The land claims of the Hudson's Bay Co. and others during the 1870s and 1880s led the settlers to request an official survey of the settlement and recognition of their claims. On January 15, 1880, Frank Oliver warned that if the land claims issue was not solved then it would create discord in the community. His prediction came true on February 4, 1882, when the community discovered that L. George, an American working as a clerk in the Villiers store, was trying to take over land claimed by Thomas Anderson. George had driven in boundary stakes around the property he claimed and hired carpenters to build a house at this location. The community saw this as a test case for the security of other claims that still did not have the benefit of a legal survey and official title. On the morning of February 6, 150 people gathered and asked George to remove the building. Upon his refusal, the crowd overpowered him, and the house was dragged to the river bank and thrown over the edge.
Following this episode a vigilante committee was organized to protect claims in the future. No sooner was it formed than J. H. Bannerman wrote to the vigilantes that he intended to occupy the former mission lot that was claimed by Matthew McCauley. His house was dealt with much as George's had been. Bannerman, unlike George, was not prepared to suffer in silence. Warrants were issued for the arrest of the seven people involved in the "house moving." The trial took place on June 15, 1882. All defendants were acquitted since it was proven that McCauley had the right to the land. Bannerman's civil suit against McCauley was heard the next day. McCauley was ordered by the Court to pay Bannerman $40 to cover the cost of the lumber destroyed. Following these events, the government moved to survey the individual land claims and issue titles.
This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.