The Free Press has been Covering The Elk Valley for 115 years
The Free Press is one of the oldest business in Fernie. Almost as soon as people were settling in the area and starting to build the town, they wanted a community newspaper to spread the local news, events and everything else that was happening, and so, out of a tent, The Free Press was born.
In August 1898 Mr. G.G Henderson arrived in Fernie. Although the town didn’t look like much back then, Mr. Henderson had a hunch that it was going to grow into something amazing, so he and his brother Mr. R.L. Henderson bought a lot with the intention of starting a newspaper business. The Free Press is still in the same lot, on Second Avenue.
He then went east to buy the plant and stock necessary to build a first class newspaper and job printing office, returning late in November of the same year.
The railway was then in operation but no station or freight shed had been built. When all the materials and equipment he had ordered finally arrived, it was thrown out of the train and dumped into two feet of snow.
The first home of The Free Press was in a 12 foot x 12 foot rough board shack, in the rear of the present office. It was in this shack that all the equipment was unpacked, the cases were laid and the first type set for The Free Press.
It was also home to the editor and his family for quite a few weeks, in the dead of winter, as hotel accommodation was hard to come by in the early days of Fernie.
In a Christmas editorial by Cy Hacking, the editor in 1901, he wrote that “the ‘composing room’ was a little crowded and in the meantime the present office was being built, but was not covered in.”
A large tent was pitched in the building and a stove set up, and under that basic roof, the first printing was done in Fernie. During the first week in January the first issue of The Free Press appeared.
“A reference to the file of three years ago makes one wonder how such a credible sheet was produced under such circumstances,” Hacking wrote.
“The first year’s experience in publishing The Free Press was probably like that many other Western journalists have encountered – all work and little pay.
“However, all that is now gone by: the paper grew in prosperity and more than kept pace with the progress of the town and now ranks with the best of the British Columbia journals.”
From its primitive start in a shack and a tent in the depths of Fernie winter, The Free Press has grown to the paper it is today. It might look completely different. Technology has advanced substantially and these days, with the staff at The Free Press sat in front of iMacs, the idea of type setting every word seems impossible.
But the ideology remains the same. The Free Press was created to provide the people of a developing town with the community news they wanted. To this day, the same ideology exists.
The Free Press staff are as proud of the paper today as the founders must have been when they saw the first ever edition rolling off the press.
We think they would be proud to see how far the newspaper has come in 115 years, from the early days when a relative visiting a local person from 50 km away made the news, to today’s newspaper that won awards Best Newspaper in 2010 and 2012 for newspaper excellence in British Columbia and the Yukon.
The newspaper has seen a lot of changes in technology, and in the community it serves over the years, but will continue to move forward and advance along with the community. We want to provide you with the news and information you want, so please let us know if there is anything you think we could be doing better.