When J.A. Osborne could not find housing in the village of Koochiching, he moved across to Fort Frances and when he heard that the Canadian Northern Railway was to be was to be built through Fort Frances, he moved his newspaper, the Rainy Lake Herald and Koochiching Advertiser across the river and renamed it the Fort Frances Times, adding “And Rainy Lake Herald” for good measure. So it has been to this day, the second oldest busines in Fort Frances. The Canadian Bank of Commerce preceded it, but both were here when the town was incorporated in 1903.
This, or course, was not the first newspaper in this area. The Alberton Star, a small eight by 11 1/2 inch newspaper, was published here by W.B. Lytle. When the Dominion government changed in 1978 and work was stopped on the canal, Mr. Lytle place his printing press, his type, and his belongings in a canoe and set off for Rat Portage. He was here for less than two years.
James Alexander Osborne began his newspaper career in 1882 in Winnipeg, took over the management of the Brandon Sun until it changed ownership and then moved to Rat Portage where he became acquainted with and later worked for J.P. Eargney and Fred Bowman, publishers of the Rat Portage Miner. In January, 1896, Mr. Osborne purchased a Rainy Lake newspaper from Mr. Bowman. There is some confusion as to the name of the newspaper in Mr Osborne’s own account.
To reach Rainy Lake City, the new gold mining camp on Black Bay of Rainy Lake, Mr. Osborne traveled to Winnipeg, on to St. Paul, Minn., and then by team over the ice and snow to Rainy Lake City where “I viewed my newspaper property – The Rainy Lake Journal”
Assisted by a young man as printer’s devil, printer and pressman, Mr Osborne began putting out his newspaper, assisted financially by numerous government land notices at $8 each and homestead notices at $5 each. We “had as many as 20 or 30 come in by mail with cheques attached.”
In spring, when the little community ran short of provisions, we lived for three weeks on cornmeal and jackfish”, Mr. Osborne has written. When the lake broke up, Mr. Osborne and a companion paddled 14 miles to Fort Frances and when the first boat arrived from Rat Portage, “It had one bag of flour and a couple hundred barrels of beer.” Mr. Osborne managed to secure more cornmeal, a dozen eggs and a few canned goods before paddling back home.
When the little American gold mine closed down, Mr. Osborne barged his paper and plan in 1898 to the Village of Kochiching, where he published it under the name of the Rainy Lake Herald, the first to be published in what is now International Falls.
When Mr. Osborne managed to secure a house in Fort Frances, at 314 First St. E. he brought his family down from Rat Portage aboard the Edna Brydges. He then travelled back and forth each day between Fort Frances and Koochiching by canoe in the summer and on the ice during the winter months.
With the building of the CNR, Mr. Osborne again moved his plant, this time across the river from Koochiching to Fort Frances in order to “on the spot” when the railroad arrived. “I worked very hard to build up the papers circulation and also to boost the town and the district,” he was to write later.
In addition, Mr. Osborne took an active role in community affairs, serving as mayor in 1905, when plans for building the town hall were started, and six one-year terms as councillor. he also was active in both federal and provincial politics.
Mr. Osborne also established Rainy River’s first newspaper, the Gazette as well as a store, book and office supply store in 1900. Then, while still operating his newspapers at Fort Frances and Rainy River he published the Barndon Daily Sun at the insistence of Sir Clifton Sifton whom Mr. Osborne earlier had helped elect to parliament. After three years at Brandon, Mr. Osborne sold out and returned to Fort Frances.
An earlier fire at Rainy River and then a fire caused by lightning in1911 which wiped out his Fort Frances plant, valued at over $25,000 ; the erection in 1912 of his second plant at 288 Scott St. which included a book store; his work helping to recruit 141st Battalion in which he served with the rank of Captain; and his work on the town council brought about a breakdown in health late in 1916 which brought an end to Mr. Osborne’s newspaper career in Fort Frances.
In January, 1917, Mr. Osborne sold the Gazette and formed a syndicate of five local men to purchase the Fort Frances Times. in February, he left fot the state of Virginia, where his grandmother Osborne had been born and lived. After publishing a number of newspapers in the southern states, Mr. Osborne was invited in December 1929 to restore the old Virginia Gazette in colonial Williamsburg, then being restored by John D. Rockfeller, Jr. it had been the first paper in the new colony, established in 1736. Mr. Osborne continued as editor until 1947 when he was succeeded by his daughter. he died on July 29, 1948.
Mr. Osborne never returned to Fort Frances and, according to local friends who visited him in the South, he was sorely disappointed that he had received no recognition for his community efforts from the townspeople prior to his departure.
On February 1, 1917, when the new owners took over, the Bazaar, Bok and Stationary store was sold to A.D.Bruce listed as a fully qulified druggist. Then in the fall, the Bazaar, City Drug and Stationary was being advertised as being “next to the post office” which would put it in today’s Prince Albert Hotel restaurant.
After acquiring the Times, the new owners then merged it with the Fort Frances Standard, published with an eight by 11 1/2 inch page size. The Rainy Lake Press was published by W.B. Cameron here around 1903.
