Banner -

The Press of Van Buren County, MI.
FROM History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Their Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.

The Pioneer Newspapers of the County-Journalism at the County Seat - The Press of South Haven - Newspaper Enterprises at Decatur, Lawton, Hartford, Bangor, and Lawrence.


THE history of the press of Van Buren County began in January, 1843, when H. B. Miller, of Niles (known later as Buffalo" Miller, of Chicago), sent his brother-in-law, one Harris, over to Paw Paw, with press and printing material, to start a newspaper, chiefly for the purpose of printing the county tax-lists. Harris got out a six-column folio weekly, which lie called the Paw Paw Democrat. Its politics were Democratic, and its office of publication was on Main Street just east of the present bank building. Harris was consumptive and did very little work. He died during the winter of 1842-43, and his death ended the history of the Democrat, Miller carrying the press and material back to Niles.


During the next two years Van Buren County was destitute of a newspaper, but in January, 1845, a lawyer named Samuel N. Gantt and a printer named Geiger brought a "two-pull" wooden Ramage press, and the other necessary material for a printing-office, by wagon, from Detroit to Paw Paw. On their arrival, they issued a fourpage five-column weekly, which they christened the Paw Paw Free Press.

In the course of the season, however, Mr. Geiger became disgusted with the general course of events, and with Gantt in particular, and accordingly one night he carried off the screw of the press, threw it into the Paw Paw River, and fled to Detroit. Gantt mourned the loss of Geiger much less than that of the screw, the latter being indispensable to the working of the press. He offered a reward of ten dollars, and A. V. Pautland, who happened to know where Geiger had thrown it, fished it out of the river.

Mr. Gantt continued to publish the Free Press until the spring of 1846, when be sold it to John McKinney, then county treasurer, and began the practice of law at Paw Paw.

Mr. McKinney owned and published the paper until January, 1846, when he disposed of it to E. O. Briggs. After a newspaper experience of thirteen months Mr. Briggs sold the Free Press in January, 1848, to S. Tallmadge Conway, who had been a printer in the office since August, 1846, and who had done a little newspaper work on the Paw Paw Democrat as early as 1842. Mr. Conway retained the ownership for the previously unprecedented time of six years and a half. The paper then (July 10, 1854) passed into the hands of a stock company. A few weeks' experience, however, was enough for the stockholders, at the end of which they transferred the Free Press to I. W. Van Fossen. Soon after this gentleman went into possession the Paw Paw Free Press ceased to exist, so far as the name was concerned, though the publication still continued.


This was the new name by which the Paw Paw Free Press was baptized soon after Mr. Van Fossen became the owner. Even this did not satisfy him, and in the early part of 1855 he took the whole county into the scope of his paper's name.


Such was the appellation upon which Mr. Van Fossen finally settled, and this appeared to be satisfactory to all concerned, for under this name and by the same publisher the paper was issued for nearly thirteen years, until the 3d of January, 1868, when the office was destroyed by fire. This interrupted the publication for a few months, but in the summer of 1868 Mr. Van Fossen revived his paper, and continued to publish it until 1872. He then leased the office to Frank Drummond, who during the campaign of that year supported the cause of Greeley and Brown. In the winter of 1872-73, Mr. Van Fossen sold the property to E. A. Lanphere and G. W. Mathews, who determined on another change of name.


With the change came a change of politics, for Messrs. Lanphere & Mathews, eschewing the Greeley issue of the year, made the Courier an exponent of Republican principles, and published it as such until the beginning of 1877, when they sold it to E. A. Blackman and E. A. Park. These gentlemen made it a Democratic paper, and published it until the 4th of August, 1877. Then they consolidated another journal with it and extended its name, as will be related below.


During the ownership of the Courier by Lanphere & Mathews, Messrs. E. K. Park and George F. Sellick, job printers at Paw Paw, started a new Democratic paper there, to which they gave the old name of the Van Buren County Press. Perhaps Mr. I. W. Van Fossen was attracted by the name with which he had so long been identified, for he soon purchased the Press. He speedily transferred it to O. D. Hadsell, who changed its name to another, which had, like that one, already seen service in the county.


Under this name Mr. Hadsell conducted his venture until the 4th of August, 1877, when he sold it to Blackman & Park, the owners of the Paw Paw Courier.


The Free Press and the courier were then consolidated, and in order to please the readers of both sheets Messrs. Blackman & Park consolidated the names as well as the papers, issuing the new journal under the name of the Paw Paw Free Press and Courier. Like both its predecessors, this was a Democratic sheet, and has flourished in that faith to the present day. On the 23d of November, 1878, Mr. Park withdrew, and Mr. E. A. Blackmaü has since been the sole editor and proprietor.

It will be seen that the present Free Press and Courier is the legitimate successor of the first newspaper established in Van Buren County, except the old Paw Paw Democrat of 1842, as well as of another line of papers now united in the same channel. We have, therefore, briefly sketched the journals of various names whose shades may be supposed to linger around the sanctum of their successor before delineating the career of others.


This journal boasts a continuous existence under the same name of twenty-five years, and in that respect is the oldest paper in the county. It was founded in March, 1855, as a Republican weekly journal, on the very first organization of the Republican party, by George A. Fitch, then publishing the Kalamazoo Telegraph, and has maintained that political status since then without change. Mr. Fitch sent John B. Butler over to edit and publish the True Northerner, but in August of that year Butler retired and Fitch sold the material to John Reynolds and E. A. Thompson, pledging himself, however, to edit and publish the paper until March, 1857. R. C. Nash was employed as editor, but retired in January, 1856, and was succeeded by L. B. Bleeeker and S. F. Breed. On the 19th of February, 1856, Samuel H. Blackman and S. F. Breed became the sole proprietors of the True Northerner. In 1858, Thaddeus R. Harrison purchased the paper from them and remained the owner until 1866, although during the latter part of that period it was leased to Charles P. Sweet. In the year last named Mr. Harrison sold the True Northerner to Thomas O. Ward, who retained possession until the 28th of August, 1870.

