Between May and November 1865, 28-year-old Milton, Ontario based Dominion Land Surveyor George B. Abrey set about surveying Tehkummah Township on Manitoulin Island. Of the almost 34,000 acres situated within the township's boundaries, just over 18,000 would be subdivided and put on the market in 1866.

However, Abrey believed it was highly unlikely there would be any takers due to a notable lack of access. He informed the government that unless it committed to building roads, few potential purchasers would be willing the take the risk of settling in such a remote location. He proposed that a road be constructed between Concessions A and B with the building costs being tacked onto the purchase price of any lots that benefited from these new roads. Failing that, most potential settlers either wouldn't buy the properties or they would buy them then quickly ditch them when the inconvenience proved too much.

Abrey was right. Initial sales were much slower than the government had anticipated. So when Government Road -- which ran from Manitowaning in the east to Michael's Bay in the southeast and connected Tehkummah with the two main ports for settlers arriving by boat from southern Ontario -- was complete in 1871, a second road was constructed that ran more or less between Concessions A and B. The first iteration of this road charted a drunken course across the southern breadth of Lot 29, Concession B before veering off through the middle of Lots 27 and 28, Concession B.

Now that access was in place, settlement of Tehkummah began in earnest. By the end of 1871, close to 7,500 acres of land had been snapped up. There were now 26 dwellings, 12 barns, 12 shops or factories (including two coopers and a major lumber operation), six carriages and eight boats. Most permanent residents were either employed by the lumber business or worked in the fishing or fur trades.

But farming was coming on strong. As of 1871, Tehkummah farmers owned a total of three ploughs and/or cultivators, one thresher, and five fanning mills. They grew two acres of hay and produced 1,750 pounds of butter and 300 pounds of wool. They also owned 26 horses, 22 oxen, 30 milk cows, 31 head of cattle, 102 sheep, and 84 swine.

Still, there was a problem. Many settlers had purchased their land sight unseen and were unhappy for a variety of reasons. Some lots had been logged to such an extent that they couldn't furnish their owners with the wood they needed to build their houses or to heat them. Others were too arid, rocky, or burnt out to be of much use. Some settlers would return their lots or swap them for better ones elsewhere on the island while others simply abandoned them.

Most of Tehkummah's permanent settlers arrived in 1873, including those who played key roles in the 1877 murders of Charles and William Bryan. Samuel Sloan was first to jump. He bought Lots 30 and 31, Concession A on May 28th of that year. A few weeks later, on June 18th, Charles Bryan purchased Lot 29, Concession B . A month after that, Andrew Porter Sr. put money down on Lots 26 and 27, Concession A followed by Lots 28 and 29, Concession A in September. George Amer was the last of the quartet to arrive, buying Lots 27 and 28, Concession B on August 8th.

The settlement road completed in 1871 cut across lots that were now owned by Charles Bryan and George Amer. A gate Amer placed across this road straddled the property line between the Bryan and Amer properties and it was fairly universally agreed that its primary purpose was to restrict the Bryans' access to the road. That gate would be the subject of vandalism, outrage and eventually violence between the two neighbours.

Photo by Olivier Guillard on Unsplash