Biography of William W. Downie

William W. Downie, editor and publisher of the Herald Advance, was a prominent figure in the newspaper industry. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1855, he moved to Michigan with his family before eventually settling in Big Stone City, South Dakota. Downie started the Herald, the first newspaper in Grant County, and later consolidated it with the Advance. Under his management, the Herald Advance became a leading Republican party organ and a reflection of current thought. Downie actively promoted the welfare of Milbank and Grant County, serving as mayor, justice of the peace, and postmaster. He was also influential in education and a respected member of various fraternal organizations.

WILLIAM W. DOWNIE, editor and publisher of the Herald Advance, at Milbank, was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on the 2nd of March, 1855. George Downie, his father, was born in Scotland and was a blacksmith by occupation. When William was about six years old, his parents moved to Michigan, and in that state, he spent his youth and early manhood, receiving a common-school education. Upon leaving home, he entered a newspaper office in Spring Lake. After becoming an efficient workman, he was employed for a number of years in various offices in Michigan and St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1879, he came to Big Stone City, South Dakota, where he started the Herald, the first newspaper published in Grant County. The Herald, during its ten-year publication in Big Stone, acquired a liberal patronage and became a Republican party organ of significant influence. In 1889, it was moved to Milbank and consolidated with the Advance. Since then, the Herald Advance has made its weekly appearance with a constantly increasing circulation and a steadily growing advertising patronage. It is a creditable example of the art preservative in its mechanical make-up, and in a general way, it is designed to reflect the public pulse and the current thought of the day. It serves as the official Republican organ of Grant County and, under the management of Mr. Downie, who is a keen and forceful writer, its influence in shaping party sentiment and contributing to the success of the ticket is second to none in the northwestern part of the state. Through it as a medium, Mr. Downie has done much to promote the material welfare of Milbank and Grant County, being a strong advocate of all enterprises calculated to advance the interests of the people. He has been untiring in his efforts to improve the social, educational, and moral condition of the community. While living in Big Stone City, he served as the first mayor of the city and, for some years, as justice of the peace. Since coming to Milbank, he has been active in public affairs and has been honored with important official positions. In the spring of 1903, he was appointed postmaster, and he has since discharged the duties of that trust with credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of the public. He also served on the board of education and, as the president of that body, he has worked effectively to promote the interests of the schools. As a result, the schools now compare favorably in efficiency with those of larger and more pretentious cities.

In addition to his educational and official duties, Mr. Downie owns a fine farm that is under a high state of cultivation. He is active in Masonic circles, being a Sir Knight, and is also affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He has passed all the chairs in the latter fraternity.

Mr. Downie was married in Big Stone on August 15, 1882, to Miss Henrietta Molm, daughter of John W. Molm, a native of Germany and one of the early pioneers of Grant County. Mrs. Downie was born in Pennsylvania but has spent the greater part of her life in South Dakota, having come to Big Stone at a young age with her parents. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Downie has been blessed with two children. The older child, Jessie, died at the age of seven years, and the other child is Bessie E. Both Mr. and Mrs. Downie are prominent members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Milbank.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top