Livingston County, Illinois
In the early days, the newspaper was not thought to be, as now, a necessity of civilization. Men had other ways of spending their time than poring over column after column of Tribune, Inter-Ocean or Times; but with the railroad came the printing press, awd we find flung to the prairie breeze, March 14, 1855, from "Ladd's building, immediately north of the Court House, Pontiac, Illinois," the Livingston County News, published and edited by J. S. France— " independent in everything." It was a twenty-four column paper, well printed for the times, having only two columns of advertisements.
Just how many subscribers it had is hard to state, but a reasonable guess could hardly place the number above two hundred. The first number, which is carefully preserved among a marvelous conglomeration of other county antiquities, newspapers, books, old demijohns, with their sere and yellow contents, with a chaos of unenumerated articles, by Uncle Jacob Streamer, of Pontiac, contains an editorial bewailing the lack of school houses and churches, and the blighting prevalence of intemperance ; an account of a temperance meeting, at which W. T. Garner, Wm. B. Lyon, H. H. Norton, I. P. McDowell and Robert Aerl were appointed a committee to call on the liquor sellers, and remonstrate vvith them against continuing their nefarious business ; upon failure to desist, they were to be prosecuted according to law.
A committee, consisting of Nelson Buck, Dr. Darius J.ohnson and J. H. McGregor, presented a stirring lot of resolutions, which were heartily adopted by the meeting. A list giving the discount at which bank bills were received also appears, with a long list of "closed banks," which was expected to need to be " revised and corrected weekly," like the market reports.
A statement of the profit of wheat growing is made by Mr. John J. Taylor, in which he shows, in double entry, how his wheat crop of the preceding year had paid all the expense of buying, improving and working his farm, including purchase money, and the harvesting of his crop. An old citizen remarks that this ruined many a man, as, for several years after that, wheat raising proved unremunerative.
D. Johnson and J. M. Perry were the physicians; J. S. France, George Bishop and McGregor & Dart the attorneys, and J. Streamer, Ladd & Mc- Dowell, Buck & Gray, the merchants, having cards in this first paper. It ought to be added here that some time before this, Thomas Cotton had published a paper at New Michigan, which did not survive its second number. The issues of his paper which did see light were devoted to enforcing Mr. Cotton's well known reform principles.
During the first year of its publication, France transferred the News to Philip Cook and M. A. Renoe ; Cook soon after selling to Jones. During the proprietorship of Cook & Renoe, which was during the dark and bloody days in which "Bleeding Kansas" furnished inspiration for most political discussion, the liberal sentiments of the proprietors did not permit them to hold their peace, even in an "independent" paper. In one of the papers, the editor complains that Capt. Payne had falsely accused them of running an " Abolition paper."
The younger generation will probably never know the height and the depth of infamy which attached to that term in the mind of the average Illinoian of a generation ago. Renoe k Jones sold the News to Albee, and the publication was soon after discontinued.
Cook & Gagan started the Pontiac Sentinel in July, 1858, as a Republican paper. They sold to M. E. Collins, he to Stout & Decker, they to W. F. Denslow, he to Stout. Stout, in 1866, purchased a Taylor cylinder press, at an expense of about $1,500, and soon after the entire concern was consumed by fire, with but little insurance with which to start anew. The paper was going again within two weeks, and in 1869 he sold to Jones & Renoe, who were publishing the Free Press, who consolidated the papers under the name of Sentinel and Press.
In July, 1873, H. C. Jones became sole proprietor, and changed the name again to the Sentinel, and in 1875, sold to F. L. Alles, who still owns and edits it. During all these changes it has remained Republican, and for twenty years—the life of the Republican party—it has battled for the success of that party.
The Republican was started in 1865, by Thomas Harper, and was published by him for a year. E. B. Buck, now of Charleston, Coles County, started the Constitution in 1864, as the organ of the Democratic party, and published it about six months, when the material fell to Maxwell and Duff, who disposed of it.
Jones & Renoe commenced the publication of the Free Press, at Pontiac, in August, 1867. In 1869, it was consolidated with the Sentinel.
