Born 21 June 1875 and died 27 October 1936. Vert at 2 years

I just love this tintype of Vert with his father hiding behind the chair attempting to hold him up in the chair. Vert was a shy, quiet little boy. When he was born his father was 40 and his mother was 37. They had married 2 years after he returned from the War (Civil War), and already had 2 boys and 1 girl. There would not be anymore children after Vert, as he was the baby of the family. His birth certificate shows his name to be Verta Mitchel (with one L) and says he is a female. People didn't bother to correct mistakes back in those days.

Vert never found his niche in life, going from one job to another. Employment was always a struggle for him and he had such big shoes to fill, having a very successful father and older brother. In fact, when Vert was 13 his oldest brother, John William, purchased a store he kept and ran for 65 years, amassing a large family and numerous houses and land. It was said that Vert was a "jack of all trades, master of none". But he was a proud man, with a gentle soul. He was quiet but stern and strict. He taught Sunday School for 11 years at Calvary Baptist Church in Ashburn Virginia. It was said that at the age of 21 his father presented each child with a horse, $25 and his blessings.

Vert and CarrieSo when he was 25, Vert was living with his sister and her husband. At that time he was working as a day laborer. His sister, Vever, later adopted a boy. Within the next 4 years Vert is living with his brother, Henry, and his wife Annie. At that time Vert was a miller when he married Carrie Loretta Wortman and brought her back to Henry's house to live. Henry had a son 2 months later. Carrie didn't like this arrangement and she did not exactly get along with Henry. They soon moved out.

Within a year of their marriage, Carrie gave birth to Joseph Vernon Mitchell who died the same day he was born. Of course this was devastating to them both. Two years later, in 1907, Verts sister, Genevieve died of pneumonia. She was only 38 years old. Her husband later married her cousin, who was also a Mitchell.

In May of 1908, soon after he found his wife pregnant again, Verts father, William Robert Mitchell died. His father was living with his "successful" brother when he died. Later that year Vert and Carrie gave birth to another boy - Gordon. Vert was still working as a miller of flour and decided to purchase some land. He bought 53 acres, but was still renting his house.

Lester and GordonIn 1911 Carrie gave birth to another son - Lester. He was a red head, and a "spitfire". It was said he was very charismatic and outgoing and all the ladies loved him. Carrie never hid the fact that he was her favorite child, but Carrie wanted a girl to help around the house. Through the years, both Carrie and Vert were very active in the church. Carrie was president of the Ashburn Group of "The Woman's Missionary Union" which was composed of 11 churches. She was also a secretary treasurer of the "Daughters of America". She was part of a sewing circle, as well.

Carrie was the only grandparent I got to know, and I always had the impression that she put on airs. I suspect she felt she married beneath herself. Blood was always very important to her, although she never showed any signs of affection or kindness. It was said that her children never heard her argue with her husband, which is probably where my father (her next son in this story) got that from. I believe my father was very much like his own father, Vert. He was quiet, reserved, patient, strict and seldom expressed any emotion or loss of control. Although my father was a good-hearted person, he was not easy to get close to, except in his later years, of course.

World War I broke out in 1914, when Vert was 39 years old. He signed up for the draft near the end of the war, in 1918, but never went. By this time he had just moved the family to a house near the railroad tracks where they lived for another 14 years. Times were tough then, and jobs were few and far between. The neighbors owned the house and they used to sit out on the porch and "cuss" the Mitchell family living there. It got so bad that a peace bond had to be put on them to make them leave the family alone. They had no water or electricity in this house. The family put in a vegetable garden and raised some pigs. Nonetheless, they were considered poor white trash by most.

Mitchell family in 1916Carrie still wanted someone to do her housework and chores, so they adopted Mary, who was 3 years old at the time. They saw an ad in the paper saying this little girl needed a home and when they received her, she came with only the clothes on her back, not even a pair of shoes. Carrie went to work teaching this child how to do housework and cook, and as the child got older she eventually took over most all of the household chores. Mary missed most school outings and dating, as she had to come straight home to prepare dinner and clean. Of course, in Carrie's eyes, she had saved this poor child and brought her in out of the cold. She told Mary frequently what a good Christian woman she was for adopting her and caring for her like she did.

