History of Newspapers and Periodicals in Erie County, Pa.
From: History of Erie County, Pennsylvania
By: John Elmer Reed
Published ByHistorical Publishing Co., Topeka - Indianapolis 1925


This county has always been in the front rank of counties of its class, in the matter of its news publications. Not all of the news ventures have survived, it is true, but the people have always been well supplied with news well collected, edited and creditably published. Our local editorial writers, too, have kept full pace with the requirements of their age, and many of these have been graduated into larger fields of usefulness in this and in other states.

The Mirror was the first newspaper published in this county, so far as we have been able to learn. It was established in 1808 by Mr. George Wyeth, and was announced as a "Federal Constitutional-Republican." Perhaps the editor and the readers of that day may have fully understood its field of usefulness from that title, but readers of this generation will be somewhat perplexed to grasp the significance of that name. It was published at $2.00 per annum, and was ten by sixteen inches in size. It did not long endure, and was supplanted in 1812 by the Northern Sentinel, published by Mr. R. J. Curtis; this paper in 1816 became The Genius of the Lakes, with John Morris as publisher and R. J. Curtis asi its editor. This paper con9nued here under the names of The Phoenix, and later as The Reflector, but in 1820 its publishers removed it to Mayville, N. Y., where its decease soon took place.

In 1818 Mr. Zeba Willis founded the Patriot, which, after a year of publication at Erie, was removed to Cleveland, Ohio, where it later became the Cleveland-Herald and still later the well known Cleveland-Leader.

The three best known and probably best loved papers of the older times were The Gazette, founded Jan. 15, 1820, by Joseph M. Sterrett; the Observer, established May 29, 1830, by a group of Masonic Order gentlemen as an answer to the stand taken by the Gazette, and was used in support of Andrew Jackson for President; and the Dispatch, which was started in Waterford in 1851 by Joseph S. M. Young, and by reason of its active partisanship of those in Erie who opposed the purpose of the railroads here to standardize the guage of their roadbeds, became known as "A Ripper Paper," and the influence of the "Rippers" induced its publisher to remove it to Erie in 1856.

The Erie Gazette, The old Erie Gazette is recalled by our older people with much affection. Mr. Sterrett was a man close to the people, and succeeded in making his paper a member of the families into which it entered. It was 17 by 21 inches in size when first issued, and its place of publication was a small log building on the west side of French Street, the second lot north of Fifth Street. Some of the men who were associated with this paper from time to time were James Buchanan (who did not act as President of the United States, although having the same inalienable right to the office as the man who did), J. Hoge Waugh, John Riddell, John Shaner 1835-42, J. P. Cochran and George W. Riblet 1842 to 1845 when Mr. Sterrett returned to it; and on Sept. 10, 1846, Mr. I. B. Gara was induced to join him as its editor, continuing until May 3, 1865, when Mr. Samuel A. Davenport became its owner, publishing it until June 5, 1873, when he sold it to Mr. F. A. Crandall. While Mr. Davenport owned it he had, amongst other editors on it, Messrs. E. L. Clark, John R. Graham, R. Lyle White, James Hendricks, and B. F. McCarty. Mr. W. G. McKean purchased it from Mr. Crandall Feb. 1, 1882. It later became merged, and finally lost its identity, in the Dispatch. But while it lived its name was a household word throughout the county.

