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Historical Sketch of the Press of Chatham

A synopsis of a paper by

ON Saturday, July 3, 1841, the first issue of the pioneer newspaper in Kent County appeared under the name of "The Chatham Journal,’’ and the publishers were Charles Dolsen and William Fulford. The third issue contained the announcement of the withdrawal of William Fulford from the firm and the appointment of John F. Delmage, an Irish Barrister, as editor.

Sheriff Gemmill quotes the Editor of the four page sheet as stating that he had in view "providing a means of disseminating sound principles and providing a vehicle for influencing the minds of the people in the proper direction." The Editor stated that the recent union of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada calls for more interest to be taken in public affairs; and a new era was opening up which demanded the attention of the people of the country so that they might take advantage of the possibilities which lay before them. The "Journal" tendered its support to the Administration "whenever its measures met with its approval," but the chief object of the paper was "to advance the interests of the County of Kent" and secondly "to prosper ourselves." Its columns were to be open to discussion of public affairs and there was to be space for polite literature, a Poets’ corner, and ancient and modern authors. Editorial attention was to be given to the proceedings of the Imperial and Provincial Parliaments.

A sketch of the County of Kent given in the first issue shows Kent to have twenty townships, ten of which now form the County of Lambton, and Tilbury North has since been transferred to Essex County. The population had increased from 4,000 in 1830 to 16,000 in 1841. Taxation of non-resident land-owners was advocated to force the lands to be sold; at that time the tax on uncultivated land was 1/8 of a penny per acre. Drainage was urged. The inhabitants of Chatham were stated to be The paper contained some advertisements, and notice was given in the paper of application being made to Parliament by Robert Stuart Woods (later judge Woods) for a charter incorporating a Mutual Fire Insurance Company for the district.

Later issues dealt with Parliamentary proceedings, the projected monument to Tecumsch, and the celebration of probably the first Emancipation Day, on August 1, 1841. The personal comings and goings of prominent people and accounts of marriages were recorded.

The "Chatham Planet," which was first published in April, 1851, seems to have succeeded the "Journal," the publishers were Miles Miller and Matthew Dolsen.

The second paper to appear was "The Gleaner," started in July, 1845, by George Gould. This paper continued to be published for several years. In March, 1848, it was succeeded by "The Kent Advertiser," Mr. Thomas A. Ireland, publisher. In 1853 or 1854 the office and plant of "The Gleaner" were destroyed by fire. After the fire, Mr. John S. Vosburg, who published a paper at Kingston, moved his plant to Chatham and continued the publication of the "Advertiser." Vosburg, on the railway a few miles east of Chatham, was named for John S. Vosburg.

"The Western Argus" succeeded the "Advertiser" in March, 1860, Wm. H. Thompson being the publisher. Later the paper was purchased by Reverend I. B. Richardson, a Methodist Episcopal Minister, and the name was changed to "The Western Union." Cameron Bros. succeeded Mr. Richardson in 1863 and again changed the name of the parer to "The Western Reformer." Cameron Bros. had the paper for less than two years when it became the property of Honourable Walter McCrea who sold it to Sheriff Gemmill and on January 12, 1865, the first issue was made by Sheriff Gemmill under the name of "The Chatham Banner." In 1894 the business was sold to James S. Brierly of St. Thomas and it became a daily. In 1900 Mr. A. C. Woodward became the proprietor and changed the name to "The Daily News."

In 1854 I. D. Shadd started the "Provincial Freeman" for the colored people. This paper continued to be published until 1863 or 1864.

"The Chatham Tribune" was started by W. R. Dobbyn, B.A., Dublin, in about 1880, but was only published for a few years.

"The Missionary Messenger," the organ of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, was published in Chatham for more than twenty years.

"The Market Guide," which appeared only on Saturdays was published by William F. Hamilton, B.A., T.C.D. This was an advertising sheet and was distributed to the patrons of the market.

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