The newspapers of Cherokee County have done much in developing its material resources and in advancing the interests of the people in nearly every other way. There may have been exceptions to this general proposition, and there may now be exceptions to it; but for the most part newspaper owners and newspaper editors who have come within the borders of the county and have cast their lots among the people, have devoted their energies to the general good, patiently and without stint. Not many of them have reaped rich, material harvests; most of them have had a struggle, sometimes for the reason that the exactions of the public are often greater than its willingness to return a cheerful, material compensation; sometimes for the reason that, without proper fitness for the work, men have undertaken the business, only to endure for a while and then quietly go away.
The first newspaper published in Cherokee County was the Baxter Springs Herald, the first issue of which was in October, 1867. It was owned and edited by B. R. and N. J. Evans. Baxter Springs was then a mere frontier camp, the home of some good, steady, reliable people, largely outnumbered by a floating class who drifted from place to place as their shifting fortunes opened the way. The paper had but a meager support, never strong, but constantly doubtful; and before its first volume was rounded out the project was quietly abandoned.
The second paper established in the county was the Cherokee Sentinel, also at Baxter Springs, in October, 1868, by M. W. Coulter and D. C. Holbrook. Some time in the spring of 1869, W. E. C. Lyons bought an interest in it. In December of that year Mr. Holbrook sold his interest to the other members of the firm. It was then conducted by them, Mr. Lyons being the editor and Mr. Coulter the business manager. I have not been able to get information as to how long this paper was continued; before me lies a copy of the issue of Saturday, April 9, 1870. This number shows that some changes had taken place other than those I have mentioned. Lyons and Coulter are the proprietors, and W. E. C. Lyons is the editor. That was before Baxter Springs had a railroad; but the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf road was just then being finished to the place. The following reading matter and advertisements are taken from this issue:
Work has begun on the freight depot, and it will soon be ready for business. The passenger depot will soon be commenced.
The District Court meets next Monday at Columbus. Judge Webb will preside. We understand that the attorneys have agreed to move the postponement of all business until some time in June.
W. M. Matheny, Attorney-at-Law, Land and Pension Agent, Baxter Springs, Kansas. Will pay especial attention to the collection of claims of all kinds.
C. M. Waterman, Attorney-at-Law, and Notary Public.
McKeighan & Hornor, Attorneys at Law. Will practice in this and adjoining counties, in this State, and in the counties of Southwestern Missouri.
Other lawyers whose advertisements appear in the paper are A. W. Rucker, T. A. Rucker, Am os Sanford and T. F. Dewees.
According to a time table, it is noted that the Kansas Stage Company, Southern and Overland Mail, sent out a coach, for Wirtonia, Pleasant View, Neutral City, LaReville, Arcadia, Fort Scott, Kansas City and Pleasant Hill, daily, (Monday excepted), at 6 a. m. And for Fort Gibson and the South, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at 6 a. m. J. M. Terry was the superintendent, with office opposite the Wiggins house.
The following local item will be read by those who recall the events of the early days:
The thanks of the editors of this paper are due to the members of Co. A, 6th U. S. Infantry, for a complimentary ticket to the grand ball to be given by them at their camp near Columbus, on the evening of April 13. We hope they will have a jolly good time.
And this will be of interest to the people of Columbus then and yet living:
The first passenger train of the Gulf road to Columbus is to be there by next Sunday night. All hail for Columbus! That young town has been growing rapidly for some time, and lately a number of very intelligent and influential men have located there. Col. Hallowell, L. J. Webb, Capt. T. P. Anderson and some others are there, and they will do wonders in building up the place. Their influence will destroy the poisonous effects of the leaders of the infamous League, who cared more for office than for the good of the people.
A. T. Lea who now lives in Columbus. started the publication of the Republican, at Baxter Springs, October 1, 1872. He continued the publication until February, 1877, when he sold the paper to A. J. R. Smith. Mr. Smith continued the publication until February, 1888, when it ceased.
The Columbus Independent was started at Columbus, September 1, 1870, by A. T. and W. J. Lea. After continuing the paper for two years, the Lea brothers sold it to A. W. McGill, who moved the paper to Oswego, Labette County, in September, 1872. It is now one of the leading papers of Labette County.
The Galena Miner was established at Galena by A. T. Lea and S. O. McDowell, in April, 1877. In 1880 they sold it to a Mr. Stebbins, who discontinued it after one year.
