The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

February 23, 2011

The Tribune of 1898

Here is an article I found in the Springhill Record of June 2, 1932 entitled 1898

     An old copy of the Springhill Tribune has come to us this week, of the date February 12th, 1898, when Springhill, as a mining town, could look back upon only about twenty-five years of history.  This isolated copy is a real reminder of the town of that day.  The old timers glancing over it would recall memories of names and affairs with a little sadness for those who have passed on.  They would realize from its obvious limitations how far we have progressed since that time, and gain a fuller appreciation of present opportunities.  This issue as it appeared on a Saturday morning, 34 years ago, brought to the people the news of the week.  We would wish for nothing better than that The Record might be as eagerly welcomed.  Since we cannot pass the old paper around for perusal, we might take it as an actual page of our history and recall for our readers a fragment of the old times.

     First then, this little yellowed sheet is a small four-page paper, very neat in appearance, laboriously hand-set (and not too well proofed).  A large period sets off its heading and the declaration of its policy reads: “The Tribune is published at Springhill, N.S., every Saturday and is the unfaltering Friend of the Miner and the toiling masses generally.”

     The Tribune was established in 1896 by C.B. McDougall of Moncton, with whom was associated his brother Willis McDougall.  The first issue was printed in Moncton in April 1896, but the plant was brought to Springhill on the eve of the general election of that year.  Although the plant was owned by Mr. McDougall, the paper was published in the interest of the Liberal Party.  Bruce McDougall was a vigorous and forceful writer, and it must be admitted, he was not always complimentary.

     He remained with the paper about eight months, when it was taken over by Willis McDougall, who continued it until 1899 when it was purchased by Samuel McDowell, shoe merchant, who retained the services, as manager, of Mr. J.H. Wadman, of Moncton, who had joined the staff as printer in 1897.  Mr. William Hall had just been elected in the February civic contest, to his second term as Mayor succeeding Mr. A.A. McKinnon, to whom the Tribune gives an entire column, as a tribute to his worth, with apologies for the apparent inconsistency of an eulogy from a Liberal press to a Liberal-Conservative.  “We hope,” we read, “that our town will always have men as good and as true as Ex-Mayor McKinnon to be appointed to positions in the gift of our citizens” …and to Mr. Hall, “We extend to him our best wishes and hope that he will have a prosperous and successful year as Mayor of the best town in Nova Scotia”; which was a nice way of speeding the retiring Mayor and welcoming the new.

     The week’s editorial was “The Klondyke Route”, heralding the hasty building of a railway to connect steamers from Vancouver and Victoria with those of the Yukon – about seven days from Vancouver to Dawson City, through Canadian territory, thus eliminating customs difficulties.  With the rest of the country, the Klondyke was of paramount interest in Springhill so that when young Johnnie Rennie, clerk for Colin McLeod, departed on the quest, the whole town felt that they had a share in the adventure.  Making use of the popular sentiment the Editor, elsewhere, touched upon a public nuisance with a touch of humor:  “The demand for dogs in the Klondyke threatens to diminish the number of barking canines in the rest of the country.  If they would also find some use for the midnight cats up there, we would be happy.”

     The column “Editorial Thoughts” is amazing in retrospect.  We can read it now with amusement since time has removed the barbs and stings.  In the class of political warfare, the McDougall’s were adept.  No editor, nowadays, would so commit himself by striking out at political opponents.  As an example, this is what he gives the Saint John Sun: “The Saint John Sun seems to worry over Mr. Logan’s promises to the electors of Cumberland County.  Will Bro. Scott attend to Sir Charles Tupper and the fighting Tories and give Logan a rest?”

     In contrast to our present custom of giving due prominence to school, church and lodge activities, we find a strange lack in the old paper since these have played an invariably important part in town affairs.  Mr. McNeilly was Principal at this time, an educator to whom many are indebted for his fine teaching and encouragement.  His work as Principal of Schools and teacher of three High School grades was heavy in the extreme.  He followed closely upon Mr. Tony who set the high standard of “Second to none” for teachers and pupils alike.  An isolated note, “Jack Frost didn’t worry churchgoers this week” is more of a comment on the weather than on the praise worthiness of church attendance.  There were no picture houses at that time, McNutt’s Opera House (now the Capital) and Fraser’s (upper floor of D.M. Smiths) were used for road shows and local affairs. The Tribune announces the opening of a Price Webber fine Garment, accompanied by a free notice – no special advertising.

I will have more on the Tribune next week.