Ahoskie preserves history

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 27, 2006

AHOSKIE – Over the past several years, the town of Ahoskie has embarked on a mission to preserve its history.

A slice its proud past has fell into place.

At their meeting held earlier this month, the Ahoskie Town Council approved a measure that transfers a historic cemetery into town ownership.

A 75-foot by 150-foot parcel of property located on Sunset Street, just south of the main railroad tracks, will be deeded to the town of Ahoskie by the Mitchell family. The property contains three gravesites, including the final resting place of Ahoskie’s first mayor, the late Dr. Jessie H. Mitchell.

Present day Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn, who has spearheaded the town’s preservation effort since first taking office, was happy to accept this piece of property.

“This is what we’re trying to do, to ensure that the history of this town is preserved,” Blackburn said. “This cemetery bears great historical significance due to it being the final resting place of the man who was directly responsible for Ahoskie becoming what it is today.”

Born Sept. 5, 1857, Jesse H. Mitchell was a Hertford County native who, after graduating in 1879 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore, Maryland, returned home to practice medicine.

The country doctor first set-up shop in the Hexalena community of Bertie County before moving to Ahoskie in 1880. For the next 25 years he was the only doctor for miles around.

When Dr. Mitchell first settled in Ahoskie, the town was not incorporated. The old Baptist church and the crossroads leading to Winton, St. Johns and Cofield were the only claims to fame for the small village.

Dr. Mitchell had bigger ideas in mind.

Being a man of vision and forethought, Dr. Mitchell longed to see a prosperous city spring to life in the wilderness. To put that plan into action, he donated right-of-way to the Norfolk and Carolina Railroad Company in order for that business to complete its line between Rocky Mount and Norfolk, Va. He also deeded the land the railroad company needed to build its depot in Ahoskie.

He followed by plotting his huge tract of land into lots and sold them. That, in turn, saw a tiny village struggling to survive transform itself into a city boasting of more than 2,000 people. Thus, Ahoskie became the business and industrial metropolis of the Roanoke-Chowan area, a distinction it maintains today.

However, Dr. Mitchell was far from finished helping to build Ahoskie and Hertford County. For the next half century, he stood at the forefront of political and civic affairs.

Dr. Mitchell was Ahoskie’s first mayor and also served as postmaster for a number of years. He was also the Justice of the Peace.

Taking a keen interest in education, Dr. Mitchell established the first school in Ahoskie. He later donated the land for the establishment of public schools.

Within Hertford County government, Dr. Mitchell served terms on the board of commissioners, board of education and county board of health.

Dr. Mitchell died Dec. 8, 1934.

Upon accepting the donation of property, the town of Ahoskie promises to maintain and care for the cemetery as well as ensuring it remains the final resting place for Dr. Mitchell, his wife Rosa and father, Colonel George H. Mitchell.