Scripture Plaques from the Original Carvings of A.E. Mitchell
The Life of A.E. Mitchell by R. Bryant Mitchell
is a condensed version of an article written about Andrew E. Mitchell by
his son R. Bryant Mitchell in 1964. It was written at the time of Andrew
Mitchell's death for the Go-Ye Challenge, the missionary magazine of the
Go-Ye Fellowship of Los Angeles which is still in operation today.
Rev. Andrew E. Mitchell of Los Angeles, California, passed away in Pasadena
on March 16, 1964 at the age of 87. Born in Elora, Ontario Province,
Canada, March 10, 1877, the eldest son of six children, he came to the
United States at the age of 18 and lived in Detroit Michigan; Denver,
Colorado; and Los Angeles, California.
(below) Andrew E. Mitchell with his bicycle, circa.1900
Within two weeks before his death he was still writing articles, planning
the production of books, and hoping for health that he might return to
Brazil for missionary work.
Four of the children, Bryant, Hubert, Helen and Marietta, and his wife,
Mother Mitchell, were with him three days before his homegoing. The family
gathered around his hospital bed and sang the old childhood Gospel songs,
joined hands in a family circle of prayer, and then served Holy Communion.
Funeral services were held March 19, 1964 at the Lake Avenue Congregational
Church in Pasadena, the scene of many Go-Ye missionary farewells and banquets.
Hundreds of well-known evangelists, missionary leaders, and Christian friends
from all over Southern California, gathered for the final rites. Burial
was in Green Hills Memorial Park, San Pedro.
Converted at an early age, he joined the Methodist Church in Guelph, Ontario,
Canada, and later, at the age of 18, became a Sunday School teacher at
the famous Murray and Tracy McGregor Rescue Mission in Detroit and later
served as Assistant Sunday School Superintendent. Seventy years
later, from his hospital bed, he was still ministering for the Lord.
In his final illness, he spent long hours conversing and praying with Cardinal
W.J. Doheny, C.S.C., J.U.D., Advocate and Procurator of the Tribunal
of the Vatican in Rome, who was in the same hospital recovering from an
In order to show what can be done for the glory of Christ by a humble but
dedicated life, we are outlining some of the details of his rich life for
the edification of those who read this story.
Discouragement, illness, lack of formal education, difficult circumstances,
which tend to hinder most people in accomplishment, seemed to serve as
a driving thrust to the life of Brother Mitchell. His father Robert
died when he was at the age of ten. Before grade school days were
over in Canada, he had to leave school to help his widowed mother, Martha,
support the family of six children. He worked at hard labor in an
iron foundry. Later, using his artistic talent, he sketched designs
for embroidery work which he and his mother sold from door to door.
At the age of 15, while the other boys were playing, he traveled with his
mother near the home area, selling art and embroidery work to make a living.
His sister Eva tells of one occasion where they had made no sales and were
penniless, with no place to stay. The boy Andrew went to a boarding
house and promised the proprietor a concert in return for a free night's
lodging. With an ever present harmonica, he played for the night's
In 1899 he came to Denver, Colorado, in the days of the hustling mining
and railroad era, and later was joined by his mother and sisters.
For years he was caught up in the fever of western expansion and worked
as a creative artist for the timber, mining, and real estate interests
of the west, traveling by stage and narrow gauge railroad over the mountain
state, drawing great birds eye view maps of the developments and then creating
advertising material for the promoters. He at one time worked for
the Denver Post.
He was very much discouraged when he first went to Denver because he was
suffering with tuberculosis, hemorrhaging severely, without employment,
and feeling that God had forsaken him. Lying down in despondency
on a park bench, he expected to die during the night and be found by the
police in the morning. He said that God sent a wild mountain canary
with its beautiful song to him while he was so sick on the bench.
He thought, "You have a Heavenly Father, and so have I. No, I am
not going to die!" With this resolve he trusted God to give him health
and employment. Encouraged he left the park bench. God healed the
tuberculosis, he found employment, and made a down payment on a big golden
harp. To him, music and beauty were more important than bread and
clothes. From that day on, he was singing, playing the harp, drawing,
and living a full, complete life for the Lord.
He met Sadie Bryant, beautiful orphan Welsh girl from Greeley, Colorado,
whose family had been mining engineers. They met in Gospel work in
the Trinity Methodist Church of Denver in 1902. Their first child,
Bryant, was born while they were on a short stay in Los Angeles, California.
Early in his Christian experience, A. E. Mitchell learned the secret of
dedicating his pleasures, his talents, and possessions to the Lord.
One day Sadie, his young bride-to-be, peered over his shoulder while he
was working as a commercial artist. He had been engaged to draw an
advertising design for a whisky ad. Speaking softly, she said, "Andy,
can you advertise whisky to the glory of God?" From this time on,
he would never use his artistic talent to advertise whisky, tobacco, or
any of the products which destroy the souls of men. His rare talent
for modeling in clay attracted publicity agents from the Hollywood film
companies. Many times, to the embarrassment of his employer, he refused
to do work for them. In later years his creative genius for illustration
was much in demand but he had to turn down the big money because it came
from ungodly enterprises.
