While the exact events leading to the creation of the Andover Sportmen's Club in 1943 are lost to history, it is clear that a number of locals had been meeting informally at the Gasper Cabin (a cabin on the Gasper farm on Hebron Road) regularly to socialize, shoot trap, and discuss world events. What is known for sure is that on June 23, 1943, the State of Connecticut formally recognized "The Andover Sportmen Club, Incorporated" as a legal non-stock corporation. The club's first President was John Gasper. Most of the information I have uncovered about the club in the 1940's comes from the Democratic Town Committee - World War II newsletters ( a locally produced newsletter that was sent to all Andover men and women severing in the armed services during WWII to keep them abreast of what was happening in their home town). The very first issue, June 28, 1943, announced the new club's objective as "Better hunting and fishing" in town. I suspect that while better hunting and fishing were the stated goals, the social aspect of the group was equally important, as it still is today, for in the same newsletter it was announced that the Sportmen Club and the Fire Dept. Association threw a joint barbecue at the Gasper Cabin. The report reads "A lamb and sixteen chickens, along with assorted salads, rolls and two kegs of beer cheered the beings of some 56 men. A double-header softball game, with tackling and interference the main features of the game, could be heard as far as Hartford ... and one bicycle that arrived by manpower had to be taken home by truck." Early meetings were generally split between discussing hunting and fishing issues such as stocking the local streams, and hearing about the experiences of the soldiers home on leave, like when Clarence Savage gave a talk on salvage operations at Pearl Harbor. Throughout the remainder of the 1940's, the club continued to use the Gasper Cabin as their base of operations.
First Land Purchase
By the end of 1948, the club decided that it was time to acquire its own land for hunting and the erection of a club house. One of the parcels that interested the club was owned by Richard Phelps. The parcel was once part of a large farm which included the colonial era White's Tavern. Because of the realignment of Route 6 as a WPA project in the 1930's, this parcel was now separated from the farm house that once served as a tavern where the Comte de Rochambeau and his officers dinned on several occasions during the Revolutionary War. As Mr. Phelps was not raised on the property and rarely visited Andover, it was felt that he might be inclined to sell at a reasonable price. In the spring of 1949, John H. Yeomans, then club president, sent an inquiry to Mr. Phelps on the Club's behalf. Mr. Phelps responded that he would be visiting Andover that summer and would discuss matters with the Club during his visit. Apparently Mr. Phelps did not visit as planned that summer. Not having heard from Mr. Phelps by November, Mr. Yeomans again sent a letter to him, this time with a concrete offer to buy the property for $1,000. The letter reads in part -
"The Sportsmen's Club has inspected various tracts of land including yours, and it is the opinion of the majority of the members that yours is the best suited to our purposes of any they have looked at. ...The Club was organized about 5 years ago and the membership is entirely local. ... It is their aim to get a tract of land where they can erect a small club house, hold trap shoots and hunt. ...It is very difficult to determine the value of land such as this. The value really depends to the use to which it can be put. At present it is unproductive, hence from one viewpoint worthless. It does have some frontage on the main highway, and I believe some wood and timber which give it potential value. However, the land on the highway is much lower than the surface of the road, and much filling would be required before it could be used for building purposes. ...A majority of the members present at the last meeting of the club were of the opinion that for the purposes they have in mind a fair value would be $1,000."
Mr. Phelps responded in a letter dated February 23, 1950 -
"... After thinking the matter over, I would be willing to sell the land east of the railroad tracks for $300, making a total of $1,300 for the entire tract. This would be approximately $10.00 per acre for the land west of the tracks and $20.00 per acre for the easterly land. It seems to me that that price would be very reasonable. If you desire to make the payment in two installments, that also would be satisfactory."
Upon receipt of Mr. Phelps' letter, the club immediately held a meeting at which they voted to purchase the entire tract of land for $1,300, provided Mr. Phelps would agree to a payment plan as follows: a $100 deposit sent with the Club's acceptance letter, $400 paid within thirty days of delivery of the deed followed by two annual payments of $400 plus interest of 5% on the last two payments. Mr. Phelps sent a telegram on March 7, 1950 agreeing to the proposed terms. The transaction was completed quickly as on March 29, 1950, a deed was filed with the Andover and Bolton town clerks transferring Mr. Phelps' property to The Andover Sportmen Club, Inc. The $800 mortgage was paid off on April 8, 1952.