The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter XVI
The Press

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton

 

CHAPTER XVI

THE PRESS.

The press has ever been one of the most potent agencies in the development of new country. It has been the people's forum, and its editorial utterances have gone far toward cultivating a spirit of citizenship. The editor has been observer, critic, chronicler, biographer and historian, recording day by day, year by year, the rise and growth of a commonwealth.

In the year 1839, a small printing outfit, consisting of press, fixtures and type, was laboriously transported by team, canal and lake from a small town in New York State to Detroit and thence overland to Flint River by Joseph K. Averill, who issued The Flint River Gazette, the first newspaper ever printed in Genesee County. This publication existed for about two years, the only copy which is known to have been preserved being now in the possession of Mrs. George M. Dewey.

Mr. Averill, however, did not succeed in his venture; and a second paper, The Northern Advocate, was printed in 1840. This sheet did not survive for any length of time and was followed by the Genesee Gazette, another short-lived paper, which was issued by W. S. Denton & company in 1842.

The Genesee Herald was the next newspaper to make its appearance, being published in 1843 by J. Dowd Coleman, but was shortly discontinued. This publication was followed by the Genesee County Democrat, but the period of its duration cannot be given.

The Flint Republican was issued in 1845 by Daniel S. Merritt, "terms $1,50 cash, or $2.00 in produce, in advance." This paper was not long afterwards acquired by Royal W. Jenny in 1848, its name being changed to The Genesee Democrat. Under different names, it continued to be printed until 1906 and in the sixty years of its existence exerted a widespread influence throughout Genesee and surrounding counties.

The Genesee Democrat was one of the three early newspapers which were destined to have a long and useful existence in this county, the other two being the Wolverine Citizen, founded in 1850 by Francis H. Rankin, and The Flint Globe, started in 1866 by Charles F. Smith, henry S. Hilton and Robert Smith. The vicissitude of journalistic life in those early days can only be appreciated by those who experienced them and the varying fortunes of our county papers are so identified with the personal characters of their proprietors that a history of the one is a biography of the other. The Democrat was no exception. Even the name Genesee Democrat is so intimately connected with its founder, Royal W. Jenny, that few of the residents of Flint who knew Mr. Jenny can think of the former without recalling the eminently popular nature and friendly disposition of the latter.

Mr. Jenny continued as proprietor and editor of the paper up to the time of his death in 1876. For some weeks after Mr. Jenny's death the paper was conducted by Mrs. Jenny, a gifted woman , who was also the author of a book of poems mentioned elsewhere in this volume. Mrs. Jenny, however, soon disposed of the paper to H. N. Mather, who enlarged and improved it and added a Sunday edition.

Mr. Mather came to Genesee County in 1876 from New York state, where he had been engaged in the mercantile and milling business in buffalo. He was born in West Bloomfield, new York, in 1827, receiving his education at Lima University, and was a well-read man. As editor of the Democratic paper of Genesee county, he was alert and aggressive. He purchased the paper, fixtures and good will from Mrs. Jenny after the death of her husband for five hundred dollars. During Mr. Mather's editorship of he paper, he conducted it on political lines, from a Democratic standpoint. Upon leaving Flint in 1879, he went to Saginaw, where he edited the Saginaw Daily News for some years, changing his political affiliations and supporting James G. Blaine during his candidacy for President. In later years Mr. Mather resided in Detroit, Michigan, where he passed away in 1909.

Mr. her disposed of the paper in 1878 to Jerome eddy, then mayor of Flint. Mr. Eddy had previously been identified with the mercantile life of the county, being for a number of years in the lumbering business and operating a planing-mill in company with Artemus Thayer. During president Cleveland's administration he served as United States consul at Chatham, Canada.

The original Eddy homestead was at the corner of East Kearsley and Clifford streets, the site of which is now occupied by the Flint public library building. Mr. and Mrs. Eddy moved nearly forty years ago to their home on Church street, one of the mot imposing homes of the colonial type of architecture in this part of Michigan. It was built by George Hazelton in the early thirties and is still occupied by Mrs. Eddy, a woman of charming personality and prominence in the social life of the community.

