Its first issue was published December 8, 1870, by W. A. Greenough & Co., known for publishing directories. During the next few years the paper changed ownership several times, early owners including Russell Conwell, then a Somerville resident, and John A. Cummings, later mayor of the city. On October 20, 1876, the paper came into the control of the Somerville Journal Company, under the presidency of J. O. Hayden. Hayden later became president of two Somerville banks, and treasurer of Middlesex County. With the change of ownership, the paper, which had previously been printed in Boston, began to be printed in Somerville, first in an office on the third floor of the Hill Building in Union Square, then, in July 1894, in the Somerville Journal Building, built for that purpose. Other magazines printed in the Somerville Journal Building included the Journal of Education, the American Primary Teacher, and The Writer. A founder of The Writer, William Henry Hills, bought an interest in the Somerville Journal Company in 1890, and was reported as editor of the Journal and president of the Company in 1895.
The "Pencilings" column of the Journal became popular, with excerpts appearing in newspapers nationwide. It was started by George Russell Jackson, an editor of the Journal, continued for a year by C. H. Hoyt, and then, from January 1885, by Hills.
A rival newspaper, the Somerville Citizen was started in 1888, first in the Stickney Building on Pearl Street, and later moved to Gilman Square. It was united with the Somerville Journal in 1901.
The Somerville Journal's official web site is called "Wicked Local Somerville", where it is part of "Wicked Local", the GateHouse Media New England newspaper site, formerly the Community Newspaper Company.
The current editor, since June 25, 2009, is Debra Filcman, formerly editor of the Needham Times. She replaced Kathleen Powers, who was editor from 2000 to 2009.  George Donnelly was editor from 1987 to 1991.
- "Hayden, Joseph Orlin", Albert Nelson Marquis, Who's Who in New England: a biographical dictionary of leading living men, 1915, page 526. Digitized by Google Books.
- Somerville, past and present, by Edward Augustus Samuels, Henry Hastings Kimball, printed 1897, page 475.
- "Hills, William Henry", The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1895, volume 4, page 74. Digitized by Google Books.
- "A staple of Journals past -- Pencilings", by Kathleen Powers, Somerville Journal, Sep 12, 2007. Retrieved Mar 16, 2010.
- The Writer, edited by William Henry Hills and Robert Luce, volume 42, page 315, 1930. Digitized by Google Books.
- The Story of Somerville, Mary Alice Haley (1903). Online at the Internet Archive, retrieved Mar 16, 2010.
- "Filcman named editor of the Journal and Wicked Local Somerville", by Auditi Guha, Somerville Journal, Jun 25, 2009
- "Somerville Chamber of Commerce - About Us", retrieved Mar 16, 2010.