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Pictonians at Home and Abroad
The Press and Printers of Pictou

  THE first newspaper published in Canada was the Halifax Gazette. It was published by John Bushnell, a partner of Bartholomew Green. The first number appeared on Monday, March 25, 1752. Mr. Green was a son of Bartholomew Green who printed the first newspaper in America–the Boston News Letter. He set up the first printing press in the Dominion of Canada, at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The printing press was thus one of New England's contributions to Nova Scotia. The Gazette has been published continuously ever since, and still makes its appearance regularly each week as the Nova Scotia Royal Gazette. It is in all probability the oldest newspaper published in America.

  The first printing press in Pictou was what was known as the Weir Durham Press. It belonged to the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia. Soon after that body was formed, in 1817, it resolved to take collections for the purchase of a printing press to be employed in giving religious intelligence to the people. After some progress in this, a lady in Britain, Mrs. Weir Durham, hearing of it made them a present of a press which thenceforward was known by her name. Synod placed it in the Academy at Pictou, and in the early days was stationed in the library. It was a small press and would scarcely print a larger sheet than foolscap. It was well constructed and very convenient for small jobs. When Dr. Geddie was leaving Nova Scotia to go to the South Seas he needed a printing press and this one having been, for sometime unused, but being still in good condition, the Synod gave it to him to be employed in his work. He took it to the South Seas and set it up in the island of Aneityum where it was used in the early stages of the mission, printing primers and such other small works, in the language of the natives. Some years later a larger press was sent out from Britain, and the old one was transferred to the new mission field of Rev. G. N. Gordon, in 1856, on Erromanga, where it was used for the same purpose as in the other mission field. What has since become of it is not known.

  The first printing establishment properly, so called, in Pictou, was set up in 1827 by J. S. Cunnabell of Halifax and William Milne, a Scotchman, recently from Aberdeen. The former was a practical printer but the latter was not. The partnership was dissolved in a few months and for some years Mr. Milne was the sole owner. On leaving Pictou he went to Providence, R. I., where some of his sons followed their father's trade.


  A prospectus was issued in August 1827, signed by William Milne & Co., giving notice of intention to publish a paper to be called the "Colonial Patriot," and requesting the support of all interested in local affairs and in sound principles and politics. After much discussion on the part of its promoters the name of "The Pictou Patriot" was thought to be most suitable. Dr. McCulloch suggested the name "Colonial Patriot," which was adopted, a name which was fully justified by its broad sympathies. Nearly four months later, on Friday morning. December 7, the first number was issued. It consisted of eight pages of three columns each, and measured ten inches by twelve. It was strong in its advocacy of the policy of the Academy. This was the first native newspaper outside of Halifax. Shelburne had had three before 1800, but these were transplanted from the American colonies and soon ceased publication. The principles of the paper and the vigor and independence of the editor soon brought it into public notice.


  The Patriot sounded the first note of Responsible Government in the British North American colonies. Though opinions favorable to reform were widely current there was as yet no organ which openly avowed reformed sentiments. The Halifax papers were too near the center of things to speak with any insistence on the great questions at issue. It was in the country that the great body of reform sentiment existed and where, no doubt, grievances were most felt. And it was from that quarter that reform was first to find a voice in its behalf through that powerful agency of enlightenment, the press. Pictou had the honor of establishing that organ, the predecessor of the reformed Nova Scotian, which began as that carried on, the work of propagating those ideas of liberty, equality and justice in our Provincial Government, which at length prevailed by sheer force of their inherent truth. It required an editor with ideas and convictions to do this work. Such an one was found in Jotham Blanchard. He was a New Englander by birth and no doubt was familiar with the freedom under republican institutions in the country of his birth. Any such ideas which he may have possessed would not be lessened while under the influence of Dr. McCulloch. In Blanchard the times found the man to do work that sorely needed to be done. He brought to his task keen intelligence, literary skill and power of argument, great perseverance, and a great zeal which all too early consumed his powers of body and mind, and cut short a career which gave every promise of greatness. From the office of the Patriot was issued for a time a paper for youth called the Juvenile Entertainer. It is not known how long it was published, but it served a good purpose at a time when children's books were few.


