Red River Newspaper Chronology and the men who ‘made’ the news


The Nor’-Wester

Published 1859-1869 on a press (and type blocks) brought to Red River by William Buckingham and William Coldwell. Ownership and editorship of the paper changed a number of times.

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The name was briefly changed to the Nor-wester and Pioneer for the 26 October 1869 issue (perhaps because William Coldwell and James Ross had entered into a deal with the then owner, Walter Robert Bown, to take over the paper; or perhaps because Bown wanted to antagonize Coldwell and Ross for planning to name a new, rival paper the Red River Pioneer.

Publication of the Nor’-Wester was finally halted by the Comité National des Métis (with which Coldwell and Ross were affiliated), on 24 November 1869 (presumably as Bown’s articles were considered injurious to the public peace; but possibly because Bown had not gone through with a deal to hand the business over to Coldwell and Ross).

The press was mothballed until bought at auction by John Christian Schultz in September 1870, who used it to publish the incendiary Manitoba News-Letter.

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Owners/ editors:

William Buckingham and William Coldwell

1st: William Buckingham and William Coldwell. November 1859 – February 1860

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Bugonaygeshig II

(One of their first subscribers was Kwiwisens/ Gwiiwizens/ Bugonaygeshig/ Chief Hole in the Day [II], son of Pugona-geshig/ Bugonaygeshig/ Bagone-giizhig/ Bug-o-Nay -Geeshig/ Chief Hole-in-the-Day [I]/ Opening in the Sky.)

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James Ross

2nd: William Coldwell, William Buckingham, and James Ross. February 1860 – ? 1860. (with apprentice, William F. Garrioch of Portage la Prairie).

Rev. A.C. Garrioch, First Furrows (1929), recalled,

“the paper, while under the control of its first proprietors, and later of Mr. James Ross, was considered by unprejudiced readers as very fair in the stand it took in all public questions. My own impression is that it lived conscientiously up to a motto that appeared for a long time under its title – ‘Naught extenuate, nor aught set down in malice’.”

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3rd: William Coldwell and James Ross. 1860 – December 1863

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4th: William Coldwell. December 1863 – March 1864

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John Christian Schultz

5th: William Coldwell and John Christian Schultz. March 1864 – 23 February 1865 (when a fire interrupted publication); 30 March 1865 – 5 July 1865 (Coldwell subsequently had trouble collecting payment for his share of the business from Schultz.[55])

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6th: John Christian Schultz. 5 July 1865 – 1 July 1868

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Thomas Spence

7th: John Christian Schultz and Thomas Spence (editor) Nov./Dec. 1866 – 1868

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Walter Robert Bown

8th: John Cristian Schultz with Walter Robert Bown (who became editor when Schultz was jailed 7 January 1868 for non-payment of debts to his half-brother and merchant, Henry McKenney). 1868 – 1 July 1868.

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9th: Walter Robert Bown. 1 July 1868 – 24 November 1869.

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9.5th?: Rollen/ Rolland/ Rawlin Price Meade,  was co-editor with Bown according to some sources. Meade was considered a Canadian of Woodhouse, Norfolk County, ON, but had been born in Vermont, U.S. He became a prisoner of the Provisional government in December 1869.

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Read the paper online:

http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/Nor%27Wester%20%281859%29

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The Red River Pioneer

In 1869, a new, more efficient press and clearer type blocks were imported to Red River by brothers-in-law William Coldwell and James Ross. Coldwell had initially thought to name the new paper the North Star, although the name Red River Pioneer appeared on the masthead of the first issue, dated 1 December. It had only two pages of type set in galleys and apparently printed (as the front and back page of a four page paper), but not distributed.

The paper then went into stasis on 2 December, according to some accounts because the Comité National des Métis, acting as a provisional government, issued “an order forbidding its appearance ‘until peace was restored’.”[27]

By this time Coldwell and Ross had also became  involved in political affairs in the settlement (and were correspondingly busy). Although both may well have continued to write newspaper copy, they did not set the galleys to complete the first issue. Instead, they decided to give up the work as “editors, reporters, compositors, pressmen, newsboys, and general delivery agents, besides having to make a house-to-house canvass throughout the entire settlement,”[13] and set about to sell the business, press and all (including the already set galleys and/or printed pages of the 1 December issue).

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Owners/ editors:

►William Coldwell and James Ross.

