Auction preview: Another 1884 Greer letter expected to bring $5,000 in All Nations’ Canada Day sale

Page 80 of Gerald Wellburn’s Historic Vancouver album is slated to cross the auction block in Vancouver this Canada Day.

On July 1, All Nations Stamp and Coin will host its weekly auction, which is expected to be highlighted by a land claim document sent by settler Samuel Greer in December 1884. The lot has a pre-sale estimate of $5,000.

Earlier this spring, another document sent by Greer in July 1884 and witnessed by Matthew Baillie Begbie, then chief justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, brought $17,000 after an opening bid of $3,600 in All Nations’ Large Lot and Collections Auction #1105.

According to Brian Grant Duff, auctioneer and owner of All Nations, both letters survived the Great Vancouver Fire, which destroyed most of the young city on June 13, 1886.

As noted by Wellburn, this decade was a time of “commercial expansion” in Vancouver.


Granville 15th Dec 1884


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

Yours truly S. Greer

The letter is addressed to ‘the Hon W Smithe Chief Commissioner Land Works.’


In 1862, Greer pre-empted 65 hectares of land on Vancouver’s west side, 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.

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