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Biography of Sir William Howard Hearst

Sir William Howard Hearst was born in the Township of Arran in Bruce County, Ontario. He studied law at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, and became a lawyer in 1888. Hearst moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he opened up a law firm called Hearst, McKay and Darling in the Ganley Block at 604 Queen Street. Hearst participated actively in the Sault Ste. Marie community and he was on the building committee to erect a new Methodist church at the corner of Spring Street and Albert Street in Sault Ste. Marie. The Methodist church that was eventually built still stands and is now known as Central United Church. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the Algoma East riding in 1894. In 1902 he organized support in Northern Ontario for James P. Whitney. Hearst was also appointed Sault Ste. Marie’s volunteer fire chief from 1891-1892. Hearst built a house at the corner of Queen Street and Upton Road, known as ‘Eastbourne’, which would go on to become a designated heritage property in the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

In 1908 Hearst was elected member for the riding of Sault Ste. Marie. He became Minister of Forests and Mines in 1911 . On the death of James P. Whitney in 1914, Hearst became his successor and was sworn in as Premier on October 2, 1914.

Under his administration a comprehensive measure to provide compensation to workers for injuries was put into operation. He took steps to deal with housing problems and provide loans to settlers. Municipal acts were passed. School fairs and the teaching of agriculture were inaugurated. Measures were taken to increase war production. Reforestation and fire prevention services were established. And the Orpington Hospital in England was built as a gift fromthe people of Ontario.

In 1916, the Ontario Temperance Act (OTA) was introduced as a temporary wartime measure by Hearst, a temperance advocate and pillar of the Methodist church. It made possession of liquor and beer outside one’s home illegal. Although one could retain a ‘cellar supply’ for personal consumption, it was illegal to sell a drink. As a result, the government shut down bars, taverns, clubs and liquor stores.

His government also passed legislation to permit women to vote in provincial elections and calleda plebiscite on prohibition. The plebiscite was held the same day as the 1919 general election. While prohibition was approved by the voters, the Hearst government was unexpectedly defeated by the United Farmers of Ontario party in their first election. He resumed his law practice in Toronto after his term as premier.

A street in Sault Ste. Marie has been named after him. A city streets directory from 1914 shows the street was previously called “Hurst Street”, but by 1915, the year after Hearst became Premier of Ontario, the name was changed to “Hearst Street”.

The Town of Hearst, in Northern Ontario, is named for William Hearst.