Monday, 14 August 2017

The Forgotten Pioneers

The Forgotten Pioneers
By MARY TERRILL, Medicine Hat, Alta. From The Canadian Cattlemen magazine, June 1944.

(actually the year is just a guess, not stated, not displayed, but previous to 1950./drf, also the image is not associated with the original article.)
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, August 2017.
(I had expected some information of W. Lacey Amy, an editor/owner of the Medicine Hat Times about 1909, but sadly there is none…/drf)

THEY are the forgotten pioneers of the Canadian Northwest—they are old as early settlement and young as today’s news — they are “knocked,” lauded, respected, and derided, yet every day, year in and year out they start from scratch to build up a volume of current happenings, public trends, and movements hourly at work to mold the world. And every day, as regular as the clock, they place the completed record in the hands of the ranks and file.
These forgotten pioneers — these unsung “originals” are Alberta’s pioneer newspapers. As far as this writer can ascertain, only four are operating today —the Edmonton Bulletin, 1880, the Macleod Gazette, 1882, the Calgary Herald, 1883, and the Medicine Hat Daily News, 1885. Always in the vanguard of the constantly changing scene, these representatives of a great institution, pioneering in a frontier country with the fur trader, the ranchman, the agriculturist, and the industrialist, have locked away in their vaults, priceless files of live news of the times, courageous editorials strongly supported and forcefully written, and factual portrayals of unusual incidents that stir the emotions.
For a period of more than sixty years these stalwarts of the early 80’s have not only reflected the ordinary life of their respective districts but have given leadership to their economic development, and acted as both watchdog and defender of their individual rights.
Medicine Hat “Daily News”
The Medicine Hat Daily News, pioneer newspaper of south-eastern Alberta, started up with a single hand press in a shack on First Street opposite Riverside Park, the city’s original tent-town site. In its life-span of sixty-three years it has never skipped a publication. It has changed hands many times and its name twice, but it has always sold out as a going concern thus retaining the sturdy heritage of the pioneer hand press which turned out the paper’s first crude sheet early in 1885.
The initial publication appeared as the Medicine Hat Times and continued under that banner until 1894 when it was changed to the Medicine Hat News by its new owners — the Medicine Hat Printing and Publishing Company. And again in January, 1911, to the Medicine Hat Daily News under its present owners and publishers — the Medicine Hat News Ltd.
In 1884 when Armour and Braden sold their Calgary paper to Hugh S. Cayley, Armour came to Medicine Hat, set up a single hand press and early the following year started turning out the hamlet’s first newspaper. All by himself! Then in 1886 when politics were still simple, a federal election loomed on the horizon with Nicholas Flood Davin (Con.) and James Hamilton Ross (Lib.) contesting the riding of Assiniboia, which took in the vast territory between Pense, near Regina, and Bowell, 30 miles west of Medicine Hat. The Davin backers bought out Armour and the paper continued to function as a weekly until near election time when it commenced operating on a daily basis until after the merchant, supplied the copy which was mainly political, and Armour got it out on the street.
The election settled, the owners were anxious to get rid of the stepchild, and when a “tramp printer” named D. G. Holt arrived by handcar from Winnipeg in 1887 he was commissioned, after considerable bartering, to publish the paper with the option of buying when the money was on the barrel. The paper was his in June, 1888, and in May he started publishing a single-sheet daily edition The Daily Times, besides a tour-page weekly. He was editor, reporter, compositor, circulation and advertising manager, “and heaven knows what all else”. It was a gruelling job and his smoky oil lamp burned far into the morning.
Again the paper changed hands. This time in 1890 when Holt sold to the local school teacher, J. K. Drinnan, and the daily issue was discontinued. F. G. Forster was brought out from the east to take over the printing end, and J.K. continued as editor, owner and publisher until January, 1894, when he was bought out by a joint stock company of local business and railroad men (the Medicine Hat Publishing and Printing Company). A man from Winnipeg, named Gordon, was installed as editor, but when he left in March, 1895, Mr. Forster took over the editor’s desk and during the next 15 years built up one of the best weekly papers in the country.
Again the paper was looking for a purchaser. With this object in view the company brought in a linotype and in July, 1910, started publishing a daily edition, the better to attract eastern interests. Mr. Forster was installed as Editor and manager with A. J. N. Terrill, as city editor. In the meantime, Mr. Terrill who had come from the Peterborough Examiner to the News in 1904, had organized the present company, which bought out the old firm, and in January, 1911, started publishing the Medicine Hat Daily News with Mr. Terrill as Editor and Manager.
In 1940 Mr. Terrill retired as the result of a car accident. Today the paper is under the management of T. R. Osborne, who joined the advertising department in 1912. W. H. Hogle, of Sudbury, Ont., is Editor, and Bob Worth, a News veteran of 31 years’ standing, heads the circulation department, and Ed Forbes, who joined the News as an apprentice in 1909, is superintendent of the machine department.
Then Came the Boom
The disastrous land boom started around 1910 and ended in the soup kitchens four years later. And many a man who had made quick money and lost it faster, joined the queue at the recruiting depot and became a hero of World War I. And the veterans, and the widows and orphans of the war dead, found a staunch friend and ally in the News, whose editor was made a life member of the Great War Veterans’ Association in recognition of his services as Medicine Hat representative on the Alberta Returnee Soldiers’ Commission.
In the meantime boomsters and slickers arrived in the city like a cloud of locusts “from God-knows-where”. They bought up property and succeeded in dominating the city council. A private group had secured the street railway franchise and Sir Max Aitken’s construction gang was on the job; the city’s boundaries were extended; far-flung sub-divisions were laid out, and huge gangs were on the city payroll laying streets and services. There was a rip-roarin’ business in real estate with “every lot on the street car line”. Englishmen were buying lots by cable and clerks were selling them over the counter instead of paregoric. The boom-virus had entered the little city’s blood stream, and most everyone had gone “hawg wild”. Except the Medicine Hat Daily News.
The News fought the boom as such, from the beginning. It warned against private ownership of the street car system, and the city’s far-flung expansion plans, declaring there were not enough people in the whole N.W.T. to fill those ambitious boundaries. It pointed out the inevitable financial crash when the bubble broke. But the city was still punch-drunk and boomsters formed a parade and threw the editor of the News into the river in effigy. Such is the everyday life of a newspaper.
It was during these boom days and through the spectacular wheat years of 1915-16 that Medicine Hat boasted three daily papers—the Morning Times, which went under in 1916, and the maverick Morning Call. The Call started in 1912. It ran its course as a daily in eight months flat and petered out as a weekly four months later. It was the brainchild of A. P. Day, a stockman who had come up the trail from Texas in 1902 with the Turkey Track outfit. He decided, however, to leave the cows and get in on the boom. In his time “Add” Day had seen many a maverick grow into good beef. So he “drug in” a press and with a group of real estate men launched the Morning Call. It had no franchise, and a man in Seattle relayed world news by telegraph. But the Call was no slouch. It was not only well set up, but it had a cartoonist whose main job was to depict the editor of the News going about with a hammer, knocking the city generally, and cracking the noggin of a little boy playing with a toy street railway.


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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.