John H. Mitchell

Last updated
John H. Mitchell
John H. Mitchell - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from Oregon
In office
March 4, 1901 December 8, 1905
Preceded by George W. McBride
Succeeded by John M. Gearin
In office
November 18, 1885 March 4, 1897
Preceded by James H. Slater
Succeeded by Joseph Simon
In office
March 4, 1873 March 4, 1879
Preceded by Henry W. Corbett
Succeeded by James H. Slater
3rd President of the Oregon State Senate
In office
Preceded by Wilson Bowlby
Succeeded by Thomas R. Cornelius
Member of the Oregon State Senate
from Multnomah County
In office
Personal details
Born(1835-06-22)June 22, 1835
Washington County, Pennsylvania
DiedDecember 8, 1905(1905-12-08) (aged 70)
Portland, Oregon
Political party Republican

John Hipple Mitchell, also known as John Mitchell Hipple, John H. Mitchell, or J. H. Mitchell (June 22, 1835 December 8, 1905) was a controversial American lawyer and politician, who served as a Republican United States Senator from Oregon on three occasions between 1873 and 1905. He also served as State Senate President, did the initial legal work involved in the dispute that led to the landmark Supreme Court case of Pennoyer v. Neff , and later was involved with the Oregon land fraud scandal, for which he was indicted and convicted while a sitting U.S. Senator, one of only twelve sitting U.S. Senators ever indicted, and one of only five ever convicted. [1] [2]

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.

Oregon U.S. state in the United States

Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region on the West Coast of the United States. The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon's northern boundary with Washington, while the Snake River delineates much of its eastern boundary with Idaho. The parallel 42° north delineates the southern boundary with California and Nevada.

Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1878), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in which the Court held that a court can exert personal jurisdiction over a party if that party is served with process while physically present within the state.


Early life

Mrs. John H. Mitchell Mrs John H. Mitchell.jpg
Mrs. John H. Mitchell

He was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, with the name John Mitchell Hipple. He moved with his parents to Butler County, Pennsylvania, at the age of two. He attended public schools during much of his childhood, but also attended some private schools including the Witherspoon Institute. As a young man he was a schoolteacher. He seduced a 15-year-old female student, and, due to the resulting scandal, was forced to marry her.

Washington County, Pennsylvania U.S. county in Pennsylvania

Washington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 207,820. Its county seat is Washington. The county was created on March 28, 1781, from part of Westmoreland County. The city and county were both named after American Revolutionary War leader George Washington, who eventually became the first President of the United States.

Butler County, Pennsylvania U.S. county in Pennsylvania

Butler County is a county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 183,862. Its county seat is Butler. Butler County was created on March 12, 1800, from part of Allegheny County and named in honor of General Richard Butler, a hero of the American Revolution.

In 1857, Mitchell stopped teaching and decided to become a lawyer. He built a successful law practice in Pennsylvania. However, in 1860, he decided to leave his community and family, and moved to California with a local schoolteacher with whom he was having an affair. After arriving in California, he abandoned her and moved to Portland, Oregon. It was then that he decided to change his name to John Hipple Mitchell, using his middle name as his last name, and attempted to start a completely new life in Oregon. Almost immediately, he started to become a successful lawyer and build political connections. Mitchell was not an intellectual man, but he was very ambitious and knew how to develop business and political friendships with important people. In 1867, he was hired as a professor at Willamette University School of Medicine to teach medical jurisprudence. Mitchell remained as professor for almost four years. [3]

California U.S. state in the United States

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents across a total area of about 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Portland, Oregon city in Oregon, USA

Portland is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2018, Portland had an estimated population of 653,115, making it the 25th most populated city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous in the United States. Its combined statistical area (CSA) ranks 19th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon's population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.

During his law practice in Oregon, Mitchell did some legal work for a client named Marcus Neff. Mitchell's dispute with Neff regarding some unpaid legal bills gave rise to the circumstances that led to the U.S. Supreme Court case of Pennoyer v. Neff .

Political career

Two years after arriving in Oregon, in 1862, he was elected to the Oregon State Senate. [4] In 1864 he became President of the state Senate and served in that position until 1866. [5] Because United States Senators were elected by the state legislatures during his lifetime, and that was the only office that Mitchell was to seek, this early position in the state Senate was the only popularly elected office that he would ever run for or win.

