by Marjorie Clark
The Corwhin section of Puslinch Township was in shock. At 1:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, August 22, 1954, Eddie Hardie was reported as found lying on the Puslinch-Nassagaweya Townline Road by Beverley and Donald Stewart. The Stewart brothers were returning in Beverley’s 1940 Plymouth to a stag party held for Keith Moore, to retrieve Donald’s wallet, when they said that they came upon him. Eddie Hardie was dead from multiple skull fractures, a crushed brain and possibly other fractures. Provincial Pathologist, Dr. W. J. Armstrong of Kitchener stated that death would have been instantaneous.
It was first assumed that he had been hit by a car, travelling at a high speed, and thrown over the vehicle. By daybreak on Sunday all members of the Guelph Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police and law enforcement from adjacent centres were looking for the hit and run vehicle.
On Monday evening about 10 p.m., Beverley Stewart was told to take his car to Guelph for inspection. The Stewart brothers were arrested by the O.P.P. at 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday morning, August 24th, charged with giving false information to police and were remanded in custody in Wellington County Jail. On Wednesday, the 25th, Beverley Stewart was charged with motor manslaughter. The lesser charges of giving false information were adjourned until after the more serious charge was heard. Bail was set at $5,000. for Beverley and at $2,000. for Donald. This was a large sum of money in 1954 but the bail money was raised and the brothers were released on Thursday, August 26th. They retained Abraham Acker, Q.C. of Guelph and a preliminary hearing was set for September 3rd.
The police interviewed the other party-goers. Provincial Police Sergeant Harold S. Gall, who was in charge of the investigation, called upon the public to come forward with any information concerning the accident. The Corwhin community, almost exclusively composed of farm families, was close knit and residents knew both of these men and their families. However, the Stewart brothers had a reputation for being pugnacious. It has been said that Beverley arrived at the stag in an intoxicated state. For a reason not clear, the criminal charges were withdrawn by Crown Attorney J. M. Kearns in October 1955. No records from the criminal investigation have survivied.
Eddie Hardie lived in the village of Corwhin on County Road 34. The Stewart family lived on their farm on County Road 34 to the west of Corwhin. The Moore family lived on the Nassagaweya side of the Puslinch-Nassagaweya Townline Road, north of County Road 34.
What happened that summer night? The following information was given at the civil trial, launched by Edna Hardie, Eddie’s widow, in Ontario Supreme Court in April 1955. Approximately 30 to 35 young men attended that Saturday night stag, held at William Moore’s farm on the Puslinch-Nassagaweya Townline Road. Eddie Hardie was 26. Donald Stewart was 23. Beverley Stewart was 18. The newspaper columns mentioned that there was “some drinking”. A heated argument between Eddie Hardie and Beverley Stewart erupted around 11 p.m. and Beverley Stewart was asked to leave by Clark Moore. The dispute continued outside the house.
Following this, Beverley told police that he took his father home and then, he and Donald went to Guelph. On their return, they found Eddie Hardie, who was wearing a bright yellow and black plaid shirt which police described as easily visible, lying face down on the road about 300 yards from the Moore farmhouse, where the party was held. Donald said that they drove suddenly over a slight rise in the narrow road. Beverley swerved to the right and thought, that he had missed him. It was when blood and tissue were discovered on the undercarriage of Beverley Stewart’s car, that the charge of manslaughter was laid. The Stewart brothers said that Beverley stopped, and then, as the road was narrow, they could not turn around but continued to the party. A group from the party returned to the scene and discovered that it was Eddie Hardie. Clark Moore returned home and called the police and went south back down the road to meet the Constable Wilson at County Road 34. Constable Wilson determined that Eddie Hardie was dead and radioed for more police to attend. Two officers arrived and Constable Wilson sent one of them to inform Eddie Hardie’s wife. It was about 2 a.m.
Sergeant Gall and Constable Cleave Wilson testified that they were baffled by the absence of “drag marks”, which usually exist when a body is dragged by a car. They remarked that there were no brake or swerve marks nor indication of a wheel passing over the body.
Provincial Pathologist, Dr. W. J. Armstrong testified that the cause of death was the multiple fracture to the front of the skull, which had occurred when Eddie Hardie was alive. None other of his injuries could have caused his death. However, Dr. Armstrong could not say that the car parts containing the blood and tissue caused those fractures. He stated that, had Eddie Hardie been walking on the road when struck, he would have sustained “bumper fractures” in the middle of his legs but he did not have such.
Also called as witnesses were Edna Hardie; William Moore; his sons, Keith Moore and Clark Moore; Donald Simpson; and Delmar Hardie, Eddie Hardie’s brother.
Beverley Stewart testified that he was sober, when he drove at about 30 or 35 miles per hour over the the hill and saw an object on the road about two car lengths ahead. The light of the moon was partly obscured by the shadow that maple trees cast across the road. He swerved and braked but was unable to miss the body with his left-side wheels, as the body lay just 36 feet from the top of the knoll. He stated that it was the first time anything like this had happened to him and he was frightened and may have partially “frozen” at the wheel.
Justice J. L. Wilson suggested that Eddie Hardie may have been lying on the road when struck. However, there were no tire marks or disturbance of the gravel or brush marks from the car on the body. There was also no evidence of other traffic to obliterate the swerve or brake marks. Testimony was that Beverley Stewart’s brakes had been found to be defective, due to a fault with the master cylinder.
The attorney for the defence insisted that the brake issue was irrelevant since, coming over a sharp knoll, there was neither time nor distance to apply them. He argued that Eddie Hardie was inebriated and fell on the road, thus putting himself in danger. Furthermore, Beverley Stewart was frightened by the event and Donald could not recall exactly what happened.
On April 11, 1956, Justice Wilson ruled that Eddie Hardie died as a result of injuries he received when he was struck by a car driven by Beverley Stewart. He stated that, even if Eddie Hardie had been lying on the road, he would have been visible for at least 100 feet. Damages of $30,000, plus funeral expenses and court costs were awarded. Beverley Stewart’s finances were investigated. Although employed full-time, he was only a youth and had just begun his working career, had no assets, no bank account and at the time of the civil trial, no car, no car insurance and lived with his parents. His father’s financial situation was also assessed. The conclusion was that neither Beverly nor his father could settle this account. Payment was made from the Ontario Government’s Unsatisfied Judgement Fund. This situation carried with it a license suspension of five or more years. This horrible incident would have been a nightmare for both the Hardie and Stewart families.
Edward George Hardie moved to Puslinch from Erin Township with his parents as a child. He worked in Guelph as a section man with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He left behind, his wife and two very young sons, as well as parents, siblings and extended family. What did happen to him on our country road on that summer night those many years ago?