Biography of Charles L. Mitchell

Charles L. Mitchell is secretary and sales manager of Crane & Company of Topeka. As every one knows in that city and the state this is one of the largest publishing and stationery houses in Kansas.

It may be said with propriety that Mr. Mitchell has deserved success because he has earned it. He was born at Kenosha, Wisconsin, February 12, 1873, a son of John C. and Sallie Ann (Connell) Mitchell. His father saw four years of active service in the Civil war and died in 1898, while the mother is still residing in Wisconsin. John C. Mitchell was a native of Scotland, being brought to America at the age of five years. The family spent five weeks on board the sailing vessel that brought them to the New World. The Mitchells took up a homestead in southwest Wisconsin, at what was then known as Southport, now Kenosha. While digging a well on this place the grandfather was asphyxiated by foul air, and this threw upon John C. Mitchell unusually heavy burdens and responsibilities in assisting to support his mother and the household. He and his sisters worked hard to prove up the homestead, and that land is still owned by members of the family. John C. Mitchell was always a hard working man and while he did his best to contribute the comforts to his family, his children were reared in comparatively humble circumstances and became inured at an early age to hard work and some privations.

These were the early circumstances of Charles L. Mitchell’s career. He grew up in Kenosha, and received his education in the public schools and at Kenosha College. There was an element of willingness and energy in his makeup which undoubtedly accounts for his success in life. He paid his own way both through school and college. His earnings were the result of cutting lawns, caring for horses, washing buggies, and he also had the distinction of being one of the first two newsboys in Kenosha. From the age of fourteen he has depended upon his own exertions. When a boy he frequently drove horses for doctors, and from this experience he came to know every farmer in a radius of thirty miles around Kenosha. The physicians did much of their driving at night, and whenever they could employed young Mitchell. The postmaster would also entrust him with a delivery of mail to farmers. That was long before the days of rural free delivery or even of telephones, and there was no remuneration connected with free mail delivery. At holiday time, however, the boy was remembered by scores of people for his obliging services.

While he was still getting his education an attack of typhoid developed tubercular conditions, and in February, 1892, he went to Denver as a suitable climate in which to overcome this threatened disease. Two weeks after his arrival he became messenger boy in the office of the purchasing agent of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. During the first six months of that employment he attended a night school and mastered shorthand. He was then promoted to the stenographic department of the railway office and his salary advanced from $25 to $60 a month. After four days of work as stenographer, owing to a reorganization of the clerical staff, he was made stationer of the company on a six-months’ trial. That office gave him the responsibilities of buying stationery supplies for the entire system. He made good and held the position until 1899.

While thus employed Mr. Mitchell met Miss Edna Crane, daughter of George W. Crane of Topeka, who was then visiting in Denver. Being unable to see any further advancement in railway service, Mr. Mitchell soon afterward made application for the position of purchasing agent of the Detroit Copper Mining Company at Morenci, Arizona. His application was accepted, and he thus entered upon a position which soon brought increasing responsibilities. After two years in Arizona Mr. Mitchell came to Topeka and in 1902 married Miss Edna Crane as the culmination of an acquaintance begun several years before in Denver.

Returning with his wife to Morenci, he was soon happily settled in his home and with splendid prospects of business advancement. Besides having charge of the stock of the Copper Company and nine large warehouses, he also conducted a livery stable for saddle horses and that netted him more profits than his salary. He was also in partnership with a Kansas boy in the laundry business, and they shipped an average of over 1,000 pounds of laundry every week to El Paso.

In 1904 Mr. George Crane prevailed upon his son-in-law to sell out his interests in Arizona and come to Topeka to assist in the operation of the extensive establishment of Crane & Company. Mr. Mitchell agreed to do this, but on the eve of his departure, after his household goods had been shipped, his wife fell ill and a few days later occurred the death of both herself and her new born baby. This was a calamity which unsettled the purposes and activities of Mr. Mitchell for some time. He spent some time traveling, but finally settled in Topeka and became secretary and superintendent of Crane & Company. In 1907 he married Ethel Morton, daughter of William A. and Flora (Smith) Morton.

Upon the death of George Crane the company was reorganized, and Mr. Mitchell was relieved of the duties of superintendent and was made sales manager in charge of all the buying and selling. This position he has since continued to fill.

Mr. Mitchell is well known in social as well as business circles. He is past exalted ruler of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; a member of Siloam Lodge No. 225, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Topeka Chapter No. 5, Royal Arch Masons; both the subordinate and encampment degrees of Odd Fellowship; the Ancient Order of United Workmen; of the United Commercial Travelers; the Country Club; the Shawnee Golf Club, of which he is a director; the Topeka Commercial Club, the Topeka Rotary Club, the Lake View Fishing and Shooting Club and the Sons of Veterans. Mr. Mitchell is a republican of the standpat kind.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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