Why I Wrote The Chapleau Game Preserve: History, Murder and Other Tales

by Bill McLeod
I come from a family of fur traders. Angus McLeod, my great-grandfather was born in or near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis about 1833. In 1848 he joined the Hudson's Bay Company and was first stationed at Moose Factory. He served at various posts around James Bay and was in charge of the post at Waswanipi, Quebec when he died in 1880.

My grandfather, William McLeod was born at Waswanipi in 1872. Little is known of his early life until he showed up in Chapleau some time around 1900. Shortly after his arrival in Chapleau he was hired by James McNiece Austin to manage the fur buying part of Mr. Austin's business interests. About 1904 William bought the fur buying business and operated it out of a general store. He continued in the fur business until he died in 1940. At that point his son Borden (my father) took over as a fur buyer. The business lasted until the late 1950s when it just seemed to sputter to a stop.

In the early 1920s, William McLeod became alarmed at the rapacious overtrapping of the furbearing species in the central part of Northern Ontario. He wrote a brilliant paper on the problems of the fur trade and made a number of recommendations to fix the problems. One of his recommendations was the setting aside of a game sanctuary where animals could reproduce without the pressure of trapping and hunting.

In 1925 the Ontario Government adopted William's suggestion of a game sanctuary and the 2,000,000 acre Chapleau Game Preserve, now called the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve was set aside. To this day, hunting, trapping and the possession of firearms are still prohibited inside the Game Preserve's borders. This has become somewhat of a contentious issue because some Chapleau area Aboriginals think that the laws governing the Game Preserve do not apply to them. Encouraged by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, some of them are actually shooting moose inside the Game Preserve – apparently with impunity. I find this very troubling and outlined my thoughts on the subject early on in the book.

Most of the recommendations for managing the fur trade that William McLeod outlined in his 1923 paper are still in force.

I had always wanted to write a story about my grandfather and his role in the fur trade for our children. I never seemed to have the time. But in 1998 I retired after teaching business related courses at Cambrian College in Sudbury and my first project was to write the William McLeod story. As I combed through the Northern Ontario newspapers on microfilm in the Laurentian University Library I realized that there was more than enough material about the fur trade and other fascinating Chapleau area tales.

While the murders and disappearances that I wrote about constituted a sizeable portion of the manuscript there were a number of other important Chapleau stories and events that I felt should be a part of the public record before they were forgotten. So I included them as well.

Since my father and my aunts were such great story tellers I included some of their best and funniest tales.

Why I wrote Murder in the Schoolhouse

Why I wrote Chapleau: Retrospective