Early policing in NSW began in 1789 when civilians called the “Night Watch” were tasked to guard Sydney Town. On 1 March 1862 the NSW Police Force was established.1 English-born Edward William Mitchell joined in 1862 and was assigned to Berrima as a young mounted constable.
In April 1866 Edward was caught up in the infamous “Bargo Brush Affray”. As four officers transported 11 prisoners from Berrima Gaol to Sydney the prisoners revolted. In the affray, Constable Raymond was murdered and Edward was viciously bitten on the nose.2 The ringleader was hanged, five others were imprisoned for life and the police were commended for their gallant conduct.3 Edward’s next posting was to Raymond Terrace where he took part in the hunt for “Thunderbolt” the bushranger.4
In the early 1870s, only one mounted constable patrolled the area between Port Stephens and Cape Hawke. As the population grew so did crime and another constable was urgently required.5 In 1874 Edward was appointed the first police officer of Cape Hawke (Forster) and the above photo was taken on his first day of duty.6 Edward’s work was perhaps less stressful although he dealt with stabbings, stealing, and ship deserters in the seven years he spent at Forster.7
Edward was promoted to Senior Constable and later posted to Wollombi, Dungog and Clarence Town. After 34 years of policing he retired in 1897. Edward passed away in 1902 at the age of 65 and is buried in Clarence Town General Cemetery.8
Author: Janine Roberts with research by Dean White and Marilyn Boyd.
2 Sydney Mail, 28 April 1866, 6.
3 Sydney Mail, 7 July 1866, 2; SMH, 23 May 1866, 9.
4 Dungog Chronicle, 2 September 1902, 2.
5 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 24 February 1870 & 20 January 1872, 6.
6 Dungog Chronicle, 2 September 1902, 2. Note the Cape Hawke Police Station was opened 1876 (NSW State Records, Report on Police Department for 1876, p.1 in Votes and Proceedings, 1876-77, Vol.3, p.1.).
7 A review of NSW Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime 1874-1883.
8 Death Certificate for Edward William Mitchell No. 1902/8869. Clarence Town General Cemetery was referred to as Stoney Creek Cemetery on certificate.