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The Tudhopes ruled the roads and the roost
Writer:Tom Villemaire

Every community has a family that becomes infamous. In Orillia, a family that dominated that community was Tudhope. They were masters of industry. They even made cars for crying out loud. But this isn't a story about that sort of Tudhopian effort.

This is about the law.

Melville Brockett Tudhope was the eighth child of William O. Tudhope, the son of the man who started making cars in Orillia. Yeah, the eighth child. This kid had a lot of brothers in line ahead of him to get into the world of industry. So he decided to blaze a new trail.

He was known as M.B. He dominated the law like his brothers dominated industry. Well, not exactly LIKE his brothers. He did things his own way. On July 12, 1906, he was the subject of a Orillia Times article that provided this sketch:

Melville B. Tudhope is a native of Orillia and has lived in the town all his life. He attended collegiate institute here and took his degree of B.A. from Queen's University in Kingston in 1897 after which he attended the law school of Osgood Hall in Toronto and was called to the Bar in 1900. Since then has practiced as a barrister in Orillia. Like many other members of his family Mr. Tudhope has always been interested in athletics and has been prominently connected with football, lacrosse, canoe clubs and other amateur organizations. In public life Mr. Tudhope is a member of the Public School Board, president of the Public Library Board and president of the Orillia branch of the Fish and Game protective Association. Mr. Tudhope is solicitor for the Trader's Bank and for many of the larger business firms and incorporated companies in this part of the province and will argue on mushrooms, fishing rods or Burn's poems at any time without notice.

So you are warned. Imagine being confronted with someone who would argue without notice about Burn's poems. The mind boggles.

He also liked to drink.

Which must tie in somehow with the arguing about Burn's poems.... Here's a story from a May edition of the Midland Free Press from 1910:

M.B. Tudhope arrived in Victoria Harbour to support the Temperance rally. The Orillia barrister of upstanding family put a man in his place when challenged during the evening.

After telling the gathered crowd of the evils of drink and benefits of abstinence, he was just moving along from example to example when he was interrupted by a diminutive fellow.

"Sir, can I ask you a question," asked the man.

"Of course you can. I am always happy to help," said Mr. Tudhope.

"Are you not the same man I saw in Port McNicoll, drunk as a hoot owl, the other night?" asked the man.

Mr. Tudhope until this point had been bent over his notes on the lectern. He stood up to his full height, which was impressive and looked down on his interrogator.

"I am that man and I want to tell you and everyone here that if liquor can do that to a man like me, imagine what it can do to a runt like you."

There were no more interruptions.

In court, he could be as much of a bully to judges.

In judge Dan McCaughrin's court in Orillia, M.B. was at odds with a ruling by the judge and called him a 'stupid man'.

The judge ordered the only officer in the court at the time, Lew Church, the chief of police, to arrest Tudhope. A former blacksmith, Church was a big, powerful man. Even so, he wanted nothing of Tudhope and pretended not to hear the judge's order. The judge called for Tudhope's arrest again and finally Church stirred and walked toward the lawyer. Belly to belly they eyed each other and as Church raised his hand to take Tudhope into custody, Tudhope glowered at him.

"Lay your hand on me at your peril."

Church turned on his heel and left the courtroom.

The judge realized he too had been beat and called for a recess. The trial later resumed with the incident ignored.

M.B. ended his career as a distinguished judge in Brockville.

He died in 1947, Dec. 6.

The name Tudhope was a strong base for M.B. to build his career.

The Tudhope Automobile Company was quite a trendsetter. Its car, the Everitt 30 in 1911 was popular enough to catch the eye of a manager of the Studebaker Car Company. While the Tudhope family was toying with plans to expand the car operations into Windsor in 1914, Frank E. Fisher, the aforementioned manager with Studebaker offered to buy the company which instead of expanding was threatening to flop. Fisher moved the head offices to Walkerville and changed the name to the Fisher Auto company. The cars that were sold were Tudhopes in all but name, essentially made from leftover parts from the Orillia plant. The First World War kept the company puttering along. In April of 1915, F. W. Vollans brought the Tudhope arm of Fisher's little empire back to Orillia in 1915 and built trucks for the army through the war. After the war, the company remained a concern building car accessories until 1928. The family was responsible for making Orillia one of the major manufacturing centres north of Toronto with their other businesses. They made carriages, wood products including furniture, electric castings and held banking and mining interests.

SLM