The legend of Arthur Cutten and his hidden fortune
Arthur Cutten was born and raised in Guelph and remains a figure of local legend and mystery with many reminders of him left throughout the city. Among them is Cutten Fields and an interesting story of a hidden fortune to go with it.
Born and raised in Guelph, Arthur Cutten would eventually move to Chicago to make his fortune on the grain market. As he quickly moved his career forward to become a prominent figure on Wall Street, he remained well respected back home as a model for success, a great philanthropist and a booster for Guelph. But his success on Wall Street came to a halt in 1929.
It was in 1929 that the Crash came, the devastating stock market crash which signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. After the Crash, Cutten was investigated and later barred from trading. Despite the investigation, Cutten’s generosity and reputation as a philanthropist remained intact back home. As a great Guelph booster, it was also in 1929 that he decided Guelph would be the ideal location for a high-end golf course and resort, bringing prestige and profile to Guelph. As such, the original design included a 200-room luxury hotel and sports complex! This phase, of course, was never completed but the golf course opened in 1931. The cost to build the golf course was $750,000 (approximately $11 million today!) and was paid for by Cutten himself. The next part of Cutten’s plan, however, was to gift the Cutten Club to the City of Guelph. Unfortunately, Mayor R.B. Robson and the City Council at the time declined the offer because it would be too costly for taxpayers to handle and maintain (Cutten would go on to pay for the course until his death in 1936).
For Cutten, being barred from trading would later escalate (are you still with me? This is where it gets good!). In 1936, he was charged for tax evasion and the expensive Guelph golf club caught the attention of United States agents. Shortly after Cutten’s death, it appeared that his estate had millions of dollars unaccounted for. In an attempt to explain where the money had gone, rumours began to spread with some believing that Cutten had hidden stock certificates in Cutten Fields. As the story is told, United States agents (surely among some hopeful local residents as well) were seen digging holes throughout the golf course in search of the hidden fortune. After searching the clubhouse and digging up the fairway, nothing was ever found.
Although there is no physical proof that U.S. agents were seen digging up Cutten’s golf course, it continues to be one of my favourite Guelph stories. So if you ever see someone sporting a shovel rather than a 5-iron on the fairway, they are likely in search of Cutten’s hidden fortune.
The new winter exhibition Sports Guelph Played launches this Friday, November 27. The exhibition explores the rich sporting history of Guelph, from famous teams and players to the occasional scandal. With so many stories to be told, Guelph Museums invites you to share your sports stories with us, using #GuelphStories.