OLD-TIME NEWSPAPERS, OLD-TIME POLITICS (October 22/19)

In the spring of 1873, a group of Kentville businessmen pooled financial resources, formed a publishing company and started a semi-weekly newspaper. Joseph A. Cogswell, a prominent local printer, was installed as manager and editor of the newspaper, which was given the grandiose name of The Western Chronicle.

This wasn’t the first newspaper published in Kentville, nor was it the first published in Kings County. That honour possibly belongs to the Kings County Gazette, which was published in Canning for a short while starting in 1864. I say “possibly” since various publications that could be called newspapers started around the time the Kings County Gazette appeared; among them were The Acadian in Wolfville and The Star in Berwick.

The Kings County Gazette appears to have been the victim of the 1866 fire that burned Canning to the ground. Within two decades, however, Canning would have a second newspaper, The Canning Gazette. A weekly and then a bi-weekly, the Gazette, under Alexander Liddell, began publishing in 1888. The paper only managed to put out a few issues before Liddell abandoned it. At this time, the manager/editor of The Western Chronicle stepped in and took over the Gazette. The paper was amalgamated with The Western Chronicle and issued on Saturdays under its original name.

Politics was a dirty, no-holds-barred game in 19th century Kings County and newspapers blatantly took sides. The Western Chronicle, for example, let everyone know in election years which party it supported. It wasn’t neutral, in other word, and its masthead (“independent but not neutral”) let everyone understand where the paper stood.

The paper lived up to this declaration of no neutrality during the election year of 1891 when it was bought out by a company under the name of R. C. Dickey & Co. The corporate members were Frederick W. Borden, the Liberal member for Kings County, Robert C. Dickie, Wentworth E. Roscoe, Stephen Sheffield and other leading members of the Liberal party.

Borden represented Kings County in the provincial assembly and issues of The Western Chronicle leading up to the election took his side, and only his side. In opposition during the election was the Tory controlled newspaper, The Advertiser (originally The New Star) which dubbed the purchase of The Western Chronicle as blatantly political. The Advertiser/New Star began publishing six years after The Western Chronicle and its owners and shareholders read like a directory of the County’s Tory party.

The New Star was first published in Wolfville, then in Kentville. This paper took on the Western Chronicle during an election period in the late 1880s, trading insults, each slamming the politicians they supported. The Berwick Register’s founder, John E. Woodworth, wrote about this feud in an article found by his wife after his death and published in 1904.

In effect, Woodworth wrote that week after week, the Western Chronicle attacked The New Star and the politicians it openly supported. The New Star replied in kind. “The principal result of the quarrel – other than an abortive law suit – were to afford each paper a liberal amount of free advertising,” Woodworth said in summing up the results of the “politician slamming.”

Another result, said Woodworth, was the “overwhelming defeat of the candidate supported by The Western Chronicle.” According to Woodworth, people had been turned off by the ongoing attacks by the paper and voted against the politician it was supporting.

This may have been an inaccuracy by Woodworth, but he was correct in that The Western Chronicle campaigned solely for the Liberals. In his biography of Frederick W. Borden, Carman Miller writes that “under the editorship of Harold, Borden’s only son (The Western Chronicle) campaigned relentlessly for the Liberal cause.”

The duel between The New Star and The Western Chronicle is the only political feud chronicled by Woodworth in what was an extensive history of Kings County newspapers. But knowing how loose with facts and how libelous that journalists were in the 19th century, I’m sure there were many others.

The front page on The Western Chronicle from 1886

The front page on The Western Chronicle from 1886. The paper lived up to its motto of being “independent, not neutral” by campaigning relentlessly for the Liberal cause in Kings County. Frederick W. Borden, later Sir Frederick, was one of the owners of the paper.

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