Emil Mitchel Family

Outline of Emil Mitchell, by FOC

Emil Mitchell born c1857 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, died at Albertville, on Alabama's Sand Mountain, near Attala, Ala., on Oct. 16, 1942. at age 85. The Meridian Newspaper says he came to New Orleans when he was 5 (c1862) with his parents (note by FOC: the Civil War itself renders that unlikely, as New Orleans was blockaded.) but descendent, Joe Mitchell, believes he probably came through New York City, but not with his father and mother. Meridian, MS, Newspaper states that Emil obtained his USA citizenship in 1884, perhaps in Cleveland, Ohio. The Meridian, MS, newspaper accounts state that the headquarters of Emil Mitchell had been Washington, D. C. at the time of his death.

Emil Mitchll first married Kelly, born c1868, died 1915.  Kelly Mitchell, first wife of Emil Mitchell, and the mother of 15 children, died Jan. 31, 1915, at the age of forty-seven, following premature childbirth, despite efforts of a physician who was offered a fee of $10,000 if he could save her life.  Her death occurred while she was camped with her tribe near Coatopa, Ala., and her body was brought to the Horace C. Smith Undertaking Co. in Meridian, MS. The decision to bury her here brought about the formation of this Southern burial ground (in in Meridian, MS).

Emil Mitchell married, as his second wife, Lapa Mitchell, who was in Atlanta, Ga. at the time of his death.

Flora Mitchell (sister to Emil) born c1860 died 1930

M. H. Frank, who once made his home in Meridian, was chosen acting King following Emil's death.

Emil's descendants at the time of his death included nine sons, five daughters and more than 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Based on Ellis Island records (these are on-line), it appears that Costa George Bimbo, buried in the Meridian, MS cemetery, probably came from Italy. Nicholas Gulumba, likewise appears to have been from Russia. The Mitchell family believes these, and many others, were brought over here by Emil Mitchell.  It appears that Emil Mitchell may have gone to South Ameirca several times and brought children back to the U.S., perhaps because they were orphaned.  He seems to have placed the children with families from New Hampshire to Georgia.  If I have interpreted these records correctly, this was one good man!

(note by Frank O. Clark.  I have done some editing of these articles for the web, and therefore have not put quotation marks around the articles.  Please go to the originals in the newspaper for the unaltered text.  I apologize for this mutilation.  The reason for my modification will be obvious when you read the original.)

Page 14; Meridian Star;  5/8/60;  by Mary Hollis, http://www.meridianstar.com/

Gypsy Queen's Death Was Colorful Historical Event

The death of a Gypsy Queen near Meridian in 1915 resulted in the chance location of a Gypsy burial ground here and added another dash of color to the bright picture of Meridian's first 100 years. Other members of the tribe buried at Rose Hill are: Queen Flora Mitchell, sister of Emil who became Queen following the death of Kelly Mitchell in 1915: Mike Wilson Mitchell, leader of a Mississippi tribe who died a day after his Uncle, King Emil, and who was buried in a double service with the King: and Mehil Mitchell, eight- year old nephew of King Emil, who died of influenza in Jackson on November 22, 1918. The young Gypsy was the second to be buried here.

The most colorful episode of Meridian's Gypsy story is found in the story of the first Queen. Kelly, first wife of Emil and the mother of 15 children. She died Jan. 31, 1915, at the age of forty-seven, following premature childbirth, despite efforts of a physician who was offered a fee of $10,000 if he could save her life.

Her death occurred while she was camped with her tribe near Coatopa, Ala., and her body was brought to the Horace C. Smith Undertaking Co. in Meridian. The decision to bury her here brought about the formation of this Southern burial ground.

Funeral Is Described

A description of the scene at the undertaking company, appeared in the Feb. 7, 1915 issue of the Meridian Dispatch. "At one side of the parlors, with candelabra at the head and foot, stands the magnificent silver-trimmed metallic casket. Hermetically sealed within, in all the barbaric splendor of a medieval Queen lies Mrs. Callie [Kelly] Mitchell. Queen of the Gypsies of America. The swarthy face, with its high cheek bones, is typical of the Romany tribes, and the head, the upper portion of which is covered with bright silken drapery pinned at the back with pins, rests upon a cushion of filmy silk and satin. The hair is braided Gypsy fashion, and the dark tresses shine. "The body was attired in a Royal robe of Gypsy Green and other bright colors, contrasting vividly with the sombre hues usual under such circumstances. Two necklaces are around the neck, one of shells, an heirloom which was descended through generations. "The lower portion of the body is draped with 'Sacred linen' treasured by the Gypsy bands for the use only when death overtakes one of their number. When the children arrive, each will put a momento of some kind in the casket and it will devolve upon the youngest child to place her mother's earrings in the ear."