Oregon State Senate

The Oregon State Senate is the upper house of the statewide legislature for the US state of Oregon. Along with the lower chamber Oregon House of Representatives it makes up the Oregon Legislative Assembly. There are 30 members of the State Senate, representing 30 districts across the state, each with a population of 114,000. The State Senate meets at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

Mitchell was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate from Oregon in 1866, losing to Henry W. Corbett. He tried again in 1872 and this time won, taking office in 1873. He petitioned to officially change his name after he was elected. [6]

Henry W. Corbett American businessman and politician

Henry Winslow Corbett was an American businessman, politician, civic benefactor, and philanthropist in the state of Oregon. A native of Massachusetts, he spent his early life in the East and New York before moving to the Oregon Territory. He was a prominent figure in the early development of Portland, Oregon and was involved in numerous business ventures there, starting in general merchandise. His interests later included banking, finance, insurance, river shipping, stage lines, railways, telegraph, iron and steel and the erection of Portland downtown buildings among other enterprises. A Republican, he served as a United States Senator from 1867 to 1873.

On the topic of names, during Mitchell's second period of Senate service (from November 18, 1885, to March 3, 1897), he concurrently served alongside two other different individuals named "John Mitchell", from other states. From November 18, 1885, to March 3, 1887, Mitchell served alongside Sen. John I. Mitchell from Pennsylvania; and from March 4, 1893, to March 3, 1897, Mitchell served alongside Sen. John L. Mitchell from Wisconsin.

By this time, he had married again, but had not divorced the woman he had married in Pennsylvania. His opponents tried to block him from becoming a senator by asking a Senate committee to expel him for what he had done in the past, charging him with bigamy, desertion and living under an assumed name. Though these charges were certainly true, the Senate Committee decided they were not relevant. Mitchell served in the Senate from 1873 to 1879, and was defeated for reelection. He ran for reelection to the Senate in 1882 but lost. In 1885, however, he was elected again to the Senate, and reelected in 1890.

Mitchell sought reelection by the Oregon Legislature in 1897, but his candidacy proved to be highly divisive: the resulting scandal prevented the 19th Oregon Legislative Assembly from organizing and, consequently, left Oregon with a vacant U.S. Senate seat for nearly two years. [7] Joseph Simon was ultimately chosen for the seat.

While not in the Senate, Mitchell practiced law. Mitchell's last term in the Senate began in 1901 and was to last until 1907, but Mitchell died before it expired.

Mitchell was devoted to business interests and was against the populists and their political reforms. In the Senate, he was interested in transportation issues. He was chairman of the committee on railroads from 1877 to 1879 and from 1889 to 1893, and chairman of several committees related to coastlines and the ocean during his terms in the Senate. He was also chairman of the committee on claims from 1891 to 1893 and chairman of the committee of elections and privileges from 1895 to 1897.

In 1905, Mitchell was indicted in the Oregon land fraud scandal, involving his use of political influence in the federal government to help clients with their land claims. While he was convicted, [8] he was never sentenced. An appeal of the conviction was under way and the Senate was beginning proceedings to expel him when Mitchell died of an illness in Portland, Oregon. [9]

He was buried at River View Cemetery in Portland. [10]

Legacy and family

The town of Mitchell, Oregon, was named after him.

His daughter, Mattie Elizabeth Mitchell, married François XVI Alfred Gaston, 5th Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Duc de Liancourt, Prince de Marcillac, Duc d'Anville, in 1892. [11]

See also

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U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Henry W. Corbett
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Oregon
March 4, 1873 – March 4, 1879
Served alongside: James K. Kelly, La Fayette Grover
Succeeded by
James H. Slater
Preceded by
James H. Slater
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Oregon
November 18, 1885 – March 4, 1897
Served alongside: Joseph N. Dolph, George W. McBride
Succeeded by
Joseph Simon
Preceded by
George W. McBride
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Oregon
March 4, 1901 – December 8, 1905
Served alongside: Joseph Simon, Charles W. Fulton
Succeeded by
John M. Gearin