Project 1 – William Elgood Smallfield


It was the expected which happened in Guelph on Wednesday morning of this week when Mr. William Elgood Smallfield breathed his last. He had been in ill health for a long period, suffering from hardening of the arteries, and about a fortnight before the end came signs of approaching dissolution began to show. In the last issue of The Mercury mention was made of a tum for the worse which had occurred.

It is hardly necessary to state that the deceased was for a long while publisher of The Mercury and one of Renfrew’s best known and most esteemed citizens. From 1882 to 1919 he wielded the editorial pen during part of which time he and his father, the late Albert Smallfield were in partnership under the firm name Smallfield and Son. The father died in 1902 but the firm name continued and in course of time the third generation was represented.

The late W.E. Smallfield was born in Brooklyn N.Y., on October 22nd 1861, the only son of Albert Smallfield and his wife Martha Ann Elgood. Albert Smallfield was in Brooklyn on the editorial staff of The Journal of Commerce, a capable writer and one who in the Old Country had learned shorthand. After a few years spent there the family removed to Madoc Ont., where The Madoc Mercury was founded. In 1871, when Renfrew was assured of railway accommodation the Smallfields removed to Renfrew and in June of that year, The Renfrew Mercury came into existence, continuing ever since and witnessing the time and fall of other journalistic enterprises. The Mercury was not the first paper published here, the late Judge Jamieson of Almonte having been a pioneer in that line.

Old files of The Mercury show it to have been a very readable paper from the beginning. It was nominally Liberal in politics but never offensively partisan even in the days when newspapers took their politics much more seriously than is the case today. William E. always had temperance principles in mind, and a candidate for the Commons or the Legislature who upheld the temperance cause never failed to command his support. Father and son made a strong editorial staff, and there was also the help of Miss Amy Smallfield, a teacher only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Smallfield, who died in 1896. She was a clever young woman whose death was a severe blow to the parents and was felt most keenly by her only brother.

The late W.E. Smallfield was not only successful as a newspaper man, but brought strength to those institutions in Renfrew with which he was connected. Everybody knows that his work both as Mayor and Councillor was of the best. The Agricultural Society is debtor to him for long years of patient effort. The Sons of Temperance had no more enthusiastic member. He was long a member of the band committee. The Mechanic’s Institute and the Public Library both got much help from W.E. Smallfield. The Farmer’s Institute was always boomed by him. He advocated good roads for town and country years before construction thereof commenced.

He drove Renfrew’s first horseless carriage. For years he was a leader among the town’s wheelmen. While a supporter of various kinds of outdoor sports, Mr. Smallfield took no active part in any except wheeling, though he liked skating and could move around the ice with the ease and grace of those who learned skating for something more than playing hockey.

The Smallfield family in coming to Renfrew attended the Anglican church. Later they were Presbyterians, with a leaning on the part of William E. to Unitarianism. He believed in the golden rule and lived it out in his life.

When in 1919 William E. Smallfield gave up newspaper work, great regret was felt in Renfrew. He knew everybody and everybody knew him, besides none knew him but to respect him highly. And regret was greater when a short while later the Smallfield family – then of four Persons – left Renfrew for Toronto. From Toronto they went to Guelph, and in Guelph on Wednesday morning there terminated a busy life of 65 years.

One of the monuments left by Mr. Smallfield is a history of Renfrew which began in 1901, just a quarter a century ago. He and the late Rev. Dr. Campbell worked upon it and since then Mr. Smallfield has given it attention, the closing years of his life having been devoted almost entirely to that work. This history is another thing adding to the debt of gratitude which Renfrew owes to William Elgood Smallfield.

People of Renfrew and neighborhood will sympathize in deepest measure with the widow who before her marriage was Miss Ida Hamillton of Toronto; also will feel in the same way for the sons, William II, and Harry A. both of Guelph.

W. E. Smallfield served on Renfrew Town Council:
1897 (Councillor)
1899 (Councillor)
1901-1903 (Mayor)
1907 (Reeve)
1909-1912 (Councillor)
1916 (Councillor)
1917 (Deputy Reeve)
1918-1921 (Councillor)