The Laurel Magazine

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  • Laurel Contributor

One Man’s Trespass

by Jane Nardy

Tom Dillard, known throughout the community as an upright and honorable man, would not accept accusations of trespassing and illegal timber harvesting.

Thomas Allison Dillard and his wife Susan Fugate Dillard, parents of seven children, moved in 1900 from Dillard’s Canyon (now known as Lonesome Valley) to property now owned by the Chattooga Club.

Everyone knew Tom, who was a county commissioner deeply involved in politics; a school board member; in addition to making a living in the timber business. He also did some farming, which included a large apple orchard.

In December 1921, one of Tom’s neighbors, Dr. Halsted, Chief Surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who owned High Hampton, wrote a letter to Tom from Baltimore, accusing Tom of trespassing on his land and cutting down a “fine” chestnut tree and asked for an explanation from Tom.

A week later, Dr. Halsted received a return letter from Tom Dillard who wrote, “…I am 54 years old and have never been accused of trespassing before. I have never molested your Pheasants or Turkeys before and have never hunted deer on your land.

“I had not hunted for raccoons for 25 years until my boys got them a dog and I went with them to learn them how to hunt. We were not hunting on your land as I told your caretaker, Douglas, that night he found us passing through to the head of Silver Run following a dog that had a coon treed. The tree that was cut down was second growth chestnut about 18-inches through and I do not think neither a fine nor valuable tree but it is yours and not mine and I know it was a violation of the law but I did not feel that I was wronging you or anyone else as it is a custom for coon hunters to cut trees that are not valuable. Sorry that I did this as you look at it in a different light – as trespassing. I promise that we will not trespass on you again in this manner. When it comes to the place that a man of my age that has never been accused of trespassing has to be ground after by a man like Douglas Bradley when he goes out after a little measly coon, I think it is time to quit. I am grateful to you for your every favor you have tendered to me. I have made a clear statement of the facts just as they are and hope that the explanation is satisfactory.”