Monday, May 01, 2006

Stoddard Online

Stoddard Online

Times were tough in the 1950's across Canada. The nation was on a rebound from the effects of the Second World War which concluded less than a decade earlier. Smaller, lesser known communities felt the pinch more so than the larger urban centres, although, what the smaller communities lacked in wealth, was compensated by their ability to stand firm during crisis.

The Gaspe' Peninsula in rural Quebec was no exception. Aside from the larger urban areas of Montreal, Quebec City, and Trois Rivieres, other areas of the province were largely left to fend for themselves. Quebec City, demanded their tax revenues, but provided little for many areas outside the mainstream core.

The story you are about to read is nauseating. In no way, can it be portrayed as a nice story. In it's beginning, at best it can be described as shocking, the storyline throughout is cruel and disgusting, and the ending is ugly. If you feel weak and faint at heart, then perhaps you should not read this account. I feel compelled to present this story to you, chiefly, because it happened in Canada, and during a modern era of our history.

Part one of this saga, in abbreviated form, outlines the events leading up to the emergence of Wilbert Coffin, and the major players in this unbelievable tale of bush league justice. Subsequent parts to this story, will be in more comprehensive detail, and hopefully provide an understanding of the correlation of events. The follow up chapters will be made available on this site approximately two days apart. I have attempted to spare you, the reader, from many of the more graphic details with respect to the details of the discovery of the victims.

This story will outline one man's courageous battle with our so called justice system, as he and his community rally together in an effort to stave off his destiny as predetermined by others. From my own personal research for this story, I have concluded, those we are told to trust the most, in many cases, turn out to be those that we can trust the least. Specifically here, I am talking about the police and the judiciary, spearheaded by the Quebec premier of the day, the late Maurice Duplessis, who in my opinion, exhibited the characteristics of a premier turned dictator.

You may think the title that I have chosen for my story is unusual, however, later on you will learn it's relevance. The following is part one. . . .

I Commend My Soul To Thee

It was early June in 1953, and the small towns and villages of the Gaspe' Peninsula in Quebec's far eastern reaches were getting prepared for the summer activities. The commercial fishing fleet and the foresty workers were gearing up as they had done for many years. These two industries were the staples of the Gaspe' communities. The weather was warm, and with it, would bring the influx of affluent sport fishermen and hunters from the United States, who frequented the area on a regular basis.

Though not his first trip to the area, Eugene Lindsey from Altoona County in Pennsylvania would arrive on June 08, 1953. He would be accompanied this time by his teen age son Richard, and Richard's friend Fred Claar, for the annual spring bear hunt. This trip would prove to be the trio's last to the area. In July of that same year, the remains of all three were found deep in the woods of the Gaspe' Peninsula, brutally murdered by a person or persons unknown. They were discovered as a result of the concerns by family members back home in Pennsylvania, who contacted local police, who were finally able to make contact with the Gaspe' region, as there had been no contact for over a month, and the date for their planned return home had come and gone.

Initially, the Pennsylvania police had attempted to reach a local guide, Russell Patterson, who knew the area well. He was not at home, however, a Mr. Thomas Miller was staying at his house and the Pennsylvania authorities explained the circumstances and asked him to investigate as best he could.

As Mr. Miller had guided for Eugene Lindsey in the past he knew the area that he favoured for hunting. Immediately setting out for that camp area, he very soon came upon the abandoned truck that the Lindsey party had been driving. It was at the roadside in heavy bush. There was no sign of current activity, and Thomas Miller noted personal possessions and equipment inside the truck, as well as other items on the back. The date was July 08, 1953.

A massive search was convened as it was now evident that the American hunters were indeed missing. As a result of that search, signs of Eugene Lindsey's past presence was discovered in close proximity of a particular hunting camp. This discovery was made on July 15, 1953, and later on the same day, his partial skeletal remains were found near another hunting camp in the area, and was obvious that his body had been ravaged by forest animals.

From the condition of Eugene Lindsey's remains, it was impossible to determine an immediate cause of death. The authorities, now armed with the knowledge of a confirmed death, mounted an extensive search of the area, and on July 23, 1953, the remains of Richard Lindsey and his friend Fred Claar were discovered. Their skeletal remains were located some 200 feet apart, and considerable distance across a major river, from the remains of the elder Eugene Lindsey.

Prior to this date, the last sighting recalled by any of the townsfolk of Gaspe' of any member of this hunting party was on June 10, 1953, when it was observed by several, that Richard Lindsey was in town to purchase a new fuel pump for their hunting vehicle. On this venture, he was chauffeured by a local well known outsdoorsman. This person was Wilbert Coffin.

Lew Stoddard
Posted to site May 03, 2006

The next posting will detail the man, Wilbert Coffin, as to who he was, his personal life, his status in the community, and his aspirations, in his quest for a better life for he and his family.









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17 comments:

Maria Tremblay said...