The Columbus Advocate was established by A. T. Lea and E. A. Crewson, May 5, 1882. On the first of August of the same year, Mr. Crewson sold his interest to J. M. Roach; and on January 1, 1883, Mr. Roach sold his interest to Mr. Lea. In July, 1889, Mr. Lea made his son, Asa Lea, a partner with himself in the business. This partnership continued until 1894, when Mr. Lea, the elder, sold his interest to J. M. McNay, who came to Columbus from Phillipsburg, Kansas. In 1896 Mr. McNay bought out Asa Lea's interest in the paper, and for five years he conducted the business with such care and under such methods as made it very profitable. He then sold the paper. and in selling it he secured a price which justified the disposal of the property.
The Columbus Courier was started September 29, 1874, by J. F. McDowell. The paper was independent in politics and devoted to reform. In March, 1876, the paper was sold to S. O. McDowell. and in February, 1877, it was consolidated with the Republican, and under the ownership and management of McDowell & Lea it continued until February, 1879, as the Republican-Courier. Mr. McDowell then bought out his partner's interest, and changed the name back to the Columbus Courier.
The Border Star was established in the fall of 1881, by R. T. Ballard; but after about two months it passed into the hands of H. C. Jones and L. E. Albright. In 1882 Mr. Jones became the sole owner. Some time after that, the paper was consolidated with the Columbus Courier, when the new periodical was known as the Columbus Star-Courier. There is no information at hand as to the changes o f ownership, for the time from March, 1882, to February, 1888, when James Wilson sold the paper to J. H. Clawson and W. P. Eddy. In October, 1888, Mr. Clawson sold his interest to N. T. Allison. The paper was owned and edited by Allison & Eddy until January 7, 1895, when N. T. Allison sold his interest to J. N. Cook, and shortly after that time Mr. Eddy sold his interest to W. S. Norton. Afterwards Mr. Norton bought Mr. Cook's interest, and the paper was edited by S. O. McDowell, who came back into newspaper work, after being several several[sic] years engaged in other matters. When Mr. McDowell took editorial charge of the paper, he changed the name back to the Columbus Courier. L. M. Dillman was the business manager of the paper during Mr. McDowell's connection with it as editor. About the year 1898 the editorship and management of the paper passed to Richart & Cavaness. They continued the publication until October, 1902. At that time the ownership of the paper was combined with that of the Columbus Advocate, and the issue of the paper was discontinued.
In October, 1869, at the time the controversy between the settlers and James F. Joy was chiefly engaging the attention of the people, The Neutral Land Printing Company began the publication of the Workingman's Journal, having Amos Sanford as its editor. C. D. Nichols and J. F. McDowell bought the paper early in the year 1872; and in July of that year Mr. Nichols sold his interest to William Higgins. The firm was then known as Higgins & Company. The paper was well supported by the anti-Joy classes, until the controversy died out. It was then discontinued.
The most largely circulated paper ever published in Cherokee County was the Reporter, published by Caldwell & Company, and edited by C. D. Nichols. It was devoted largely to efforts for inducing immigration. At one time it had a circulation of five thousand. It was started in 1882; but as to the time of its discontinuation there is no information.
There are two newspapers at Weir City: the Tribune and the Journal. The Tribune was established in 1883 by J. F. McDowell, who established about as many newspapers in the State of Kansas as any other man could possibly do. Not all of the files have been kept; and, on this account, the early changes of ownership and in the editorial management can not now be ascertained. I believe that the paper was in the management of A. L. Hayden back in the early "nineties," if not earlier. Then Horace Hayden, for a time, was editor and publisher. T. E. Haines has been editor and publisher since 1898, except one year, when John W. Kirk had charge of the paper. The Journal was established in 1888 by John McKillop. He sold it to a Mr. Robinson. After an uncertain existence, for a time, he sold the paper to a Mrs. Rudisill, who managed the paper well for some years, when Colonel Campbell bought it and had its management for two or three years. Then Jarbo & Hill ran it for a while. Phil. Moore, formerly of Pittsburg, Kansas, is now the editor and proprietor. The paper is better managed now than it was before Mr. Moore took charge of it.
At Scammon there are two newspapers: the Journal and the Miner. The Journal was established in August, 1903, by L. M. Dillman. Mr. Dillman has probably worked at the newspaper business longer than any other man in Cherokee County. He was with Columbus papers for many years, first as a printer; then as foreman, and lastly as business manager. He afterwards went to Empire City, where he was the owner and editor of the Empire City Journal, and he was also the postmaster of the city for several years. In 1904, when the mining interests of the place fell off a good deal, he moved his printing office to Scammon, beginning the publication of the Journal as a new paper. The files of the paper while published at Empire City have not been kept. The Scammon Miner was establ ished in 1889. It went through various ownerships which can not be given here; but Phil. L. Keener has been the editor and proprietor nearly all the time. He has done well with it.