Moving to Los Angeles, California, he again went into gospel work in the
holiness movement and in the Methodist church. He became active in
rescue mission and county jail ministries. In 1913 the little family
moved to 1307 Waterloo Street, which overlooks the hills of Hollywood.
Here at this home place, for over fifty years, his greatest ministry developed.
Mother Sadie passed away in March, 1919.
Unemployment, sickness, and sorrow wove dark threads into the tapestry
of the little family after their mother's death, but God brought a girlhood
friend of Sadie's into the home in the person of Jennie Clay, devoted Christian
school teacher who came in to be a devoted wife and loving mother to the
four children. Mr. Mitchell and Jennie were married May 12, 1920.
Two beautiful daughters were born later, Marietta and Esther. The
little family was raised in the Echo Park Methodist Church.
As a father and Christian leader, Mr. Mitchell led his home in the paths
of righteousness. There was a brief family altar service every morning
before going to school. Daily Bible School sessions were held around
the kitchen table as family devotions were conducted. From the earliest
years the family was taught to play, work, sing, and pray together.
The children were taken on Sunday afternoon walks and were told Bible stories.
On hikes in the mountains, they were told nature stories and given lessons
After the death of Mother Sadie, Andrew made his first plaster motto.
Using his skilled strong fingers, which seemed to inherit the strength
and craftsmanship of the Scotch stone masons in his hereditary background,
and the delicate artistry of British craftsmen, he modeled a California
mariposa lily in clay and from this clay mold, drew his first motto.
The magic of it started a whole new ministry. With Mr. and Mrs. James
Berger, oldtime associates, he formed the Mitchell Art Plaque Company.
First in plaster, then later in aluminum. Tens of thousands of these
mottoes have been sold and given away throughout the world. Over
sixty different English language mottoes have been credited. In later
years he produced one hundred and nineteen mottoes in twenty-seven different
languages for use in mission fields of the world.
Wherever he traveled, his well-crinkled, shiny little aluminum suitcase
was filled with a few clothes and lots of chalk, plaster, clay and paper.
These were part of his sermons.
Even in his work as a commercial artist, no opportunity was missed for
a gospel witness. All who came into the Riley Moore Engraving Company
offices were met with a tract, a good story with a gospel emphasis, or
a testimony. Blessed with an original, creative spirit, Mr. Mitchell
entered several contests for artists and won every contest he ever entered.
Many of the trade-marks of standard brands of those days were his creation.
He designed the Del Monte foods label. In his profession he was considered
to be one of America's most artistic penmen. His fine scroll work
and embossing approached the accuracy of steel engraving. He made designs
for fancy cosmetic box covers in the Parisian style.
The photographs of his clay models were an innovation in the industry.
His copy of the $2.00 bill, which under his skill became a tract, depicting
the two ways of life, was so similar to the United States currency that
he had to withdraw it from circulation until it changed. This one
tract alone has gone through many editions. The Inspiration
Press of Des Moines estimates that they have printed about two million
Go-Ye Fellowship was formed in 1933. After the age of
80, Brother Mitchell spent 4 1/2 years in Brazil, with Sister Mitchell
traveling over this gigantic South American country holding conferences,
evangelistic meetings, and there founded the Go-Ye Fellowship of Brazil.
Traveling by bus, plane and boat, they endeared themselves to the hearts
of Protestant missionaries of many denominations. Once the only transportation
available was a decrepit cargo plane. Here they squeezed between
the boxes. The plane caught fire in the air and barely made it to
an emergency landing strip where they were all thrown out of the blazing
plane with boxes, bundles, and suitcases all in one disorganized heap.
They took a trip up the Amazon to the remote city of Manaus. With
the help of Mrs. Mitchell's sister, Aunt Nellie, they started the gospel
plaque ministry in Brazil. Many times they lived with humble charcoal
burners and endured hazardous experiences in the jungles. When Billy
Graham landed in Rio de Janeiro for his 1961 World Baptist Convention and
following crusade, he spied little grey-haired Father Mitchell in the crowd
and broke protocol, by-passed the welcoming committee, went straight to
Mr. Mitchell and gave him a big hug.
Although he was slight of stature and did not have a social or educational
background that is sometimes thought necessary to be a leader, his courage
and zeal commanded the respect of great men around the world.
The greatest passkey to Andrew Mitchell's heart was the appalling human
need around him. Those who were in deepest trouble, and often the
most guilty, were given the first entrance into his heart. Scores
of alcoholics, parolees, and law breakers, were kept in apartments at the
home where he labored most determinedly to lead them to Christ and to break
their evil habits.
Father Mitchell's work was never finished. Just before his illness
he was planning to return to Brazil at the age of 86. He had new
mottoes started, many articles to publish, and was writing a new series
of Bible studies. For him death was not a tragedy. To him it
was the release from the captivity of a mortal body to the freedom of a
resurrected body. Many of his labors have not ceased. They
are being carried on by younger hands and are being readied for publication
in newer formats.
-R. Bryant Mitchell, April 1964