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Beautiful Scripture Plaques from the Original Carvings of A.E. Mitchell

The Life of A.E. Mitchell by R. Bryant Mitchell

The following 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 operation.
        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 lodging.
        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 in art.
        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 copies.
        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