Submitted by Randall Speller
Edward Deanes Hand (1831-1919) was a pioneering newspaper publisher and printer who worked in Victoria County for 60 years, from 1855 to 1915.
E. D. Hand was born in London, England on May 11th , 1831 (1 ) to John Richard Hand and Elizabeth Hester, their second son, and third child. Listed as “Boot Makers and Hat Makers”, their business was apparently successful as they were said to have 21 employees by 1851 [Magahay; 72]. To date little is known of his life in England, or his reasons for emigrating for Canada. As a second son, he perhaps saw few prospects in the family firm.
Hand arrived in Canada in 1850 at the age of nineteen. He found general work in Port Hope before taking employment with the Port Hope Guide. He stayed in Port Hope and here he learned the printing and newspaper business. On the lookout for new opportunities he moved to Lindsay in 1854, a village that was not only growing rapidly but also had no local press. He founded the Lindsay Advocate in 1855, the first newspaper in the region. The paper lasted 11 years until 1866, by which time, facing growing competition from the Canadian Post, Hand sold the Advocate to the Post along with his printing press [Capon; 55-56].
Hand moved to Fenelon Falls in 1868 where he was listed as a grocer and seller of shoes in the Dun & Bradstreet business directories for the autumn and early winter of 1868-1869. He had no doubt fallen back on his old London family trade. This mercantile career was short-lived as he moved his family to Bobcaygeon sometime in 1869 to found the Bobcaygeon Independent; it began publication in March 1870. While there were no publishing rivals in Bobcaygeon, Hand’s politics got him into trouble with the mill owners and other business men. For a number of reasons Hand was encouraged to sell the paper to Charles Stewart in 1872, and he returned to Fenelon Falls, again with publishing in mind. He published the first issue of the Fenelon Falls Gazette in February of 1873.
From 1873 to his retirement and sale of the paper in August 1915, E.D. Hand reported on the village and community as it was, from its lumbering days to its development as a tourist hub for the growing populations of southern Ontario. A history of this place emerges from the Gazette’s pages and brings the past to life. It is a remarkable record; all the more so as it was the production of one man. Hand remains a fascinating character whose life and work typifies small town publishing in 19th century Ontario. The Gazette also retains its record as the longest surviving business in Fenelon Falls, dating from 1873 to the last issue published under that title in September 2004. (2)
Hand died on March 17th , 1919, and was buried in the Fenelon Falls Cemetery. As we mark the 100th anniversary of his death, we have an opportunity to remember a newspaper pioneer in Victoria County and his contribution to Fenelon Falls.
(1) Sources vary as to the correct birth date; some claim it was 1832. The same variances occur for the date of Hand’s arrival in Canada. Some sources say 1851; Magahay states 1850. In 1880 Hand mentions “our thirty year residence in Canada” [FFG 10 July 1880; 2].
(2) Fenelon Falls Gazette. — Vol. 1, no. 1 ([February], - Vol. 133, no 36. (7 September 2004).