SIMMS, SOPHIA (Dalton), newspaper publisher; b. 1785 or 1786, near Birmingham, England; m. c. 1805 Thomas Dalton*, and they had three sons and four daughters; d. 14 June 1859 in Toronto.
Sophia Simms was one of 15 children born to William and Mary Simms of Hall Green (Birmingham) and was a sister of James Simms*, the eminent Newfoundland jurist and statesman. Little is known of her early life. She married Thomas Dalton of Birmingham about 1805 and spent much of the next 12 years in Newfoundland. Her husband served in St John’s as agent for mercantile houses in Birmingham and London and later had his own business. Bankrupted in the general economic decline that followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the family left Newfoundland in 1817 and settled in Kingston, Upper Canada, where Thomas set up a brewery and was made a director of the first Bank of Upper Canada.
The family prospered for a few years, but the failure in 1822 of the private Bank of Upper Canada, and the harsh sanctions subsequently imposed on the bank’s directors, brought great hardship. A disastrous fire in the brewery late in 1828 completed their financial ruin. With the help of his family Thomas Dalton launched a new career in November 1829 as publisher of the Patriot and Farmer’s Monitor, but he had to sacrifice the brewery property and their comfortable home to finance the project. Three years later, in October 1832, the family moved to York (Toronto) where the always staunchly pro-British and now strongly conservative Patriot became one of the most influential newspapers of its period. Life for the family was somewhat easier now, but Dalton, frustrated by the government’s approach to the problems that beset the province, gave way to frequent intemperate editorial outbursts which Sophia tried her best to get him to moderate.
When Thomas died of apoplexy on 26 Oct. 1840, Sophia took over the management of the semi-weekly paper, becoming the first successful woman publisher in Toronto, but she did not undertake the editorial duties herself. J. P. Macklin, said to have worked at one time on the Manchester Guardian and already assistant editor of the Patriot, stepped into the gap. But Sophia made it clear that she had no intention of abandoning her husband’s policy of uncompromising condemnation of perceived evils. In a confidential letter to Dominick Daly*, Macklin reported in November 1840 that he was “not unshackled, being obliged to bow to the dictum of my employers (his widow &c). I have however endeavoured to moderate the tone of the paper, and in doing so have drawn a nest of hornets about my ears.” Other editors followed him, with Sophia keeping control of the paper until 9 Oct. 1848.
During Sophia Dalton’s years as publisher, the Patriot lost none of its status as a leading conservative journal. In announcing her retirement, at age 63, she said that “although during [her] period the editorial department has been filled by gentlemen of ability, yet, from the peculiarity of her position, there must have been many deficiencies, chiefly on local matters, arising from a want of that energy and activity which are absolutely requisite in the publication of a newspaper. . . . [She] is happy in being able to say to the friends of The Patriot, that it is now in the hands of gentlemen, who will conduct it in the advocacy of those Conservative Principles hitherto maintained, and with vigour and ability beyond her power to accomplish.” The Patriot was sold to Edward George O’Brien* and was edited for a short time by his brother, Lucius James O’Brien*, and later by Samuel Thompson*.
Sophia Dalton raised eight children, including one son from her husband’s first marriage. Two sons, William Henry and Robert Gladstone, worked in the Patriot office as young men and went on to gain a degree of prominence as a physician and a lawyer respectively. Quiet and unassuming but apparently with great strength of character, Sophia was able to maintain domestic calm through the many storms that buffeted her family. Matthew Teefy, an apprentice at the Patriot at the time of Thomas’s death, said of her later: “I shall remember with feelings of pleasure during my life . . . the civility of Mrs. Dalton. She was a kind, good person.” She died possessed of a very modest estate, but she made special provisions for her daughters and daughter-in-law, setting up trusts “for their separate use free from the control of their husbands.”
The Daltons’ Patriot and Farmer’s Monitor appeared in Kingston, [Ont.], from 12 Oct. [actually 12 Nov.] 1829 to 23 Oct. 1832, and in York (Toronto) from 7 Dec. 1832 to 18 March 1834. It was called the Patriot from 21 March 1834, and became the Toronto Patriot on 3 Jan. 1840. Issues relevant to Sophia Dalton’s life include 25 March, 1 April, 1 June 1830; 23 Oct., 7 Dec. 1832; 27 Oct., 20 Nov., 29 Dec. 1840; and 10 Oct. 1848.
ACC-O, St George’s Cathedral (Kingston), reg. of baptisms, 7 May 1825. AO, MS 78; MU 2113, 1858, no.16; RG 22, ser.155, will of Thomas Dalton. Cathedral of St John the Baptist (Anglican) (St John’s), Reg. of baptisms, 27 April 1807, 7 Sept. 1809, 9 March 1813. Frontenac Land Registry Office (Kingston), Deeds, vol.E, no.276 (mfm. at AO, GS 3928); vol.K, no.156 (mfm. at AO, GS 3932). PAC, RG 5, A1: 36415–25, 47740–43, 135347–50; RG 9, I, B1, 9, List of appointments, 16 Aug. 1821; 12, Markland to Coffin, 2 July 1824. PANL, P1/5, Thomas Dalton to Duckworth, 31 Aug. 1811 (mfm. at PAC). St James’ Cemetery and Crematorium (Toronto), Record of burials, 16 June 1859 (Sophia Dalton), 24 July 1865 (Charles Simms). York County Surrogate Court (Toronto), no.1685, will of Sophia Dalton, proved 18 May 1874 (mfm. at AO). Arthur papers (Sanderson), 2: 436–37; 3: 165. [Thomas Dalton], “By the words of thy own mouth will I condemn thee”; to Christopher Alexander Hagerman, esq. ([Kingston?, 1824?]; copy at MTL). Murphy, Winter studies and summer rambles, 1: 272. U.C., House of Assembly, Journal, 1825, app.B. Aris’s Birmingham Gazette; or the General Correspondent (Birmingham, Eng.), 9 April 1804. Kingston Chronicle, 16 July 1819, 29 Nov. 1828. Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, 10 Jan. 1811, 3 Dec. 1816. Upper Canada Herald (Kingston), 1823. Birmingham directory, 1808. I. R. Dalton, “Thomas Dalton and the ‘pretended bank’” (ms, Toronto, 1981, possession of the author). Raymond Card, “The Daltons and The Patriot,” CHR, 16 (1935): 176–78. Courier (St John’s), 9 Aug. 1865. I. R. Dalton, “The Kingston brewery of Thomas Dalton,” Historic Kingston, no.26 (1978): 38–50. Leader, 22 July 1865. M. L. Magill, “James Morton of Kingston – brewer,” Historic Kingston, no.21 (1973): 28–36.