Vert's mother was living with her son Henry in 1918 when she died at the age of 80 years. Vert was working in Washington D.C. at the time as a "commercial chaffeur" for Woodward and Lothrop (a high end department store). Vert was showing signs of aging now, he is becoming a very large man, and slowing down. He takes on another job, as a farm laborer and begins his 11 year stint as a Sunday School teacher. This job helped to control his weight problem for a while but obviously the manual labor was to much for him.

Lester in army - 1926Then in 1923 they are surprised by another pregnancy, but this will be the last time that happens. When Vert is 48 years old his wife gives birth to a son - Robert (my father). The 1920's was a good and properous time in Loundoun county Virginia, but not for the Mitchell family. Vert was an upholsterer by trade, but also did carpentry work when he could. Robert remembers his father going from house to house offering his services. The neighbors were hassling them more and more at this bad time. Lester and his father, Vert, are bumping heads all the time. Lester was to much of a free spirit for Vert's liking. Lester decided it was time to leave, so he ran away and joined the army. He lied about his age, saying he was 18 when he was actually 16. Lester remained in the army for 3 years, moving to Texas during this time. When he returned, he took a job at a fancy restaurant in Washington D.C. as a chef. He became quite the party animal, dating many women.

Their church, Calvary Baptist of Ashburn, burns to the ground and has to be rebuilt. I would guess to say that this had to be about the hardest time in Vert's life, especially considering what happens next.

1928This photo was taken in 1928 and shows from left to right: Mary, a neighbor, Carrie, Vert and Robert in front. In the meantime, the oldest son Gordon has landed a good paying government job with the Patent Office in Washington D.C. He becomes the main bread earner in the family, but this reguires him to have to commute more than an hour to work and then back again on the train every day. And then it happens - THE GREAT DEPRESSION - in 1929. Vert is 54 years old by now and he was already having a hard enough time finding employment. Thank God for Gordon's help. By 1931 it is to much for Gordon to handle and the entire family moves to Arlington Virginia to help shorten Gordon's commute and hopefully find employment for Vert.

And yes, it did help a little. Vert worked with the city for a while, erecting street signs. He worked on building Key Bridge, which crosses from Virginia into Washington D.C. His youngest son, Robert, helped out by selling donuts and hawking newspapers on the street corner at the age of 10. Although they did move frequently, I suspect due to lack of paying the rent. They moved every year or two, always in the same general area of Arlington.

Soon after, in 1933, Lester has gone out on the town with a woman and has gotten to drunk to drive. She was less inebriated, so she attempted to drive them home in a pouring rain on a winding road in Maryland when she missed the curve. The vehicle crashed and Lester died immediately. She had minor injuries. Carrie was devastated and mourned his loss to the day she died (at the age of 95). The following year Mary married Ronald Burgdorf and moved out.

Vert had grown quiet large by this time, although he had always been a big man, weighing more than 300 pounds. I am sure with his increasing weight, age of 61 years and stress of supporting a family took their toll on him. He likely had high blood pressure, which was not treated by medication at that time. Vert had a job where he partnered with his brother in Ashburn who had chickens. I don't know if it was Henry or John William, but they would deliver fresh eggs to Vert and he had a stand set up in a business area of Arlington called Clarendon. Vert would hold each egg up to a light and look to see if it was fertilized or could be sold (candling eggs, it was called). He sold these eggs in his stand when one day he had a stroke and died. This was in 1936.

Robert remembers his father was so heavy, over 300 pounds, that they struggled carrying his body up the stairs. What a horrible memory for a 13 year old boy. When Carrie called the newspaper for the obituary to be put in, she did not include Mary as a surviviing child because she was adopted. In later years, when she tried to give Robert's wife a family bible, the bible was refused until she added Mary's name to it. It was added to the side at the bottom of the page. Yes, blood meant alot to Carrie.

So when Vert died, he left behind at home a 54 year old wife and 13 year old child. Gordon had to step up once again and support them both until the youngest son, Robert, turned 18. At which time, Gordon left them on their own. I suspect there may of been some resentment on Gordon's part, as he later married but never had any children. Gordon was not at all close to Robert in his later years, but Robert and Mary's families were very close until the day they died.

Social Security had just come into being the same year Vert died. His wife, Carrie, did some babysitting jobs the following year and contributed to social security for a short while. She then recieved payments from them for the next 40 years. I will speak more about Verts wife, Carrie, on her maiden name page of Wortman.

Additional family photos