In order that the journey of the Queen might be without discomfort, the coffin was equipped with comb, brush and other toilet accessories, as well as a supply of working clothes, "for use on the other side of the Styx".

20,000 View Body

It was estimated that more than 20,000 people viewed the body of the dead Gypsy Queen after it was brought to Meridian. Members of the Mitchell tribe, one of the largest in the country, came here from all parts of the United States to pay tribute. a newsreel made of their camp at Bonita was exhibited throughout the country. The funeral services took place on Feb. 12 and were held from St. Paul's Episcopal Church with the rector, The Rev. H. W. Wells, officiating. More than 5,000 persons were at the cemetery to witness the last rites. "It was a large and imposing funeral procession that wended its way from the undertaking establishment to the Episcopal Church," the Dispatch reported. "The college band headed the procession, followed by the male members of the gypsy band on foot and bare headed, with Chief Mitchell, members of his immediate family, and the women and children in carriages. The hearse, with the remains of the Gypsy Queen, headed the carriage procession. The attendance at the church was large....so large that it was impossible for all the people to gain entrance. The services were those of the Episcopal Church and were in no way added to by the Gypsies...."

Succeeds To Throne

At the death of Queen Kelly, Flora Mitchell, sister of King Emil, succeeded to the throne. Nothing more was heard of the Mitchell Gypsy tribe for several years, and then word came of the death of Flora in Yazoo City on Jan. 8, 1930, at the age of 70. Her body was brought to Meridian for funeral services and burial on Jan. 11.

Father [now the Rt. Rev. Monsignor] John J. Burns of St. Patrick's Catholic church officiated at the services, which were delayed from morning until evening, awaiting the arrival of the tribe high in Gypsy councils. A story of the event published in The Meridian star said," As the Gypsies carried the casket from the chapel and down to the level of the pavement, the procession, headed by the casket and followed by King Mitchell and the balance of the Gypsy band, proceeded through a line of curious onlookers standing behind a band which played Chopin's funeral march. As the Gypsies reached the street, the band swung into line and, still playing the funeral march, proceeded down 7th Street to where the hearse was waiting. " At the cemetery, the ceremonies were as simple as at the funeral home...No talking took place, even among themselves, and the silence of the Gypsies was perhaps the most impressive part of the funeral service, both at the Webb Home and at the grave."

King Emil Dies

Death came to king Emil Mitchell, who was 85, near Attala, Ala., Oct. 16, 1942. "The King died under a tent Friday at Albertville, high upon Alabama's Sand Mountain," the Meridian Star reported on Oct. 20.1942. "He died the way he wanted to------under a tent. He came into the world under a tent at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil." The King's nephew, Slatcho {Mike Wilson} Mitchell, 45-year-old leader of a Mississippi tribe, died in Houston, Miss., the following day, and both bodies were brought to Meridian for burial. Double funeral services were conducted at the Webb Home by Father Burns. Emil's body was placed by the side of his wife, Kelly, and the nephew was buried just a few feet away. tribesmen supervised the ancient burial ceremony which included sprinkling of fruit juice so that the dead would have something to drink "on the other side".

In accordance with custom, several changes of clothing were also placed in each casket. Contending that it would fetch them "bad luck", the women gypsies would neither pose for photographs nor tell a fortune "at any price" before the funeral services.

Closed With Concrete

After the services, the graves were closed with layers of concrete, reinforced by steel bars. During the years, grave robbers have sought unsuccessfully to dig up the caskets.  Because of the war, the American gypsies did not put on as big a funeral for their beloved King as they had for Queen Kelly. M. H. Frank, who once made his home in Meridian, was chosen acting King following Emil's death. The headquarters of Emil Mitchell had been Washington, D. C. but branches of the Romanys which acknowledged his rule made headquarters in Chicago, Cleveland. St. Louis, Kansas City, Cincinnati and other large cities. Members of the tribe were mixed as to nationality and included Hungarians, Syrians, Brazilian and natives of nearly every country in Southern Europe. Mitchell with his roaming parents, had landed in New Orleans when he was five years old and lived there off and on. For a number of years. In 1884, the year he obtained his American Citizenship, he became King of the Gypsies at a great color-drenched ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio.

Emil's descendants at the time of his death included nine sons, five daughters and more than 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His second wife, Queen Lapa Mitchell, remained in Atlanta, Ga. as she was to ill to attend the services. Several of the King's children were scattered around the globe. One of his daughters was serving as a nurse with the United States Armed Forces in Australia and two others were training to be nurses at the time.

