Mitchell, in Lawrence County, was built as a railroad town in 1853. At the rural location where two rail lines: "the Monon" and the Ohio and Mississippi Railway crossed, a new town was planned. The owners of the land persuaded one of the surveyors working on the rail lines, Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, a West Point graduate and professor at the University of Cincinnati, to lay out their new town in exchange for naming it for him. So no, it was NOT named for Dennis The Menace's cranky neighbor, Mr. Mitchell. Mitchell was also an attorney and a notable astronomer who became a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War.
The area was the birthplace of notorious outlaw and train robber Sam Bass (1851-1878), who became a notorious icon of the "wildness" of the American Old West as he robbed banks, stagecoaches and railroad trains before being fatally wounded (kilt) by Texas Rangers. Despite Bass's short-lived criminal career, he is remembered as part of a robbery of gold on September 18, 1877 remains the largest robbery in Union Pacific Railroad's history.
Mitchell was also the birthplace of astronaut Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (1926-1967). Grissom was selected as a member of NASA's Project Mercury space program and was the second American to fly in space, on Liberty Bell 7, and also flew aboard Gemini 3. He died in a launch pad fire at Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a training exercise for Apollo 1 on January 27, 1967.
Spring Mill State Park, just east of Mitchell, features a tribute to Grissom, a Limestone Grist Mill, a restored Pioneer Village dating back to the early 1800's and offers endless opportunities for recreation: naturalist activities, cave tours, hiking, mountain biking and swimming. The park's historic inn offers warm and cozy country decor with modern day accommodations. Every Fall, you can enjoy the fabulous colors at Spring Mill State Park.
Today, Mitchell's downtown is an historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Yet the city has developed an Urban Enterprise Zone and an industrial park, and continues to work to attract new businesses and industry while also capitalizing on its heritage through antique shops and tourism.
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