Auction review: All Nations Canada 150 sale brings several highlights

In 1884, settler Sam Greer sent a hand-drawn map and land claim letter to William Smithe, chief commissioner of Lands and Works, claiming to have purchased 20 acres at present-day Kitsilano Beach “from four Indians” for $200.

This Canada Day—more than 130 years after Greer was involved in an “ugly dispute” over land on the coast of English Bay on Vancouver’s west side—the documents brought more than five times their pre-sale estimate of $5,000. It sold for $33,000 to a local collector with an interest in Vancouver history according to auctioneer Brian Grant Duff, owner and auctioneer of the the Vancouver-based All Nations Stamp and Coin.

“It was desirable because the map was drawn by Greer himself as part of his land claim,” said Duff, who added the estimate was “conservative.”

“We sold previous Greer letters from the Wellburn Collection for between $4,000 and $17,000,” he said, adding the first map sold for $24,200. “So $5,000 was a safe number to show it was a serious item while still encouraging bidding. This material seldom comes to market and generally goes into museum collections, so it is tough to estimate.”

LETTER TRANSCRIPT

Granville 15th Dec 1884

16/12/85

To the Hon W Smithe Chief Commissioner Land Works,

     Honble. Sir,

I beg to inform you that In the month of June 1884 I bought

all the Right Title and Interest through Mr. Mc tiernan Indian Agent

Belonging To four Indians Known as the Indian Settlement Near

falce Creek the Improvements on the Settlement Constists of Seven

houses Orchards fencing Cultivation abought 20 acres have

expended abought Two thousand Dollars In Improving

and Clearing the place. those Indians were in possessary

and Continuous Occupation from the time of Crown Colony

To the present time. In Addition to this 160 acres was prempted

and applied for to you by J.M. Spinks In equal partnership

with Myself your Official Answer was that the land would

Soon be open for premption and purchase but was of other

Value at present. I have the first application to the local Gov

when Port Moody was the Declared terminus of the Pacific

Railway I have Improved this land In good faith believing

It to Myne

the following is My Clame to this land in question

first)       that I bought the land and Improvements from British Subjects

        being In Possessory and Continued Occupation for 20 years and

        under the protection of the Dominion of Canada and Disposed

        of through there Agent.

Second) that accordant to the land act No other person Can prempt or

            occupy a Indian Settlement by Lease or other Incumberances

            without first making provision and other Renumerations for the

             that privilage

3)            that should the fee Simple remain Vested In the Crown they

           have No Disposing Power over the land, without first

           Respecting My first rights No other person have equal rights

4)            that the land In question is well adapted for farming purposes

          being of first Class quality I am no speculator

           In order you May fully understand the position and

           Nature of Improvements I give you a Sketch on Back

                S  Greer

Indian Improvements and names of Indians

Sign Indian Charly

                Mrs. Salpcan

                Kanachick

                Sweellamcan

SAM ‘GRITTY’ GREER

In 1862, Greer pre-empted 65 hectares of land along the southern shore of English Bay.

Greer Beach—later renamed Kitsilano Beach—was where Greer, an Irish-born immigrant and father of six, wished to build a family farm; however, in 1884, the Canadian Pacific Railway claimed the land was ceded to the company by the Crown.

In a story published in 2011 by the Vancouver Province, Greer is described as a father as well as a pioneer and a “hothead” who eventually spent time in prison for shooting a sheriff.

“According to his daughter, Jessie Greer, Sam shot cougars and wolves from his back door and used a boat to gather smelts so thick they could be ‘picked up with a garden rake,’” reads the story.

“The dispute was ugly. Greer fought back by taking down telegraph wires and filling in holes while railway workers were still digging them. Things came to a head when New Westminster sheriff Thomas Armstrong appeared at his home and was greeted by a hail of buckshot coming through the front door.”

Greer was eventually convicted for his role in the shooting and spent time in prison. His farm was razed, his land was expropriated by the Crown, and his beach was given a new name.

Greer died in 1925. Today, Greer Avenue in Kitsilano is named in his honour.

Lot 82 (shown above) of All Nations Canada 150 sale realized $1,625.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Other highlights of All Nations Canada 150 sale included Lot 82, an August 1918 Toronto-to-Ottawa flight cover franked on the back by a 25-cent Aero Club of Canada stamp (Scott #CLP1) and on the front by a 1916 War Tax stamp (SC #MR4), which is cancelled by a Toronto circular date stamp as well as an “aerial mail” cancellation.

The cover brought $1,625 after a pre-sale estimate of $750.

“It is essentially the first Canadian Semi Official airmail item and attracts interest from historic aviation collectors and airmail specialists,” said Duff, who added there’s a “strong selection of Semi Official airmails, and Zeppelin flight material in All Nations’ upcoming and current auctions as the auction house disperses a “lifetime collection.”

For more information, visit allnationsstampandcoin.com/auction.html.

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