Marshall County Illinois' First Newspaper

Taken From the Henry Republican, Henry, IL
July 4, 1872

The First Newspaper of Lacon


Mr. Henry A. Ford has contributed to the Lacon Home Journal a concise history of the establishment of the first newspaper of this county. He stated that:

After the arrival of the Ohio colony in 1837, an old press and second hand material was purchased form starting the Lacon Agriculturist, but were soon resold. Soon after Rev. Augustus Pomeroy wrote Dr. Ezra Robbins of Hartford, Ct., for a printer, offering a bonus. The proposition was laid before Allen F. Ford, then a young printer, who accepted the offer, and arrived at Lacon in September, after three weeks travel and whose material came in December via. New Orleans. On the 13th of that month the first issue of The Lacon Herald was printed, the office being a small frame building on the site now occupied by Brereton & Washburn’s carriage works.

It was then the only paper between Peoria and Chicago, save the Hennepin Journal, which had been started the previous May, and expired before the close of the year. It was neutral in politics, under the contract of its publisher with the citizens, but early took an unmistakable position in behalf of temperance. The first number contained over 20 columns of “reading matter” including Bryant’s famous ode to “The Prairies,” the news, and a long article from the New Yorker (Horace Greeley’s first paper), on “The West.”

This comprised, it is believed, the first notice of Lacon that ever appeared in print, as follows:

“Thirty miles about Peoria, on the east bank of the river, is the promising town of Lacon. Its site is not unlike that of Peoria (which the writer had just said “for mere beauty of location surpasses anything I ever saw,”) and is surrounded by a fine agricultural country, happily proportioned as to timber and prairie. Limestone, which by the way is scarce in this region, and stone coal, are both abundant in the immediate neighborhood of Lacon. Permanent and superior arrangements among the proprietors for educational purposes, and a number of solid enterprising citizens, will secure Lacon a respectable character.”

Lacon at this time had about 40 dwellings, many of which contained two families, as also a flouring and a saw mill.

The advertisements filled less than four columns, but represented probably the whole business community of that time, and included announcements from Elisha Swan, Fenn, & Co., Lindley & Fishburn, Barrows & Case, George Snyder, Dr. W. H. Effner, John P. Garrigus, Dr. Robert Boal and John Coutlett. A column is devoted to the publication of village ordinances signed by William Fenn, president, and Ira I. Fenn, clerk of the board of trustees. Dr. Effner, postmaster, gave notice that “at present we receive but one weekly mail by authority of the government and one by individual liberality.”  The Lacon debating club is advertised, “to meet at the academy,” (the old school house) to discuss the time honored question of capital punishment. The “Lacon price current” of 35 years ago, strange to say, was not greatly different from the price list of today as to the prices, but deer skins, beaver, otter and other furs named in 1837, have quite disappeared from our markets. The price of the Herald was fixed at $3 per annum in advance, $4 at the end of the year, single copies 12 1/2 cents.

It was published under this name for two years. The first death chronicled, (December 10, 1837,) was that of Mrs. Harriet Mitchell, wife of David Mitchell of Round Prairie. There was no Lacon obituary until February 3, 1838, when the decease of Mrs. Benjamin V. Dutton, Jr., was noticed. The first marriage notice was in the issue of January 3, 1838, that of the union of Eli Strawn and Eleanor Broaddus, by Rev. A. Pomeroy.

The subscription and advertising patronage of the Herald, during the two years of its existence, though liberal for the times and population, was very far from sustaining it; and had it not been for the generous subsidy given by the community, its history would have been briefer. There were other and very serious obstacles impeding its publication. The first volume was not completed until February 2, 1839, occupying nearly 14 months. (It may be noted that this number contained the “Act to establish the county of Marshall, approved in the middle ages, according to the compositor, viz. “Jan. 19, 1339”).

It was then the only journal between Peoria and Chicago, and there were but two south of it to Springfield. In the number for January 5, 1839, the editor pathetically notes his trials - the want of navigation for nearly six months of the year, the difficulty of procuring supplies of printing paper, the scarcity of money and derangement of the currency, and continued sickness in his family since the first of the preceding August.

