Published on December 14, 2011
Author Gary Collins has brought Mattie Mitchell back to life in a new book entitled âMattie Mitchell, Newfoundlandâs Greatest Frontiersman.â
â Submitted photo
Published on December 14, 2011
The cover of the book âMattie Mitchell, Newfoundlandâs Greatest Frontiersmanâ features a photo of the trapper and guide with some large salmon.
â Submitted photo
STEPHENVILLE Mattie Mitchell, who critically acclaimed author Gary Collins describes as âthe Daniel Boone of Newfoundland,â is brought to life in Collinsâ latest book.
The book came together after Collins was approached by Gary Cranford, president of Flanker Press, to specifically do this biography on Mitchell â a hunter, trapper and guide of Miâkmaq descent whose daring feats became known worldwide, but which history books donât record.
After doing five books prior for Flanker Press, Collins was only too happy to get Mitchellâs story told.
âWe decided to write this book and put the recognition out there for this man. There have been a lot of things the Miâkmaq people did that they werenât recognized for, despite the fellows that they led around having towns and streets named after them,â he said.
Itâs a book he believes anyone of aboriginal ancestry would be proud to have in their house to see where they came from and what this man accomplished.
Collins said had Mattie Mitchell been a white man he certainly would have been considered royalty in his day, as he came from great stock. A tall man, believed to be at least 6' 6" in stature, Mitchell was said to be fairly quiet and unassuming. As a guide, he led geologists and a mapmaker in their work, and even British royalty on hunting expeditions to the western interior of the province.
He led Reid Railway people and showed them how to get the railroad through western Newfoundland and into the central part of the province â all without map or compass, using only his knowledge of the land.
Mitchell was a prospector as well and was responsible for discovering Buchans Mine back in 1905, which was the largest sulphides discovery on earth at the time.
The discovery was rich, it wasnât until after Mitchellâs death that they had the technology to extract all the minerals from the rock.
Despite his discovery, the Mitchell family received nothing in the way of royalties from the profitable mine that is estimated to have turned over more than $10 billion during its lifespan.
Born in Hallâs Bay in 1844, this frontiersman died in Corner Brook â where he was living at the time, in 1921, having traveled the west coast of the province extensively by foot during many of those years.
There are many other of Mitchellâs exploits highlighted in the book, including one in which he led a party and a herd of 50 reindeer that Sir Wilfred Grenfell had come to the province and that the Anglo Newfoundland Development company purchased, on a 450-mile trek in the middle of the winter from St. Anthony to Millertown, with all of the reindeer intact when they arrived at their destination.
âThere were lots of adventures and while there were many Miâkmaq men who trapped and guided, Mattie Mitchell was the greatest of them all,â Collins said.
During the launch of his book at Island Treasures in the Corner Brook Plaza on Saturday, Collins was honoured to have dozens of Mitchellâs descendents show up.
In researching the life and times of Mitchell, Collins got lots of insight on his subject from the diary and personal papers of Marie Sparkes, who kept a journal for years. She was Mitchellâs granddaughter.
He said the personal papers were in the possession Brian Sparkes of Corner Brook, Mitchellâs great-grandson, who loaned him the papers for his research, for which he is so grateful.
Ray Neilson of Pasadena said heâs quite pleased with this book, which depicts a biography of his great-grandfather.
âItâs a good read and represents Mattie very well. Itâs a true reflection of how Mattie was very adaptable to the many situations he was involved in, and how he could figure out things before others could,â he said.
Neilson said now the Miâkmaq people in this province have their status, itâs even more fitting. He said there are a lot people back through the years that would have been proud now of this status, and they are the ones who blazed the trail.
He was so proud to see the book in print that he picked up 12 copies, one each for three of his boys living on the mainland, five for siblings and the other few will go here and there.
Neilson done a lot of research on his great-grandfather as well and said itâs incredible that there are 500 to 600 people from one man, which makes a big family.
âIâd certainly recommend this book to anybody as it shows the way things were for Mattie Mitchell, who was for some time a forgotten man. Our family is proud that Parks Canada erected a monument to him at Deer Arm in Gros Morne National Park as a âperson of historical significance.â
âNow with this book on him and the Miâkmaq people getting their status, it has really come full circle,â Neilson said.
Collins said the book is moving so well that the publisher expects a reprint before Christmas.