First Annandale NHS online exhibit opens April 27

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On Monday, April 27 you will be able to see the next exhibit at the Annandale National Historic Site, aka the Museum.

But they are closed! Yup! They battened down the hatches, stored the small artifacts, covered the furniture, sent the staff home, and locked the doors!

Ah, but the joy of history is that there is always research to be done and in this wondrous age of electronics there is much you can do from your home. So, you will be able to see Annandale National Historic Site’s first ever online exhibit.

Exhibits are planned several years in advance, and staff at the museum didn’t want you to miss this one which honours the 100th anniversary of the amalgamated Tillsonburg News and Tillsonburg’s newspaper history, so they are bringing it to you on Facebook and/or the museum’s page on the Town of Tillsonburg website.

Tillsonburg has had five newspapers spanning parts of three centuries, including the first which was the Herald and General Advertiser published April 7, 1862. For the town back then, this was amazing! The only ways of communicating previously were talking and writing letters. Even the telegraph, which came with the trains, was not here at that time. Now people would know of missing cows, accidents and goods for sale in town! Alas the museum has copies of only a few Heralds.


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Our second paper was the Tillsonburg Observer, founded by William S. Law, who saw in the hamlet of Tillsonburg an ‘embryo city.’ He came to Tillsonburg at the request of E.D. Tillson and founded the Observer in 1863. A rival to the Herald, the Observer won the people and the Herald closed.

For about two decades the Observer kept the town informed. Mr. Law also was very involved in not just getting one train to town but several, including one from Brantford to Port Burwell, through Tillsonburg which secured a good harbour to transport goods. He also held a charter and planned to have electric roads south and east of Tillsonburg. He cared deeply about the town, promoting and personally helping anything that would be a benefit to the town.

When the trains and telegraph came to town, world news lagged only a few days until you read it! The trains caused the town to boom and the newspapers kept everyone informed of new business, goods, jobs and also the Conservative cause.

In 1877, Queen Victoria became Empress of India and a new rival newspaper started up the presses in town. Not only a rival for news but also political favouritism, The Tillsonburg Liberal was proposed by Norman Dresser, a telegrapher who grew up in Tillsonburg. Norman was the son of Augustus Strong Dresser and Nancy Tillson VanNorman, granddaughter of Benjamin VanNorman. As you can tell his mother was a member of both important families in our town.

Norman enticed William McGuire to come to town and be his partner in the Liberal. While here, he married Minnie Louise VanNorman, also a granddaughter of Benjamin VanNorman! Three years later, Norman sold to his partner and headed out west where there were ‘more chances.’


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William McGuire’s home at 274 Broadway is still standing and today is Broadway Chiropractic & Nutrition Centre.

Both papers competed until 1919, and they amalgamated in 1920 to form The Tillsonburg News. It was run locally until 1988 when the Newfoundland Capital Corporation purchased the Otter Publishing papers in our area. Soon after the Tillsonburg Independent started, then sold to the Tillsonburg News’ parent company a few years later.

One hundred years from the Observer/Liberal amalgamation has passed. The history of our town is in those old papers, and fortunately most are on microfilm.

While on the Annandale NHS Facebook check all the fun things to do on the page. Lots to keep you and the kids busy with all kinds of games, including jigsaw puzzles (old Tillsonburg buildings), and colouring pages of the walls, floors, ceilings and artifact from Annandale House.

Kathleen Watkin, the newest member of the staff, keeps putting more and more on the site that is always interesting. She is going through the alphabet one letter at a time and putting an artifact beginning with the letter. Do you know what a ‘What Not’ is? How about an Airway Sanitizer (Model 55A)?

Those are some of the bare facts of our newspaper history. On Monday, April 27, check out the online exhibit of the newspapers, with stories, pictures and more on the people who built our town. Be sure not to miss the historic occasion of the museum’s first online exhibit!

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