While mention is not made, it is believed that is was at this time that the office and plant of the Times was moved to 109-11 Church St. in the Williams block. On March 15, 1917, C.D. Lang, one of its most gifted writers, became editor, writing humorously under the name Laura E.H. Cole. In the fall he was succeeded by George Watson of International Falls and then Thomas Gowans of Brockvill who stayed for eight weeks.
On November 7, when The Times announced “Peace Declared”, it also announced a change in ownership when W.H. Elliott, one of the original five shareholders of the Fort Frances Publishing Co., took over complete control as editor and publisher.
Mr. Elliot, with political ambitions, was elected to the Ontario legislature in 1929, succeeding J.A.Mathieu. The Times, forced into bankruptcy, found Herbert Williams serving as editor pro term and announcing on February 15, 1934, that in the “past thee years, every business had required the full-time and guiding hand of experience to lead it through the tying period of depression.”
Then on April 19, 1934, two experienced newspapermen from Yorkton, Sask., arrived in Fort Frances to take over the newspaper and plant. They were R.H Larson, who assumed the title of managing editor, and J.A. Cumming as editor. Mr. Larson was an experienced advertising manager, while Mr. Cumming was a skilled printing craftsmen. They immediately instituted economies to reduce costs by confining the plant to 111 Church St.; they revitalized and completely changed the character of the newspaper by emphasizing a more comprehensive news coverage at the same time working to boost circulation and advertising. in this the were successful and, in addition, they began to do more and better job printing with the installation if more up-to-date equipment. The first of three Original Heidelberg job presses was installed on May 25, 1950. Necessary additions were added to the building itself with the most important coming on February 26, 1964, when the Goss Cox-O-Type automatic roll-fed newspaper pres with a Cox-O-Colour attachment, was placed in operation. The Huber-Hodgman flatbed, cylinder press and folder, which Mr. Osborne had proudly announced in 1912 “turns out the superior class of printing produced at the Times office,: was scrapped. the Times, however, was still printing from type or “hot metal”, as printers say, and the new linotype was producing lead slugs from a punched tape; a photoengraving machine to transfer images from photgraphs to plastic plates for printing, was also added; an automatic machine to turn out rules and borers, as well as a type-casting machine to produce a wide variety of type faces on a single slug were added as the owners sought to produce a better newspaper and better job printing.
After 68 years, the publication day was advanced from a Thursday to a Wednesday. Weekly newspapers, for many many years, were published on Thursdays because Saturday was THE shopping day when the pioneer families took time off to visit the nearest stores which remained open at least until midnight. Then on March 23, 1963, the first issue of the Fort Frances Times on a Wednesday was published. the announcement said: “The change in the publication date has been made at the request of a number of Fort Frances advertisers. It is felt that the change will be beneficial to all concerned, subscribers as well as advertisers.” Shopping habits were changing and Friday had replaced Saturday as the evening when mother and father and the family could get out together to do the family shopping.
When the Daily Journal in International Falls installed an offset newspaper press, Times management, noting improvements in reproduction, installed the necessary photographic type-setting machinery. Starting on September 1, 1971, the Times began new offset method of printing making use of the Daily Journal’s Press. When the “bugs” were ironed out, the Times in July 1974, acquired it’s own two-unit Cottrell Model V-15A offset press which could print up to 15,000 eight-page papers an hour and produce a better, cleaner-appearing, better-appearing newspaper than in the past. The Goss Cox-O-Type was sold to Lloyd Hoffman and part of it went into a portable sawmill. Much of the other “hot metal” equipment was not being used.
A change in ownership of the Fort Frances Time took place on November 15, 1971, when Mr. Larson sold his share to Robert A. Cumming who had succeeded his father as a partner in the business. Mr. Larson, who remained as president of the Fort Frances Times Ltd., relinquished his shares a year after the unexpected death of his only surviving son Sherwood, who had managed Creighton and Sherlock Limited, a Times subsidiary in Port Arthur which specialized in creative printing.
Then in September 1976, came the biggest change in the fort Frances Times when it moved back as neighbour to the orginal Times building in Fort Frances, which stood between the present building and Weston Grocers.
The original Riverside Garage, 116 First St. E., later occupied by Canadian Tire, was purchased from Western Grocers in 1976 and remodelled into an efficient newspaper plant with large airy business, editorial circulation and advertising offices; a streamlined composing room; two darkrooms, one for editorial use and the other for developing offset platemakeing films; an adjoining platemakeing department; a large job pressroom with its own paper storage convenient to First St. Deliver; a newspaper pressroom with ample paper storage, a three-unit Cottrell press which can print 12 pages at a time with an automatic folder and counter; plus mailing equipment. A convenient room for carriers adjoins the circulation department in the business office.
To meet the completion of the Daily Reminder established by Herb Houck, Mr. Elliot began publishing the Daily Bulletin on October 6, 1931, which continues to this day. the format remains the same but what, at first, was at times a one page 5-col. by 15-inch newspaper, printed on one side, has grown so that it varies between four and 12 pages, carrying an assortment of news, local and national advertising. Its very smallness makes it an attractive advertising medium, and, at the same time, is very readable.
Thus, from Rainy Lake City to Fort Frances, the Fort Frances Times travelled in time to greet the CNR and to announce incorporation of the municipality of the Town of Fort Frances, but, unfortunately due to the fire of 1911, one has to take the Times word for it — there are no known papers of that time in existence. The present files go back to World War I days.