In Gill, Massachusetts, Josiah D. Canning was born on August 31, 1816 (the family had changed the name from Cannon).
Though his brothers had the benefit of a college education, young
Josiah himself did not. Nevertheless, at age 15, he took his first steps
towards a literary career when he built his own printing press and
started producing a weekly newspaper. In its first six months, the
four-page Village Post featured exceptional coverage of gruesome
or violent news. After its second year, the newspaper expanded and began
to include poetry — including poems by Canning himself.
Within only a few years, Canning founded or worked with newspapers in
Detroit, the Wisconsin Territory, and what is now Wheeling, West
Virginia, all to varying degrees of success. Ultimately returning to
Massachusetts, he abandoned journalistic pursuits and became a farmer — a
role which instantly became his greatest poetic inspiration.
Upon the publication of his book Poems, New York editor Lewis Gaylord Clark
announced enthusiastically: "Make way for a farmer's boy... who draws
his figures from ever-glorious nature!" It was Clark who bestowed upon
Canning the nickname "Peasant Bard."