The School Builder

Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Mitchell
100th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalion


His figure is as erect as of yore in defiance of his 88 years. He embodies the spirit of those Scarlet Riders who brought law and order to the plains, brought joy to law-abiding folk and spread dismay among the lawless. This picturesque personality is Col. J. B. Mitchell, clear-eyed, soft-spoken, alert as becomes those who are still interested in current events and “tomorrow.” His long service in military and civilian life has not drooped those massive shoulders, nor bowed the finely-posed head. Lacking but two inches of six feet, he is so well sot up that an observer would scarcely suspect his weight to be 200 pounds. That’s what athletic training and outdoor life will do for a busy man.

(Col. G. C. Porter, Winnipeg Tribune, 30 Nov 1940, 36)

James Bertram Mitchell was Architect and Commissioner of School Buildings and Supplies in Manitoba from 1892 until his retirement in 1928. Born on 14 October 1852 in Gananocque, Canada West, Mitchell was an adventurer, policeman and civic leader. At the age of fourteen, he volunteered as a bugler in the militia and participated in the Fenian Raid of 1866. During the second Fenian invasion scare in 1870, he guarded the Welland Canal at Cornwall. In 1874,  he joined the North West Mounted Police.

After retiring from the police, he settled in Winnipeg. During his thirty-six year career as a provincial architect, Mitchell designed almost fifty school buildings in the city and communities across Manitoba. In 1912, he became the commanding officer of the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers. At the outbreak of the Great War, Mitchell helped to raise the 11th and 78th Battalions before receiving a command appointment of his own. In September 1916, the colonel sailed with the 100th Battalion to England. He went to France in spring 1917 during the Vimy Ridge campaign.

After the war, Mitchell was appointed commander of the 20th Infantry Brigade, which comprised all the militia regiment in Winnipeg. As the last surviving original Mountie, he became a celebrated citizen in the city. In his elder years, he regaled newspaper reporters with stories from his eventful life. He died on 14 November 1945 at the age of ninety-three.

RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6256 – 1

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