Thursday, May 17, 2018

52 Ancestors #20: Robert "the Elder" Mitchell (c1714-1799): A Devoted Presbyterian

Ancestor: Robert "the Elder" Mitchell, five times great grandfather
Haplogroup: R-M269

Robert "the Elder" Mitchell was born about 1714 in Londonderry (now Derry), Ireland, to Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell and his wife, Mary Innes. According to David Dobson's Scots on the Chesapeake, Robert's family arrived in Philadelphia in 1723. Other sources, primarily written by grandchildren or great grandchildren, put the date of immigration closer to 1735. We know that two of Robert's brothers, Daniel and James, also sailed with their parents.

Marriage and Move to Bedford County, Virginia

Robert "the Elder" married Mary Enos in 1736 probably in New Castle County, Delaware. She was the daughter of Richard and Susannah Enos and had been baptized on 17 August 1718 at the Old Swedes Church in Newcastle County.

Under the leadership of the Caldwell family, a large contingent of Presbyterian families moved to Bedford County shortly before 1748.[1] They likely took the Great Wagon Road, perhaps when it was yet so narrow only horses could be used for travel. I believe Robert and Mary (Enos) Mitchell were members of that party. His brothers, Daniel and James, married Caldwell women. We know those brothers were in Bedford County by 1754 when Robert, Daniel and James Mitchell were ordered to work on the county roads. Perhaps they were members of the same party.

Robert "the Elder" Mitchell's family tree from Stith Thompson's book entitled
Shipley, Mitchell, and Thompson Families; courtesy of

Robert Mitchell was a founding member of the Peaks of Otter Presbyterian Church in 1761 and was a ruling elder during his lifetime. He signed a 1774 petition along with 101 other church members to the House of Burgesses, requesting permission to buy slaves to work church land in order to support a full-time minister. The congregation purchased four slaves to work land purchased by Robert Mitchell and John Erwine. We know about the land from a 1769 Chancery Court case. And from book, The Ewing Family Genealogy with Cognate Branches, we learn more about those enslaved:

"The records of Bedford County, disclose a deed, dated 28 July 1783, recorded 25 August, of which Robert Ewing was the first signer, and from its vigorous style, probably the author, conveying certain slaves or their issue to be used for supporting a regular minister, and for such other church purposes as the elders and a majority of the congregation might agree upon."

Robert's brother, Daniel Mitchell, named Robert his executor when he wrote his will on 13 Jun 1775. It was proved in October of that same year.

In 1785 Robert was the security for a bond his son, James, executed to purchased 500 acres of land.

In 1780 the Virginia Legislature passed "An act for procuring a supply of provision and other necessaries for the use of the Army." The governor was empowered to appoint commissioners in every county to carry out the terms of the legislation. Receipts, or certificates, were issued to people who provided supplies. According to the Library of Virginia's Catalog, Robert Mitchell of Bedford County was issued two public service claims certificates. He is a patriot in good standing with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and listed in Abercrombie and Slatten's Virginia Revolutionary War Public Services Claims.

Last Will and Testament

Robert wrote his will on 23 April 1781:

In the name of God, Amen. I, Robert Mitchell, of Bedford County and Province of Virginia being of perfect mind and memory do make this my last will and Testament and first my lawful debts to be discharged. To my well beloved wife, Mary, I give the plantation I now live on during her life or widowhood. At the end of either, I give it to my son, Samuel. Also to my wife, Mary, I give all my moveable estate to be disposed of at her desiration. To my son, Daniel, I give one hundred acres of land where he now lives. To Robert and Stephen, I give the remainder of the upper parcel of the tract I bought off Hylton. To Josiah Campbell, the lower half of the same tract. My wife, Daniel and Samuel, I [illegible] my executory to see to the execution of this my last will which I do declare to be my last will revoking all others by me heretofore made as witnessed my hand, twenty third day of April one thousand seven hundred and eighty one.

Robert Mitchell (signed and sealed)


John Dowdy (his mark)
James Freeman
James Davis

At a court held for Bedford County the 25th February 1799 this last will and testament of Robert Mitchell, deceased, was proved by the oath of John Dowdy and James Freeman, witnesses whose names are thereto subscribed, and ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of Daniel Mitchell and Samuel Mitchell, executors therein named who made oath thereto, certificate is granted them for obtaining probate thereof in due form on giving security whereupon they together with Jesse Leftwich and Stephen Preston their security entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of five hundred dollars conditioned for the said executors due and thoughtful administration of said deceased estate and performance of his will.


