History of West Australia/Samuel Mitchell

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SAMUEL MITCHELL, J.P., M.L.A.

Samuel Mitchell HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.
S. MITCHELL, J.P., M.L.A.

"The mineral county of Cornwall, in England, has produced not a few of our best mining savants. The existence of so flattering an affirmation is largely due to accident and fortune—the natural abundance of those wealthy earth-embosomed metallic elements that have proved a strong component factor in the material progress of Great Britain. The scientific study of mineral pursuits has kept pace with the enormous importance of these national resources, and the intelligent Cornish native has become familiarised with the scientific practice and theory of mining conduct from early youth. In Australia we cannot but observe the fruits and fortunate consequences of such a training, for among the most skilful and eminent mining engineers of this vast mineral continent, on examination is found that many assign their nativity and their early scientific instruction to Cornwall.

In Western Australia Mr. Mitchell is a notable example. He was born in Cornwall in 1839. His father was a leading mining engineer in that county, and the son, at an early age, with a natural inclination to mining, followed in the footsteps of his father. By assiduous attention to the complex details of mining operation, and close and devoted study to his pursuit, he soon rose with creditable celerity in the ranks of his brethren. Mitchell's ability was so much appraised and approved that he was invited to assume the managerial control of the then celebrated Geraldine Lead Mines, situated on the Murchison River, near Northampton, in Western Australia. Accepting the proffered position, he arrived in the colony in 1867, and since that date he has closely identified himself wih the history of mining on the Murchison.

For seven years he knit his endeavours to the skilful operations of development, and it was only when the price of lead fell to a depreciable extent that a cessation of mining took place. The company completely relinquished their claims, and Mr. Mitchell was, by uncontrollable circumstances, forced to resign his connection with them. But his industrious efforts did not remain long in abeyance, for as master of his own actions he speedily opened up the Wheal Ellen Lead Mine, a claim that has returned the handsome yield of £70,000 worth of lead. This mine, whose emoluments were looked on with so much satisfaction, attracted enthusiastic attentions, and its consequence was the further opening up of the Badra Lead Mine, a wealthy claim, seven miles from Northampton. A full complement of suitable machinery was erected on both mines under the supervision of Mr. Mitchell. For a considerable time he worked these two claims with congratulatory success, but again the fluctuations of the lead market, with a recurrent depreciation, forced the enterprising activity of Mr. Mitchell to retirement from unpayable developments.

Seeing that a prosecution of lead mining was unprofitable, he entered smoother channels of commercial routine. As a storekeeper, and stock and station agent at Northampton, he was more favourably received by the fickle deity of fortune, and he had set a sure foot on the highway to financial contentment and success. The colonial legislature had so far recognised his abilities that they conferred on him the appointment of Inspector for Mineral Lands. This post of official honour was held by Mr. Mitchell for twenty years.

Mr. Mitchell has stamped the impress of his liberal and progressive activity on many acts of social advance in Northampton and its environments. As chairman of the Northampton Roads Board he discharged his duties intelligently and faithfully, and his services in other promotive bodies were characterised by the same laudable tendencies. When Mr. Domley was transferred from Cue to assume, temporarily, the functionary duties of Mr. Finnerty, Mr. Mitchell was appointed Acting Warden at Cue. His political life may be said to be synchronous with the contest for Geraldton previous to the introduction of Responsible Government in Western Australia. Mr. Mitchell won the seat, but in the meanwhile the Imperial Parliament conceded Responsible Government to the colony, and its inauguration was followed by fresh elections, and Mr. Mitchell had no wish at the time to recontest the seat. In 1897 he was presented with a copiously-signed requisition to stand for one of the Murchison seats, and, acceding to the wishes of the electorate, be stood, and was returned to the Legislative Assembly unopposed. In politics Mr. Mitchell is a staunch Ministerialist, true to the principles and policy of the Government. Yet, so far from being an obsequious follower, he always reserves that liberty and freedom of thought and conviction which are the inherent and unmistakable evidences of a capable representative and desirable politician.

Mr. Mitchell is imbued with healthy political virtues. In public and private lie he bears with him general respect. His beneficial achievements have redounded to the credit of himself and the honour of that district whose welfare he has striven so earnestly to promote.