Dean of Newspapermen of Lincoln County and One of the Last of the Old School - Leader in Various civic Undertakings and Valiant Fighter in Many Causes - Fearless Writer and Gifted Speaker - Indefatigable Worker in Interests of Niagara Peninsula Fruit Growers - Strong Campaigner for Conservative Party and Staunch Supporter of Public Ownership.
(The Independent is indebted to J. Orlon Livingston for the following sketch of his father's career.)
Ex-Mayor James A. Livingston, one of Grimsby's most prominent citizens and Dean of Lincoln county newspapermen, passed to his last reward on Saturday night, in his 71st year, after an illness of a week. For over 40 years he was owner and publisher of the Grimsby Independent and during that time owned and published the Merritton Advance, Smithville Advance, Ancaster Advance, the Canadian Sportsman, Canadian Poultry News and the Fruit Grower and Farmer. In 1900 he commence publication of the Morning Post in Hamilton - the first morning paper ever in that city - which had a brief, but spectacular career.
Mr. Livingston was widely known throughout the Province of Ontario as a campaigner for the Conservative Party and as an orator on various subjects of national importance, also as an auctioneer and judge of standard-bred horses. During his lifetime he organized many districts for the Conservative cause with much success, notably in the strenuous campaigns in Wentworth County between W.O. Sealey and Senator E.D.Smith.
Born in Nottawasaga Township, Simcoe County, 10 miles from Collingwood, a son of the late John Livingston and Jane Winters, he early in life showed an aptitude for organization, oratory and writing.
Until his arrival in Grimsby in June of 1885 he partially purchased the farm of the late James Armstrong, but the deal fell through and thus a born news writer was saved from the agricultural field. The first night he spent in Grimsby he spent with James Armstrong, the present owner of the farm and Mr. Armstrong was the last man in Grimsby, outside of his medical adviser and his immediate family, that he recognized and talked to.
In October of that year he married Isabel Trew of his home township, and upon bringing his bride to Grimsby purchased the Independent from Mr. Meagher. At that time the paper was printed in Hamilton. Early in 1886 he installed a Washington press, a few cases of type, and the Independent became a home-printed weekly. From that day on until the autumn of 1925 his printed words virtually ruled the destinies of Grimsby and a great portion of the Niagara district. He saw his office grow from a Washington press institution to one of the biggest and best equipped weekly newspaper plants in Canada, and his little paper to, perhaps, the largest and most widely read weekly in the Province. No important public movement was ever launched in the district that he was not in the forefront of the fighting and working with his paper, his brain and his energy always with one idea in view - that of a greater and grander Grimsby and a prosperous, progressive fruit belt. His name is indelibly engraved upon the bosom of the district.
After disposing of his newspaper interests he devoted his time to the operation of several large fruit markets, and in 1928 organized a company to construct the Grimsby Grape and Wine Company factory, of which he was Secretary-Treasurer and Manager up until his demise.
While always a fearless and energetic worker in the formation of all organizations and companies for the benefit of the fruit farmer, in late years his one pet hobby was the Niagara Grape Growers' Association in the interests of which he gave his all. He was a prominent member of the Ontario Wine Mfgs. Association, and not less that 3 weeks ago he appeared before Sir Henry Drayton to plead the Joint cause of the grape grower and the industry that used his product.
The decease began his long political career when he was elected reeve of the Village in 1893 on a platform for the bringing of the H.G.& B. railway into Grimsby, and held that office till the end of 1894, during which time one of the most bitter legal battles in the history of the municipality was waged through the courts. This was over the opening up of the street on both sides of the car tracks from the top of the hill to Kerman Avenue. When the street finally opened it was named Livingston Avenue after its creator.
In 1897 in conjunction with several other local men, he organized a company for the prospecting and development of gold mines in the Lake of the Woods district which at that time was believed to be a second Klondyke. He spent 2 seasons prospecting in that country.
He was elected reeve again in 1899 and 1900 and also sat as a member of the Village council for some years as well as being a member of the Board of education for a great number of years.
During 1903 the big school fight took place. Grimsby had outgrown its school facilities and a new school had to be constructed. One faction wanted it built on the stone flats on Elizabeth street between Main street and the G.T.R. tracks, while another faction headed by Mr. Livingston, Wm. Mitchell and other prominent men wanted it built on Livingston Avenue where it stands today. During those years elections were common, one being held about every 15 days. Councillors and school trustees were elected and unseated for some cause or other with regularity. From that day on Grimsby began to boom and had its greatest growth from 1904 to 1914.
It was through his efforts that many industries of different kinds were secured for the town and many improvements for the benefit of the fruit grower accrued through his persistent fighting for their advancement.
He was one of the last of the old school of newspapermen in the Dominion. A writer that feared neither governments, corporations or individuals. He hewed to the line and let the chips fall where they may. It was the hard hitting, straight from the shoulder type of newspaperman like "Jim" Livingston that made Canada what she is today. Men like the late George Brown of The Globe and John R. Cameron of the Hamilton Spectator.
No question of any importance municipal, provincial or dominion ever arose that he did not give it due study and deliberation, took a stand and stood by it. Many a slashing attack in his "Facts and Fancies" column brought forth sarcastic comment from one side and commendation from another, but it was all for the welfare of everyone at large. His editorials as copied far and wide were noted for their sound judgment, quotations and advancement of solid ideas.
A peculiar feature in connection with the writings of "Frank Fairborn", his pen name, was that previous to being affluent enough to have a stenographer he wrote most of his "stuff" in the dead of night and after acquiring a typist always walked the length of his office and return continuously while dictating.
Always a staunch supporter and fighter for public ownership he ended his municipal career in a strong, strenuous unsuccessful fight for Hydro Power for Grimsby in 1925 after having served as Mayor during 1924-25.
A strange coincidence in his life is the fact that from 1888 to 1897 he conducted a large horse livery and bus business or stage service between Grimsby, Grimsby Park, Beamsville and Smithville. Today 40 years later, his oldest son is editor of the only bus and truck periodical in Canada after having had 5 years' experience in bus operation at various points throughout the United States.
As an advocate of good roads, old timers will tell you that 30 and more years ago he was fighting and writing for a development of a system of township, county and provincial roads similar to the system in vogue today, although at that time stone and water bound macadam roads were considered the finest in the world. At that period ex-Reeve John Young of Caistor township was using a split log drag on a certain piece of clay road and as a consequence of his labours had the best piece of road in Lincoln County.
For many years throughout Lincoln and adjoining counties the stentorian tones of his voice were known to every man, woman and child, not only for his fiery political eloquence but as an auctioneer, where his platform was a wagon box or the top of a pig sty. He was one of the last of the old time hammer wielders that once made Ontario famous as the home of crack auctioneers, for their fame and actions spread all over the continent.
A man of great vision, unselfish to a degree, an untiring energy, an aptitude for building bigger and bigger, he gave his all for his profession, his constituency and his country.
He leaves to mourn his loss a widow, two sons, Lieut. J.A.M. and J. Orlan, of The MacLean Publishing Co., Toronto, two brothers, David of Cleveland and Dr. Frank J. of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and one sister, Mrs. John Griesbach of Collingwood.
In religion he was an Anglican, and a member of three frateral societies, the I.O.O.F., C.O.F. and the Orange order.