The Modern Light was established at Columbus in 1891. It is now in its 14th year. Clawson & Albin were the first owners. Mr. Albin died not long after the paper was established, and not long following this, Mr. Clawson sold the paper to M. A. Housholder and J. W. Wallace. It had many hard experiences, and its chances for existence were often in the balance. It did not represent much property value, and the support which was given it was not at all encouraging. Often it was poorly edited, while the impression of its mechanical appearance was anything else but favorable. It finally "went to the wall," and was sold to N. T. Allison for $500. The next day he sold it to C. E. Dedrick for $750. The scale of its fortune then turned. Mr. Dedrick, who came to Columbus from Nebraska, was an experienced printer and a good business manager. The paper took on a better editorial tone, also and its appearance was neater and more attractive. Additions were made to the printing material and to the machinery, and the value of the plant was much set forward. This was about the year 1895. September 1, 1897, Mr. Dedrick sold a half interest to W. B. Lowry, who was formerly a telegraph operator, and later the head clerk in a large dry goods house in Columbus. Mr. Lowry, when he became half owner of the Modern Light, made a house to house canvass through the rural districts and in the towns of Cherokee County, thereby greatly increasing the circulation of the paper. September 1, 1899, he bought the other half interest in the paper, then becoming the sole owner. By this time the value of the property had become greater, and its net earnings were very encouraging. In 1900 he bought a lot and put up a two-story office building on the northwest outer corner of the public square, at a cost of $3,000. Since then an addition has been made at a cost of $500. The property, including the realty and the newspaper plant, is now worth $6,000. The paper now has a circulation of 2,800, of which there are 2,600 paid-up subscribers. Mr. Lowry owns a neat, comfortable home in the northwest part of the city, and he is out of debt, which shows that the newspaper business, usually considered hazardous in what are called country towns. is not always so.
The Cherokee County Republican was established at Baxter Springs in 1894. For a time it was under the ownership and management of F. N. Newhouse and J. M. Newhouse, editor and publisher, respectively. W. S. Baxter, the present postmaster of Baxter Springs, is now the editor and proprietor.
The Baxter Springs News was established in 1881 by Captain Rowley, with M. H. Gardner as foreman. Mr. Gardner afterwards became owner of the paper, and some years afterward he sold a half interest to Charles L. Smith. About the year 1897 Mr. Smith became sole owner, and Mr. Gardner moved to Joplin, Missouri, where he now lives. The News is one of the best edited papers in the county, and it has a liberal support.
The Galena Times was established in 1889 by C. T. Dana, who, after conducting the business for several years, sold it to E. E. Stevens. Mr. Stevens had other lines of business, and he finally disposed of the newspaper, selling it to J. N. Cook. The paper was then issued daily and weekly. Mr. Cook sold it to Riley F. Robertson, and during Mr. Robertson's ownership of the paper W. L. Burk was the editor. The weekly edition was discontinued, as the circulation of the paper was then mostly confined to the city. The paper is now owned and managed by B. L. Strother & Son, and it is perhaps now more profitable than for several years next preceding the present. Strother & Son are from Abilene, Kansas, where they were many years in the newspaper business.
The Short Creek Republican, af terward changed to the Galena Republican, was established in the fall of 1880, by L. C. Weldy and A. W. McDowell. The paper was both a daily and a weekly. Mr. McDowell remained with the paper but a short time, when he sold his interest to J. J. Chatham. I do not know how long Mr. Chatham remained with the paper; but from what can be learned Mr. Weldy became the sole owner not long after its establishment; and he continued as editor and proprietor until the time of his death, January 24, 1904. The property now belongs to Riley F. Robertson, and the paper is edited and published by Robertson & Son. It is now issued weekly, and a special effort is being made to gain a good circulation in the rural districts of the county. For several years before Mr. Weldy's death, he was the oil inspector for the State, and, giving much attention to this office, he neglected his newspaper and let the subscription list run down until there were but a few hundred bona fide subscribers. The subscription list is now over one thousand.
The last paper established in Cherokee County is the Mineral Cities Times, at West Mineral, published by W. B. Lowry, of Columbus, and edited by Nora Evans. The first issue was on June 9, 1904. The paper has a good local support, of which it is highly deserving.
