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Looking back on the life and times of John Mitchell, Abenaki of Indian Lake

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - Some years ago, visits with the late John Fish at the Indian Lake Museum left us wondering about the life and family of his Abenaki grandfather, John Mitchell. Visits with Town Historian Bill Zullo and with the late Warder Cadbury piqued our curiosities even more.

Old stories about the origins of the Mitchells seemed to contradict themselves, and their cousins, the Camps (particularly Emma Camp Mead), garnered more attention from local historians over the years and were better represented in the displays at the Indian Lake Museum. We knew that the Mitchells and the Camps were descendants of Sabael Benedict, but wanted to learn more. In the following paragraphs, we would like to share some of the results of our research.

Catherine Benedict Mitchell was a daughter of Sabael and his wife, Marie-Angelique. She and her twin sister Margaret (the future Mrs. Camp) were baptized at the church at Akwesasne (Saint Regis) in July 1800. We cannot be certain of how old they were at the time, but they were likely infants born during the previous year in the Adirondacks, perhaps in the Indian Lake region. Around the turn of the 19th century this family only appeared in the records associated with the St. Lawrence Valley aboriginal communities of Odanak and Akwesasne in the summer months when they were recorded on government documents or in church registers.

The future Mrs. Mitchell probably grew up between the Adirondacks and Odanak, perhaps spending time also in the Champlain Valley and at Akwesasne. On February 8, 1820, she married an Abenaki known as Michel Ajean, who may have been known as John Mitchell in New York. We believe that the couple had five children who lived to adulthood: Alice (Mitchell) Johnson, Peter Mitchell, Margaret (Mitchell) Williams, Joseph Mitchell and John Mitchell. Each of these children spent most of their lives in the Adirondacks, although Joseph also spent several years as an adult living at Odanak.

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