A Father of Confederation is buried in St James & St. John graveyard? Pause for a moment as you come up to church to remember Peter Mitchell and his contributions to Canada. His grave is found on the west side of the driveway, marked with the maple leaf flags.
Peter Mitchell was one of New Brunswick’s representatives at the Quebec, Charlottetown and London Conferences. Born in Newcastle in 1824, he was the son of Peter Mitchell who is also buried in this graveyard. In fact Peter Senior owned the property on which the Centre sits and where he ran a hotel and tavern and he was a contributor to the re building fund after the church burned in the 1825 Miramichi Fire.
Peter Mitchell was educated in Newcastle, was for a time a lawyer but then took up ship building and lumbering. He entered politics in 1856 as a member of the provincial legislature where he became a vocal and enthusiastic advocate for Confederation. After Confederation in 1867 he was named the first federal minister of Marine and Fisheries in the government of Sir John A. Macdonald. One of his lasting contributions in this portfolio was the establishment of a chain of lighthouses along the Atlantic coast. He was also instrumental in having the Intercolonial Railway (later the CNR) run through the North Shore rather than the Saint John River Valley. Later he had a falling out with Sir John and chose to sit as an independent Member of Parliament, a position he held intermittently for 15 years. He had continued success in business, owning the Mitchell Steamship Line which operated between Montreal and the Maritimes. He also owned the Montreal Herald. Peter Mitchell died in Montreal in 1899.
Peter Mitchell was a courteous man who shook hands with all he met. Rough and daring with drive and energy, when he rose to speak, whether in the provincial chambers or in the House of Commons, he always attracted attention and spoke to a full house.
Today Peter Mitchell is remembered in the name of Mitchell Street, where he had his ship building business and Blanche Street, the name of his daughter. There is a Mount Mitchell in northern NB. In the Newcastle Public Library a large silver epergne, in the shape of a lighthouse with marine themed symbols, presented to Peter Mitchell by grateful citizens can be seen.
Additional information can be found in Rev. D.F. Hoddinottt’s book From Whence We Came available at the church office.