  Among those trained in the Patriot office two deserve particular notice–Alexander Lawson and John Stiles. Mr. Lawson was a native of New Glasgow, and was employed on the Patriot as an apprentice from its establishment to its discontinuance. He then went to Yarmouth where he established the Yarmouth Herald, the first successful venture in newspaper printing in the Western part of the Province. With the exception of a short interval be conducted it for forty-seven years. It is one of the oldest papers in the Province, and is now conducted by his son J. Murray Lawson.


  In the year 1831, Pictou's second paper made its appearance. It was called the Pictou Observer. In politics it was opposed to the reform movement, and antagonistic to Dr. McCulloch's policy for the Academy. It was published by William Gossip. Rev. K. J. McKenzie, a Scottish Kirkman, was its editor. The Observer was not a success financially, and after a time it was discontinued. It was resuscitated by Roderick McDonald, a native of Scotland, who had been teaching the lower branches in Pictou Academy. The second attempt to establish the Observer proved futile after a year's effort, for we read that in 1843 it was once more revived by Mr. McCoubray of St. Johns, Newfoundland, with Martin I. Wilkins, a prominent lawyer and legislator, as editor, but it again became defunct. In this office was trained Alpin Grant. Born a mile back of the town in 1848, he bought from Gossip and Coade the old Halifax Times and commenced the publication in its place, of the British Colonist which be conducted through its whole course. He was also for sometime Queen's printer, and amassed a small fortune by printing in Nova Scotia, which few other men have done.


  The next paper published in Pictou was "The Bee," a weekly journal devoted to politics, literature and agriculture. It was conducted by James Dawson, father of the late Sir J. William Dawson who purchased the plant of the old Patriot. The first number appeared May 27, 1835. The general character of its contents was similar to that of its predecessors. In the spring of 1838 John Stiles issued a prospectus of a new paper to be called "The Mechanic and Farmer." Mr. Stiles was brought up near Pictou, his father who had come originally from Cornwallis, settled


near Scotch Hill, where he had a mill. Mr. Dawson, thinking there was not room for two papers in Pictou, agreed to sell his establishment to Mr. Stiles; and the Bee was discontinued in the month of May of that year. The Mechanic and Farmer was immediately announced in its stead, and was first issued on May 23, 1838. Mr. Stiles made his paper a success financially, and gave great stimulus to farmers in the amount of information circulated on agricultural subjects. In 1842 a religious paper in connection with the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia was established in Pictou under the name, Presbyterian Banner. It was edited by the Rev. James Ross; printed by Mr. Stiles, and continued for a little over one year.

  On October 4, 1843, "The Mechanic and Farmer" and "The Banner" were merged in "The Eastern Chronicle" which is still issued at New Glasgow. The plant was purchased from Mr. Stiles by the Rev. George Patterson and Mr. J. L. Geldert, and was conducted by them for some time. Mr. Stiles went to Washington and secured a good position in the Pension Office there, where he died some twenty years ago. Among those employed in the office may be mentioned Donald Gunn of Hopewell who afterward conducted a printing establishment in Boston; Edward M. Macdonald, afterwards M. P. for Lunenburg, a native of West River, who at the close of 1846 bought out the establishment, and in January 1847, took the management of the paper into his own hands. He continued to conduct the paper until appointed Queen's printer when he removed to Halifax and there established the Halifax Citizen with Hon. William Garvie. His brother, John D. Macdonald, who had been for sometime employed in the office, took charge of the Eastern Chronicle after his withdrawal.


