The Press of a district constitutes one of the most important features its ts society. Journalism wields a mighty influence socially, morally, and politically, forming and controlling in a large measure the thought of the people. It is the channel of information for the masses. It is a power in the land and generally speaking, it is a power for good, keeping the people posted on current events, stimulating a national and patriotic unity of thought and ideals. It is the enemy of the drone and the object of fear in the heart of the evil-doer. We take pleasure in alloting the space of this chapter to ‘The Press’ of the past and present. We present the historic records of its growth and development with a feeling of gratiude that this great source of education and advancement had its birth in Upper Canada in our own County of Lincoln. It is a generally acknowledged fact that the oldest paper founded in Canada was the Halifax Gazette, in 1752.. It is also generally acceded that the first newspaper founded in Upper Canada was the Upper Canada Gazette, which was first published at Newark, on the 18th day of April, 1793. It was the Government paper of the time, and was the means by which Governor Simcoe gave official notices to the people. The annual subscription to this first newspaper was three dollars. It has been stated that the Gazette removed to York in 1794, but we believe that such was not the case. During the third session of the first Parliament held at Newark, 1794, we find in the official records of such sessions, reference to the Lieutenant-Governor’s speeches which are not recorded but referred to as ‘in the Gazette.’
As the Gazette was a Government organ it is very probable that it continued to be printed in Newark until the scat of Government was moved to York in 1797. Another writer states that it was moved to York in 1799, while an historian of the County of Lincoln copies an extract from the Gazette of Newark under the date of November 2.8th, 1802. The reference is an advertisement for the re turn of a lost slave, while as a matter of fact slavery was abolished in Upper Canada by the first Parliament, 1792-1796. The article may have appeared under the date of 1792. instead of 1802 as recorded. It is our opinion that the Gazette was printed at Newark until after Parliament was called in session at York in 1797 and the statement that it was moved to York in 1799 is probably correct.
At any rate it was the first newspaper published in Toronto. When published at Newark the Gazette had about 150 subscribers and Gideon Tiffany was thepublisher. It was followed at Niagara by The Spectator and later on by The Niagara Gleaner, published for many years by Andrew Heron. The Gazette became the organ of officialism and William Lyon Mackenzie was so wrathy that during the troubles of 1837 he caused the house of the publisher, Dr. Home, on Yonge Street, to be burned.
In 1824 Wm. Lyon Mackenzie commenced the Colonial Advocate, for three months printed by Oliver Grace in Lewiston, and dated at Queenston. Mackenzie then induced Hiram Leavenworth to move his printing establishment from Rochester to Queenston, where he settled in August, 1824. It is the purpose of the Men’s Club of Queenston to preserve this historic printing office of Mackenzie from ruin and decay. The Advocate was then moved to York, where Mr. Leavenworth continued printing it, by contract for about five months. On February 1st, 1826, Leavenworth published in St. Catharines The Farmer’s Journal, and the Welland Canal Intelligencer, at $4 per year. On January 1st, 1827, he took a census of St. Catharines and at that time the population numbered 384 people.
In 1844 George Brown founded The Banner, an organ of Scottish Presbyterianism, and from it emerged The Globe, still a champion of clean living, and Scottish adherence to the Kirk and its teaching.
The Welland Telegraph was started in 1863 and was for a time the leading journal of the County.
The Welland Tribune was started and fostered, first in the Village of Fonthill in 1854, the enterprise being prompted at the time to meet the requirements of the Reform Party in a general election. A few years ago The Telegraph and Tribune of Welland amalgamated and are now known as ‘The Tribune and Telegraph.’ Some time previous to 1886, Mr. Constable started the Smithville Independent at Smithville. His printing office was in the old ‘Checkered Store’ where the McMurchie property is now situated. This store was burned in the big fire of 1886.
A small news sheet was printed in the Maclean Block, recently known as the Shrum Feed Store, about the year 1897.
On June 15th, 1916, Mr. A. T. Michell commenced the publication of the Smithville Review, a weekly paper which now has a circulation of 1,050 copies. Mr. Michell has installed in the Shepard Block up-to-date type setting machines and presses, and turns out a paper of which Smithville is justly proud. The Review has striven since its first publication for local progress and development and has furnished the incentive for many local improvements, and for much village pride and progress.