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The Jim Mitchell Tragedy
Survey Party Looses Young Packers Life in 1937

From The Comox Argus September 2, 1937.

Merville Youth Killed On Buttles Lake Trail
Fatal Accident To James Scott Mitchell Whilst On Survey Party

It was with very great regret that the whole district, particularly Merville, heard of the death of a young fellow of Merville, James Scott Mitchell, while on a survey party near Buttles Lake. The accident happened on the Upper Thelwood Creek, five to six hours distance from Buttles Lake.

It will never be known quite how the accident happened but from evidence at the inquest held on Tuesday at Campbell River, Mitchell who was a careful packer, came to the upper ford on Thelwood Creek. One had to pick one's way carefully on the stones if one did not want to fall into the Creek and get wet, and Mitchell put down his pack weighing about 50 pounds to take a breather, and also to see the best way to cross. The supposition then is that he slipped on the rocks or fell from a tree that had been thrown across the creek, striking his head and fracturing his skull. Medical evidence showed that he received the injury to the head several hours before he died. He was probably unconscious from the time of the injury to his death.

Was Not Drowned
The body was then washed some quarter of a mile down stream before it was found by a fellow packer. The main camp of the British Columbia Topographical Survey is at Buttles Lake where Price Creek comes in. On Tuesday Mitchell, a six-foot youngster of quiet habits and a good bushman, left for the first camp on Thelwood Creek soon after noon. He was carrying a 50 lb pack and was sent in to relieve a young fellow who was coming out to go to school and who was at second camp. The trail to the first camp was well defined, beyond that only blazed. It was rough going.

Knew Trail Well
Young Mitchell had been over the trail 11 times before so knew it very well. He was in good condition as he had had a four days rest from packing before Tuesday. It is a four hour pack to first camp which Mitchell would occupy alone on Tuesday night. On Wednesday he would go on his way following the blazes to second camp. The Thelwood creek empties into the Price about three miles from Buttles Lake and is a brawling little stream full of boulders. The blazed trail crosses the stream three times on its way from the first camp to the second camp. At one of these crossings (not the first) young Mitchell had laid down his pack because it was found against a stump at the side of the stream, and had made the fatal essay to cross. At the inquest on Tuesday of this week Dr. W. A. Richardson said, in giving evidence, that the cause of death was cerebro-hemmorhage from a blow on the mastoid gland behind the right ear, causing a fracture of the skull. He would think that he had received the blow some three or four hours before death occurred, during which time he was probably unconscious.

Found Body on Sand Bar
At the second camp, D.[Dan] S. Harris, another packer of the party, was waiting for Mitchell to come in. The camp had begun to run short of food and Mr. A. [Alfred] G. Slocomb sent Harris down to the main camp on Thursday. On Friday at the third crossing of the creek, he found Mitchell's body on a sand bar. He went back to his camp as fast as he could and notified his superior, Mr. Slocomb, who sent the news to the outer world.

On Saturday, Corporal McAlpine came in with a party he had organized to get out the body. The party consisted of Nick and Gerald Mitchell of Courtenay, N. Simpson of Campbell River, John Robson of Victoria, Wm. Sutherland of the Upper Campbell, L. Netherby and Cpl. McAlpine.

A Difficult Task
They had a very difficult task. They improvised a rude stretcher and placed the body on it then had to take it through the bush where no trail had been cut, in and out of creek beds, under and over logs the ten miles to Buttles Lake. It was then taken by launch to the lower end of the lake and by pack horse over the trail to the end of the highway. The distance in all to be traversed before it reached Campbell River was 70 miles. The party reached Campbell River with their sad burden on Monday night.

On Tuesday afternoon the inquest was held at Campbell River by Dr. Hall, coroner. Evidence there was given by Dr. Richardson, Mr. Norman C. Stewart, Mr. A.G. Slocomb, D.S. Harris and others. Mr. Edward E. Danby was the foreman of the jury. A verdict of accidental death was returned.

A Promising Pupil
The victim of the accident is the eldest son of Mr. Andrew Mitchell of Merville, a veteran of the Great War and other campaigns in the Imperial army. He was about a year old when his parents came to Merville soon after the war and took up land. He went to school at Tsolum and was one of the most promising pupils that the high school has ever passed through. All who employed him found him very trustworthy and of exceptional ability. Friends of himself and the family thought that he should go to University and young Mitchell was planning to go there. Last year he was in one of the Forestry Training Corps camps for young fellows, and this year he went out with the government survey party as a packer. He was considered a quiet, capable lad by his superior, Mr. Stewart. He leaves to mourn him his father and mother of Merville, two brothers, Andy and Robert, both of school age and a young sister.

The Funeral
The funeral will be held this afternoon at three o'clock from Sutton's funeral parlors to the United Church at Sandwick, the Rev. Peter Henderson officiating.

By Lindsay Elms
On March 13, 1947 a lake in the Thelwood Valley that had been given the name Crystal Lake in 1930, was officially renamed Jim Mitchell Lake in honour of the late seventeen year old James (Jim) Scott Mitchell. Since then the lake has been damned and used to generate power for the mining complex on nearby Myra Creek. Today, the lake can be reached by road and just below the lake is a parking lot: the beginning of the Bedwell Trail that joins up with the Bedwell River coming in from the West Coast and access to Big Interior Mountain and Mount Tom Taylor for the mountaineers.

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