A Glorious Hodgepodge of Information

Murder on the Manitoulin pamphlet

My introduction to the Bryan murders came in the form of a pamphlet given to me by my mother, who in turn got it from her mother. This pamphlet, entitled Murder on the Manitoulin, was published in February 1993 as part of the "Through the Years" series put out by the Manitoulin District History & Genealogy Society. It is a glorious hodgepodge of information, including:

  • An introduction by the editor, John McQuarrie
  • A wanted poster for Laban Amer
  • The story of the murders told in snippets of information gleaned from years of research & family lore
  • A "criminal subpoena" commanding Eleanor Bryan, her son Arthur, and her son-in-law William Skippen to appear at the court house in Sault Ste. Marie to give testimony against George Amer and Laban Amer
  • A drawing of the crime scene presented at trial showing the Porter and Bryan homesteads
  • A studio photograph of Arthur Bryan as an adult with his wife and two children
  • A studio photograph of Eleanor Bryan in her later years
  • A hand-drawn map showing the locations of the lots along concessions A & B in Tehkummah, complete with the names of their owners
  • The depositions of John Porter, Andrew Porter, Sr., Andrew Porter, Jr., Sam Sloan, Arthur Bryan, Dr. William Stoten Francis, Benjamin Boyer, Charles Boyd, Samuel Blanchard and Ellen Sim
  • A transcript of the coroner's inquest into the deaths of William Bryan and Charles Bryan

Collectively, this patchwork of information gives us a hazy glimpse into the 1877 murders of two members of the Bryan family by two members of the Amer family.

Some of the documents reproduced in this pamphlet defied my efforts to track them down. The subpoena, for instance, as well as the crime scene drawings, family photographs, and the wanted poster seen above. I'm assuming these are part of a private collection that is either not currently housed in a public archive, is stashed some place I failed to look, or no longer exists. George Skippen, who appears to have furnished much or all of the information on the Bryan murders passed away long ago, so the avenues for tracking down these documents appear to have dried up, at least for now.

Based on the real-life 1877 killings of William and Charles Bryan by their neighbours, The Haweaters brings to life some of Manitoulin’s earliest European settlers as they struggle against nature, poverty, and each other in a collective quest to leave their dubious pasts behind them and attain prosperity in this rugged wilderness community. Learn more.