(comment by a family member)  This article is very interesting, and about 70% true.  Emil did not have any daughters who were nurses.  He did have one daughter who was married and living in Africa.  The part that says he came here with father & mother is not correct. He was the Roma who brought most of the Gypsies to the U.S.  But the article says he became a citizen in 1885, and that could be a help. It also said that there was new roll of the services that I would like to see. And I believe he came to this country through New York City.  But there is some truth in the article .

(hand written May-June 1974)

by: Edward A. Bishop

It all began with the death of Mrs. Callie [Kelly] Mitchell, 47-year-old Queen of the entire Gypsy nation. She died during premature childbirth on January 31, 1915, despite the frantic efforts of a physician who was offered $10,000 if he could save her. She died while camped with her tribe near Coatopa, Alabama. Her body was taken to Meridian, Mississippi, for burial. The City will never forget that event.

The decision to bury Queen Callie in Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian brought about the establishment of what later became a Southeastern Gypsy burial ground. While Queen Callie lay in state at a local funeral home, With a candelabra at the head and the foot, stood the magnificent copper casket. Hermetically sealed inside the casket, Queen Callie was robed in death with all the barbaric splendor of a medieval queen. Her swarthy face had the high cheekbones typical of the Romany tribes. Her head, covered with silken drapery fastened at the back with solid gold pins, rested on a filmy silk and satin cushion. Her black tresses were braided Gypsy style.  Queen Callie was dressed in a bright red robe trimmed with yellow.  Royal Gypsy green and other bright colors contrasted sharply with the somber hues usually seen at funerals. The lower part of the body was draped with "sacred silk," treasured by Gypsy bands for use only when death overtakes one of their members. Two necklaces were around the neck, one of shells, heirlooms handed down through the generations. When the Queen's children arrived--all 15 of them--each placed something in the casket. The youngest, according to Gypsy tradition, affixed earrings to her mother's ears.

Gypsy burial rites are similar to ancient Greek and Egyptian services. When a member of royalty dies, their belongings are entombed with the body. Such was the case with Queen Callie. In order that her journey after death might be without discomfort, the coffin was equipped with comb, brush and other accessories as well as work clothes---"For use on the other side of the Styx." At the cemetery the ceremonies were as simple as at the funeral home. No conversation took place. The silence was perhaps the most impressive part of the services. When the services ended the casket was lowered into a steel vault, over which steel reinforcing bars were placed. The vault was then closed with layers of cement two to three feet thick to forever protect the Queen. On October 16, 1942, King Emil Mitchell, then 85 years old, took sick and died near Attalla, Alabama. The next day the King's nephew, Slatcho [Mike Wilson] Mitchell, the 45-year-old leader of the Mississippi tribe died in Houston, Mississippi. Both bodies were brought to Meridian for a double burial--the King next to Queen Callie and the nephew a few feet away. Graveside services were not as lavish as the Queen's. Tribesmen supervised the ancient burial ceremony, which included sprinkling fruit juice in King Emil's grave. the fruit juice, according to Gypsy tradition, was so the dead would have something to drink "on the way over to the other side."

King Emil's tomb was reinforced with steel bars and covered with layers of cement in the same manner as Queen Callie's. The nephew received a simple burial which consisted of sprinkling fruit juice in his grave. Gypsies prefer a nomadic life and live under the laws and customs of their ancestors. To this day there are no actual records of their wanderings and no fixed century from which they sprang. However, records of them existed as early 1348 in Serbia (now Yugoslavia). There is no up to date census of the number of Gypsies in the world today.

Russia has about 1,000,000 Gypsies, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary each claim between 200,000 to 250,000, while Yugoslavia has 116,000, Turkey and Greece 200,000 each and Czechoslovakia and Poland about 150,000 each. During World War ll close to 500,000 Gypsies were exterminated by the Germans, adding to a long history of repression's against Gypsies.

Edward Allen Bishop

http://www.meridianstar.com/  ---   Published in the Meridian Star, December 26, 2007 12:38 am

Queen Kelly Mitchell; a slice of Meridian's history

By Jennifer Jacob

On Jan. 31, 1915, the life of an icon came to an end in Coatopa, Ala. Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsy Nation, died at age 47 while giving birth to what is said to have been her 14th or 15th child.

With so many children, it's no surprise that she had a large funeral. But, according to a 1915 article in the Meridian Dispatch, her funeral wasn't just large, it was what might warrant use of the term 'gi-normous,' with as many as 20,000 Romani people showing up at the ceremony.

"Gypsies were camped all over hell's half-acre," said Rose Hill Cemetery caretaker and tour guide Walton W. Moore of the event. "They camped everywhere in Meridian; in church lawns, parks, schools, anywhere they could squeeze in."

The funeral ceremony took place at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, which was far too small to fit even a small fraction of the funeral-goers, most of whom gathered around outside the church to participate in the celebrations.

