WOLFVILLE’S UNSUNG NEWSPAPER PIONEER (July 24/18)

I’m not positive this is the correct year but around 1968 or 1969, Kentville Publishing Company purchased The Acadian, Wolfville’s weekly newspaper, and shortly after started printing it as a section of The Advertiser.

While The Acadian wasn’t the first newspaper to be published in the town, it ran for over 70 years and was truly a Wolfville creation. A handful of other publications made a stab at publishing newspapers in Wolfville but for the most part, they were short-lived, some lasting less than a year.

The founder of The Acadian was Arthur Stanley Davison who was born at Long Island, Grand Pre, in 1865. Davison should be recognized as an Annapolis Valley newspaper pioneer. However, he had an abbreviated career as a publisher and also a tragically short life, dying at the age of 23.

Arthur S. Davison began publishing his Wolfville paper in 1883 when he was only 17 years old. The Wolfville history, Mud Creek, suggests that Arthur may have started the paper simply for his own amusement. He did give it a whimsical name, at first calling it Bumble Bee – which he soon changed to The Young Acadian (because he lacked a sufficient number of Bs in his type rack) and finally settled on The Acadian.

Davison’s family had moved to Wolfville when he was four years old. In the book A Genealogical History of Long Island, Douglas E. Eagles writes that Davison was a precocious student, showed an early aptitude for mathematics and was “close to being a prodigy” in this field. He certainly was precocious when it came to publishing a newspaper, his first issue showing a maturity well beyond his years.

In that initial issue, Davison set the tone for future papers. He immediately became a crusader, wondering for example if “Wolfville was to have a wharf at the mouth of the Creek or not?” He took a swipe at other newspaper in the county in the first issue scorning the “filth and corruption of the graveyard, insurance and horse talk of the Western Chronicle, (Kentville’s paper) and ignoring the “biased, mono-maniacal style of those lesser lights, the Acadia Athenaeum and the Acadian Scientist.”

Apparently, because of the blunt attitude of its editor, The Acadian was immediately accepted and was warmly welcomed by the townspeople of Wolfville. The paper literally took off, starting as a bi-monthly publication at first and running weekly within two years.

Davison succumbed to an unnamed illness that had plagued him for several years, dying on January 24 in 1889. A tribute published in The Acadian noted that Davison had “used his every talent to improve The Acadian and when he was forced to give up his work because of illness, he was consoled by the thought that his labour had not been in vain. The Acadian had been placed on a solid footing.”

B. O. Davison should also be recognized as a newspaper pioneer. B. O. joined his brother at the newspaper only a few months after the first edition appeared and immediately took over the helm on his brother’s demise. The Mud Creek history says that other family members joined The Acadian and the Davison surname (changed in 1919 to Davidson) was associated with the paper for most of the years it was published.

The Acadian was published by the Davison family from 1883 to 1965 when it was sold to Lancelot Press of Wolfville. The paper was sold again, in 1968 to the News Publishing Co. of Truro. The last issue was put out in 1968 when it was purchased by Kentville Publishing Company. Early in 1970, The Acadian became a section of The Advertiser. However, the familiar masthead of the paper, a sketch of Blomidon which had adorned it almost from the first, soon disappeared and The Acadian was no more.

Note: The Mud Creek history and Douglas Eagles’ book neglect to mention how a 17-year was able to finance his venture into newspaper publishing. Printing equipment, type and a press, for example, would be necessary to get a newspaper out into the streets. Where did this come from? A couple of attempts were made to provide a Wolfville newspaper a few years before Davison brought out The Acadian. Possibly the equipment used to publish these short-lived papers was available and Davison was able to obtain it for a song. This is all speculation, of course, and we’ll never know for sure what or who helped Davison get his start.

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