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Caledonia - Along the Grand River
The Oldest Surviving Business: Caledonia's Newspaper


Thomas MessengerThe oldest business in Caledonia is The Grand River Sachem. It began in 1856 when Thomas Messenger came from Cayuga to start a newspaper in Caledonia. At the time he was publishing the Cayuga Sachem and was ready to expand his publishing interests. Until November of that same year, Messenger published under the banner, The Caledonia Advertiser. He then sold the Cayuga Sachem and claimed the Sachem name for his Caledonia paper.

As a publisher he had strong convictions and did not hesitate to print them publicly. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free and all are slaves besides" was added to the banner in 1858. That quotation and the Sachem name remains with the Caledonia newspaper to this day.

In many ways Sachem was an appropriate name for its founder who also took on "Sachem" as a nickname. A Sachem was a Chief among the Indian tribes whose duties included carrying the news home from meetings with other clans and tribes. A Sachem was known to be one with wisdom who was carefully selected for the position by the clan mother.

Some early writers at the Sachem used the experience developed in Caledonia as the foundation for building their careers. Brick Pomeroy went on to become a famous columnist with the New York World and wrote a popular column titled "Words of Wisdom". His motto was "fearless and incorruptible". James Fedro learned to set type so fast at the Sachem that he was believed to be the fastest hand compositor in America. He went to the United States to expand his opportunities, but later came back to Caledonia and ended his days in the Sachem office in the 1920ís.

Thomas Messenger owned the newspaper until his passing in 1875. Previous to his death, a man by the name of W.T. Sawle had arrived from Buffalo via the Grand River. He had heard there was an opening at the Grand River Sachem. This would lead to the Sawle line of ownership. Henry B. Sawle, W.T.ís brother, bought the newspaper in 1882 and when he died in 1923, his second wife Mary Florence took over. She was known to be one of the first women editors and publishers in Canada.

In 1927 the young Harrison Martindale, began working for Mrs. Sawle. The Martindale line of ownership began when he and his brother Arrell purchased the Sachem in 1945. Harrison and his son Chester co-published from 1972 until Chesterís untimely death in 1980. His wife Barbara took over his co-publishing duties. Harrison retired in 1981, but remained on the masthead as Publisher Emeritus up until his death early in 1995.

In May of 1982 the Sachem entered a new era. It became the sister paper to live other newspapers owned by Otter Publishing of Tillsonburg. Another transition took place when Otter Publishing was sold in 1987 to the Newfoundland Capital Corporation (N.C.C.), owners also of the Robinson Blackmore Group of thirteen papers in Newfoundland. Corporate owner of varied enterprises, the N.C.C. was on its way to ownership of fifteen papers in Ontario from Wingham to Delhi to Port Colborne.

The Sachem office is still located in the building erected by Messenger in 1865 to house his new newspaper. The first Sachem building was on Caithness Street West on the north side. Until 1985 the newspaper and job printing were one. Today the Sachem printing is owned by Pressmanís Printing of Caledonia, who also own the building. Since 1992 the newspaper has been independently owned by a group of shareholders in the community. Barbara Martindale returned as publisher in 1993.

Today the Grand River Sachem is not the only newspaper covering the communityís news. The twenty-year-old Regional News This Week also has an office in town and distributes its newspapers to residents on a weekly basis.


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