BRENNAN, WILLIAM ARTHUR, newspaperman, stockbreeder, and businessman; b. 7 May 1851 in Louisville, Ky, son of Joseph Fletcher Brennan and Evangeline Williamson; m. 13 Sept. 1881 Rosara Millicent Lefurgey (d. 1942) in Summerside, PE.I., and they had two sons and one daughter; d. there 29 Jan. 1916.
Joseph Fletcher Brennan, a writer and publisher who may have been a native of Prince Edward Island, sent both William Arthur and his brother, Alfred Laurens, to school at St Dunstan’s College in Charlottetown in 1861. W. A. Brennan returned to the United States, where he had spent his childhood, and received training in his father’s publishing house in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the early 1870s he moved to the Island, where he later assumed a position under his father with the Prince Edward Islander, a Conservative newspaper in Charlottetown which ceased publication in December 1873. Shortly after 1875 he bought an interest in the Summerside Journal and Western Pioneer and on 20 May 1880 he became sole proprietor of the weekly. During this time, fully equipped job-printing and bookbinding departments were added. In 1881 he married Rosara Lefurgey, daughter of John Lefurgey, prominent Summerside shipbuilder and Conservative mla.
The Island Farmer described Brennan in 1916 as having had progressive ideals, a perception attributable to his interest in stockbreeding and scientific intensive farming. He believed that the success of the farmer was the key to Island prosperity. This conviction led him to establish the Prince Edward Island Agriculturist in 1883. It was a politically non-partisan paper, devoted to “Farming, Breeding, and the Turf.” Around the same time Brennan arranged his business as a company called the Journal Publishing Company Limited. He suffered major set-backs when the Journal office was destroyed by fire in 1884 and again in 1895. The operation was restored, however, and became one of the largest printers in the Maritime provinces. The Charlottetown Examiner later described Brennan as an exceptionally good printer.
W. A. had assumed the editorial duties for the Summerside Journal in 1882 and the Prince Edward Island Agriculturist in 1883. Under his guidance, the Journal maintained its Conservative bias, except in the 1880s when it sided with the Liberals and opposed the National Policy. The press on the Island was notorious for involvement with particular causes, and the Journal was no different. At a time when almost any comment was tolerated, however, Brennan was known for his courtesy and fairness.
In addition to his newspaper work, Brennan was actively interested in horses. He established a stock farm, called Parkside, and imported four champion thoroughbreds from Palo Alto, Calif., in 1887. Many of his horses established records; the fastest, Parkside, became famous in trotting circles. The Journal stated that it was “not too much to say that to his efforts more than any other one man was due the wonderful reputation of P.E.I. horses.”
Brennan was also an accomplished businessman, a leading mason, and a member of various fraternal organizations. He was interested in oil and mining companies, and in 1909 became manager of a profitable gold-mine in Oldham, N.S. In Prince Edward Island he was involved in the lucrative silver black fox industry [see Robert Trenholm Oulton]. His ambitions and commitments were diverse, yet he was remembered, and probably will be remembered, for his work as a newspaperman. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1916, on his way to the Journal office.
NA, RG 31, C1, 1881, Summerside Township, P.E.I.: 66; 1901, Summerside: 18. PARO, Acc. 2323/12; Acc. 2630/1A, RBMB for St John’s Anglican Church (St Eleanor’s, P.E.I.) and St Mary’s Anglican Church (Summerside) (mfm.); RG 19, ser.3, subser.1, vol.8; subser.5, 12 Sept. 1881. Examiner (Charlottetown), 29 Sept. 1882, 11 Feb. 1887, 30 March 1895, 29 Jan. 1916. Island Farmer (Summerside), 4 April 1895, 2 Feb. 1916. Patriot (Charlottetown), 13 Oct. 1884. Prince Edward Island Agriculturist (Summerside), 1883–95, esp. 14 June 1883, continued as the P.E. Island Agriculturist, 1895–1916, esp. 5 Feb., 2 Sept., 4 Nov. 1916. Prince Edward Islander (Charlottetown), 1873. Summerside Journal and Western Pioneer, 1877–10 April 1895, esp. 28 Sept., 19, 26 Oct., 28 Dec. 1882; 16 Oct. 1884; continued as Summerside Journal, 17 April 1895–1916, esp. 2 Feb. 1916; souvenir ed., March 1916; 20 June 1923. “Checklist and historical directory of Prince Edward Island newspapers, 1787–1986,” comp. Heather Boylan (photocopied typescript, Charlottetown, 1987). DAB (biog. of A. L. Brennan). Illustrated historical atlas of the province of Prince Edward Island . . . ([Toronto], 1880; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), . Wyatt Malcolm, Gold fields of Nova Scotia (Ottawa, 1912). Past and present of Prince Edward Island . . . , ed. D. A. MacKinnon and A. B. Warburton (Charlottetown, ), 120–21. R. A. Rankin, Down at the shore: a history of Summerside, Prince Edward Island (1752–1945) ([Charlottetown], 1980). St Dunstan’s College, Souvenir booklet and directory of all students registered since January 17, 1855 (Charlottetown, 1929; copy in Univ. of P.E.I. Library, P.E.I. Coll.). Who’s who in America . . . (Chicago and London), 1906/7: 203.