At that time S. Talmadge Conway, whose connection with the press of Paw Paw has already been noticed, became editor, publisher, and proprietor of the True Northerner, and has so remained to the present time.

The True Northerner has a circulation of about two thousand, and ranks among the leading Republican papers of Western Michigan.


In March, 1878, Charles S. Maynard founded the National independent, at Paw Paw, as a Greenback organ, issuing the first number on the 8th of that month. Mr. Maynard conducted the paper until the 15th of January, 1879, when he sold it to R. C. Nash. In April following the Independent was transferred to Smith & Wilson. Mr. Wilson soon retired, and W. E. Smith became sole editor and proprietor. The National independeni suddenly ceased to exist in the latter part of December, 1S79.


This paper, published by T. O. Street, was the pioneer of Decatur journalism, but its career was so very brief that it is difficult to ascertain even the date of its existence. It was, however, about 1864.


The Tribune was succeeded by the Decatur Clarion, which flourished (or languished) for an equally brief period, under the editorship of Moses Hull, and then became forever silent.


This is the first permanent newspaper in Decatur, and was founded in 1867, by B. A. Blackman and C. F. B. Bellows (the latter being then the principal of the union school, and now the occupant of a professor's chair in the University of Michigan). Mr. Bellows retired after a brief experience, leaving the control of the paper to Mr. Blackman, Under his control the Republican expounded the principles of Republicanism until 1872, when it supported Greeley and Brown. In 1873 it passed into the ranks of the Democracy. In 1876, Mr. Blackman sold his paper to H. C. Buffiugton (formerly of the Cass County Republican), who brought it back into the Republican fold, where it has since remained. In December, 1879, Mr. Buffington disposed of the paper to A. M. Wooster, the present proprietor. The Republican is a four-page, twenty-eight-column journal, issued every Wednesday, and is one of the prominent newspapers of the county.


This was a weekly publication, established in Lawton in 1860 by Joseph Twell. It expired in 1867.


After the decease of the Age, George W. Lawton, Esq., began the publication at Lawton of the Lawton Gazette (weekly), which, however, was printed at Paw Paw. The Gazette lasted until 1869.


In September of the year last named J. H. Wickwire established the Lawtom Tribune, a four-page, six-column journal, sixteen inches by twenty-two. It passed successively into the hands of Cowgill & Jennings, Ambrose Moore, Jr., Orris Strong, and Ezra Hayden, and expired in 1873.


The first number of this paper was issued Thursday, Nov. 16, 1871, by O. D. Hadsell and Alonzo H. Chandler, the hatter, however, retiring in a few weeks. It was continued by Mr. Hadsell until Oct. 28, 1876, when it was purchased by Wni. H. H. Earle. He edited and published the Day Spring about a year, when Luther Sutton assumed the editorship, since which time Mr. Earle has been the proprietor and publisher and Mr. Sutton the editor.


The South Haven Sentinel was founded in June, 1867, by Capt. David M. Phillips, of Albion, as a six-column neutral paper. in June, 1868, it was sold to Dr. Samuel D. Tobey, who transferred it to Capt. William E. Stewart in September of the same year, he having been in charge of the mechanical department since August, 1867. Capt. Stewart has successfully conducted the Sentinel during the period of almost twelve years which has elapsed since his purchase, and in 1870 was enabled to enlarge it from six to eight columns per page.


This paper was started on the 12th of August, 1878, as a Greenback sheet, by J. Densmore. Mr. Densmore published it until May, 1879, when he sold it to parties in Kalamazoo. It was then removed to that place, where it continues to support the interests of the Greenback party.


This curious little sheet, which is issued monthly by A. J. Pierce, was started on the 1st day of January, 1879. It is devoted to the introduction of phonetic spelling, which is now being used to a very limited extent by some of the journals of the country.


The journalism of Bangor is of recent date, and will occupy but a very brief space. In February, 1873, Charles Gillett began the publication at that place of a weekly paper, which was called the Journal. The venture was not a success financially, and with the autumn of the same year the pioneer newspaper of Bangor closed its brief career.


From the ashes of the Journal, however (that is, from its old type and press), arose the Bangor Reflector, the first number or which was issued in December, 1873. This paper was published by W. W. Sccord, with limited success, until April, 1875. when it passed into the hands of its present proprietor, C. C. Phillips. Under his management its circulation has steadily increased, until it ranks as one of the leading weeklies of the county. It is a fivecolumn, eight-page sheet, and is a staunch advocate of Republican principles.


On the 1st day of February, 1875. Theodore L. Reynolds issued the first number of the Lawrence Advertiser, an independent, seven-column paper located at the village of Lawrence. After Mr. Reynolds' death, in November. 1876, Mrs. Reynolds continued the publication until the 1st of March, 1877, when the Advertiser passed into the hands of George A. Cross, John B. Potter being the manager. On the 20th of April, 1877, Mr. Cross sold the paper to Robert L. Warren, who has since been the editor and proprietor. Mr. Warren made the Advertiser a Republican sheet, and such it has since remained. On the 1st of October, 1877, he leased the office to Messrs. Van Hoesen & Bates, who have since then published the Advertiser, while Mr. Warren has retained the editorial management.

Return to [ Van Buren County ] [ MI History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]

.Blind Counter