John Musgrave was born in Kendal, England, and migrated to Australia with his family while still a boy. Living in Sydney, he served an apprenticeship in the printing trade at the Government Printing Office and later joined the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald. Musgrave, together with James Cosgrove, purchased the Braidwood Dispatch; he later bought out his partner and became the sole proprietor.
Musgrave's obituary in the Braidwood Review (republished in the Queanbeyan Age) includes the following remarks: Musgrave 'was one of the oldest journalists in the State; perhaps there is no other man in Australia who has been associated with one paper for such a lengthy period as he was. Also there are only perhaps three or four newspapers in Australia today that can boast of being as old as the Dispatch. The deceased leaves two sons - Mr.T. C. Musgrave, proprietor of the Review, and Mr. John Musgrave, who is in charge of Excise Department at the Sydney Customs.'