The Erie Observer.- In 1829 considerable anti-Masonic feeling arose which was sponsored or led by the old Gazette. The Masonic fraternity had no publication here with which to voice their sentiments. In consequence a number of the Masonic order, including P. S. V. Hamot, Daniel Dobbins, Joshua Beers, Robert Cochran, Smith Jackson, Edwin J. Kelso and others, threw into a common enterprise and established a. paper in opposition to the Gazette. They named it The Erie Weekly Observer. It first saw the light May 29, 1830, in the second story of a building which then stood upon the northwest corner of Fifth and French streets, but two doors from where the Gazette was born. Amongst its publishers and editors were T. B. Barnum, followed by H. L. Harvey, in 1832; Thomas Laird in 1837; Hiram A. Beebe in the spring of 1839; J. M. Ruester and W. McRinstry in 1840. Shortly after the courts took a hand in running it by appointing E. D. Gunnison as its receiver, with Mr. William A. Galbraith acting for a time as its editor. Messrs. A. P. Durlin and B. F. Sloan secured this paper in May of 1843, who achieved very fair suecess with it until Mr. Durbin withdrew on Jan. 26, 1856, Mr. M. M. Moore taking his place with Mr. Sloan. Mr. Moore continued until Jan. 1, 1859, and Mr. Sloan disposed of the paper Jan. 1, 1861, to Andrew Hopkins, the brother of Hon. James H. Hopkins then of Pittsburg. On Jan. 17, 1862, Messrs. Benjamin Whitman and James I. Brecht obtained it, who continued until April 1, 1865, when Mr. Brecht retired, leaving Mr. Whitman, who continued the paper until Dec. 1, 1878, when Robert B. Brown came from the Clarion Democrat to become its owner. Mr. Brown started publishing it as a daily on Oct. 15, 1881. It continued until Mr. F. S. Phelps became its publisher, and during a period of 67 years it was the leading Democratic mouthpiece in this part of the state. When Mr. Phelps went to the Times, a new paper in Erie, the old Observer, with its daughter, the Sunday Graphic, were suspended.

The Dispatch. - The Dispatch, founded in 1851 at Waterford by Mr. Joseph S. M. Young, was removed to Erie in 1856 at the instance of the "Anti-Railroad" men of Erie, and was their clamorous mouthpiece during those strenuous days. Succeeding a fire which consumed the plant shorily after its establishment in Erie, funds were raised by its friends and supporters and a new outfit secured for Mr. Young, which was much superior to any of the equipment possessed by the other newspaper publishers in Erie. February 1, 1864, Mr. Young's foreman, Mr. B. F. H. Lynn took over the plant, improved it, and on May 22, 1864, commenced the publication of a daily edition, which it is believed has been regularly published ever since. Mr. Lynn's management resulted in a sheriff's sale of the property after a few years, and some of the later publishers were S. Todd Perley, Azro Groff, W. P. Atkinson; Willard, Redway & Cook, in 1869; Willard, Redway & Seaman, in 1872; Willard and Brewer, on January 1, 1874; Willard, Brewer and Hooker, in April, 1877; Mr. Willard retired his other partners Sept. 3, 1878, and in May, 1883, Messrs. Camp, Belknap and Johnson of North East were associated with him in its publication. Eventually it was acquired by Mr. Charles H. Strong, who placed it upon a most substantial basis as a real newspaper venture. It has lately become consolidated with the Erie Herald and the two papers have become the Erie Dispatch-Herald. In November, 1924; Mr. Strong disposed of his interests in the combined papers to his business manager, Mr. John H. Strong, a western newspaper man, who became its owner and publisher. The Dispatch was originally independent, but since about 1860, it has been an ardent supporter of the principles of the Republican party.

The Erie Herald. - The Erie Herald was established in 1878, by William L. Scott to voice the principles of the Democratic party, which at that time was practically without a local spokesman amongst the newspapers. For many years Mr. Nelson Baldwin guided the course of this paper true to the Democratic faith, and it became a well known paper in this region. Later Mrs. Annie W. S. Strong became its owner and publisher, and when Mr. Baldwin retired from its wheel house, he was succeeded by Mr. Samuel E. Holley, who had an able assistant in Mr. William D. Kinney This paper lately was merged with the Dispatch, and is now published with that paper as the Erie Dispatch-Herald.

