Edmund Ward

An Account of the River St. John, Edmund Ward
An Account of the River St. John, Edmund Ward

Edmund Ward (printer, newspaperman, author, emigrant agent, publishing agent) was born on 24 June 1787 in Halifax, Nova Scotia to Edmund and Hannah (Rogers) Ward. Ward’s father served as a Captain on the British side in the American Revolutionary War, and later as an official in Nova Scotia, which enabled him to obtain land grants set aside for Loyalists following the war (Parker, “Ward”). Ward trained as a printer under William Minns, a prominent retailer in Halifax, at Minns’ office on Barrington Street (Parker, “Minns”). Many early printers in Canada were New Englanders or Loyalists, as they tended to be the most literate population in Nova Scotia prior to the movement for free schooling that began in 1808 (Parker, The Beginnings 25, 23). In 1809, Ward was invited to edit The Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda. He began two papers while in Bermuda—the Gleaner and the Weekly Gazette—but lost his printing contract and returned to Halifax in 1815 (Parker, “Ward”).

Ward began the Halifax Free Press, a Tory newspaper, in April 1816 and quickly developed a rivalry with the Liberal Acadian Recorder, which ultimately resulted in a charge of libel against Ward (Parker, “Ward”). The Free Press soon gained a reputation as a forum for political dispute, publishers often running the risk of being charged with criminal libel for criticizing public officials and policy. In 1835, Joseph Howe, owner of the Novascotian, was indicted for criminal libel against magistrates but was acquitted following a passionate speech about freedom of the press, thereby effectively negating the threat of criminal libel for publishers (Beaven and Yusufali). Ward published the Free Press until April 1834, then began the Temperance Recorder (Parker, “Ward”). This publication, however, was short-lived, and Ward lost his printing press in 1837 due to low subscription rates.

After losing his press, Ward travelled extensively throughout the Maritime provinces before finally settling in Fredericton, New Brunswick, another Loyalist bastion. There, he began the Sentinel and New-Brunswick General Advertiser, which was first published in December 1837 (Parker, “Ward”). The first issue contained a statement from Ward regarding the aims of the paper and the standards he would hold himself to, explaining that he

will be found the firm and consistent advocate of the rights of the people, and the determined opposer of every exercise of arbitrary rule … [The Sentinel] shall be open to the most searching investigation and unflinching exposure of abuse, wherever it may be found to exist … no rank however elevated, or power however paramount, shall be exempt from the rigid watchfulness and surveillance of that portion of the Press, which may be under his guidance and control. (Ward, “Prospectus” 1)

Unlike the Halifax Free Press, which Ward often used to attack his rivals, Ward positioned the Sentinel as a journal of the people, concerned with the prosperity of the province of New Brunswick and its inhabitants. In it, he reported on government debates and policies, including a section for the happenings in the Provincial Legislature when applicable, noting how such discussions would impact the province. In one instance, the issue of cutting timber on Crown Lands was raised, and it was reported that one individual, who remained anonymous during the proceedings, “had cut during the last year, at least a million and a half of timber, for which he did not pay anything” (“Provincial Legislature” 1). The Sentinel was published weekly until 1844 (Parker, “Ward”).

In 1840, Ward was appointed Assistant Emigrant Agent by his friend, Lieutenant Governor Sir John Harvey. Stationed in Fredericton with an office at Phoenix Square, he was the first and only Assistant Emigrant Agent in the city (Lavorgna 9). However, Ward was not the lone Emigrant Agent in New Brunswick at the time, sharing the title with Alexander Wedderburn and Moses Perley. Each worked to discover how best to serve and police the newly arrived immigrants. By way of providing information to those seeking it, particularly Irish immigrants fleeing the Famine, the Emigrant Agents each wrote their own emigration guide (Lavorgna 10).

In the introductory chapter of his guide, An Account of the River St. John, With Its Tributary Rivers and Lakes (1841), Ward explains the three main goals of emigration:

To relieve the Parent State of its superabundant population;—to encrease more rapidly the number of inhabitants in the Colonies, and thus to promote their advancement in wealth and importance;—and thirdly, to provide the means of subsistence for those, who are desirous of quitting the scenes of their earlier years, to secure elsewhere “a local habitation,” and a more comfortable and happier home. (5)

Ward goes on to describe different areas of southern New Brunswick in terms of accessibility, land fertility, and natural resources. Prominent families and industries are noted, as is an overview of the dominant religions of the area. So much emphasis is placed on physical location that Ward’s guide appears to be more a travelogue than emigration guide (Lavorgna 10). One such example is Ward’s description of the Belle Isle Bay and Washademoak, particularly the two roads leading from the first to the latter. Ward writes of the road “that nearest the St. John is the most retired and picturesque, although it is most settled; and affords a very romantic and delightful ride” (Ward, An Account 21).

