W. S. Law

William Strachan Law, or W. S. Law, as he was more commonly known, was a newspaper man but he was also a mover and shaker in 1800s Tillsonburg.

W. S. was born on December 21, 1833 in South Leith, Scotland, which is now a part of Edinburgh. He began an apprenticeship in the printing trade at age eight, which at the time was a typical age for boys to enter into such an apprenticeship. His training lasted for seven years where he learned every branch of the printing business from the Master Craftsman. Starting the apprenticeship at age eight, meant W. S. could not attend school. This lack of formal education did not mean he could not read. A self-taught man-of-learning, W.S. would spend his spare time reading to gain knowledge that would later appear in his skilled writing for the Observer. Besides being well read in English, Law also learned German and French. He was gifted in the arts and was able to draw as well as play the flute.

When he arrived in Canada in 1853, he was a journeyman pressman, which means he operated the printing press, and while he had completed his apprenticeship, he was not yet a master craftsman. His first stop was in Quebec. In Ontario, where he stayed for the rest of his life, his first stop was in Kingston.

Law started working at what is now the Kingston Whig-Standard, running the printing press in 1857. He also worked in Toronto before making his way to Tillsonburg to start the Tillsonburg Observer in 1863. Due to his conservative views, the newspaper was decidedly conservative and supported purported friend Sir. John A. MacDonald and “National Policy”.

Law undertook every aspect of running the paper in Tillsonburg. He ran the press, edited the paper, and ran his own business office. As if the demands of running a newspaper were not enough, Law also added a book stationery and general novelty store to the Observer Office. These businesses were likely added to help pay the bills, as the business of owning a local newspaper wasn’t always a profitable one.

W. S. introduced the town to the steam powered printing press and had his own Wharfedale press imported from England. Having learned from apprenticeship, he was always willing to take promising local boys and train them in printing in his shop.

Aside from his role providing Tillsonburg with its news, Law was involved with oil, railways and trying to make sugar from beets. Championing his small town home, Law assisted with establishing the public library, high school, town hall and agricultural society. W. S. was the town clerk and was also the treasurer for the town for more than 20 years.


It is hard to summarize such an interesting man in such a small space but he was an important force in Tillsonburg’s formative years and was influential way beyond the newspaper office.

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