Alexander Mitchell is one of Richmond’s most significant pioneers. He was the first settler to successfully farm in greater Vancouver. He also served as a city councilor in the municipalities of South Vancouver and Richmond.
With ancestors from Aberdeen, Scotland, Alexander Mitchell was born in Masham County, Quebec on May 8, 1847. He traveled to BC in 1877, and arrived in Moodyville now a part of present day North Vancouver. In 1879 he moved to Lulu Island, known today as the city of Richmond. Here, he established squatter’s rights on adjacent Mitchell Island (named for him) before purchasing the 330-acre property for $10 dollars. He built a pioneer homestead and farm on the island property and acquired a further 50 acres of land in north Richmond along the east side of No. 5 Road, between Bridgeport and Cambie Roads.
Mitchell recognized the importance of establishing a permanent link to Vancouver from North Richmond and successfully argued for the Fraser Street Bridge to be constructed in 1893. The original bridge required a hand crank to open for ship traffic to pass through. This vital link helped insure that the development of Richmond would continue well into the future.
Alexander Mitchell was a widower twice before marrying a third time, and he had 7 children. Recognized as a successful farmer, his foresight in the development of Richmond and his belief in the cause of education, Alexander Mitchell died on Mitchell Island on May 17, 1931 at the age of 84.
In 1905 Alexander Mitchell donated some of his property at No. 5 Road and Cambie to build a school. The structure was completed in 1908 and named for him. In 1922 the building was expanded to accommodate a growing population. The schoolhouse had a side gable roof with a front dormer and featured double hung wood sash windows. Although the original building was demolished in 2008, the additions to the school still stand as a legacy to its founder. Today, Mitchell School, located at 12091 Cambie Road in Richmond, holds the distinction of being the longest continuously operating school in the Richmond School District.
Biography by Raymond Reitsma
Link to City of Richmond: www.richmond.ca/cityhall/archives/exhibits/schools/early/mitchell.htm