Many younger Canadians have never heard of the Orange Lodge. But for decades, the Orange Lodge was Ontario’s largest fraternal organization and its big day, the 12th of July, was the celebration in many communities. The whole Orange movement is firmly rooted in British history. Throughout the 1600's, Britain struggled with the concept of democracy & Parliamentary rule. The age of "Divine Right of Kings" was disappearing in the face of democratic rule by the people. In 1688, the English Parliament fired the King of England (James II) for ignoring the laws & wishes of the English, elected Parliament. William III (his son-in-law) was proclaimed King by Parliament. Now having 2 kings in Britain at the same time was not a good idea. Civil war erupted, especially in Ireland where deep divisions already existed. James invaded, William replied and the whole issue came to a head at the Battle of the Boyne (River) on July 12, 1690. James was decisively defeated and the history of democracy received a huge boost.
Unfortunately religious differences crept into the Orange Order in Ireland. Even today, the 12th of July is filled with distrust & violence in Northern Ireland. Irish settlers brought their Orange Lodges with them to Canada. Fortunately this violence was not as prevalent in the New World. The Canadian arm of the Orange Lodge was more concerned with fraternal, community & benevolent works than sectarian violence. But they were an important force in politics: being intensely pro-British, monarchist and guardians of the British democratic traditions.
Orange Lodges were very numerous in this area of Ontario. The first groups organized in a pioneer community were a school, a church, an agricultural society & an Orange Lodge. Haliburton County alone supported 15 lodges: more lodges than villages!
Kinmount’s chapter of the LOL (Loyal Orange Lodge) was formed in 1886. The building stood on the present site of the Kinvale Restaurant. The Great Fire of 1890 destroyed the structure & the next lodge was built atop the hill on Cluxton Street. It still stands there today, even though the Kinmount Lodge has long since disbanded.
The 12th of July was the big celebration for Orangemen. A century ago, it was even larger than Canada Day (then called Dominion Day). District rallies were held where all the Orange Lodges in the area would gather in one spot for a big celebration. The key moment was the parade of Orangemen, complete with banners, regalia, bands and led by King Billy on his white horse. Thanks to our excellent transportation network, Kinmount was often the site of these celebrations.
Today, the Orange Lodges are almost all gone and the 12th of July all but forgotten. But it remains an important part of our past, forever embedded in Canadian legend.