The Erie Daily Times. - In 1888, nine union printers found themselves out of work because their unions had decreed a strike. Not content to await the outcome of the strike, as most union printers were then doing, they looked about for something to do that would pay expenses Until something better turned up. This resulted in their determination to start a new paper. They were all but out of funds, and it became necessary to do all of the work of collecting the news, editing and proof reading, as well as securing advertising patrons, themselves. They did manage in some way or other to secure sufficient type for their enterprise and finding a back room in a basement which they could finance, the business started and a new evening paper was launched. Some of the original members of the project soon became discouraged and left it, but John J. Mead and Jacob F. Liebel clung to it through all of its early troubles, and in 1890 new blood and enterprise were added when they secured Messrs. J. H. Kelly, John Miller and D. S. (Dock) Crawford. As fast as practicable new equipment was secured, new departments added, the job department was discarded, and the venture became a substantial business enterprise in the county. The members had then long ceased setting type themselves, and- carting the forms to a small job office in their neighborhood. They secured linotype machines of the latest pattern, displaced their old presses with more modern ones, and today their new plant on West Tenth Street in the City of Erie is one of the most modern places for newspaper publication purposes to be found anywhere In 1894 the Sunday Graphic and Weekly Observer which were then published by Mr. F. S. Phelps, were absorbed by the Times, and Mr. Phelps became the managing editor. It has been Republican in principle, and vigorous in its news treatment. The Times Publishing Company, a corporation, is now one of the recognized business establishments of the city, and has one of the best equipped newspaper plants in the county. John J. Mead, Sr., the president of the company, is one of the veterans of journalism in this section.

Other Papers and Periodicals. - Many other periodicals, daily and weekly papers, and some technical journals, have been launched in this county from time to time; some of them have had a somewhat hectic existence and then gave up the ghost; while others have languished for a time and either silently passed away, or have secured new life and blood and have re-organized into papers which have served the purpose of their inauguration more or less perfectly. The following will be found a convenient list of those which have come to our attention:

Erie Chronicle, 1840, by Samuel Perley, Whig in politics, moved to Girard.

Commercial Advertisers, 1846, J. P. Cohran, A. H. Caughey, J. B. Johnson, in 1852, became the Constitution, opposed the "Rippers" or Anti-railroad men in the unsavory railroad war of 1855.

True American, 1853, Compton and Moore, an Abolition paper, until 1861.

The Express, 1857, E. C. Goodrich, Democratic, merged into True American.

Daily Bulletin, 1861, had a brief existence.

Unsere World, 1851, founded by Carl Benson, became Frie Presse 1860, was discontinued in 1868. It was a Whig and Republican.

Zuschauer (Spectator), 1852, Mr. Schuefflen, purchased by C. Moeser in 1855, and by E. E. Stuerznickel in 1861; by Mr. F. G. Gorenflo on Jan. 1, 1877, who achieved a partner in Mr. F. W. Dahlman in May, 1883. It was originally Democratic, but during the Civil War it became Republican.

Weekly Leuchtthurm, 1860, Baetzel and Atkinson, purchased in 1873 by Merhoff and Wallenhorst, Otto Luedicke admitted to its partnership in April, 1875; the firm was succeeded in 1879 by Merhoff, Boyer and J1atatter; John F. Boyer became sole proprietor in 1880; leased to Mr. Otto Luedicke, Oct. 1, 1882.

The Journal de Notices (General News), was probably the first paper in the country printed in the Portugese language, and for some time the only one. Established Oct. 27, 1877 by A. M. and John M. Vincent, was independent in politics.

The Daily Republican, 1867, existed for about three years.

White's Bulletin, 1874.

Argus, May, 1875, was a consolidation of the Union City Times and the Corry Republican published in Erie as a weekly and daily, survived but a few months.

Lake City Daily, a penny paper, 1878, lasted about one year. It had the distinction of being founded by three graduates of the Erie High School (Woods, Constable & Co.).

The Sonntagsgast (Sunday Guest), May 15, 1881, Frank Weiss and Company, independent in politics.