  Up to about the year 1868, newspaper publication in the county was confined to the town of Pictou. Then the Eastern Chronicle was removed to New Glasgow, with Robert McConnell and W. B. Alley, the latter for thirty years proprietor Colchester Sun, of Truro, in charge. Mr. McConnell was a Pictou man and a veteran journalist. He edited the Eastern Chronicle for ten years; served on the editorial staff of the Halifax Morning Chronicle; was publisher of the Truro Guardian; then editor of the Moncton Transcript; for a time Editor-in-chief of the Montreal Herald. Returning to Halifax in 1892. he became the managing editor of the Morning Chronicle. Some years later he retired from active journalism and was appointed to a position in the Finance Department at Ottawa. which he held until his death in 1909. He was born at Meadowville, in 1842. and was educated at Durham Grammar school and the Normal school, Charlottetown. While in the latter place, he acquired a knowledge of printing, and became from that time a "newspaper man." He was prominently identified with the Presbyterian church and active in the Sunday school and Temperance cause. His second son, J. MilIer McConnell, is financial editor on the Montreal Daily Star. He was born in New Glasgow in 1870 and gained his early experience in newspaper work on the Eastern Chronicle. In 1887 he joined the staff of the Montreal Herald and ten years later went to the Montreal Star with which he has ever since been connected.


  Later on the Eastern Chronicle passed into the hands of Daniel Logan, now a prominent journalist in Hawaii. Mr. Logan is a Scotsburn boy. He began his newspaper career in the office of the Eastern Chronicle in 1867. In 1877 he became editor and proprietor. In 1884 he went to Honolulu where for more than a quarter of a century he has been engaged in journalism and literary work and has justly earned the title "Nestor of the Press." After Mr. Logan's departure the Eastern Chronicle passed into the bands of S. M. MacKenzie, who published it as a semi-weekly for a number of years. In 1881 he disposed of it to a company with James A. Fraser as editor and manager.


  On November 2, 1858, the Colonial Standard was established in Pictou town in succession to the Observer as the organ of the Conservative party. It was printed on a new press and with new type. Han. S. H. Holmes of Halifax, was its editor and proprietor for over 20 years. The Standard has had a chequered history. For a number of years it ceased publication. but is now issued from the "News" office.


  In 1880 W. D. Stewart started the Plain Dealer in New Glasgow. He conducted it for two years as editor and proprietor. The Rev. E. Scott, D. D., while pastor of the United Church, New Glasgow, began the publication of the Maritime Presbyterian, a religious monthly devoted to the interests of the church. It continued for a number of years but was finally merged in the Presbyterian Record of which Dr. Scott is the editor. It was in 1881 that the Liberals of Pictou decided that they should have a mouth piece to replace the Eastern Chronicle and the Pictou News appeared. The News prospered for a few years and gained a wide circulation. C. D. Macdonald was the editorial writer until 1889. Then came the Trades Journal at Stellarton, now the Mining Record, conducted by Hon. R. Drummond.


  Next to enter the field, in 1889, was the Enterprise of New Glasgow. It was printed for a time in the Standard office in Pictou by Mr. Albert Dennis who was then publisher of the Standard. In 1890 Allan P. Douglas joined the paper and is now editor and proprietor. From Westville the next report of a newspaper came. R. A. Macdonald there began in 1895 the publication of the Free Lance, as the organ of the Orangemen. It appeared as such for a year or two only, when it became the property of J. W. H. Sutherland.


  Reverting to the town of Pictou, the year 1890 witnessed the destruction of the Standard's office building and plant by fire; and as the gentleman who then owned the News had little in common with the town and county he sold to the Standard the News plant, and the latter paper ceased publication. This left Pictou with but one paper, till in 1893 the Pictou Advocate was established with John D. Macdonald son of John D. Macdonald, senior, as proprietor. The New Glasgow News, a daily, was first published in the fall of 1912.


  Of the other periodicals published in this county, the only ones worthy of special notice are the monthly organs of the different religious bodies. The Missionary Register, 1850 to 1857, was the first missionary paper published in the Lower Provinces. This was merged with a monthly magazine called the Christian Instructor and was edited by the Rev. George Patterson, 1855 to 1860. The Record of the Church of Scotland was commenced in January. 1854, and during the greater part of the time was published in the office of the Colonial Standard.


  Many Pictonians have been connected with the press elsewhere and one of the best known was George Munro, who was born at West River, 1825. At the age of twelve he entered the office of the Observer, Pictou, to learn the printing business. He only served two years when he became a student in the New Glasgow schools. He attended Pictou Academy for three years and for some years taught school in the county. His reputation as a teacher led to his being appointed head master of the Free Church Academy, Halifax, in 1850, where he continued until 1856. In that year he removed to New York City where he soon became a successful publisher of popular books and periodicals. He was engaged in the publishing business for nearly forty years and became a millionaire.


