The paper had a complicated genesis. In Shannon in 1893, William C Nation, well-known in spiritualist circles, began the tri-weekly Manawatu Farmer and Horowhenua County Chronicle, with his son Charles. Nation had previously worked for the Nelson Colonist and the New Zealand Times and had owned the Wairarapa Standard. In 1896 the well-known newspaper ‘planter’ Joseph Ivess arrived in nearby Levin and began the Manawatu Express and Horowhenua County Advertiser, selling it almost immediately to William J Reid and John McKellop. The Nations responded by moving their plant to Levin, buying in turn the Manawatu Express from Reid and McKellop and absorbing it into the Manawatu Farmer, which continued as a tri-weekly as the town grew.
In 1908 David S Papworth began the short-lived bi-weekly, the Levin Times. This did not survive and Papworth was then briefly manager, editor and reporter of the Manawatu Farmer. In October the same year the Evening Post reported the court case in which Papworth claimed £500 damages (about $34,000 today) from the Horowhenua Publishing Company for wrongful dismissal. The company claimed ‘disloyalty, negligence, and incompetency’; the judge, in awarding £225 to Papworth, suggested the jury might have reasonably taken the view that ‘the company was anxious to sell the property and to get rid of the defendant for the purpose of facilitating the sale’. Ironically, it was Papworth, possibly using some of the money awarded him, who bought the Manawatu Farmer. In 1909, he renamed it the Horowhenua Daily Chronicle.
Herbert G Kerslake and Robert H Billens were the next owners, buying the paper in 1917. With wartime paper shortages, it was published tri-weekly as the Levin Chronicle until daily publication was resumed in 1923. Before Levin was connected to electricity in 1924 the paper’s printing presses and linotypes were water-powered. The waste waster was piped out to the street gutter.
In 1944, L A Humphrey, who began his newspaper career as a Chronicle paper boy in 1920, became a director of what was now Kerslake, Billens and Humphrey. Over the years the Daily Chronicle consolidated its position in Levin and Horowhenua, as the town’s population grew strongly from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Kerslake, Billens and Humphrey became, in 1960, part of the United Publishing and Printing Company (UPP), headed by the Rotorua Post’s Ray Smith. Wilson & Horton acquired all the shares in UPP in 1985. A decade later Wilson & Horton, in response to a share raid by Brierley Investments, welcomed the Irish media company Independent Newspapers Plc (INP) as a major shareholder. INP quickly gained control and by April 1998 wholly owned Wilson & Horton. In 2001, INP sold its shareholding to APN News and Media, an Australian media company it partly owned.
In early 2007 the Daily Chronicle switched from broadsheet to tabloid format and, interestingly, given subsequent developments, won the 2007 PANPA (Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association) Newspaper of the Year Award for newspapers of under 15,000 circulation.
The next year APN announced that the Chronicle was ending six days a week publication and would be distributed free to every household in Levin and surrounding districts, on Wednesday and Saturdays.