Gazetta (Italian) is independent in politics, is published weekly on Saturdays.

Illustrated Erie Chronicle, Local Affairs, is published monthly.

Labor Press, a Socialist paper, is published at Erie weekly on Saturdays.

Tageblatt, a Republican Daily, is published at Erie in the German language.

National Zietung, is a German Weekly, and Republican in politics.

Erie County Farm Bureau News, is an agricultural monthly issued at Erie in the interests of the farmers and fruit growers, sponsored by the Farm Bureau organization.

Erie County Law Journal, Lytle F. Perry, owner and publisher, issued weekly at Erie, and is the official court paper of the county. In it will be found all of the legal advertisements ordered by the courts, together with interesting cases disposed of in court.

Christian Home and School, is a Roman Catholic religious weekly published at Erie.

Lake Shore Visitor, is also a Roman Catholic religious weekly issued at Erie.

The Cosmopolite-Herald, is a Republican weekly issued at Girard.

North East Breeze and Advertiser, is a consolidation of the North East Advertiser and the North East Breeze, is a Republican weekly published on Fridays in North East.

The North East Sun, is the oldest paper published in North East, founded by the Cushmans and still owned and published by them. It is a Republican weekly issued on Saturdays.

Union City Times-Enterprise is a consolidation of the two Union City papers, the Times and the Enterprise. It is an Independent semiweekly issued on Mondays. and Thursdays.

Edinboro Independent, as originally a booster newspaper for the Normal school at that place. It is now a Democratic weekly published on Thursdays.

Waterford Leader, is an old publication of that town. It is a Republican weekly, published on Thursdays.

The Albion News, is a Republican weekly published on Thursdays.


Some Newspaper Men of this County. - Joseph M. Sterrett, founder of the Erie Gazette Jan. 15, 1820, became County Commissioner in 1829, serving until 1831; he was State Senator, 1837 to 1841; Associate Judge of this county from 1850 to 1856; and was postmaster at Erie from 1861 to 1869. He died at Erie in 1888.

George W. Riblet became a Director of the Poor from 1878 until 1881.

Horace Greeley, was a native of Vermont. He worked for a time on the old Erie Gazette (1830-1831), when the call to larger news fields led him to New York, where he soon became the proprietor and publisher of the New York Tribune, a paper which acquired a national reputation, and was a most staunch advocate of abolition during and prior to the Civil War.

Isaac B. Gara, a native of Lancaster County, came here and edited the Gazette in September, 1846. His was the true newspaper instinct. At the age of 19 he had been connected with the publishing and editing of a Whig paper in eastern Pennsylvania. He was actively identified with newspaper work until his retirement in 1866. He was a gentleman of the old school, dignified, kindly and courteous to a degree; and is still remembered by the older folks about Erie and vicinity as a gentleman of pleasing and very attractive personality. He later served as Secretary of the Commonwealth, resigning to accept the position of Postmaster of Erie under President Grant. After two terms of service in this office, he continued to live in Erie, frequently contributing articles to the local press, usually signed "I. B. G.," universally beloved by his fellow citizens. A rule with him was always to speak good, and not ill, of everyone. He was always active with pen and voice in the political campaigns, and once, while attending a hustings at Beaverdam, or vicinity, the weather being extremely disagreeable, the roads execrable, and the party was obliged to be furnished with entertainment at a farm house where the fare consisted mainly of salt pork and other substantial and hearty food. The fare was not especially relished by the party, and after a long silence induced by the unsatisfactory entertainment, Mr. Gara remarked casually, "They have excellent salt here," which broke up the ice of the occasion and provoked hearty laughter. The enthusiasm resulting from this outburst continued throughout the meeting that evening, which was acclaimed as the most spirited and inspiring political meeting ever held in that locality. Mr. Gara resided in Erie until his death highly esteemed and respected by all.

