James Clayton established the Bush Advocate in Dannevirke (in the Manawatu) on 8 May 1888. The paper intended to cover a wide area, which can be seen from its rather long subtitle: 'the Takapau, Ormondville, Norsewood, Makotuhu, Dannevirke and Wainui District Advertiser.'
Clayton had installed a quality press and the Bush Advocate was well produced from the start. It did not aim to represent any factional views but sought to serve the business needs of the communities in which it circulated and to report local news faithfully.
The paper began life as a tri-weekly, published on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In 1893 Clayton sold it to David Curle, who had had extensive experience with Havelock and Wellington newspapers. New owners took over in 1901 and renamed the paper the Dannevirke Advocate.
They in turn sold it to Thomas Lindsay Buick and John Ruffell Russell, in 1903. The paper flourished under their control and became a daily, expanding its news gathering service deep into the Hawke's Bay back country.
Buick had been a Member of Parliament for Wairau, was an accomplished orator and journalist and the author of many books on New Zealand history (including a comprehensive survey of the early history of Marlborough). His interest in the Advocate continued until 1912 when the paper was sold and merged with the Dannevirke Evening News.