Ja. Steptoe, Clerk, Bedford County

An inventory of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell's estate was filed with the county court on 28 July 1800. Usually, if I read a reference to books at all in estate inventories, their titles are not mentioned. But Robert's estate inventory included several book titles, some of which I have been able to identify:
  • Isaac Watts, Horae Lyricae, Poems, Chiefly of the Lyric Kind (1709) or Psalms of David" Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and Apply'd to the Christian State and Worship (1719)
  • Isaac Watts, A Guide to Prayer (1716)
  • James Dunham's The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (1764)
  • Thomas Dyche, A New General English Dictionary (1735)
  • [Westminster] Confessions of Faith (1646)
  • David Bostwick, A Fair and Rational Vindication of the Right of Infants to the Ordinance of Baptism (1765)
Snippet of the appraisement of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell's estate
including several book titles; courtesy of

Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and his wife, Mary Enos, were said to have had 13 children yet he only mentioned five in his will. The only son not mentioned but known to be a son was Rev. James Mitchell, who at the time of his father's death was the minister at Peaks of Otter Church. The church owned land and slaves to provide for the maintenance of their minister as mentioned earlier. Perhaps this was why James was not mentioned in his father's will.

From Sketches of Virginia

Rev. William Foote described Robert "the Elder" Mitchell in Sketches of Virginia:

"...was born in the north of Ireland, but immigrated to America while yet a youth. He is reputed to have been a man of vigorous intellect and devoted piety, well instructed in religion, and a devoted and thorough Presbyterian. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Enos, was, it seems, of Welsh extraction. She, like her husband, was an eminently pious Presbyterian. This excellent pair resided in Bedford County, for many years and were members, the husband being a ruling elder, of the church, of which their son was pastor. They both lived to a good old age. He lived to be 85; of her age I am not informed. They had 13 children, of whom not one died less than 70 years old. The Mitchel family seems to have been remarkable in former times for piety and longevity. Robert Mitchel it seems was converted while yet a boy. The immediate means of his awakening was the fact of overhearing his great-grandmother, at her secret devotions, praying for him. She was then more than 100 years old; she lived to the age of 112. We may add -- that this Robert Mitchel, tradition says, was very fond of music, and did much to promote singing in the congregation. He talked of Derry and the affairs of that noted town, and the sufferings of the Mitchel family in that famous siege. The peculiar dialect of his countrymen was marked in his speech. He was an elder worthy of double honor."

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Another Language," which I did not follow.

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, Robert "the Elder" Mitchell is Ancestor numbers 146 and 152 on my family tree:

146 and 152 Robert "the Elder" Mitchell born about 1714 in Derry, Ireland, to Robert "the Immigrant" Mitchell and Mary Innes; died before 25 February 1799 in Bedford County, Virginia; married Mary Enos, daughter of Richard and Susannah Enos in 1736 likely in New Castle County, Delaware. Immigrated with his parents, perhaps as early as 1723, to Philadelphia. His parents settled in Pequea, Pennsylvania. By 1748 Robert "the Elder" Mitchell, along with his brothers, Daniel and James, had removed to Bedford County. Robert and Mary (Enos) Mitchell were thought to have had 13 children.

Proved Children

146.1 Frances Mitchell born about 1742 in Pequea; died after 1820; married Benjamin Hodges Jr. 24 Aug 1783 in Bedford County (not mentioned in her father's will, but marriage bond stated he was her father).

146.2 Susannah Mitchell born in 1744 in Pequea; died in 1813; married Josiah Bedford Campbell in 1762 in Virginia; removed to Fayette County, Kentucky, in 1789 and moved to Mercer County, Kentucky, by 1800. (mentioned in father's will)

146.3 Stephen Mitchell born 29 January 1749 in Pequea; died about 1806 in Carroll County, Virginia; married Keturah "Kitty" Wade, daughter of Jeremiah Wade and Charity Ballinger, on 8 March 1783 in Bedford County. (mentioned in father's will)

76 Daniel Mitchell born before 1765 (probably about 1750) in Lunenburg County, Virginia; died before 1831; married Margaret Bryan in 1772 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. (mentioned in father's will)

146.4 Robert Harvey Mitchell born 1752 in Virginia; died in 1818 in Mercer County, Kentucky; married Mary Witt on 18 April 1799 in Bedford County. (mentioned in father's will)

146.5 Samuel Mitchell born about 1758 in Virginia; died 15 March 1835 in Bedford County, Virginia; married 1) Siner Pullen on 20 Dec 1785 in Bedford County and 2) Margaret "Peggy" Claytor, daughter of Samuel Claytor and Ann Rogers, on 6 September 1791 in Bedford County. (mentioned in father's will)

Children Proved by DNA

I have 60 DNA matches to tests I manage who share Robert "the Elder" Mitchell as the common ancestor through nine of his children:

DNA matches with Robert "the Elder" Mitchell as the common ancestor
by his children; created using Microsoft Excel

146.6 Rev. James Mitchell born 29 January 1747 in Pequea; died on 27 February 1841 in Bedford County; married Frances Blair Rice, daughter of Rev. David Rice and Mary Blair, on 19 December 1782 in Bedford County.

73 Mary Mitchell born about 1755 in Bedford County; died 28 July 1843 in Bedford County; married Samuel Beard, son of Adam and Elizabeth Beard, 5 Aug 1778 in Bedford County. (Robert Mitchell and Samuel Beard signed a marriage bond.)

