The First Newspapers in Ridgetown

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The early settlers had no newspaper, but as time went on a number of settlers combined to get a newspaper that was published in Hamilton, at an annual subscription of $5.00, this was read and passed around. The advent of the paper was so important that on one occasion when it stopped Thomas Scane, one of the settlers, made a trip to Hamilton to see what was the matter.

In 1875 Mr J. Chapman, a druggist who owned a small printing press and several fonts of type, at varying intervals issued a small four page paper for the benefit of himself and a few others in advertising their wares. This paper was distributed free and served its purpose.

The first real local paper, the East Kent Plaindealer, was first published in 1875 by Robert Constable who brought the plant here from Ingersoll. In 1881 he sold the paper and plant to Emanuel McKay, a former high school teacher and as a vigorous supporter of the Liberal Party he made it uncomfortable for local politicians and others with whom he differed. In 1897 McKay sold out to Claxton & Whitman, the later retiring in 1902 and going to Leamington. Mr Claxton continued until his death in 1923.

In 1879 Doherty and Bockus of the Rondeau News of Blenheim published a Ridgetown edition of that paper, called the Telephone with P.H. Boyer as editor.

During Robert Constable's time, the Plaindealer took little part in party politics. In 1880 a group of local politicians determined to have a Liberal Paper. E.C. Johnston of Buffalo was induced to come to town as editor and July l, 1880 the first issue of the Standard appeared with the motto, "The Good of the people ought to be the first and paramount consideration under its headline". Five months was enough for Mr Johnston and disposing of the paper and plant to P.H. Boyer he returned to Buffalo and the Standard now became the Conservative paper. From 1881 to 1885 J.S. Gadd was associated with the publication of the Standard.

In 1892 John Mitchell, employed for a few months by McKay and encouraged by a few Liberals, published a paper called "The Liberal" - It was short lived and he returned to Toronto.

In 1894 Mr Boyer sold out the Standard to William Wesley. The paper departed from its political faith and supported the Liberals. In 1897 Wesley sold out to Philip Waters who died in 1899. His brother John Waters conducted the paper until in 1901. Claxton & Whitwam, publishers of the Plaindealer, bought the Standard. Howard Gordon who had been foreman of the Standard office secured the plant and took it to Dresden. This left the Plaindealer the sole Liberal organ.

In the meantime the spectacle of two Liberal papers in Ridgetown had been a source of worry to the Conservative soul of P.H. Bowyer and in November 1895 he commenced the publication of The Dominion which he conducted with vigor and success until 1917 when he sold to E.V. Bingham. The death of Mr Claxton in 1923 and the change in newspaper conditions during and following the war led to the merging of the Plaindealer with the Dominion and Ridgetown's oldest and youngest newspapers became one. Mr Bingham carried on publication of the Dominion through the war years and the depression period with a much depleted staff until in September 1945. Mr C.C. Craven purchased a half interest in the business.

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.
2004-10-29