The Way it Was: A man's home is his castle
In 1995 the Michigan Bar Association dedicated its 21st Legal Milestone, the steps taken as our contemporary system of laws evolved, to a much-cited case, Pond v The People. This case established the rule that "a man's home is his castle" (a phrase first invoked by Clarence Darrow, who cited Pond), and involved a man who moved to Beaver Island as a result: Dennis Cull.
The events that led to this case occurred in 1859, three years after the Mormons had been driven out of northern Lake Michigan's fishing grounds. As fishing camps moved westward along the northern shore, one of the typical frontier communities sprang up at Seul Choix Point, ten miles east of Manistique. Many of the fishermen to build shanties in an arc along the beach had come from Mackinac Islandincluding young Cull and Daniel Whitney, fishermen who worked for Gus Pond, Pond himself, and David Plant, Joe Robilliard, and the hulking giant Isaac Blanchard Jr., the three men whose attack on Pond led to this landmark case.
Mild-mannered 34-year-old Agustus Pond lived with his wife and three children in a 16' x 16' house, built like the others in this arc, with poles driven into the ground and boards nailed on as siding and roofing. Boards were also laid on the dirt to form a floor. There was one window and one door, held on with leather hinges, swinging outward and locked by a cord twisted around a nail on the inside. Pond also owned a comparable structure he used as net shed, where 18-year-old Cull and Whitney slept 36' from the primary building. On both bark was nailed to the roof boards to minimize leaking.
For some reason Dave Plant developed an unassuagable need to beat up Gus Pondlater rumors had him infatuated with Pond's wife. In the days preceding the fatal clash of June 18th, Plant made several threats as he tossed off another drink. When they were repeated to Pond, he spent the night with a neighbor or with his brother-in-law, or hid under his bed. On one occasion the two men ran into each other, and Plant punched Pond in the face with enough strength to knock his hat off. Without saying a word Pond picked it up, put it back on, and ran into the woods.
After dark Plant, Robilliard, and Blanchard, freshly fortified with whiskey, took to visiting Pond's house and calling him out. His wife Mary would deny he was there. One time Plant asked her for some sugar to sweeten his whiskey, and reached through the cracked-open door and grabbed her arm and squeezed until she blacked out. Another time they thought Pond might be in his net shed and began ripping the boards off the roof to gain entry; Dennis Cull gave the impression he could sleep through this impending demolition.
Things finally reached a head past midnight on Friday the 17th. After failing to gain entry to Pond's house, the three bullies shifted their focus to the net shed. Robilliard climbed on the roof and began throwing boards down to the 22-year-old Blanchard, who stood 6' 7" and weighed over 240 pounds. Plant ripped the door off its hinges, pulled Dennis Cull from his bed, and began choking him and demanding to be told where Pond had gone. Hearing the ruckus, Gus Pond crawled out from under his bed, picked up the double-barreled gun filled with pigeon shot that he had borrowed from his brother-in-law, and stepped into the night. He called out for the invaders to desist, and then, when they ignored him, called out again. When they continued to dismantle his net shed and choke his helper he fired a single shot, sending the three men running away.
In the morning the body of Blanchard was found in the woods a few hundred feet away. Pond feared the worst because Blanchard's father, Isaac Sr., was a powerful judge on Mackinac Island. Gus wanted to turn himself in to his brother Louis, who was a junior constable, but Louis didn't want to get involved. So Pond ordered his two men to row him to Beaver Island, 27 miles away. Beaver was part of a different county, thanks to Strang, where Blanchard Sr. had less power. Wilson Newton, the head constable, spotted them on the horizon and set off in pursuit, with Plant, Robilliard, and two others manning the oars. Having more muscle power, Newton caught the smaller boat before it reached Beaver, and took Gus Pond into custody. (Newton was the brother of Arch Newton, who had helped drive the Mormons from Beaver to promote his liquor trade, and became wealthy in the years that followed.)
Pond was charged with murder, convicted of manslaughter, and sent to Jackson Prison to serve ten years. Dennis Cull was so upset by these events that he moved to Beaver Island, where he became a fisherman and met and married Mary O'Donnell, who presented him with eleven children. Pond languished in jail until 1860, when the State Supreme Court considered whether or not his act was justifiable as self-defense. They decided he was entitled to use extreme force under those circumstances, and ordered him freed. When defending Ossian Sweet on a charge of murder in 1925, Clarence Darrow referred to the 1860 reversal, claiming it established that "a man's home is his castle." This has been the caption for the Supreme Court's 1860 decision ever since.
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