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THE HERMIT OF MISERY BAY:


DAYS IN THE LIFE OF EDWIN “NED” SAUNDERS


October 1, 1820 --- December 29, 1895

October 1, 1820 Edwin Saunders was born on October 1, 1820 in Exeter, Devon, England, the son of James Saunders, a shoemaker and Methodist minister, and Jane Woolcott. He was christened at the Mint Lane-Wesleyan Methodist Church in Exeter.

May 24, 1849 Edwin Saunders arrived in London, Ontario. He came with his family to join an older brother, Stephen Saunders (8 Oct 1824--1 Aug 1889), who was already living in London, Ontario. They came with the Skinner family and sailed from Torquay on the Sailing Vessel “Margaret.” The trip took 6 weeks. The “Margaret” was owned by Steel & Co., registered in Torquay, constructed in Nova Scotia during 1826, and repaired during 1850. It had tonnage registered at 261 tons. The Captain was probably “W. Field.” The family drove around the St. Lawrence rapids, and then went by boat to Hamilton, Ontario. Then drove for two days with Mr. Pickard of Exeter to London, Ontario, staying overnight in Woodstock. Edwin Saunders “soon went to Manitoulin.” (From the Saunders Family genealogy page 343, “Medical Doctors” Volume, Edwin Seaborn Collection, London Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario.)

1872 Edwin Saunders returned to London, Ontario, from Manitoulin Island several times for visits. “The last visit was about 1872, when he sailed to Own Sound in his own boat, walked 125 miles to London and arrived looking like a tramp. He stayed at the Skinners [Emma Saunders Skinner (1827-1917) and William Skinner (1827-1925)] persuaded W.S. [William Saunders (1836-1914)] to buy land on the Island.” “Uncle Skinner cant (sic) remember that he ever did any work.” (From the Saunders Family genealogy page 344, “Medical Doctors” Volume, Edwin Seaborn Collection, London Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario.)

1873 Edwin Saunders arrived in Gore Bay in a small sailboat and landed in a small cove on the east entrance to the bay and later moved to a small cove at the lower part of the bay. Here he built a small house or dugout in the bank. How he lived is not known as he is considered the first resident, no other resident being within miles of him. His home was a large hoghead and poles covered with brush and earth. (Statement of W. T. Clark, Gore Bay, Ontario, in the Archives of the McIlwraith Field Naturalists of London, Accession Number 320q, contained in “Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, (74-52924) prepared by William W. Judd in 1974)

18?? Edwin Saunders moved to Elizabeth Bay as the settlers began moving into Gore Bay and vicinity. He lived there on the bank of what is now known as the Black Creek, Lot 2, Concession 5, of the township of Robinson. His home there was a log construction and partly buried in the bank of the creek. (W. T. Clark)

1878 James Davidson Ainslie came from Scotland in 1871 to the Owen Sound area. He then came to Manitoulin in 1877 to look for land. This area was just being surveyed then and he returned in 1878 with his family and “took up” land [Lots 4 & 5, Burpee Township]. Edward Ainslie prepared an account of the Early Days of Elizabeth Bay, written from his memory and stories told him by his parents. In describing the arrival of the James D. Ainslie family, Edward Ainslie wrote “They found one white man living alone in a small log shanty near where they landed, Edward Saunders, known as Ned, was somewhat of a character. A brother of William Saunders, founder of the experimental farm at Guelph, a scholar and a fine musician and a shoemaker by trade, he chose to live a hermit’s life, hunting, fishing and growing a small garden patch. He used us all very kindly and my father enjoyed his company. .” (Statement of Mrs. Eunice Ainslie Leeson, reporting conversation with Mr. Charles Morden, in the Archives of the McIlwraith Field Naturalists of London, Accession Number 320p, contained in “Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, (74-52924) prepared by William W. Judd in 1974)

1878 Mr. Saunders walked regularly to Colin Campbell’s home to pick up mail for the residents of Elizabeth Bay. (Statement of Mrs. Eunice Ainslie Leeson (granddaughter of James D. Ainslie) reporting her conversation with Mr. Charles Morden, in the Archives of the McIlwraith Field Naturalists of London, Accession Number 320p, contained in “Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, (74-52924) prepared by William W. Judd in 1974)

August 1, 1879 Lot 1, Con. 4, in Robinson Township was sold, as Sale No. 130, to Edwin Saunders. One hundred and thirty acres were sold at 50 cents per acre for a total price of $65.50. At date of sale $ 26.00 was paid, leaving a balance of $39.00 due on the principal with interest. Also, On August 1, 1879, Lot 2, Con. 5, in Robinson Township was sold, as Sale No. 131, to Edwin Saunders. One hundred acres were sold at 50 cents per acre for a total price of $50.00. At date of sale $ 20.00 was paid, leaving a balance of $30.00 due on the principal with interest. (RG10, Indian affairs, Volume 2009, Reel C-11157, File: 17,248)