"A college that was her e at the time provided the band, and they marched down the street playing a slow funeral march," said Moore, "and the gypsies told them, 'Snap it up, it's party time'."

Though Mitchell died in Coatopa, Meridian was chosen as her burial place because it was the nearest city with enough ice to preserve her body until the time of the funeral.

"They sent her to Webb Funeral Home, back then it was called Watkins Funeral Home, and kept her on ice for six weeks so they could call in all the bands of gypsies," said Moore.

The four bands of gypsies that made their way into the Southeast, Moore said, are called Mitchell, Marks, Bimbo, and Costello. Reports as to which bands had representatives at the funeral are contradictory.

The Gypsies of the world long disagreed over where they originated, but finally their language helped them identify their origin, which is now thought to be northwest India. According to Moore, the Gypsies moved into the Balkans from India and then dispersed into various places, including Portugal.

In the 1700's, the Gypsies were widely persecuted in Europe, with many rulers issuing edicts that all adult Gypsies be unceremoniously beheaded without any sort of trial. During this time, many Gypsies fled to South America, some eventually winding up in the Southeast.

Though popular culture depicts Gypsies as fortune-tellers or nomadic con-men, the Romani people of America have for the most part been absorbed into American culture and are no longer nomadic.

Today, the grave of Kelly Mitchell, whose ancestors migrated to the Southeast over generations, lies at Rose Hill Cemetery, the headstone and wolf-stone (a large, flat stone that covers the grave) broken into many pieces by vandals and would-be grave robbers. Her grave is covered with gifts like packs of cigarettes, cans of soda, and mardi-gras beads.

The trinkets, which take on many forms (Moore says he once found a coconut cake on the grave, half devoured by ants) are, according to Moore, left by people who believe that leaving an offering will entice Mitchell's spirit to visit them in a dream and provide answers to their problems.

Queen Kelly's burial at Rose Hill turned the cemetery into one of the main Romani burial grounds in the Southeast. Her husband, Emil, King of the Gypsy nation, her successor, Flora, and numerous other Gypsies have been buried alongside her.

Mitchell remains an icon to many Meridianites, and her grave is one of Meridian's top historical landmarks. It can be visited 24 hours a day at Rose Hill Cemetery, across from Calvary Christian School on Eighth Street.

Said Moore: "The only time I lock up the gates is on Halloween."

Gypsy Queen: Myth vs. Fact

Myth: The Gypsy Queen was buried in a $15,000 gold coffin

Fact: Queen Kelly Mitchell is thought to have been buried in a "magnificent silver-trimmed metallic casket" according to a newspaper published at the time of her death. Despite a 1942 Meridian Star article claiming otherwise, the coffin was not gold and its cost wouldn't have come anywhere near $15,000, or even $1,500, 1915 dollars. According to Rose Hill Cemetery caretaker Walton Moore, records show that no coffin over $150 was purchased in Meridian the year of Kelly Mitchell's burial. "Besides," he said, "the Gypsies weren't stupid. Even if they had $15,000 worth of gold, they wouldn't have buried it in a grave ... The idea of a $15,000 coffin is ridiculous."

Myth: The Gypsy Queen is buried with a small fortune in gold coins, thrown into her coffin as an homage during her funeral.

Fact: Funeral attendees did reportedly throw coins into Queen Mitchell's casket, in keeping with custom, but the coins would have been pennies, nickels, and maybe the occasional dime. "There might be $50 in there, if that," said Moore, "and that's a lot of digging to do for $50".

Myth: Kelly Mitchell had a passion for Orange Crush soda, which is why orange crush cans can sometimes be found on her grave. At her burial, funeral-goers threw Orange Crush bottles into her grave.

Fact: Orange Crush was invented in 1906, so the idea that Mitchell was a crush fan is feasible. Whether or not funeral-goers threw bottles of the soda into her grave is not known, but the rumor of her affinity for the drink is certainly what prompts the occasional visitor to leave cans of Orange Crush near her tombstone.

Myth: The gypsy queen's casket has been protected with a layer of metal bars and cement.

Fact: A 1942 article in the Meridian Star, the same one which claimed that the Queen's casket was made of gold, reports that multiple grave-robbing attempts prompted the gypsies to bury the Queen's husband, Emil Mitchell, under a layer of concrete. Moore says that Queen Kelly's grave received the same treatment. However, the queen's wolf-stone remains in tatters ...

Copyright ©2007 The Meridian Star.

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Copyright ©2007, Frank O. Clark, Ph.D., S. Lindley, Elizabeth H., and the Meridian Star. this document is copyrighted, respectively, and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same.  Many thanks to S. Lindley for collecting this material.