Mr. Stoddard,
Am glad to see you are finally able to post the story of Wilbert Coffin. I will say that the delay has given me some time to do some reading at the library etc. This needs to be written about. Totally shameful, and you are right, the story is disguasting, but it needs to be told. Thank you Mr. Stoddard and you are sensitive about this as well.

Marie Tremblay
Bathurst, New Brunswick

Bill McCready said...

I feel so sorry for the Coffin family, I am sure it hurts to read this stuff, but am sure they see it as necessary, especially to make sure it can't ever happen again.

Bill McCready
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Greg said...

Sir,
I await with interest you follow up material on this shameful occurence in modern Canadian history. Give them Hell and full speed ahead as far as I am concerned.

Greg
Kingston, Ont

Cecile Landry said...

Mr. Stoddard,

You have to be a sensitive person to write about this stuff, and on an event that happened so long ago. You are obviously convinced of Wilbert's innocence. I look forward to the following material.

Cecile Landry
Cabano, PQ

Lois B said...

Thank you for doing this Mr. Stoddard. These things trouble me, especially when there is a question mark and there is a mighty big one here. If Mr. Coffin was not guilty then there are some people out there who should feel terrible for what they did. Wilbert Cofin paid a mighty big price if he was not guilty. Makes me seethe with anger.
Lois Bradshaw
Saskatoon, Sask

Doug C said...

I am anxious to see the conclusion of your story,obviously you have put a tremendous amount of time into this.is nice to see there are people in society that want to see justice done. this must have been hard for so many years for both the coffin family and the american families as well. I hope the guilty can be found out.

Doug Carlyle
Grand Falls, new Brunswick

Doris McIndoe said...

Hi Mr. Stoddard,
I like your articulate style of writing, easy to follow. Keep up the good work and turn the heat up if you can.
Doris McIndoe
Barrie, Ontario

Christine Fowler said...

My Dad was around during the Duplessis years and you are right, looked like the people of Quebec lived in a dictatorship. This is terrible, and looks like Mr. Coffin was the victim of bad government in Quebec.

Christine Fowler
Bathurst, N B

C Woolridge said...

Sir,
I know it is early but have to say it. You do a good job on this story. You write it like it happened yesterday, and yet 50 plus years have passed. I am certain all concerned will be pleased that you have taken this upon yourself. A Major task, I know for sure. I speak as a journalist myself.

C. Woolridge
Boston

Jacques Tremblay said...

This has been a baffling case in legal circles for a lot of years.

If you and your coherts can pull off a public or judicial review of this case after such a lapse of time, then you should join the magicians union.

I am not saying that it doesn't deserve a review, just that it will never happen. Have followed it for years, and I know it has been very distressful for the Coffin family, and I am sure for the American families as well.

Have debated this case several times for law classes over the years. Good Luck Sir!

Jacques Tremblay
Quebec, PQ

Lew Stoddard said...

Mr. Tremblay,

I am not certain at this point that a review will be forth coming either. I am certain of this point though, nothing will ever be gained by sitting back and doing nothing. That would be tantamount to telling the government that it was ok, we forgive you.

You state Sir, that you have debated this case for law studies several times over the years. That being the case, my question to you Sir, If Wilbert Coffin were a member of your family, would you feel confident that he was fairly served by the justice system, based on what you would have obviously learned about the case?

Lew Stoddard

Anonymous Court Worker said...

I am furious with respect to Mr. Tremblay's remarks.

This is anything but a baffling case, pure and simple, it was a case of the big establishment, meaning the government and the legal profession walking over someone who was unable to fight back.

I work in the court system, and there is not a single day goes by that I don't see examples of prosecutors and defense lawyers making deals, and in many cases I am sure the defendant knows nothing of it. In a lot of cases the judges sit up their in their pretty garments, only because they kissed someones butt along the way to get there.

A few years ago my daughter was involved with a debate on capital punishment. She sought information on a variety of questionable cases. One of them was the Wilbert Coffin case. There was virtually nothing available.

I do not personally know Mr. Stoddard, but I do know he is sincere in his efforts to write about Mr. Coffin and make people aware. I also know that he has personally interviewed scores of politicians over the years on a variety of topics, and he knows how to ask the questions.

An Anonymous Court Worker,
Vancouver, B.C.

Carl Beardsley said...

Thank you sir for doing this story. It is years before my time I realize, but it is still Canada, and it is still shameful.

Obviously Mr. Coffin was made a guinea pig for the likes of a very corrupt government of Maurice Duplessis.

Carl Beardsley
Oshawa, Ontario

Jim Sanders said...

Have written to your site before on other topics. Very definitely from what I have been able to put together from what others say, Mr. Coffin was railroaded. Someone needs to be accountable, and if they have passed on, then the government of the day in Quebec needs to do the honourable thing.

Jim Sanders
Whitehorse, Yukon

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