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The Anderson Property - Harry Barret's Lore & Legends

Walter Anderson was the grandson of one of the early Loyalist founders of Vittoria. Though documents sometimes list his occupation as "farmer" and his address as Vittoria or Port Ryerse, it is fairly clear that he lived most of his adult life in the Van Norman house in Normandale and that his success came from his lumbering interests, which were extensive. And therein began his feud with the Long Point Company, which was to reach various peaks of intensity over thirty-odd years, involve numerous court suits, and climax in a suspected murder.

When the Long Point Company was formed, Anderson was one of the men who already held a license to cut timber on the Point. This caused no problem, as he does not seem to have attempted lumbering there after the club was founded. But he also owned land outright on the Point - one- quarter of Block 2 east of Clark's Bluffs. Block 2 was part of the land that the Company's founding members did not acquire in their original purchase, since it was not crown land but privately held. By 1871 Dr. James Salmon had acquired the rest of this block from its various owners and deeded it to the Company. But Anderson refused to sell.

At first relationships were amicable. A letter to Anderson from David Tisdale, in January 1878, straightening out payment of taxes ended with "While it [the land] remains in your hands I am sure we will have no trouble."

Trouble did develop, however. The central problem was deer hunting (though after a while one suspects feelings became so high that anything and everything became a bone of contention). As we have seen, deer had disap-peared from the Point at least by the mid-1860s. The Company, in an effort to restore herds for hunting, brought in breeding stock in 1875. So did Anderson. In less than ten years deer herds were flourishing on the Point. The conservation-minded Company set strict regulations for the hunting of its deer by members only, but these were very difficult to enforce. Anderson's lands were not fenced nor were either set of deer tagged in any way. Anderson went deer hunting for what he claimed were his deer on his prop-erty and invited his friends to do the same. Since the two herds by now had mingled it was impossible to know whose deer they were actually shooting. And since the land was not fenced or marked, it probably was difficult for the hunters at times to know whose land they were on.

By 1885 the Company was furious at what it regarded as poaching and trespass by Anderson and his friends. (It also suspected, undoubtedly with justification, that other poachers were using Anderson's land to gain access to Company lands.) Soon it brought charges against Anderson, Hugh Mabee, and several others for shooting Company deer.

The cases were mostly heard individually but followed the same pattern. Most of the defendants freely admitted shooting deer but claimed they were Anderson's animals on Anderson's property. A guide, R. Crocker, testified in several of the cases that he had placed the defendant on a run on Ander-son's property, then taken his skiff upwind to drive the deer to the hunter. He admitted having begun to drive on Company land but insisted the shooting was "calculated" to occur on Anderson property. As to the owner-ship of the deer, Mabee put the argument most succinctly: he had killed them on Anderson's land, with Anderson's permission, and who could say the deer were not as likely to be Anderson's as the Company's.

The cases were all very involved, with much testimony as to when and how deer had reappeared at Long Point, the age and number of the deer shot (to check conformity with provincial hunting regulations), the citing of previous but similar cases, and a lot of legal jargon. The key in each case was the "free nature" of deer. Most of those on the Point were owned by the Company and therefore not free, but it had no sure identification of its prop-erty. In the end, judgment was reserved in all these cases.

Along with the poaching charges, the Company launched partition pro-ceedings in county court to force Anderson to identify his land more clearly.

The Company had surveyor Thomas Walsh divide Block 2, setting monuments and describing the " several parcels by metes and bounds". The court assigned Anderson the 88 acres of the west quarter of the block, while the Company were assigned the easterly three-quarters containing 264 acres. (The total acreage does not match that of the original patent from the Crown. The metes and bounds description, however, goes to the water's edge.)

These court cases were only the beginning of the war between Anderson and the Long Point Company. Letters between board members and the keepers, as well as the minute books, indicate numerous instances of suspected poaching, encounters, and court cases.

In 1890 Anderson complicated the situation by dividing his eighty-eight acres into small blocks. Most of these he leased to other hunters for a period of 999 years (at an annual rental of one cent if demanded). Many also car-ried a separate lease which allowed the lessee "the right of hunting, coursing, shooting, fishing, and sporting in, over and upon the whole [of the Ander-son property]. . . . "

Some of these blocks were not leased but sold. A tantalizing letter from Simcoe photographer George Perry indicates Anderson had allowed him to sell shares of the property and suggests Dr. Salmon was not uninvolved, though perhaps innocently:

I have been up to Woodstock and have made arrangements to sell the land for you... I have sold it for $600.00 but I have reserved one share of that - I thought I could get $150.00 out of Dr. Salmon [sic] but have not seen him yet, I shall tell him you have sold these Woodstock fellows and that I can get one share for him at $150.00 in the Wood-stock party so if you would see the Dr. dont let him no [sic] that I had any thing to do with the sale to the Woodstock party, I have got several questions to ask you so I think it would be better for you to come down - the matter can be closed up next week, if you should see the Dr. before you see me you can tell the Dr. you have sold for $600.00 and the matter is in my hands for him to get in…. "

In 1891 Anderson also made an agreement with Charles A. Austin to sell parcels of the Long Point land at no less than $60.00.

