(Editor’s note: The following article by C.E.D. Wood, founder and publisher of The Macleod Gazette, was published July 3, 1903. Wood left Macleod for Regina, where he entered into a partnership in a law firm.)
(Published July 3, 1903) – With this issue of The Macleod Gazette, the paper changes ownership and control. Some little time ago, all arrangements for the sale of The Gazette to George Scheer were completed, but at my request the actual change of management and control did not pass out of my hands until the 30th of June last, thus completing twenty-one years of publication under practically the same ownership and management. The Gazette became of age on June 30th, 1903, and today commences its 22nd year of publication.
A close connection with a newspaper for a great many years cannot be severed without keen regret, any more than one can separate from the friends of many years standing without a wrench, and this feeling, very much emphasized, the writer has, not only in severing his connection with The Gazette, but in leaving the town of Macleod where he has lived continuously for nearly twenty-three years.
There is very much that might be said on an occasion of this kind but it would be impossible to crowd it into the columns of the paper. The history of The Gazette is practically the history of southern Alberta, and to a very great extent the whole of the North West Territories. That history begins at the time of the buffalo, when the settlement of the country had not even been considered, and when the pioneers who had located were very few and far between. The Gazette saw the foundation of the great range cattle and horse business, and has lived to see it develop into one of the most important industries in the Dominion, until now when it is fast being crowded back by the rapidly advancing tide of settlement. From a little hamlet of log huts with mud floors and the grass growing out of the earth which covered the roofs, The Gazette has witnessed the steady growth of Macleod, until is has become a large and thriving town with substantial business blocks and handsome residences. The changes in all those twenty-one years has indeed been marvelous and bit by bit it has been recorded in The Gazette.
In those days there were no railways, no schools, no post offices and practically no representative government. Now railways traverse the country in all directions, there are hundreds of schools, and every settlement has its post office and mail service, while the development of representative institutions under wise and able administration has brought us to the verge of full provincial organization.
But why go on. Those who are comparative newcomers to the west, and see it as it is today will realize what we mean, and the extent of the development of the entire North West since The Gazette first saw the light, when we tell them that there was not a settlement of any kind between Macleod and Manitoba. Calgary consisted of a Hudson’s Bay Company post built of logs; a tumbledown police barracks garrisoned by two or three men; I.G. Baker & Co.’s little log store; and a few half-breed shacks. From that point to Edmonton there was nothing.
From Macleod to Battleford and Prince Albert there was not a settlement of any kind. Lethbridge was not on the map and Medicine Hat had just begun to gather together a few tents in anticipation of the CPR. In those days every necessary of life came up the Missouri River, and was freighted in from Benton by bull and mule teams to the accompaniment of the most picturesque blasphemy and explosion of bull whips the world has ever witnessed.
The Canadian government was several thousands of miles distant and several thousand more in point of time. Benton was our post office and we used American stamps (even for government business). The Gazette for mailing purposes was registered in the post office department at Washington as second class matter. Reminiscence, however, runs away with one, and a period must be put to it.
The Macleod Gazette was established in the old town of Macleod on the island on July 1st, 1882, by E.T. Saunders, now proprietor of the Lethbridge News, and the writer. The office was ten by twelve, with no floor and a mud roof. It used to rain inside that office for days after there was any indication of rain out of doors.
There were only two newspapers in the Territories at that time, the Saskatchewan Herald, owned by P.G. Laurie, lately deceased — rest his soul — and the Edmonton Bulletin, owned and published by Frank Oliver, our member in the House of Commons. So The Gazette came third, and all three are still alive and of age.
It is perhaps needless to say that the birth of The Gazette was celebrated. We needed mighty little encouragement in those days, and if whiskey was scarce, there were always the old old standard standbys. Washington’s birthday, the 4th of July, the Queen’s birthday, Dominion Day, Christmas, New Year’s, Tony Lachappelle’s birthday, Saints’ days — everything went. Celebrations all looked alike to us.
Tony Lachapelle got one of the first copies of The Gazette printed, and went to bed early that night, so that he would be sure to get everything there was in the paper before morning. Joe Carr bought ten copies, and retired to the privacy of the Bulls Head Market, where he read each one of them four times, and was not seen for three or four days. Dick Kennefick lead the artillery brigade and fired off the anvils, only four of his helpers being seriously maimed, while the rest lost parts of their hair and whiskers.
Old Kamoose kept open house and D.W. Davis dispensed liquid refreshments. In the evening the leading ladies of the town were “at home” and there was the sound of revelry there that night, while Ed Brisbois acted as floor manager, and became very popular with the female sex by requiring “de boys to chip in an’ buy candies for de ladies.”
And so The Gazette was launched on the troubled sea of journalism, and there has been more or less trouble ever since.
The writer has kept as far as possible from the personal end of this valedictory, as it would be called in newspaper parlance, and hopes that his little sketch of then and now may not prove altogether without interest both for those who will recognize the picture and more recent arrivals.
Just a word in conclusion. In severing my connection with the old Macleod Gazette, and with the town of Macleod, I repeat that I do so with the keenest regret. I shall never forget the many kindnesses I have received, not only from the readers of The Gazette, to whom I have talked almost every week, but from my many friends throughout southern Alberta, and I desire to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation. In saying goodbye to my friends (and I might add enemies) in southern Alberta, I sincerely hope that Providence who has been so generous to southern Alberta during the past few years, will continue to smile on them, and on the country which has been my home for nearly twenty-three years.
During its lifetime The Gazette has been an adherent of the great Conservative party of Canada, following the political faith of its owner and publisher. I have always, however, reserved the right to criticize the acts of that party, and while it was in power, never hesitated to do so, when the interests of the North West were being neglected.
The future political faith of The Gazette is now entirely out of my keeping, but I would advise my successors to never let go of the right to place the interests of their country above mere party. Independence and neutrality are two totally different things, and the latter in a newspaper is contemptible. Any paper which gives a general support to the party it believes in, while reserving the right to criticize its friends and praise its opponents, is independent enough for a new country.
In finally relinquishing my connection with The Gazette, I would ask that the same good will and generous support be extended to Mr. Scheer as has always been accorded to me.
And so I make my farewell bow. With very best wishes for all prosperity and happiness, believe me.