Andrew Hopkins went to Washington, Pa., where he was publishing a Democratic Weekly at the time of his death.

Gideon J. Ball became State Treasurer in 1869, Chief Clerk to the Sixth Auditor of the Treasury from 1851 to 1853, a member of. the State Assembly on the Whig ticket from 1847 for several terms, and was Paymaster in the Civil War.

B. F. Sloan was a Postmaster of Erie from 1853 to 1861; Clerk of the Pension Committee of Congress during 1875 and 1876, and later was secretary in the water department of the City of Erie.

J. R. Graham removed to Kansas, becoming prosperous and active in public life.

F. A. Crandall went to the Buffalo Express, where he was the principal writing editor of that paper.

W. McKinstry left here for Fredonia where he was one of the publishers of the Censor of that place.

A. P. Durlin went to Iowa and engaged in the publication of a newspaper for some years, then returned to Erie and established an extensive job printing business here, and was highly esteemed by all

Joseph S. M. Young, the founder of the Dispatch, left Erie and the publishing business for Pittsburg where he engaged as a medical specialist.

Samuel Perley was a Prothonotary of this county from 1851 to 1854.

Mr. B. F. H. Lynn, who in 1864 purchased the Dispatch, engaged in various enterprises at various places, and was found dead in a relative's house in Mauchunk.

E. E. Sturznickel became Sheriff of this county, 1877 to 1880, and later embarked in the confectionery business in Erie.

J. B. Johnson served the county in the Assembly in 1845, and in the State Senate from 1846 to 1849.

A. H. Caughey was a man of very versatile abilities. He was an excellent writer of both prose and verse. Literary pursuits always attracted him, and for a while he, with Mr. McCreary, conducted a book store in Erie. He was one of the instructors in Lafayette College, at Easton, for several years. He not only wrote and taught, but he continued his studies and in his later life became a minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church, preaching in Erie and the vicinity as a supply, or to fill temporary vacancies. He was universally beloved.

Henry Catlin, editor of the True American, was a gentleman of exceptionally pleasing personality. He fearlessly voiced the sentiments of the Abolitionists in this county when it was very diplomatic to refrain from those expressions. It mattered little to him whether his views would be productive of lucrative profit to himself or his business; but believed in heroically, advocating what he conscientiously believed to be the right, willy nilly. He was one of the active partisans of the downtrodden African Race, and often risked his life, as well as his liberty, in assisting the race, as well as fugitive individuals of that race, in their efforts to obtain freedom from the condition of slavery. He was an active promotor of "The Underground Railroad", which had several important stations in Erie and throughout the county. It is related of him that once he secured the consent of Mr. Frederick Douglass, an eloquent freedman, to deliver an address in Erie. Upon the announcement through his paper to that effect, a violent storm of protest was raised by the numerous supporters of slavery in this county. They served express notice upon him that if he dared to bring "that nigger" into Erie and introduce him on the platform, that his life would be in serious danger. But Henry Catlin was not the man to be swayed by such threats, or indeed by any threats. He was a man of conviction, and wholly fearless in asserting his views and principles. Therefore, when Mr. Douglass alighted from the train at the Union station he found Mr. Catlin awaiting him. The two walked down State Street arm in arm, with Mr. Catlin carrying the traveling bag of the distinguished colored man with as little reluctance or timidity as though his guest were the President of the United States. A great meeting was held at which Henry Catlin introduced his colored friend, amidst vociferous applause from the audience, with not the least attempt to intimidate or embarrass him or his guest, so great was the admiration of the populace for the display of courageous conviction on the part of their otherwise popular. townsman. When the first shot of the Rebellion was fired, Henry Catlin felt that the mission of his paper had been fully accomplished, and that the task of completing the work was in the hands of the lawfully constituted authorities, in whom he reposed full confidence of ultimate success, and he ceased the publication of the True American, which had never paid its expenses. It is believed that the citizens of Erie achieved a. more patriotic sense of their responsibility, and a keener conscience in public matters than they would have had without the life and services of Mr. Henry Catlin.

