Mitchell Local Area
Mitchell, principal town of the Booringa Shire, is situated on the Warrego Highway 600 kilometres west of Brisbane. The town is sited on the banks of the Maranoa River, which rises in the scenic Carnarvon Range and flows south to join the Balonne River.
The town lies on a plain at an elevation of 336m and has a sub-tropical climate with an average yearly rainfall of 525mm. Despite its low average rainfall, water is not scarce as the town is situated on the Great Artesian Basin and enormous quantities of naturally hot bore water can be pumped by its bores.
Mitchell could be described as the commercial centre of a rural shire of 27,793 sq. kms, the economy relying on chief primary products such as cattle, sheep, cypress pine milling and quarry with a small amount of crop grown in the eastern fringe of the Shire. The town population is 1,100 encompassed in the Shire population of 2,100.
Mitchell was named after the explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell who camped on and named the Maranoa River on June 3, 1846 during an expedition to find an overland route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria. A memorial now stands on this camp site.
The property “Mitchell Downs” was taken up in 1854 by Edmund Morey. Its first homestead, situated on the corner of Mary and Winchester Streets, was substantially destroyed by the floods of 1864 and the ruins were taken over by Thomas Close and became the Maranoa Hotel. This was virtually the beginning of the community settlement that was to become the town of Mitchell.
A post office operated from Mitchell Downs from 1865 and its name was changed to Mitchell in 1878. The Post Office Hotel, built by Benjamen Raynor and sold to Samuel Stewart who also conducted a store, and the blacksmith and butcher conducted by Jimmy Rahmar, were the first businesses. Houses appeared by 1869 to 1870.
The first police records from the area date back to 1871. The railway reached the eastern
Bank of the Maranoa in 1883. That point became the terminus until a bridge was built over the Maranoa and the railway station established at its present site in 1885. This rail bridge was the first to be built in the colony with concrete piers.
A provisional school was established in 1876 and this became a State School in 1880. This was followed by a Convent School in 1925 which also included a boarding facility for country children. This boarding facility finally closed in 1991 due to lack of numbers.
The first church was the Catholic Church in 1885 followed closely by the Anglican Church in 1889 and the Methodist Church (now The Uniting Church) in the 1890’s. A new Catholic Church was opened in 1937 and a modern Anglican Church in 1987.
Mitchell’s first hospital was built in 1904 financed through the efforts of a voluntary committee of citizens and was directed by them until 1932 when it became a government hospital under the jurisdiction of the Roma Hospitals Board. An impressive new 12 bed hospital with modern air-conditioned wards set in landscaped grounds was constructed in Ann Street and opened in 1985.
Part of the original hospital on “Hospital Hill” was refurbished by the Booringa Shire Council to provide a 19 bed “Maranoa Retirement Village” and opened in 1987.
The first QATB Mitchell Centre was opened in 1914 with a horse drawn litter its first vehicle, but today the Ambulance operates from a modern centre in Cambridge Street.
The artesian bore water was reticulated to the town in 1927 and soon afterwards so was electricity. Today, Mitchell is an attractive town with most modern amenities. Its well kept parks and public areas are maintained by the Booringa Shire Council.
The residents are keen on their sporting activities and sports such as golf, cricket, football, tennis, swimming, bowls, racing, shooting, softball and netball are catered for.
In 1985 a weir was built on the Maranoa River to the north of the town to provide a water recreational area. This unfortunately filled with sand in the disastrous floods of 1990 with approximately 700,000 tonnes of sand coming from the headwaters, thus restricting boating and water skiing activities. Such a loss to the community became a striving point to reinstate the Weir. Council were successful in obtaining a grant from the government to dredge the weir. The weir is a very beautiful area attracting a variety of wildlife species providing a tranquil sanctuary and a wonderful camping and fishing area.