Historical Plaque Properties

 

William Dingman - Publisher/Stratford Herald
59 Grant Street
1889

Stratford had its first newspaper, Perth County News, a weekly, in 1849, five years before it became a village. By 1886 there were seven weeklies and thedailies were starting to appear. Absalom Dingman, a newspaper publisher from Strathroy and a United Empire Loyalist who had migrated to Canada from an early Dutch settlement along the Hudson River in New York State, came to Stratford with his family and purchased the Herald, a weekly with a steadily increasing  readership. Three of his sons joined him at the paper with the eldest, William Smith, who in addition to his newspaper experience in Strathroy, had spent a year as managing editor at the Port Arthur Daily Sentinel, becoming Co-publisher, and hence began what is described by Adelaide Leitch in her history of Stratford, Floodtides of Fortune, as a newspaper dynasty. It would last for 113 years.

 

William Smith Dingman and Margaret (Maggie) Elizabeth McDonough were married in Strathroy March 13, 1889 with her father, the Rev. William McDonough, a Methodist clergyman, performing the ceremony. They immediately moved into 59 Grant Street where their first child, a daughter, Wilhelmine Margaret was born. She would grow up to marry Arthur Francis, a merchant in Port Arthur and spend her adult life there. William and Maggie’s first son, George McDonough, served in World War 1 and afterwards continued in the family tradition as an advertising manager in St Thomas. Hisbrother Arthur located in Montreal where he had a career as a chemical engineer. He and his wife are buried In Knowlton, Quebec. 

 

There were three sisters and four brothers in William’s family.  In the early years in Stratford two brothers, Lewis Hervey and Charles Oliver, worked withhim at the Herald. Lewis moved on in 1889 to become the managing editor of the St Thomas Journal, later purchased the St Thomas Times and merged the two papers. St Thomas would be his home base for the rest of his life buthe maintained a connection with Stratford by purchasing the Herald in 1920 and merging it with the Beacon in 1923.

 

Charles Oliver gained journalistic experience at the Montreal Star, the Winnipeg Telegram and as publisher of the Gannoque Journal. He returned to Stratford in 1918 as editor and manager of the Daily Herald and later became the first editor and managing director of the newly established Stratford Beacon Herald in May 1923. Sadly, he died very suddenly six months later. His son Charles Dobson Dingman succeeded him.

 

In 1890 William moved the Herald into a new building, designed by architectJoseph Kilburn, on the south side of Market Square where it would remain until the merger with the Beacon in 1923. He became active in municipal life serving on the Board of the Collegiate Institute, as an alderman on the city council and finally as mayor 1909-10. It was during his term as mayor that he played a key role in bringing water-powered hydro service to Stratford. Hisadvocacy and  support for Sir Adam Beck’s Niagara Power project culminatedin a 1910 Christmas Eve ceremony  at which the first Niagara powered electric lights were switched on to illuminate Stratford’s streets.

 

In 1899 he was elected President of the Canadian Press Association, a non profit organization created in 1859 to improve relations among newspaper publishers, proprietors and editors and strengthen the press against the divisive effect of political interference. 

 

After more than 30 years in the newspaper business the Ontario government called on him in 1915 to serve as Vice Chairman of the newly established Ontario Board of License (Liquor) Commissioners. This position would soon involve him in the administration of the Ontario Temperance Act which came into effect in 1917.  He and Maggie moved to Toronto where they spent the rest of their lives.  William Smith Dingman died in 1947 at age 89 and is buried with Maggie in Mount Pleasant Cemetery there.

 

But it wasn’t all newspapers and politics. Cycling or “wheeling” as it was known then, was one of his favourite pastimes. Either on his own or with friends he would ride on the cinder paths to Sebringville or other destinations. Music was another, beginning in his teenage years he was a church organist, including here in Stratford at Central Methodist/United Church for more than a dozen years. He also had a hand in the compilation of two church hymnals. In his Toronto days he took up golf as a pastime.

 

In an interview for the Golden Jubilee Edition of the Beacon Herald he comments that the turmoil of daily newspaper life still thrills him and that hismarriage to Margaret Elizabeth McDonough was the “high water mark” of hislife.