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Read the paper online:

http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/Red%20River%20Pioneer

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The New Nation

Published — on the press purchased from William Coldwell and James Ross — from 7 January 1870 to 3 September 1870. The inaugural issue included the front and back page of the Red River Pioneer. A notice in the paper, entitled “Red River Pioneer,” stated:

“Notice is hereby given that The Red River Pioneer Printing Press, type and material generally, have been sold to H.M. Robinson [illegible: who will replace?] proprietors and publishers [illegible: Coldwell and Company?] We are requested to state that advertisers of the Pioneer, wishing to avail themselves of the publicity offered by The New Nation, will have to notify the proprietors of the latter journal. Subscribers desiring to take The New Nation instead of The Pioneer will have to renew their orders. Coldwell & Co.”

[http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/01/07/2/Ar00213.html/Olive]

The New Nation was meant to be issued weekly, although there were sometimes delays of a day or so, and once an extended interruption, during a change in ownership (the issue for 18 March was not immediately distributed; no news was printed during the week of 25 March; the news of 18 March was finally distributed with the 2 April printing of the Paper).

The two principal editors of the paper (Henry Martin Robinson followed by Thomas Spence) were decidedly sympathetic to the idea that the people of Red River had a right to self-determine their present circumstances and the future of their settlement. The New Nation has been described as “an organ of the provisional government,” on the basis of Alexander Begg, Journal and Other Papers, 334, and his comment dated 11 March 1870.

That the newspaper was a political ‘organ’ is true enough, but only in so far as political progress on negotiations with Canada was reported at length, as was local government business, and opinions expressed in the paper were supportive of the provisional government’s efforts.

It is also true, however, that the initial editor/owner, Henry Martin Robinson (“& Co.“), was an American in favour of annexation to the United States, and was obviously not entirely in agreement with the Provisional Government on the optimal outcome of the Resistance.

His successor, Thomas Spence, a Scotsman who had migrated with his family to Red River from Canada in 1866, was more visibly sympathetic to the Provisional Government’s goal of achieving Canadian confederation — though he has been described as thoroughly at odds with Riel.

Both publishers (and the members of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia as well) were at all times conscious that anything printed in the paper would be read in the Canada — for example, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had a subscription.

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Owners/ editors:

1st: Henry Martin Robinson & Co. (and Enos Stutsman?). circa mid-December 1869 – circa 18 March 1870.

Alexander Begg recorded in his journal on 20 December 1869 that “H.M. Robinson assisted by Col. Stutsman who is coming to reside among us is about starting a newspaper in the interests of the French,” (‘the French’ meaning the Comité National des Métis under President John Bruce). The source of Begg’s information is unknown. Historian Hartwell Bowsfield has identified Enos Stutsman as “along with Joseph Rolette, one of a group of ‘correspondents’ at Pembina forwarding distorted accounts of the events at Red River in 1869 and 1870 to the St Paul Daily Press, on which Canadian papers relied for their reports about the disturbances.”

H.P. Dwight, a spy in St. Paul MN, for John A. Macdonald, in a report  dated 8 January 1870 forwarded a rumour heard about the new Red River newspaper. According to Dwight, a “friend of Riel” (Riel being President Bruce’s successor as of 27 December 1869) had asserted that,

“the Insurgents squeezed 550pds loan out of Hudson Bay Co under protest (550) of this mint to purchase press & printing material of Coldwell &C for paper named ‘Independence’ to be issued next week Edited by Major Robinson it will be in Insurgents Cause.”

Although Dwight’s informant was obviously not well enough informed about the purchase to name of the paper correctly (or was engaging in a game counter-espionage), a number of writers and historians have taken the assertion that the Provisional Government bought the paper (with or without HBC funds) to be fact. It is entirely possible, however, that Robinson purchased the paper independently of the Provisional Government — he (and Stutsman too), certainly had sufficient contacts in monied American circles to do so.

Robinson put forward his editorial stance in “The New Nation … Our Policy,” in the 7 January 1870 issue:

“Something of our policy will be expected from us in this number, and we proceed briefly to define our position. In common with the majority of this Settlement we regard the Hudson Bay Company’s Government as obsolete, and never to be resuscitated. The Dominion Government by its criminal blunders and gross injustice to this people have forever alienated then; and by their forfeiture of all right to our respect, will prevent us, in future from either seeking or permitting its protection. The Imperial Government we consider to be far too distant to intelligently administer our affairs. The question arises then, what form of government is best adapted for the development of this country. And we reply, unhesitatingly, that the United States Republic offers us to-day that system of government which would best promote order and progress in our midst, and open up rapidly a country of magnificent resources. But in our present dependent position, we cannot obtain what we need in that direction, and hence we will hold it to be our duty to advocate Independence for the people of Red River as a present cure for public ills. Our annexation to the States will follow in time, and bring with it the advantages this land so much requires.”