Ward closes by stating that the province is disease-free, full of clean water, and has a population that is kind, generous, and tolerant of all religious backgrounds (94). He concludes by warning emigrants not to hold out for high wages, as the influx of immigrants—an estimated 7000 passing through New Brunswick annually—meant that the wages would be lower due to a larger labour force (An Account 95).

Solitude: And Other Poems (1842), a collection of seven poems, has more dubious authorship, but has also been attributed to Ward (Parker, “Ward”). The book was printed at the Sentinel Office and bears no author name. While Ward never explicitly demonstrated a fondness for poetry, many of the newspapers he began had a literary section that contained poems and other short works, as was customary for newspapers at the time. Thus, it is not inconceivable to deduce that Ward may have written the collection himself.

The poems in Solitude are ripe with vivid natural imagery and the sorrowful tone of passing time, as is demonstrated in the titular poem “Solitude,” a poem describing the changing of the seasons:

When spring with all its loveliness is past,
When summer, glorious summer, leaves his bowr’s;
When Autumn’s placid smile is overcast,
And tyrant winter rules his stormy pow’rs. (Solitude 5)

The poem “Morning Glory” similarly discusses regret and lost love in terms of their effects on the natural surroundings:

Ah! who can tell the future? Mighty time!
Thy steps are on the mountains, and they fall,
Thy breath is on the rivers, and they shrink
To puny streams, unnotic'd as they flow. (10)

In addition to a sprightly lyricism, a persistent religious undertone can also be found in many of the verses in the collection, though in none more noticeably than “An Elegy”:

Hold the winds, and bind the ocean—
Bid old time forget his sway—
Yet shall faith with firm devotion,
Point the Resurrection day! (14)

When Ward’s career as Assistant Emigrant Agent ended in 1844, he returned to Halifax briefly to begin the Evening Gazette, but soon gave up the paper and left for New York. In New York, he worked as a reprint agent and liaison for the Maritime provinces, first for the Anglo-American newspaper, then for Leonard Scott and Company, a New York firm with reprint rights to major British magazines (Parker, “Ward”). In 1850, following the deaths of three of his sons, Ward left the Scott agency and had to take work as a manual labourer. He returned to Hamilton, Bermuda to assist his only surviving son, Robert, with the Bermuda Herald in 1853 (Parker, “Ward”). There, Ward contracted yellow fever and succumbed to the illness on 31 October 1853, leaving behind his wife and three remaining children (“Died,” New Brunswick Reporter). Though reckless and outspoken in his youth, Ward was a principled journalist, an eloquent writer, and an important contributor to New Brunswick’s immigration policies in the mid-1800s.

Carly Mason, Fall 2019
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

“Provincial Legislature: House of Assembly.” The Sentinel and New-Brunswick General Advertiser 16 Mar. 1840: 1.

Ward, Edmund. An Account of the River St. John, With Its Tributary Rivers and Lakes. 2nd ed. Fredericton, NB: Sentinel Office, 1841.

---. “Prospectus: To the Inhabitants of New Brunswick.” The Sentinel and New-Brunswick General Advertiser 11 Dec. 1837: 1.

---. Solitude: And Other Poems. Fredericton, NB: Sentinel Office, 1842.

Biography of Secondary Sources

Beaven, Brian P.N., and Sasha Yusufali. “Journalism.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 10 Aug. 2009. Historica Canada. 18 Oct. 2019

“Bermuda.” The Head Quarters 16 Nov. 1853: 2.

“Died.” The New-Brunswick Courier 19 Nov. 1853: 2.

“Died.” The New Brunswick Reporter and Fredericton Advertiser 18 Nov. 1853: 2.

Forbes, Ernest R. “New Brunswick.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 3 Apr. 2008. Historica Canada. 18 Oct. 2019

Lavorgna, Koral. “New Brunswick As a Home for Immigrants.” Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. 1–13. 8 Oct. 2019

MacNutt, W. S. New Brunswick, A History: 17841867. Toronto, ON: MacMillan, 1963.

Parker, George L. The Beginnings of the Book Trade in Canada. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1985.

---. “Minns, William.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 6. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1987. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 21 Oct. 2019

---. “Ward, Edmund.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 8. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1985. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 25 Sept. 2019