Two of the best known editors, among those who have owned and managed newspapers in Cherokee County, are S. O. McDowell and L. C. Weldy. Both were early identified with the work in the county, and they had a wide acquaintance over the State in political circles. Each impressed his personality on his work as an editor, and each sought to mold sentiment, rather than to be led by it. Neither was scholarly in expression nor profound in thought; but their editorials were always read with interest, even by those who did not agree with them in their political views. There was a nervous boldness in Mr. McDowell's articles which, while it may not have carried the reader by irresistible force, was always such as to convince one of the writer's candor and sincerity. While he may not have always been able to give a clear, comprehensive analysis of the grounds of his political affiliations, there could be no doubt that he felt himself right in the advocacy of his party's principles. Mr. Weldy's method of reasoning, in the support of his party, was more of the suggestive order; but that which chiefly made his writing interesting was a natural vein of facetiousness which he often turned into what he said. He could not help it, even had he tried, for it was a deep-seated part of his life, and without it he was unnatural, insipid and cheerless, and what he wrote or attempted to write, outside of his real impulse, was always without the stamp of his originality, and to that extent uninteresting. What he lacked in effectiveness, through want of broad acquirements, he made up through the employment of his natural gifts. His arguments could scarcely ever be considered convincing, for he was neither deep nor logical; but his pleasing humor and his freedom from irritibility[sic], in dealing with those whom he opposed, always enabled him so to spice what he wrote as to give it a relish to those who read it. Whether from a deep, well-grounded conviction or not, he was bold and uncompromising in the advocacy of his views, but not in such a way as to engender bitter and lasting enmity on the part of those who did not agree with him.
The best paragraph writer among the newspaper men of Cherokee County is L. M. Dillman, of the Scammon Journal. But for his undue caution and a certain natural, mental immobility, he would attain a comfortable rank among country newspaper writers.
Willard M. Richart, for a time the editor of the Columbus Courier, was, while in that position, the most widely read newspaper writer in the county, and, in some respects, the ablest. His articles indicated a wider range of knowledge than those of other writers in the county, and throughout there was a literary quality which made them pleasing to all classes of readers. For a young man, who had next to none of the advantages which one ought to have in early life, in the matter of gaining a mental preparation for such work, Mr. Richart was almost a prodigy; and had he continued in newspaper work with some one or some company to look after the business interests, so that he might be free to devote his attention exclusively to the following of his choice, he would have become widely known as a writer, especially on the political affairs of the country.
It may be said of the newspaper men of Cherokee County, as a class, that they have not made the business financially profitable. The newspaper business in what are called the country towns and cities has always been financially hazardous; and it is only here and there that one makes it remunerative beyond the eking out of a scant living. This fact is due, in most part, to the large number of men who engage in the business without any well-defined purpose and often without any mental preparation whatever. They begin at the "case" and learn, in a general way, the mechanical part of the work; and when they can "set a stick," correct proof and "make up," they consider the work of preparation well along. The newspaper office, in the country towns and cities, is a good place for keeping posted on the current events of the community; and in most such offices every one employed, even down to the "devil," hears everything that is said, and the employment in which he is engaged seems to give him a fitness for remembering it. He may not know a thing about the construction of the English language; may not know even the rudiments of his own speech; but he is presently found editing a newspaper, where the disadvantage to which he is put, by reason of his utter lack of suitable preparation, is equaled only by the chagrin which the people feel at his presuming to "mold public sentiment," and to lead the thought of the community. The State protects the people, or makes an effort so to protect them, against poorly prepared practicioners[sic] in the professions of law and medicine, and against illiterate teachers who may try to get into the public schools; but it makes no provision against the operations of a large class of poorly qualified newspaper men who often have no permanent connection with, or interest in, the community whose social thought they try to lead and whose political policies they assume to dictate.
Among the newspaper men of Cherokee County who have made their business financially successful, I mention John M. McNay and W. B. Lowry. It is not meant that others have been altogether unsuccessful, but that these have led in the matter of money making. But it is true that, with much less energy, on the same capital invested, they could make more at some other business. The dollars which they have earned, above all expenses, have been hard-earned dollars, and they are justly deserving of what success they have achieved. Mr. McNay was a close manager. He made money while in the business; and when he, through good business foresigt[sic], became convinced that there would come a decline, he turned his holdings, at a full-value consideration, thus demonstrating that the time for parting with parting with property is when one is doing well. Mr. Lowry is still in business, and he is likely to remain so, as he is getting a good return on his investment, and he seems suited to the work in which he is engaged.
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