146.7 Margaret Mitchell born in 1762 in Bedford County; died on an unknown date; married Adam Beard, son of Adam and Elizabeth Beard, 29 July 1790 in Bedford County.

146.8 Martha Ann Mitchell born in 1767 in Bedford County; died after 1820; married widower Samuel Claytor, son of Alvin Claytor and Sarah Rust, 25 October 1788 in Bedford County.

Unproved Children

I suspect the following two people are also children of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos, but have been unable to prove them to date. If anyone has more information, please contact me.

146.9 Enos Mitchell born about 1744 in Pequea; died on an unknown date; married an unknown woman had issue; served in the Revolutionary War (per DAR application)

146.10 John Mitchell born about 1759 in Bedford County; died after 1839; married Elizabeth Hardwick, daughter of Robert Hardwick on 2 January 1784 in Bedford County.

A Word about David Mitchell (1737-1817)

Many, many, many trees list this David Mitchell as the eldest child of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos. I believe this to be in error for a couple of reasons:
  1. He served in the Pennsylvania Militia nearly 30 years after his parents and siblings had removed to Virginia. He would have been the only child to have remained in Lancaster County, and he would have been left there by his parents when he was just 11 years old.
  2. His military and burial records indicated he was born in Scotland. His parents were married in 1736 in America, likely Delaware. 
[1] Robert Mitchell first appeared in the deed books of Lunenburg County, part of which became Bedford County, in 1748.

(I am not including source citations for DNA matches which prove I am descended from Robert "the Elder" Mitchell as the template provided by Evidence Explained on their blog post of 6/17/2012 requires listing the names of living people.)

Bedford County Order Book 1A, page 146.
Burr, Horace. Early Church Records of New Castle County, Vol. 2, Old Swedes Church, 1713-1799, (Berwyn Heights, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), page 18.
Dobson, David. Scots on the Chesapeake, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992), page 112 (accessed on 24 Jul 2016)
Ewing, Presley Kittredge and Ewing, Mary Ellen (William). The Ewing Genealogy with Cognate Branches: A Survey of Ewings and Their Kin in America, (unknown location: Presley K. King, 1919), page 43.
Family Data Collection - Births, (database) Ancestry, Mary Enos, birth 17 August 1718, Wilmington, Newcastle, Delaware (accessed 23 May 2015)
Family Data Collection - Deaths, (database) Ancestry, Robert Mitchell, 25 February 1799, Bedford (accessed 23 May 2015).
Family Data Collection - Marriages, (database) Ancestry, Robert Mitchell and Mary Enos, 1736, probley DE (accessed 23 May 2015).
Foote, William Henry, Rev. Sketches of Virginia, (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott & Co., 1856), pages 133-141.
Genealogical Research Service, (database), A201246, Robert Mitchell, Bedford County, Virginia (accessed 11 Oct 2016).
James Logan (Statesman), Wikipedia (accessed 3 May 2018).
Kaminkow, Jack and Kaminkow, Marion. A List of Emigrants from England to America, 1718-1759, (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989), page 158 (accessed 24 Jul 2016).
Revolutionary Publick Service Claims, (database), Library of Virginia, Robert Mitchell, Bedford County (12 Oct 2016).
Robert Mitchell, the Elder, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 1 May 2018).
Samuel Beard (1750-1814): Revolutionary War Veteran, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 4 May 2018).
The Duffy Papers, RootsWeb (accessed 25 Oct 2016).
Thompson, Stith (Compiler). Shipley, Mitchell and Thompson Families(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1964), pages Mitchell i-ii, Mitchell 1-16.
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1782-1969, (database and images) Library of Virginia, Bedford County 1769-003, John Erwine, Robert Mitchell v. John Hardiman and John Richards (accessed 24 Feb 2018).
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1761-1969 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Daniel Mitchell, James Mitchell v. Jeremiah Hylton, 1809-012 (accessed 10 May 2018)
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1761-1969 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Executors of Robert Mitchell v. Jeremiah W. Hylton Etc, 1808-011 (accessed 10 May 2018)
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983 (database and images), Robert Mitchell, 1781 Will, Bedford County; citing Will Book Vol. 1, 1763-1787, page 239 (accessed 28 Nov 2017).
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983 (database and images), Robert Mitchell, Estate Inventory, 1800; citing Will Book Vol. 2, 1788-1802, page 275 (accessed 28 Nov 2017).
Why John and Mary (Boyd) Mitchell Are Not the Parents of Robert Mitchell (c1714-1799), Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 1 May 2018).


  1. Darn it! If I had read this a day earlier I could have pulled Robert Mitchell’s Service Claim certificate. Thank you for your pointers in the Facebook group.

    1. Don’t worry about it. Calling LVA for copies of those claims is on my to do list. You will love theVirginia Historical Society.