The publication of the Herald ceased with the number for February 26, 1840, Mr. Ford having accepted an offer from the Whigs of Peru to issue a campaign paper in that place.  Accordingly the press and materials were removed to Peru, then quite prominent through the partly constructed Illinois and Michigan canal, and there on May 24, 1840, the first number of the Ninawah Gazette was issued, under the joint editorship of Mr. Ford and George W. Holley, a lawyer of Peru. The first part of its title was the name of an Indian village once located on the bluff at that point. It fought gallantly for “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” through the Harrison campaign, and remained at Peru for a year after, taking the long standing name of the Illinois Gazette about the middle of 1841.

Near the close of that year the publisher removed it back to Lacon, whither his family had preceded him for several months. The office was soon after established in a single room of the upper story of the dwelling still occupied by Mr. F. After the formation of Marshall, Stark and Bureau counties, the legal patronage of the Gazette was large and went far toward sustaining it. The tax-lists of these counties, and of Putnam, were wholly printed in this paper, until the several counties had journals of their own. Until September 1849, it had no local opposition; but on the first of that month a democratic paper, the Lacon Herald was published by Philip Lynch, previously a publisher of Heralds at Hennepin and Princeton. A journal of that persuasion, under many different names, has been printed here since, with occasional intervals of silence. It would be a difficult task, however amusing, to follow the devious ways of democratic journalism in Lacon.

The employees of the Gazette during its long existence, included printers of more or less eminence; most prominent among them, the venerable Hooper Warren then of Henry, who had published a paper in southern Illinois as long before as 1819, and was conspicuously engaged in the anti-slavery conflicts of his time. Among there were Gershom Martin, now the successful editor of the El Paso Journal. Samuel W. Spellman, late assistant editor of Bonham’s Rural Messenger, and a young poet of some promise; and Benjamin Golliday, now an editor in Iowa. The elder sons of Mr. Ford are also printers and editors.

Mr. F. remained sole proprietor of his several papers for nearly 30 years with the exception of a single year (58-9) when the Gazette was conducted by Messrs. Allen and Trumbull of Hartford, and Jeriah Bonham of Lacon. At last, on June 13, 1866, precisely 28 1/2 from the date of his first issue in Lacon, the veteran editor laid aside the harness, in a feeling and appropriate valedictory. The Gazette became the Home Journal, under the proprietorship of Messrs. Ellsworth and Bangs.


The Marshall County Democrat of 1876

Taken From the Henry Republican
September 21, 1876

The Marshall County Democrat, is a new paper for public favor just issued at our sister city, Lacon, by J. B. Ford of Owensboro, Ky., from whence the office type, and fixtures have recently been moved. If we remember rightly, this is the third paper, under that name, that has been started in this county, though we do not speak of it as if a fatality accompanied so sounding a title. Its first number looks well, and reflects ability and democracy straight. Mr. Ford's assistant is Mr. T. L. Thurstin, Jr., an affable gentleman, with whom we have formed a pleasant acquaintance. We shall very willingly "X" with our new brother, and accord him the courtesies bestowed upon all other members of the craft. When you come to Henry, Bro. Ford, pull the bobbin.

Local Correspondence - Lacon

Our new Marshall County Democrat came out on last Saturday, and is a very neatly gotten up sheet, which does credit to the editor and bids fair to be liberally patronized. It is emphatically democratic in its politics, but does not appear to be radically or unreasonably so, and we hope to see it receive the patronage it deserves.


The Oldest Newspapers in the 8th Congressional District

Taken From the Henry Republican
January 4, 1877

The Lacon Home Journal is the oldest paper in the 8th congressional district in the state; the Kankakee Gazette probably the second, while the Henry Republican (or the Henry Courier its precessor) was established in December 1850, which will chime in third, or more likely will divide the honors with the Gazette. The first number of the Gazette printed in Kankakee was issued by Augustine Chester under a spreading oak. Its present owners, the Messrs. Charles and Arthur Holt, purchased the establishment in 1868, and the paper has been since that time one of the ablest Republican journals in the state.