind them, the only Burwell School girl to have accomplished such a feat .
In a letter of January 26, 1846, Annabella Giles Norwood states that there are only fourteen pupils at the Burwell School and that only two of those are from out of town--the daughters of Prof. Elisha Mitchell and Dr. George Moore (see Julia Rebecca Moore ). Mrs. Burwell (Margaret Anna Robertson) listed "Rev. E. Mitchel--Chapel Hill" as one of the school's Patrons in the Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51 .
Prof. Elisha Mitchell, born in , was a Yale University, New Haven County man and had been a tutor there after his graduation. He was a scientist of remarkable distinction and signal accomplishment. The eldest of his four daughters, Mary Mitchell, herself a prodigy of learning, married lawyer Richard J. Ashe and moved to Hillsborough, NC in January 1846. A letter from Mrs. Burwell (Margaret Anna Robertson) to her friends Mary A. Kirkland and Susan Kirkland visiting in Fayetteville, NC noted in mid-January 1846:
Mr. or rather Mrs. Richard Ashe has gone to housekeeping in the "Yellow House" [i.e. the James A.Cheek-Houston Walker House]. She came up from Chapel Hill & went to fixing while he was in Wilmington--he came night before last. She & her sister Miss Mitchell [Eliza N. Mitchell] have been so in confusion that no one has called on them. They will be ready to receive visitors next week I hear.
Another Mitchell daughter, Ellen Mitchell married Dr. J. J. Summerell of Rowan County, NC in December 1844 and became the mother of Hope Summerell Chamberlain, author of Old Days in Chapel Hill.
Eliza N. Mitchell, who would have been the younger Mitchell daughter, attended the Burwell School in 1846. All the Mitchell children would have been educated at home to read Greek and Latin by sight at eight years old or earlier (see Rosaline Brooke Spotswood ) and her other basic skills would have been comparable. Whether Eliza's sister Margaret Eliot Mitchell ever attended the school is problematical.
On November 20, 1852, Eliza N. Mitchel married Richard S. Grant at the Elisha Mitchell Home in Chapel Hill, NC near the west gate of the campus of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Alexander Wilson of Hillsborough, NC performed the ceremony. Mr. Grant died early, as did the Grants' only child, a little boy, Richard Mitchell Grant, aged four years, seven months, very suddenly of diphtheria on October 17, 1862. His original grave was moved from the rear of the Elisha Mitchell Home in Chapel Hill, NC (no longer standing), and he is now buried near the Mitchell obelisk in Sec. II of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, Chapel Hill, NC.
These two deaths were utterly crushing blows to the young wife from which it seemed she might not recover; but eventually she and her sister Margaret Eliot Mitchell began a school for girls in Oxford, NC. The two sisters later removed to Statesville, NC where there elder sister, Mary Mitchell, joined them after her husband, Richard J. Ashe's death in Bakersfield, CA. For a time their Statesville school was known as Simonton Female College in Statesville, NC, but its name was later changed to Mitchell College in Statesville, NC. Today, the school, a junior college, has changed its name again and is known as Mitchell Community College.
Cornelia Phillips Spencer wrote of her beloved friend Margaret Eliot Mitchell in 1904:
...now sole survivor of Dr. Mitchell's family...a woman of highest character, and one of the excellent ones; my old friend, my good comrade, what shall I do without her warm sympathy, her clear good sense, her uncompromising faith in the unseen...Since Mrs. Grant's death, she has lived in her own house in Statesville, North Carolina, a useful, secluded life, hampered of late years by cataract in both eyes. Her oldest sister, Mrs. Richard Ashe, died in California...
Eliza N. Mitchell, together with her sisters, left a college of their own making behind them, the only Burwell School girl to have accomplished such a feat .
Places of Residence
- Mary Claire Engstrom. The Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South. (Hillsborough: Hillsborough Historic Commission, 2007).
- Burwell School Catalogue of 1848-51.