Sidney Kelsey was another newspaper man of worthwhile character, although modest about his own work. It was he who later acknowledged the authorship of the "Epistol of John", an article which created a near riot upon its appearance in the local news columns. But he did not have sufficient courage to own its authorship until many years after its perpetration.

James R. Willard came to the old Dispatch with Mr. Eben Brewer, both of whom were most splendid citizens and gentlemen. Mr. Willard soon left the business of publishing the news, and accumulated a large fortune in Chicago.

Mr. Eben Brewer, who came with Mr. Willard to the Dispatch, was really more of the diplomat, than a newspaper man. But his work on the Dispatch was of real worth, and his service to this community was of inestimable value. He was later appointed United States Commissioner at the Paris Exposition, as well as at the one at Vienna. He also filled with much credit, a very responsible position in the Columbian Exposition at Chicago, in 1893. Later he was in charge of the mail service in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, laboring constantly and assiduously in the performance of the work of his position, and in addition strove to serve his countrymen who were in the military and naval service in that struggle; seeking out those who were needy and were suffering, and doing all in his power to assist and comfort them. He expended himself in such service, and being worn with overwork, contracted the yellow fever in Cuba, and died there, a heroic sacrifice to his county's. need.

D. S. Crawford, who once' "covered" the news field here for the Herald, and later for the Times, was by instinct a military man, and on the side as it were, enthusiastically drilled with the various military organizations, especially the State Militia and "The Governor's Guard", until his opportunity came in the Spanish-American War. He welcomed duty in that war, and stayed in the service of his country at the close of it, by military duty in the Phillipines with the American Army of Occupation, charged with the duty of bringing about order and a sense of respect for law amongst the inhabitants of that disturbed group of islands. He is still serving his government in that far off place. To his friends he has always been familiarly known as "Dock" Crawford; while in the army he is known as "Major Crawford".

H. C. Missimer and Prof. James R. Burns, were the honored originators of the Erie Evening Herald; but both were far better known as Superintendents of Public Instruction in the City of Erie; Mr. Burns serving as such and being succeeded by Prof. Missimer.

John H. Kelly, one of the originators of the Times, left that paper for what he believed to be a more lucrative position in the newspaper field in Chicago, where he still pushes the pen. He was perhaps the best informed man upon local doings and past happenings in this county that we have ever produced; and his frequent articles published in the Times upon Erie County items of historical interest have contributed not a little to the fund of historical data available to the future searcher.

Mr. John Miller is another name which the Erie County historian delights to honor, as well in the department of history, as in that of newspaper literature. Mr. Miller was a man of versatile abilities. He came here from the Providence Journal, and served upon the Dispatch after working with Mr. Frank A. Crandall on the Gazette in 1875 and afterwards. After a term with the old Dispatch, he went to the newer Times, where he served creditably for a term, during which he was a persistent gatherer of historical data from all over the county. He was foremost in the Erie County Historical Society, and became its efficient secretary, serving in that office until his death. Out of his accumulation of historical data he was induced to compile the historical narrative for a History of Erie County, which was published in two volumes in 1909 by The Lewis Publishing Co. of Chicago. It is one of our very valuable and standard histories of this county.

And last, but far from least, was Mr. Frank H. Severance, who served on the Sunday Gazette for a period, with signal ability. In 1882 he went to Buffalo and engaged with the Buffalo Express, and soon after originating and founding the Illustrated Express of that city, from the model of which has been founded many other illustrated journals of nationwide influence and popularity. He is now the Secretary of the Buffalo Historical Society, and is the author of many works sponsored by that energetic society, in the creation of which he has succeeded in unearthing and placing before an appreciative reading public much data concerning the region having Buffalo as a geographic center.

Return to [
PA History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]