The Livingston County Democrat was started by Milton & Organ, in 1868. Mr. Organ soon after became sole proprietor, and sold to Peter Johnson, who published it as a Temperance paper, for about six months, when he re-sold it to Mr. Organ, who, after about a year, suspended its publication. M. A. Renoe published the National Union for several months in 1866.
Thomas Wing became possessed of a printing office and published the People's Advocate for a few months, in 1870. The material was afterward bought by Prince Kellogg, who removed it to Odell, and commenced the publication of the Odell Times in January, 1872, which, in the course of a year, he sold to H. D. Wilson, who continued it for some months.
J. H. Warner commenced the publication of the Independent at Odell in 1869, and continued it several months, when it was discontinued. ,
John H. Hewitt published thePontiac Herald for a year, in 1871-72. Its circulation was not large, but its proprietor was happy with his " Hurld " as he called it.
A. L. Bagby commenced the publication of the Pontiac Free Trader, May 11, 1870, as a Democratic paper. In 1871, Bagby disappeared, and the publication was suspended, until C. S. Postlewait revived it, issuing the first number of Volume 2 in June, 1871, with R. W. Babcock as associate editor. C. A. McGregor and E. M. Johnson purchased it in October, 1871, for $150. Mr. Johnson has continued as co-proprietor and editor without intermission from that time. Jan. 1, 1874. M. A. Renoe purchased McGregor's interest, and, in 1877, sold to John Stuff.
In 1873, the Free Trader became the organ of the Anti-Monopoly party, "which grew into the Independent Greenback party of 1876, and still remains the vigorous and prosperous champion of the political doctrines of that party.
J. H. Warner commenced the publication of the Herald at Odell, in 1877, and continues to publish it.
John Harper, the great newspaper starter, commenced the publication of the Intelligencer at Fairbury, in 1863, which soon suspended; and Moses Osman published a paper for awhile.
In 1866, H. S. Decker commenced the publication of the Journal at Fairbury. He soon after sold to I. P. McDowell, and he to Otis Eastman, in 1867, who continued to publish it until 1873.
In June, 1871, the Dimmicks commenced the publication of the Independent at Fairbury, and in 1876 C. B. Holmes commenced the Blade. These papers were published until 1876, when J. S. Scibird became proprietor, and combined the two, with the title of Independent-Blade, which he publishes yet.
In June, 1868, Smith & Rutan began the publication of The Weekly Courier at Dwight, which, after six months, was discontinued.
May, 5, 1868, C. L. Palmer commenced the Star at Dwight, a two column paper somewhat larger than a good-sized shirt bosom, which he has continued without change of proprietor, except the association of his brother with him for a year in 1871-2. It has grown to a six-column quarto, with a steady growth, and has continued its issue until now.
In 1878, C. M. Cyrus commenced the Dwight Commercial, which is still published. C. L. Palmer commenced, in October, 1875, the publication of the Western Postal Review, a monthly paper devoted to matters of interest to- Postmasters, with Homer A. Kenyon as editor, which is still published.
In 1873, Dimmick Bros, commenced the publication of the Palladium at Chatsworth, which they sold to George Torrance, he to C. B. Holmes in 1874. The paper was afterward changed to Plaindealer, and is now published by R. M. Spurgen.
The press of the county has ever been marked by an intelligent and earnest desire to promote public morals and the general welfare of the county. There has been an almost universal absence of personal animosity which so freijuently mars the conduct of rival papers. A generous rivalry has not awakened personal hostility, and the general fairness has seldom been broken. The men who have formed the editorial fraternity have been usually worthy men, whose influence has been for good. This is particularly true of those who are at present conducting this powerful and wide-spreading department of intelligence.
Who can estimate the amount of good they have and can yet accomplish? The first telegraphic dispatch ever received in the county was on election night of 1856, giving the news of the election of Buchanan. The Livingston County News the next morning contained full telegraphic news of the result of the election from all over the country. It was to all a mystery how the news was obtained, for it was not supposed that the News was able to pay for all that telegraphic matter. A friend who had somewhere learned how to read the wires supplied the enterprising publishers with them, and that night they were put in type as fast as received.
[The History of Livingston County, Illinois - Wm. LeBaron, Jr. & Co. - 186 Dearborn Street, Chicago (1878)]
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