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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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SMITH, DAVID GEORGE (1842-1908)

SMITH, DAVID GEORGE, newspaper publisher and editor, sportsman, and fisheries officer; b. Lockport, Shelburne Co., N.S., 19 Sep 1842, s/o David G. Smith Sr and Catherine Locke; m. 1870, Mary E. Springate, of St Stephen, N.B.; d. New York City, 7 Aug 1908.

As a young man, David G. Smith was employed for three years in New York with the dry-goods firm of Claflin & Co., with which different members of the Miramichi's Adams family also worked. He was later on the staff of the Saint Croix Courier in St Stephen. In 1869 he joined the Saint John Daily Telegraph, for which he was a reporter and city editor for five years. "He was an excellent reporter, and his work did much in establishing the reputation of the Telegraph as a first class newspaper." In the spring of 1874, while still on the staff of the Telegraph, he founded Quip, an illustrated comic and satirical publication which was issued fortnightly for about six months. With its demise he moved to Chatham and established the weekly St Lawrence Advance, the first issue of which appeared in November 1874. This became the Miramichi Advance in 1877 and for a time in 1885 the Daily Miramichi Advance, the first daily attempted in northern New Brunswick.

On the Miramichi, Smith's journalism was regarded as subservient to the business and political interests of Jabez B. Snowball, and for many years he was savaged on this account by the other local newspapers. He was referred to as "the erratic and despised individual who conducts Mr Snowball's paper," as "the one who does Snowball's dirty work," and so on. Smith himself described his paper as "a very moderate and respectable weekly paper, quite independent of all political parties, but supporting the Liberals and their general policy." He was anything but non-partisan, but so were the other Miramichi editors, and it is difficult to view their attacks on him as anything other than meanspirited. Politics aside, the Advance was a lively, highly readable newspaper having more and richer local content than any other Miramichi publication. Had it not existed the historical record would be the poorer for it.

Smith had well-developed historical and literary interests. He often appended historical notes to news stories published in the Miramichi Advance. He addressed a meeting of the Teachers' Institute in 1894 on teaching history in the classroom. He made a contribution to historiography in 1896, when he published a new edition of Cooney's History of Northern New Brunswick and the Gaspé, after copies of the 1832 edition had become difficult to find. He published Hedley Parker's "Days of Duffy Gillis" in the Advance in 1899 and aptly labeled Parker's work as "inimitable." He was himself an accomplished prose stylist, as the files of the Advance reveal, and he occasionally contributed articles to other publications.

Smith's endeavors brought him financial success, and he was able to pursue a variety of interests outside of the field of journalism. He was a vestryman of the Anglican church. He sat on the County Council for a time and was warden of the county in 1894. Later he was secretary-treasurer of the Northumberland Agricultural Society and participated in other community and sports organizations. He was a member of the committee of stewards formed in 1881 to organize regattas on the Miramichi and was always an important figure in the Miramichi Yacht Club after it came into being in the mid 1880s. He was an organizer in 1882, and later president, of the Chatham Lacrosse Club.

A devoted salmon angler, Smith published a colorful account in a number of issues of the Advance of a trip which he took in 1888 to the camp which Michael Adams owned far up the Northwest branch of the Miramichi. Many years later an article of his entitled "The Salmon Leap" appeared in Forest and Stream. In 1896 he was appointed to the salaried position of fisheries commissioner for New Brunswick. In this capacity he did much to help advertise the province to sports fishermen south of the border. In 1905 he organized an ambitious display for a sportsmen's show held at Madison Square Garden in New York. This included mounted specimens, as well as huge glass tanks filled with live fish. He served as commissioner until a decision was taken to discontinue the position in 1906, possibly because he was ill at the time with diabetes. Eighteen months prior to his death he moved to New York, where he had a sister living. Apart from her, his only named survivor was his wife, Mary E. Springate.

Later publication containing updated biography: Sportfishing on the Northwest Miramichi in 1888, by David George Smith (ed. by W. D. Hamilton), Saint John, 2006

Sources

[b] census [m] Courier 4 Aug 1870 [d] Leader 14 Aug 1908 / Advance 6 Mar 1879, 21 Apr 1881, 11 Aug 1881, 19 Jul 1888ff, 1 Aug 1889, 21 Jul 1892, 1 Mar 1894, 8 Mar 1894, 11 Oct 1894, 23 Sep 1897, 3 Jul 1902; Advocate 30 Sep 1874, 3 Apr 1889, 29 Jul 1891, 22 Jan 1896, 20 Dec 1905, 8 Jul 1908; Courier 13 Aug 1908; Daily Gleaner 11 Jan 1905; Fraser (C); Harper; NB Newspapers; Smith family data; Telegraph 10 Aug 1908


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