Continued unrest between Protestants and Catholics during the latter half of the eighteenth century led to the Catholic Defenders assembling on a hill in Loughgall, in an area known as the Diamond. Protestant forces took command of an opposing hill, with the homestead of Dan Winter and his family sandwiched between. On 21st September 1795, the two sides engaged in battle, forcing the Defenders to secede their position. The Protestants assembled in Dan Winter's cottage, where solemn oaths were taken and the Orange Order formed as a Protestant association for the defence of the Protestant religion and Protestant homes.
The Orange Order grew, with various lodges formed throughout the county. In July 1796, they petitioned Sir Arthur Acheson for permission to parade through his Demesne at Gosford. Lord Gosford had been appointed Governor of County Armagh in 1791 and was never to join the Order, but he did allow the march to pass through his land. He gave the following account of the first Twelfth of July parade.
"I have the honour to acquaint Your Excellency that the meeting of the Orange Men took place yesterday in different parts of this county. One party consisting of thirty companies with banners, flags, etc., after parading through Portadown, Loughgall and Richhill came towards this place. They halted about half a mile from my house and sent on a courier to enquire whether I had any objection to their paying me a visit and allowing them to march through part of my demesne.
My answer of course was that if they were sober and orderly I could have no objection to comply \vith their request. They accordingly came here about five o'clock in the evening marching in regular tiles by two and two with orange cockades, unarmed, and by companies which were distinguished by numbers upon their flags. The party had one drum and each company had a fife and two or three men in front with painted wands in their hands who acted as commanders. They posted two men at each side of my gate with drawn swords to prevent any person coming in but their own body. The devices on the flags were chiefly portraits of King William with mottos alluding to his establishment of the Protestant religion, and on the reverse side of some of them I perceived a portrait of his present Majesty with the crown placed before him, motto God save the King. They were perfectly quiet and sober. After parading through part of my demesne they took their leave. I was at my gate; each company as they passed me by saluted me by lowering their flags. I recommended to the heads of their companies to keep their people sober and to go to their respective homes quietly which they assured me would be the case, for they had entered into resolutions that no more liquor should be drunk than what their commanders might deem a necessary refreshment upon their march, to defray the expense of which each man had lodged sixpence in the hands of the leaders of their respective companies. The number who paraded through my place amounted, I should imagine to about fifteen hundred. I have had no particular account as yet from the other side of the County except that similar bodies paraded there and all ended quietly.
Every possible attention was immediately paid to. Your Excellency's directions and wishes as expressed to me by Mr. Cooke's letter of the 8th which I received in the afternoon of the 9th.
Your Excellency will see that the shortness of time between that and the 12th rendered any attempt to stop the meeting impossible."
Letter from Lord Gosford, Markethill, County Armagh, to the Lord Lieutenant Lord Camden, Doblin.Castle, 13 July 1796, giving an account of the first Twelfth of July parade
Gosford MSS D.1606/1/188 in Paterson, Before I Forget, p.179)