Introducing more perfectly legal lessees and owners to the Point made the Company's fight against poachers much more difficult. How frantic it became is suggested by a note from Colonel Tisdale to Constable Walter E. Wardell, dated November 10, 1893, in which the officer is offered all the Company's business of serving warrants and so on, except in the case of those poachers whom keepers arrested on the property without a warrant. Tisdale asked Wardell to watch for four Woodstock men presently shooting on the Anderson lot as they returned through St. Williams; he was to at-tempt to identify them, and note how successful they have been. The note included a strong intimation of good payment for useful information but suggested proceeding very quietly.

Finally the directors took an even more desperate step, one that was to end in apparent murder. Secretly it purchased a share in the Anderson prop-erty (probably George Perry's share). This gave them legal access to and hunting rights over the whole property. Then a private detective was sought to mingle with the other shareholders for a season. The aim, as Tisdale said, was "to find out the methods of these deer shooters ... to enable the Club to take actions against the depredations".

All was conducted with great secrecy. On the advice of the London (Ontario) police chief, Tisdale hired B.B. Allen and arranged with him to assume the buyer's name of Graham, come to the area without any obvious contact with the Company, and go as the new owner to the Perry shanty, from where he could spy on the troublemakers.

Few Company members were privy to the plot, although keepers Thomas and John Secord were told to stay on either side of the Anderson property, and Tisdale promised Allen, "The Company will see you are protected if they [Anderson and his shareholders] try to give you any trouble." The details of picking up the shanty keys in Simcoe were thought out carefully as the man who held them was known to be a friend of Anderson as well as a suspicious individual.

Allen is known to have arrived safely in Gravelly Bay on Sunday, with a local man; the two moved into the Perry cottage, where they were alone until Tuesday night, when two other Anderson shareholders arrived. They became acquainted with Allen, and the three agreed to hunt together Friday morning.

No one will ever know exactly what happened that morning. Allen and his man had breakfast and Allen went out alone. The other two arrived after he had left and, shortly after getting there, thought they heard two shots. When Allen did not return, the two hunters volunteered to go looking for him. Soon they rushed back to inform his man that they had found him in a path with the top of his head blown off. A deer, with its throat cut, and Allen's knife and gun were nearby.

Colonel Tisdale, who had been hunting at the Bluffs all that fateful day was later to testify that he, too, had heard two shots early that morning. When he returned from hunting he was told of Allen's demise. Immediately he sent the keepers, his man, and Allen's, with lanterns to build a fire and stand guard near the body. (The two Anderson shareholders had taken a skiff to Port Rowan for a coroner.)

By morning the lake was too rough to expect a boat from Port Rowan, so Dr. Salmon, who was also hunting at the Bluffs, came over. After taking notes of the area, and so on, the Company men built a rough box and, with a great deal of difficulty, carried Allen's body out to a skiff. From there they got it over the bar and onto a tug which had come out for Tisdale.

In a letter to Allen's lawyer, Tisdale described his first view of the dead man:

We found him lying in a path on his left side - the top of his head blown to pieces, the remains of his hat nearby all in ashes, his gun 3 or 4 feet to his right on its side, his hunting knife between him and the gun and 3 or 4 yards away from him (on the left near this side of the path) a buck deer with his throat cut and which had evidently been killed with buckshot - the deer was partially covered with some green brush. The wound was so large that a large pool of blood and part of his brains lay just near and partly inside his head as it was a shocking sight.

The right hand barrel of the gun had a loaded cartridge in it and the left hand barrel an empty shell out of which a charge had been shot. In his coat pocket was a loaded shell and an empty one - the place looked like a difficult one for an accident to happen unless he done it some way in picking up his gun - the fact of the eyebrows being singed and the wound running somewhat upwards and backwards after the charge struck it would suggest the probability of his being somewhat stooped when the gun went off and that the gun must have been awfully near when it went off.

Tisdale continued with the strong opinion that the shooting had been accidental. In support of this conclusion he stated that the two Anderson share-holders' account seemed accurate and that "none of them are the sort one could suspect of any such crime as killing him, even if they had any suspi-cion he was there for the Company and that they had any such suspicion we have no knowledge."

There was, naturally, an inquest, but Colonel Tisdale seems to have managed to avoid any publicity that Allen had been hired by the Long Point Company, though he did inform the coroner and the Crown Attorney of that fact. The verdict was accidental death.

Nevertheless many persons at the time believed Allen's death was in no way accidental, and the feeling persists among many of the older residents who have heard all the circumstances.

To this day two cedar posts, replacing the originals, mark the spot where the detective fell. His true memorial, however, is a tree-covered ridge cross-ing the Anderson property near Duncan's Pond which is called the Allen Ridge.

The death of detective Allen by no means closed the war between the Long Point Company and poachers from the Anderson property, though it never again reached such dramatic proportions.

Anderson died June 14, 1895, by which time he had sold twelve parcels of land, totaling forty-three acres, to twenty-six different grantees. His administratrix sold the remaining forty-five acres to Frank Gray, who, in turn, sold them with the hunting rights to the whole parcel of eighty-eight acres, to the Long Point Company.

In the years since, the Company has purchased several of the other shares as they have come on the market. Today there are several buildings on the Anderson property, though they may not be situated on the land registered to their owners.

 

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