Mr. Eddy conducted the paper for a short time and then transferred the active management duties and editorship to his son, Arthur J. Eddy, who, a few years before had graduated from the literary department of Harvard university, and was later married to Miss Lulu Orrell, a granddaughter of Governor Henry H. Crapo. Mr. Eddy is now a prominent corporation lawyer in Chicago and a writer of ability.

In 1884, the Eddy's established, in connection with the Genesee Democrat, The Daily News, and this, together with the Weekly Genesee Democrat, was purchased in 1887 by W. H. Werkheiser & sons, of Easton, Pennsylvania.

From 1887 until 1905 Mr. Werkheiser and his two sons, George and Frank F. Werkheiser, edited the paper, the daily edition being known as The Daily News. Mr. Werkheiser had previously had considerable experience in newspaper work, in 1867 a Democratic paper, the Evening Mail, in Philipsburg, New Jersey, and also being financially interested in the Saltsburg (Pa.) Press. The city editorship of the Daily News during this period was capably handled by Mr. George Werkheiser, who enjoyed the reputation of having been the most active newsgatherer the county had ever seen. Mr. Werkheiser is now editing a paper in Alderson, West Virginia.

In 1905, when the paper passed a publication into the hands of W. V. Smith, of Olean, New York, it has become a publication of broad influence throughout the community, Shortly afterward it was absorbed by h. H. Fitzgerald.

The Wolverine Citizen was founded in 1850 by Mr. F. H. Rankin, being known in its infancy as The Genesee Whig, and was destined to have a long and useful existence in Genesee county. About six years after it was first started the name was changed to The Wolverine Citizen and Genesee Whig, but later the latter half of its designation was dropped.

The history of the Wolverine Citizen is intimately connected with the history of the county. Under the agitation caused by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the Genesee Whig strongly favored the formation of the Republican party, and from 1854 until 1915 was known as a Republican journal, of the most stalwart type. Its editor was actively instrumental in reorganizing the anti-slavery elements of the old Whig and Democratic parties of Genesee county, having been, while chairman of the Whig county committee, also chosen chairman of an independent central county committee at a convention of electors of Genesee county held in September, 1854, for the purpose of uniting the anti-slavery strength against the attempted encroachments of the slave power upon the guaranteed free territory of the nation. The language of the call for the meeting invited all "opposed to the 'Nebraska swindle' and the extension of slavery in the national domain." For eighteen months during the civil War the Wolverine Citizen was conducted as a daily, and wielded a great influence in behalf of the Federal cause. In its long career it can boast of having been the graduating school of a number of young men who later gained prominence in the field of Michigan journalism. Among the earlier members of this fraternity were: Hon. W. R. Bates, late of the Lumberman's Gazette; C. B. Turner, of the Pontiac Gazette; R. L. Warren, of the Lawrence Advertiser; Morgan Bates, Jr., late of the Marshall Statesman; E. D. Cowles, of the Saginaw Daily Courier; W. A.. Smith, of the Charlevoix Sentinel; Harry Hall, of the Stuart Locomotive; Charles Fellows, of the Flint Journal; Orlando White, of the Linden Record and A., M. Woodin, of the Lansing Sentinel.

Francis H. Rankin, the editor of the Wolverine Citizen, was a native of County Down, Ireland, being reared and educated in his native land. He came to America, in 1848 and located in Michigan, at Pontiac, where he learned the printer's trade. He came to Genesee county in 1850, where for the remainder of his days he was a prominent factor through his journalistic activity in promoting the interests of the community. At the time of his death he was not only the oldest editor in the county, but in the state he had longest held control of a single paper. He was a finely educated man and his editorials were most scholarly. He was also the author of a number of poems which were published in Blackwood's Magazine. His wife, daughter of an Episcopal clergyman in Ireland, the Rev. Richard T. Hearn, of County Longford, was a woman of fine mind and brilliant conversational powers. She was a leader in social and civic affairs and was one of the organizers of the Ladies' Library Association.

After the death of Mr. Rankin, the paper continued to be published by his son, Francis H. Rankin, the second do the name. Mr. Rankin has been for many years a member of the board of education and has also served for some years as one of the trustees for the Michgian school for the deaf. Under his supervision the paper was published up to 1915, when it was finally discontinued.