[http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/01/07/2/Ar00206.html/Olive]

Robinson left the newspaper when he was appointed United States Vice-Consul in Winnipeg by Oscar Malmros, who was recalled to Washington D.C. When Malmros was officially made United States Consul for Pictou, Nova Scotia (from 1870 to 1881), Robinson apparently became full Consul at Winnipeg.

[Note: it is difficult to find biographical information on Robinson. He was born c. 1845, and before arriving at Red River in 1870, had lived in Ashland, Ohio. He is designated ‘Maj. Robinson’ by some historians (a Major Robinson is mentioned in the New Nation)

New Nation (8 April 1870): 2.

He is also referred to as  ‘Col. Robinson’ by other historians, but the latter would seem to be a conflation of his identity with that of his brother, Col.  John F. Robison, who built a hotel at Pembina for American troops who were expected to arrive there in the spring of 1870. At Red River, Henry Martin Robinson held a position as 2d Lieutenant in the Provisional Government of Assiniboia’s settlement guard. Jim Blanchard, and Manitoba Historical Society, A thousand miles of prairie:the Manitoba Historical Society and the history of Western Canada (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002), 225, notes that Henry Martin Robinson “had some connection by marriage with a family at Fort Garry.” Ohio’s Ashland Times Gazette of 12 January 1871 reported that on 9 December 1870, Henry M. Robinson had married Maggie Murray (“of Bellevue, Manitoba”) at Fort Garry, with Rev. Young officiating. Robinson apparently died in 1907.]

In the 25 February 1870 issue, the following was printed:

editing a paper 25 Feb NN

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2nd: Thomas Spence, formerly editor of the Nor’-Wester, became editor of the New Nation in March 1870, and possibly majority owner of the business, though it seems no records survive to clarify the matter. According to Begg’s journal entries, Spence was to be paid a salary of £40 ea. quarter by the Provisional Government of Assiniboia to run the paper.

Begg was of the opinion that H.M. Robinson held back from handing over the keys to the printing premises (to the Provisional Government, which then handed them over to Spence) until all debts owed were settled. The exact nature or amounts of the debts, and the identities of the debtors (corporate or individual) is unknown — nor is Begg’s account necessarily reliable. [See Note on Alexander Begg’s Journal, History and Heritage, this site]

Historian Allen Ronaghan, has credited John C. Schultz with inaugurating a ‘reign of terror’, after the creation of Manitoba, with an attack on Spence:

“by invading the offices of the New Nation on September 6th with three companions and assaulting Thomas Spence, the editor. As a result of damage done to the press by Schultz or his accomplices before their departure the New Nation was unable to resume publication, and Schultz’s News-Letter had a press monopoly until the Manitoban appeared in mid-October.”

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Read the paper online:

http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/New%20Nation

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The Manitoba News-Letter

Printed twice a week from September 13, 1870 to  July 1, 1871, on the press formerly used to publish the Nor’-Wester by one of that paper’s former owners, John Christian Schultz. Articles were exceptionally hostile towards people who had offended Schultz during 1869-1870 — which meant just about anyone who had supported the Provisional Government of Assiniboia. Historian Allen Ronaghan has observed:

“It was this newspaper that Schultz used to subvert [sic: support?] the volunteers of the Ontario Rifles, recently stationed at Fort Garry. The result was a ‘reign of terror’ which saw the killing of Elzéar Goulet, the persecution of Métis, the many difficulties of Lieutenant-Governor Archibald and the mutiny of 18 February 1871. Schultz was carrying out at Red River policies arising from ‘Canada First’’s deliberations of the preceding April.”

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Owner/ editor:

►John Christian Schultz September 13, 1870 – July 1, 1871

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Read the paper online:

http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/Manitoba%20News-Letter

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Published: 2 November 2012

Responses

  1. Norma J Hall PhD:
    This website is wonderful!

    I am a great grand niece of Louis Riel. I am an aboriginal rights lawyer and have written several journal articles on the Metis. I have been commissioned by Harper Collins to write a popular history of the Metis Nation, wh I have been writing for the past year. It is scheduled to be published and available in bookstores in the Fall of 2018. I have been so appreciative of the documents you have put up on this site. Thank you for this amazing amount of work.

    I am wondering if we could have a chat. You can contact me at the email below.
    All the best,
    Jean

  2. Thank you — glad to help.
    Norma


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