November 26, 1879 Edwin Saunders applied for a “Settlers License” to cut telegraph poles and railroad ties on Lot 1, Con. 4 and Lot 2, Con 5, in Robinson Township. (RG10, Indian affairs, Volume 2009, Reel C-11157, File: 17,248)

June 12, 1880 Lot 5, Con. 10, in Burpee Township was sold, as Sale No. 862, to William Saunders (1836-1914), who assigned it to Edwin Saunders. Thirty-nine acres were sold at 50 cents per acre for a total price of $19.50. At date of sale $ 7.80 was paid, leaving a balance of $11.70 due on the principal with interest at the rate of 6%. In 1894 the only improvements upon the lot were a stable 24 x 32 that was erected by William Ainslie. (RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 2769, Reel C-11276, File: 154,623)

August 8, 1880 In 1800 William Saunders took his wife and six children on a trip from London, Ontario, to Manitoulin Island. On August 8, 1880, they arrived to Gore Bay and stayed at the Ocean House. One of William Saunders five sons, William Edwin Saunders, kept a diary of his family’s trip to Manitoulin Island. [“Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, 1974 prepared by William W. Judd, London Public Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario (74-52924)].

August 9, 1880 William Edwin Saunders (1861-1943) notes in his diary: “Uncle Ned” took “us out rowing & sailing all day.”

August 11, 1880 William Edwin Saunders (1861-1943) notes in his diary: At 8.30 the Saunders left for Shishiwaning and arrived about 11.00. The tug boat anchored about a quarter of a mile off shore. “Uncle Ned,” and William Saunders sons, “Per” [Arthur Percy Saunders (1869-1953)] and William Edwin Saunders (1861-1943) went around to some houses – in one we saw a papoose only a day old. Instead of knocking at the door we just go right in & explore. The Indians, that is most of them don’t speak English, so when you ask them a question, they either answer by a grunt or nothing. They seem to expect you to go right in to their houses & they’re not at all particular about have any one in the house. We went in some that hadn’t a person in them. The village is on a slope to the water & from a distance looks quite pretty. After staying 3 or 4 hours we came back & had a big tea at the Ocean House.

August 16, 1800 William Edwin Saunders (1861-1943) notes in his diary: At 7.30 took steam tug for Elizabeth Bay, where our property is. Had a swim on a beautiful sandy beach & then Ned, Hen [Henry Scholey Saunders (1864-1951)], Per [Arthur Percy Saunders (1869-1953)], & I left for Lake Huron on the other side of the Island. On our way Ned got rather mixed & struck away west from where we should have gone, making our walk 4 or 5 miles instead of 2. First thing of any account was a Fish Hawk’s nest with the bird on. She flew & sailed around us so I had several out of range shots & one in range that wounded her, but it only her fly off for good. Next, I shot a pigeon & then we got to the south shore. Immediately had a swim, for it was hot, & we were tired and ragged & dirty. Then we started east for the road to go back. The shore along here was solid rock & out for 4 miles we could see the Big & Little Duck Islands. Along the rocky shore I shot 2 Semipalmated & 1 Least Sandpiper & 1 missed a Solitary. Soon struck sand & saw a bear track & also one of a fox. Then 2 ducks rose out of the grass in the edge of the water & I dropped both. Took the road & walked straight back, getting a Sparrow-hawk on the road and seeing Caribou tracks. Came to Ainslie’s (our next door neighbor, about a mile from our lace), had a lot of milk & then fired for the tug to come for us. The first thing the folks on the tug saw was the big rip across my knee. I got my pants badly torn – one rip across the knee 11 inches, two on the leg 7½ x 4½ x 4x4. Per was pretty well tired out too. On the road home, skinned all the birds but ducks & read P of H of D. (Prince of the House of David by Ward, Lock & Do., London and New York; University of Western Ontario library call number PS2048.I52P8; first published in 1855; Rev. Joseph Holt Ingraham (1809-1860) wrote several historical novels.) [“Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, 1974 prepared by William W. Judd, London Public Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario (74-52924)].

August 20, 1880 The William Saunders family left Gore Bay on the boat “Emerald” and went on to Cockburn Island, Thessalon, Bruce Mines, St. Joseph Island and then to Sault Ste. Marie. The family probably reached Sault Ste. Marie on the same day, and spent three days there. They then returned to Gore Bay, probably by August 28. Sarah Agnes Saunders (1835-1915), wife of William Saunders, made a collection of plants. She collected an Equisetum sylvaticum on August 23, 1880 in shallow water in the Sault River, and a Bromus ciliatus on August 24, 1880 on an island in Hay Lake, Sault River. [“Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880)…”]

