Did Orangeman murder Orangeman on glorious 12th in Arthur?

The following is a re-print of a past column by former Advertiser columnist Stephen Thorning, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2015.

Some text has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication and any images used may not be the same as those that accompanied the original publication.

Compared to other places, the activities of the Orange Lodge on July 12 each year have, except for a couple of isolated incidents, never produced much violence or controversy in Wellington.

Back in the 19th century, the public attitude here was that the Orange Order was more a fraternal organization than one pushing its own sectarian goals.

Orange activity in Wellington saw two peaks during the 19th century. The first, in the late 1840s and 1850s, centred on school funding. The second occurred in the late 1880s and 1890s, in the aftermath of the second Riel Rebellion and the national furore over the Manitoba School issue.

Both times, a few politicians tried to capitalize on sectarian sentiments, but they were frustrated. There was no desire to divide the communities on Catholic-Protestant lines.

Nevertheless, the Orange Lodge enjoyed a huge membership in Wellington, with a couple dozen active lodges. Most of the county’s larger villages and towns witnessed a parade each July 12.

From time to time local lodges would mount a major observance, inviting Orangemen from adjoining localities. As the largest centre with the best rail connections, Guelph hosted these most frequently.

In the north, the village of Arthur ranked first in Orange Order enthusiasm. Arthur’s July 12 festivities invariably attracted out-of-town visitors. This was particularly so after 1871, when the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway (later a Canadian Pacific branch) reached the village.

Arthur and the surrounding area had a sizable Roman Catholic population. In the early years the July 12 celebrants became involved in occasional brawls, and there were also a couple of suspicious fires. The mood gradually tamed down.

By the 1870s, some of Arthur’s Roman Catholics assisted the Orangemen in putting up decorations and banners. It was not entirely an expression of unselfish ecumenicalism. July 12 visitors to Arthur were good for business, and particularly the hotels. One Roman Catholic publican affirmed that July 12 was the best day of the year for bar receipts.

It would not be much of an exaggeration to characterize July 12 in Arthur as a big booze up. Orangemen usually spent the day parading around the various streets of the village, with frequent stops to slake their thirst, and a respite of an hour or so at midday for speeches.

The July 12 observance of 1872 followed this general pattern. This was the first summer of regular railway service, and a goodly number of Orangemen came to town by train. Others arrived in wagons and carriages from lodges in West Garafraxa, Maryborough, and Peel Townships.

Except for noisy parading Orangemen, the day was uneventful until about 9:30pm. The Lodge rooms had closed for the day, and six Orangemen, all a little worse for wear, piled into a wagon to visit a sick fellow lodge member who resided on the north edge of town.

As they passed the railway station, one of the group, George Ludlow, heard his brother William yelling and swearing at someone. The evening train from Orangeville was at the station, and a number of people were milling about, including some departing Orangemen. George stopped the wagon and got off to investigate the dispute. A passenger on the train, David Hunter, also heard the ruckus, and stepped onto the platform of the passenger car to have a look.

A moment or two later the train started moving, heading for its destination of Mount Forest. Suddenly, three shots rang out – fired, apparently, from a revolver. The second of the shots hit Hunter in the chest. Hunter’s travelling companion lifted him into the car, were he died in a few minutes.

Railway employees immediately sought out the local constable. The investigation, assisted by railway officials, continued over the weekend of July 13 and 14.

On Monday morning, July 15, William Ludlow, who farmed north of Arthur, and James Moore, who worked as a blacksmith in Arthur, were arrested for firing the shots.

The two suspects appeared before a coroner’s inquiry, held later that day at the Arthur station. The strongest evidence against the pair was that of members of the train crew, who claimed that they could identify William Ludlow as the guilty party.

The whole affair, it seems, had started when William Ludlow, after a day drinking with fellow Orangemen, went to the railway station to watch the evening’s activities. When the train arrived from Orangeville, the crew decided to replenish the fuel supply in the tender. They uncoupled the locomotive, and switched it onto the siding adjoining the wood pile.

Ludlow went over to watch, and was struck unintentionally by a piece of firewood tossed by a crew member. This resulted in an exchange of profanities with the crew, who told Ludlow to leave the area and return to the station.

A few minutes later, Ludlow grabbed a member of the crew, who was standing on a flatcar behind the locomotive. The conductor intervened before fisticuffs erupted. Ludlow jumped off the car, and issued another loud outburst of profanities. Moments later, the shots were fired.

Some 20 witnesses offered evidence to the inquiry, which continued into the small hours of Tuesday morning. The jury then deliberated for several more hours. Daylight had arrived when they brought in their findings: there was sufficient evidence to hold Ludlow and Moore on a charge of murder.

The pair sat in the Guelph jail all summer and fall. The trial was not scheduled until November. In the meantime, William Ludlow hired Neil Munro, the Fergus lawyer, to defend him. Munro and a partner spent a great deal of time on the case, and probably made a more thorough investigation than the prosecution.

The crown attorney decided to try Ludlow and Moore separately. When the case came to court, Munro handed over to M.C. Cameron, one of the best (and most expensive) lawyers in Canada in the 1870s. Cameron later became chief justice of the court of Queen’s Bench.

The evidence, as it came out during the trial, was more ambiguous and confusing than what had been presented at the coroner’s inquest the previous July. Some witnesses claimed the shots were fired from a position about 20 feet from the train. Others were sure they came from the road. One witness stated that they came from two places.

Cameron succeeded in undermining the evidence of the train crew by forcing them to admit that it had been too dark to identify anyone with certainty.

At the coroner’s inquiry, James Moore, the other accused, had pointed the finger at William Ludlow. Cameron produced several witnesses who testified that Moore had told them that George Ludlow, not William, had fired the shots.

Another witness claimed that James Moore had done the shooting, and that he had stood near Moore when the deed was done. Moore had a recent history of trouble with firearms: he was caught brandishing a pistol at the Dominion Day festivities the week before the shooting.

By the standards of our day, there were some glaring gaps in the testimony. No one seemed interested in determining who, if anyone, was the intended victim, or what the motive might have been.

The prosecution’s case suggested that Ludlow wanted to shoot a railway employee in his rage after being hit with the piece of wood, but the point was not made directly. Also, there seems to have been no effort made to locate the weapon, or to determine which suspect owned a revolver, and of what calibre.

In his summation, the judge instructed the jury that they must determine from where the shots had originated, whether Ludlow had done the shooting, and if so, if he was guilty of manslaughter or murder. He reviewed the conflicting and ambiguous testimony, and said that they would have to make sense of it.

The foreman of the jury hinted to the court that they would not likely be long. Their deliberations lasted about an hour. Ludlow’s friends and relatives, who packed the court, erupted in cheers when they heard the verdict of “not guilty.” Ludlow looked at the jury and said, “Well, boys, I’m discharged an innocent man.”

Eventually the judge restored order.

The crown attorney dropped the case against James Moore, because the evidence was similar to that against Ludlow, but not nearly as strong.

Who shot David Hunter? Was it William Ludlow, his brother George, James Moore, or someone else? No one ever confessed. The perpetrator took his secret to the grave.

The incident might have stirred animosity among Roman Catholics had it not been for one fact: David Hunter, the victim, was also an Orangeman. He had not come to Arthur for July 12 activities, and did not know any of the other men involved in the incident.

David Hunter, a carpenter in his early 20s, was merely passing through on his way to Mount Forest. A noisy disturbance attracted his attention.

He paid for his curiosity with his life, a victim of the unhappy mixture of alcohol and firearms.

*This column was originally published in the Wellington Advertiser on July 19, 1999.


Stephen Thorning - 1949-2015