|History | Early Norfolk Newspaper
|This article appeared on page 1 of the 31 Jan 1901 Simcoe Reformer.
Early Norfolk Newspaper
It is a very neatly printed sheet of most modest dimensions, being less than one quarter the size this of copy of the Reformer. Not withstanding this fact, the subscription price is advertised to be $2.00 per annum, but the proprietor, Mr. J. H. Davis, intimates that he is ready to take most kinds of farmers produce in payment of subscriptions.
The paper contains a considerable amount of reading matter on various topics of local and general interest--but the one article that is of first importance to the Norfolk County history student is a short extract referring too the completion of the Port Dover plank road as far as the Grand River. The interest that this article arouses is not, however, from anything the article itself contains, but rather from the fact that it is credited as having been re-produced from the British Canadian. The article makes it plain that the Canadian, too, was a local paper. Our present town contemporary was established about 1860 upon the suspension of the Standard. The accepted idea has long been that the Advocate was the first paper started in Norfolk, and that until the Standard came into the field, it had no rival. This reference to a British Canadian so early as 1844 makes it appear that there was another publication, that vanished long years ago, leaving behind little or no evidence of its existence.
We made a similar discovery some years ago, when the late Mr. James Anderson presented us with a package of old papers that he found in a box in his store. Among the number was a copy of a Simcoe Reformer printed in 1851, by one J. Gundry, seven years before the establishment of the present Reformer by Dr. Oliver. We had never before heard or seen any reference to this earlier Reformer, but our inquiries brought its brief story back to the memories of some of our older citizens. Perhaps there may yet remain some very old residents who can call to mind this first British Canadian of 1844.
Among the news items in the Advocate is a paragraph announcing that the first Agricultural Fair for the Talbot District was to be held on the second Tuesday in October at Port Rowan, when thirty eight prizes would be awarded to the successful competitors.
Dr. Egerton Ryerson appears to have been the bright particular mark at which most of the Advocate's editorial thunder bolts were aimed. If the Advocate fairly represented the feeling of any party in the country at that time, Dr. Ryerson was far from enjoying that universal esteem in which his memory is now held. According to the Advocate, Dr. Ryerson was a small czar splashing around in Canadian politics and an adept of sophistry, tergiversation and Billingsgate.
There is but one death chronicled in the paper. It was that of Michael Shaw, Sr., who had passed away the previous week at his farm in Townsend, upon which he had settled over fifty years previously. He had reached the age of 81 years, and was, we presume, the ancestor of the numerous family of Shaws now residents of Norfolk. He must have come into Townsend among the earliest arrivals.
Of the twenty-four columns that make up this particular issue of the Advocate, eleven are given up to advertisements and probably most of the then business firms were represented in its columns. They form a startling commentary on the transitory character of a town's inhabitants. Even to the older of our present generation of active business men, the very names are unfamiliar. One advertisement alone belongs to a man still in trade. Mr. W. H. Ryerse, of Port Ryerse, occupies a small space to say that he is prepared to pay cash for lumber, and sell Onondago salt at $2 per barrel.
Mr. Simpson McCall, who carried a year or so ago such a wealth of historical recollections across the Styx, advertises for tenders for the erection or a Brick Presbyterian Church in Vittoria. It would seem that it is to this fact we owe the preservation of the paper, for the advertisement is marked and doubtless the paper had for this reason been filed away.
Notice is given that at the next session of the District Council an application will be made to alter the travelled road between Waterford and the Boston Settlement.
Tenders are invited by the Board of Works, Montreal, for the construction of the harbor at Port Dover.
Ellis & Heath advertise that they have purchased the tannery and shoe store of G. R. Lounsbury, and are prepared to sell fine calf boots from $3.00 to $5.00; Ladies gaiter boots for $2.00, and they will exchange boots, shoes and leather for hides.
The legal cards are three in number. John J. L. Askin, whose office was at the corner of Peel and Kent Sts.; Wm. M. Wilson, Master in Chancery, with his office in the Court House, and A. Givins, who gives no particulars as to where he may be found.
Mr. D. Campbell, postmaster, advertises a long list of uncalled for letters. Postmaster and owners of the letters alike have all disappeared, save one. Mr. Festus A. Culver, still hale and hearty, must have been a young correspondent in 1844.
In those days the Physicians were not forbidden to announce their wares in public print. Dr. F. L. Keyes tell the readers of the Advocate that "he has removed to the town of Simcoe, where he will attend to all calls relative to his profession. Having have more than twenty years engaged in the healing art, he hopes to merit a share of public patronage. Aural and Ophthalmic surgery--diseases of the ear and eye will receive a part of his attention. Residence, first door north of Mr. Solmon, Attorney at Law."
Hunt & Ozbourn has altogether some half dozen separate advertisements. They are a new firm, having formed a partnership to purchase the business until then carried on by the late Wm. E. Burr. The tin and stove trade seems to have been their principal occupation, but they had a number of side lines. One of their ads is to the effect that they have 5,000 lbs. of maple sugar for sale.
William Gibbon has not been so long gone, but most of us remember him and his business. He was advertising then that he manufactured and kept on sale, shaving soaps of an excellent description, also hard soap, soft soap and candles, equal if not superior to those made at any other establishment in Canada.
One of the oddest advertisements we quote in extenso:--
An Open Field and Fair Play
The subscriber, having consulted several able
farmers and others in regard to their home-made work, the reason of their getting so much
cut and not made up, they told me the charges were so extravagant they could not pay them,
nor would not; that they would employ their wives and women, so long as I charged so
After the full columns ad of the Canada Company, the most pretentious display in the paper is made by the Simcoe Medical Hall, near the Post Office, of which J. Mitchell is the proprietor.
Mr. Mitchell has one thousand different preparations in stock, to which he has added oils, paints, dye woods, and varnishes which he intends selling at Hamilton prices. Then follow three long lists of articles for sale, the advertisement concluding with a paragraph: "Teeth scaled and restored to their natural whiteness, also stopped with gold or silver cement, so as to preserve them from further decay."