Grey County MP murdered under suspicious circumstances, including the lack of police investigation, until a surprise discovery.
One of the most interesting murders in the history of Canada occurred in 1859 and it involved the member of the colonial legislature (Parliament of the era) for Grey County.
John S. Hogan, a Toronto newspaperman, was elected to represent Grey County in the legislature despite the fact that he lived in Toronto and had little, if any, affiliation with the County of Grey.
Hogan was a 44-year-old Irish immigrant who had a reputation as a lady’s man. On the evening of November 30, 1859, he paid a visit to Mrs. Ella Laurie. When he left her home around 8:30 p.m. on December 1, 1859 he was never seen alive again.
Ironically, this well-known newspaperman and politician was not reported missing until almost two months had elapsed. The police carried out a search but there does not seem to have been a concerted effort to find the missing Hogan.
Eight months later Detective Colgan of the Toronto police made what seemed to be a breakthrough in the case. As he was walking along a street, he saw Ellen McGillock, a well-known figure on the streets of Toronto, who was a member of a small-time criminal gang known as the Brook's Bush gang. This band of petty thieves lived in an abandoned barn to the east of the Don River.
McGillock was known to have "kept company" with Hogan from time to time so the detective asked her about Hogan's disappearance. She replied, "He's dead, I don't know anything about it, so don't bother me." Despite this strange statement, the police seemingly let the case drop until on March 30, 1861, when some fishermen on the Don River found a body washed up on a small mound in the mouth of the river.
Several of Hogan's friends were called to the morgue to identify the body. However, no-one seemed able to make a conclusive identification. That is until Mrs. Ella Laurie was brought to view the body. At first, Mrs. Laurie seemed hesitant to say for sure that the man was Hogan. Then, as she was about to leave, she turned to the police officers and said: "The pin!... The safety pin! I just remembered. Only a few minutes before he left me on the night he disappeared, John Hogan asked for a safety pin to tighten the band of his underwear. Search the tatters on that corpse." A quick examination by the police found a safety pin. The dead man was indeed John Hogan, the Member of Parliament for Grey County.
Later that day, Detective Colgan found Ellen McGillock. He told her that Hogan's body had been found and that they were about to arrest all the members of Brook Bush Gang. But, he said, "...we'll soon have the guilty ones. (and) One of them, the smart one, is bound to tell on the others and gain the immunity accorded a witness for the Crown". McGillock responded, "I've been thinking about that immunity and have something to tell you."
McGillock told the officer that on the fateful evening Hogan had taken up with Jane Ward, another gang member. As the couple walked across the bridge Ward grabbed Hogan's wallet and a struggle ensued. Ward called out for help to McGillock and some other gang members who were behind them on the bridge. The gang set upon Hogan and beat him until he was dead. Then they bound his body and tied a rock to it and dumped him into the river.
At the trial, McGillock, Ward and another gang member were released. However, James Brown was convicted and hanged on March 10, 1862 for the murder of John Sheridan Hogan, the Member of the Legislature for Grey County.
The information used in this article came from several editions of Owen Sound newspapers.
A version of this article, "Grey County MP Murdered," first appeared in my Local History column in the August 18, 2000 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.