Woman of the Century/Martha Reed Mitchell

MITCHELL, Mrs. Martha Reed, well known in charity, art and society circles at home MARTHA REED MITCHELL A woman of the century (page 520 crop).jpgMARTHA REED MITCHELL. and abroad, born in Westford, Mass., March, 1818. Her parents were Seth and Rhoda Reed. Her childhood was full of sunshine and hope. Beloved by all on account of her happy, loving disposition, she returned in full the affection bestowed upon her and thought only of the world as beautiful, and of mankind as good and true. She was one of a large family, and in early years learned the lessons of unselfishness and thoughtfulness of others, characteristics that in a marked degree have remained prominent through her life. At thirteen years of age she attended Miss Fisk's school in Keene, N. H., and at seventeen went to Mrs. Emma Willard's seminary in Troy, N. Y., where the happiest days of her life were passed. In 1838 she was forced to renounce a tempting offer of a trip to Europe, and to bid farewell to all her beloved companions, to go with her parents to the wilds of Wisconsin. No vestibuled trains in those days transported passengers across the continent. Instead of hours, weeks were necessary for such a journey. Through the Erie Canal and by the chain of great lakes the family wended their way, and after three weeks of anxiety and trouble they touched the shores of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, their objective point. Wisconsin was then a Territory. Milwaukee was a village of five-hundred souls. Forests covered the area where now stands a city of 250,000 inhabitants. Indians with their wigwams occupied the sites now graced by magnificent buildings devoted to religion, education, art and commerce. In 1841 Martha Reed became the wife of Alexander Mitchell, a young Scotchman who had left his fatherland to seek his fortune in the New World. The young couple began house-keeping in a tiny one-storied cottage, but both were equal to the emergency, and while he milked the cow and attended to the horse and out-of-door work, she did the housework. Both have been heard to say many times that this, the first year of their married life, was the ideal one. Hand in hand, with but one interest between them, they walked life's pathway, he with his keen foresight grasping the opportunities that others saw not, and she entering into all projects for benefiting the poor, assisting in founding churches, hospitals and asylums. Ever sympathetic with the sufferings of others, especially of little children, she, with a few earnest women, early in the forties organized what is now known as the Protestant Orphan Asylum. Mrs. Mitchell was its first treasurer. That institution still stands, a monument to the self-sacrificing women who realized its needs while yet Milwaukee was in its infancy. As the years rolled by, children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell, and great wealth rewarded their zeal, but neither prosperity nor popularity ever deprived Mrs. Mitchell of her simple grace, her love of God, or love for her fellow man. In all institutions where support or home comforts were extended to unfortunate women Mrs. Mitchell was ever ready with advice and assistance. For years after leaving Milwaukee she supported a mission kindergarten, where, daily, nearly a hundred children from the lowest grades of society were taught to be self-respecting and self-sustaining men and women. In 1858 Mrs. Mitchell was elected vice-regent of the Mount Vernon Association for Wisconsin, a position she holds to the present day. In art circles she has been prominent for many years, encouraging a love for it at home by supporting schools and giving exhibits of works imported from Europe entirely at her expense, so that in all the studios of Italy and France, as well as in America, her name is synonymous with all that is grand and ennobling in art. Where real talent was apparent in a struggling artist, encouragement by appreciation as well as pecuniary aid has ever been extended by her. The rigorous climate of the lake region being detrimental to her health as her years increased, Mrs. Mitchell sought restoration in travel. She crossed the ocean many times, visiting England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Egypt, yet her own well-beloved land was not ignored. She has studied this continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from its northern boundaries to the City of Mexico, as well as Cuba and the Island of New Providence. Soon after the Civil War, while visiting Florida, she found the spot where health and the pleasures of a home could be combined. A tract of land was purchased on the St. Johns river three miles from Jacksonville, and with her indomitable will and energy, aided by ample means, Mrs. Mitchell in a few years converted a sandy waste into "a thing of beauty and a joy forever." She has there brought to perfection the orange, lemon, banana, olive, plum, pear, peach and apricot, the English walnut, the pecan from Brazil, and the Spanish chestnut. Among her rare trees are the camphor and cinnamon from Ceylon and the tea plant from China. Her list of bamboos includes the sacred tree of India and five varieties of cane. The family of flowers embraces all the well-known varieties of the temperate zone and the tropics. Her home shows the taste and care of its mistress and is distinguished for hospitality. Prominent among her charities in Florida stands St. Luke's Hospital, the first and ever foremost institution in the State in ministering to the sick and needy. It is managed by an association of women, of whom Mrs. Mitchell is the inspiration and head. After the death of her husband, which occurred on 19th April, 1887, Mrs. Mitchell bade farewell to Milwaukee and located her summer resting-place on the St. Lawrence. in the vicinity of the Thousand Islands. There she lives during July and August, surrounded by all that is grand and beautiful in nature, and content in the consciousness of a well-spent life.