  The Munro Publishing house was known everywhere in the United States and Canada. In 1867, he began the publication of the Seaside Library which contained the best fiction, essays and history. It provided good and cheap reading for the masses and it is impossible to calculate the great educational value of those publications, for they reached millions of readers. Mr. Munro was a discriminating editor and a man of excellent literary judgment. He was a warm supporter of higher education. He never ceased to be interested in his native land, especially in its educational institutions. The main recipient of his bounty, was Dalhousie College, in which he endowed successively five Professorial chairs besides providing for scholarships and exhibitions, giving in all to the amount of nearly half a million dollars. While a teacher in the Free Church College, Halifax, he managed to complete the regular course in Theology although he never entered the ministry. Mr. Munro died April 24, 1896, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. His whole life was marked by industry and uprightness. Mrs. Munro was a sister of Rev. Dr. Forrest, Halifax.


  His brother Norman L. Munro was also a successful publisher of books and papers in New York City. Mr. Munro was born at Millbrook, Pictou Co., April 8, 1844. He went to New York in 1866, and engaged in publishing business under the name of the Munro Publishing Co. He died on February 24, 1894.


  W. E. Maclellan, Barrister, was for a number of years managing editor and chief editorial writer of the Winnipeg Free Press. From 1900 to 1905 he was Editor-in-chief, of the Morning Chronicle, Halifax, N. S. Mr. Maclellan was born at Durham, Pictou Co., 1855. He was educated at Pictou Academy and Dalhousie College, and received the degree of Bachelor of Laws from the University of Halifax. He was called to the Bar, 1880. For several years he was Inspector of schools for the District of Pictou and South Colchester. In 1909, he won a prize for the best essay on Immigration. He has written many short stories and literary articles for leading American publications. He entered the Dominion Public Service, as Post Office Inspector for Nova Scotia, in 1905. Maclellan was a brilliant editorial writer, and is today a frequent and valued contributor to the magazines and public press. He married Margaret .J. Mackenzie of Pictou and is a brother of Principal Maclellan of the Pictou Academy.


  The Rev. P. M. Macdonald, M. A., is on the editorial staff of the Westminster Company, Toronto and has written a number of stories, essays and poems for the magazines and the religious press. For several years he wrote for the "Presbyterian," Toronto, under the name of "Donal Bhain." Mr. Macdonald is a native of Pictou. He graduated from Dalhousie University, 1894; and from the Presbyterian College, Halifax, 1896. He was Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Truro, from 1896 to 1904; since then until 1913 Pastor of Cowan Avenue Church, Toronto. He married Miss Christina Logan of Pictou.


  Frederic Yorston, B. A. (Dalhousie & Harvard) is the managing Editor of the Montreal Standard, a high-class weekly published in that city. Mr. Yorston was born in Pictou town and after a thorough course of study at home and abroad, entered Canadian Journalism, taking a position on Montreal Daily Star. When the Standard was started he took position of Managing Editor. He is now President of the Montreal Publishing Company. Alvin F. Macdonald, editor of the Morning Chronicle. Halifax; Thomas M. Fraser of the Free Press, Saskatoon, Sask., and Albert E. Crockett, B. L. of the Post-Express. Rochester, N. Y., are Hopewell boys. The editor of the Wesleyan, the organ of the Methodist Church published in Truro, N. S., is the Rev. D. W. Johnson, D. D., of River John.


  In the history of the press in Pictou there is much in this brief review of which Pictonians may well be proud. No place outside of Halifax has so long maintained efficient newspapers, or displayed so much journalistic talent m the discussion of the public questions of the day. The press of Pictou has generally been on the side of morality and religion. The general character of the community may have been the cause of this, but it is equally true, that the press has had very much to do with the moulding and the making of the character of the people. Especially is this true at the beginning of her history. The press of those early days fulfilled its educative mission to an even greater extent than it does now, for it was then one of a few such agencies, while now it is merely one of many. The Patriot and its successors had much to do with the moulding of public opinion for popular rights and reform and for the final triumph of the Pictou Academy.

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