1884 Several families moved into the Elizabeth Bay area and Ned left and moved to Misery Bay, south of Elizabeth Bay on Lake Huron. When he lived in Misery Bay he often came to the home of James D. Ainslie to talk to James D. Ainslie and to trade fish for bread and supplies. Apparently Ned was well educated for his time and he and James D. Ainslie would discuss various items of the news of the day. James D. Ainslie had a good library and read the new books that were added and then discuss the various parts of interests. From the class of books that they studied both Ned and James D. Ainslie were far above the standard of education of that time. He appeared to be a small man, not more than 5 feet 7 inches tall, and of about 150 pounds. He stood very erect as if he had military experience. (W. T. Clark)

January 15, 1885 Patent to Lot 4, Concession 8, Burpee Township was issued to James D. Ainslie on January 15, 1885.” Statement of J. A. Graham, Land Registrar, Gore Bay in the Archives of the McIlwraith Field Naturalists of London, Accession Number 320a, contained in “Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, (74-52924) prepared by William W. Judd in 1974)

1891 When Angus [Angus Matheson 1886-1978] and Bridget [Bridget Matheson 1888-1968)], my oldest brother and sister, were of school age the grandparents [James Davidson Ainslie and Bridget L. Smith] took them to their home where there was a room used for a school room. With my brother and sister were the Robert Morden [Robert Allen Morden (1829-1904)] children: Jimmy, Nelson, Rachel, and Nellie; William Ainslie’s [William Ainslie (1861-1939)] two children: William and Maude; and William Morden’s [William Morden (1839-1941)] children: Mary, Charlie, John and Maggie. Grandfather Ainslie [James Davidson Ainslie (1833-1915)] was the teacher but, with his other work, teaching was too much. A man by the name of Ned Saunders happened to be living over on the sand beach. Old Ned, as he was called, moved in with the Ainslies and taught the children until his health failed. Then he was taken to Sault Ste. Marie where he lived until he passed away. Then Norman [Norman Matheson (1840-1922)] and Elizabeth [Elizabeth Davidson Ainslie (1864-1952)] bought the Ned Saunders property on Elizabeth Bay and built a home where they spent the winters after the close each navigation season when they left the Cape Roberts lighthouse until spring. [From a note concerning Elizabeth Davidson Ainslie taken from “Manitoulin Roots” webpage, citing The Elizabeth Bay Letter Book, 1879-1979, pages 29-31, Gore Bay West, by Marcella Blackburn (1900-1997)]

This note would indicate that the students of Edwin “Ned” Saunders were:

Angus Matheson (1886-1978)
Bridget Matheson (1888-1968)
James P. Morden (1867
Nelson Wilson Morden (1865
Rachel Elsie Morden (1871
Nellie Morden
William Robert Ainslie (1887
Ethel Maude Ainslie (1889
Mary Almeda Morden (1882
William Charles Morden (1883
Richard John Morden (1886
Nancy Margaret Morden (1888

1892 Edwin Saunders remained at Misery Bay until 1892 when he came to Gore Bay and, not being able to care for himself, he was placed in a Provincial Home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he died a few months later. (W. T. Clark)

1893 “Shortly before Mr. Saunders left Manitoulin Island he built a cabin on the east side of Misery Bay (Lake Huron side, opposite Eliz. Bay). He started to clear land and planned to raise geese. However, he was not able to finish the project.” (Statement of Mrs. Eunice Ainslie Leeson, reporting conversation with Mr. Charles Morden, in the Archives of the McIlwraith Field Naturalists of London, Accession Number 320p, contained in “Diaries of a Trip to Manitoulin Island (1880) and of a trip Down the Thames River (1881) by W.E. Saunders Edited and with Notes” Occasional Paper No. XVI, (74-52924) prepared by William W. Judd in 1974)

November 20, 1894 “Mr. Sanders is untimely destitute.” “We have partly supported him for many years, and this last few months we have taken him in our own house he is not fit for to take care of him self. All the land he had he transferred to Mr. Leeson formerly storekeeper in Gore Bay for food supplies and clothing some years ago with the exception of Lot 5, Con 10 T.P. Burpie (sic) that is … worthless land or it would have been gone to. (Affidavit of James D. Ainslie on November 20, 1894, at Evansville, Ontario, contained in RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 2769, Reel C-11276, File: 154,623)

December 1895 An entry in the family Bible copied by Fred Saunders, son of Stephen Saunders, in 1912 states in part “Edwin Saunders (bachelor) b. Oct. 1, 1822, d. Dec. 1895.” (From Saunders Family genealogy page 342, “Medical Doctors” Volume, Edwin Seaborn Collection, London Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario.)

December 29, 1895 Microfilm copies of the death registration index of the Archives of Ontario reflected that Registration Number 001429 is a male identified as Edward Saunders who died December 29, 1895, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. This death was registered during 1895. There were no other death registrations with the name of Saunders for Sault Ste. Marie during December, 1895. There were no death registrations identifiable with the name Edwin Saunders during 1895.

submitted by James Hastings
Copies of most of the original resource material, including copies of his 26 Nov 1879 "Settlers License" Affidavit and the 20 Nov 1894 James Ainslie Affidavit are available in the Misery Bay Park Interpretive Center.