The Flint Globe was established in August, 1866, the original proprietors being Charles F. and Robert Smith and Henry S. Hilton. The office was located in the second story of what was known as the Union block, on Saginaw street. Mr. Hilton was the managing editor, Mr. Smith having charge of the printing department and the general business of the office. W. H. Brainard and Sumner Howard were successively engaged as local editors. The concern was purchased by Almon L. Aldrich in August, 1869. In the summer of 1870 the office was moved to the third story of the Covert Block, corner of Saginaw and First streets, for the sake of additional room and in order to give the editor a sanctum apart from the composing and press-rooms. However, the office being in the third story, it became necessary for its removal to some building in which the first floor could be utilized for the presses. No such building offered itself at a reasonable rent. The proprietor, therefore, purchased a lot on the corner of Kearsley and Brush Streets, and in the month of July, 1870, commenced the erection of a building as a permanent home for the Globe.

Mr. Aldrich had been a newspaper man prior to his removal to Genesee county, having been the editor of the St. Joe Traveler, at St. Joseph, Michigan, for some years. he was a man of ability, being a graduate of the literary department of the University of Michigan in1860, after having received an academical course in several schools of New York state, his former home.

The Globe was Republican in politics and exercised its due share of influence in directing public affairs and public sentiment. Some of the former proprietors of the Globe were: Charles F. Smith, who, soon after leaving the Globe, removed to Kansas and for two years held the office of treasurer of Labette county; Henry S. Hilton, who later was editor and proprietor of the Clinton Republican, at St. Johns, Clinton County, Michigan; and Robert Smith, who was owner and editor of the Gratiot Journal, published at Ithaca, Gratiot County, Michigan, one of the most ably conducted and successful papers in the state. Among those who were connected with the Globe as local editors may be mentioned Louis R. Pomeroy, now deceased; M. L. Seeley, later residing in Genesee Township, in this county; Will F. Clarke, later deputy collector of internal revenue in this district; Henry H. Gibson, later of Grand Rapids, and Harry Snedicor, later of Chicago. In 1890 the Globe was purchased by James Slocum, publisher of the Holly Advertiser.

Mr. Slocum, who was a practical newspaper man, became prominently identified with the affairs of the county during his three years as editor, and printed also the Daily Globe, a bright, aggressive, publication devoted to the interest of the community. On 1902, however, he disposed of both papers to E. J. Ottaway, of Port Huron, and later became the editor of The Gleaner, which was published in Detroit. A few months later Mr. Ottaway sold the papers to H. h. Fitzgerald, of St. Johns, Michgian. About this time Mr. Fitzgerald also purchased the Daily Journal, which he consolidated The Globe into the Weekly Globe and Daily Journal. During the years which Mr. Fitzgerald owned and edited the Daily Journal the population of the county, and more especially the city, increased greatly, the result of the many large manufacturing industries which located in Flint, and problems of a perplexing nature were constantly confronting the editor. These, however, were wisely commented upon and Mr. Fitzgerald's influence as a newspaper man of ability and discretion was widely recognized throughout the county and state. During his management the Daily Journal became one of the leading dailies of Michigan.

In 1911 Mr. Fitzgerald disposed of his interests to the Booth Publishing Company, and Charles M. Greenway, a newspaper man of ability, as editor-in-chief, and Myles F. Bradley, managing editor, have for the past five years conducted the Flint Daily Journal, which now has a circulation of over twenty thousand copies. The paper maintains a high standard and has a large circulation, covering a territory twenty-five miles in each direction from its place of publication.

The Flint Journal, a Democratic weekly paper, was established by Charles fellows, in 1875. Shortly afterward it became the property of Doctor Carman, who sold it to George McConnolly, in December, 1882. On march 3, 1883, Mr. McConnolly began the publication of the Daily Journal. There had been up to this time six unsuccessful attempts to publish a daily paper in Flint, but it remained for Mr. McConnolly, with his practical knowledge of printing and his remarkable energy, to accomplish this difficult task. Mr. McConnolly had received his newspaper experience in the office of the Battle Creek Press, when he was but a boy, and had been an newspaper man of experience all his life. He came to Flint in 1882 from Bay City, and conducted the Flint Journal first as a Democratic paper, then from an Independent standpoint, and later, under the Cleveland administration, as a Republican organ.

In October, 1888, Mr. McConnolly sold the Journal to John W. Stout, and a few months later it became the property of John J. Coon, of Belvidere, Illinois. Mr. Coon had also been a newspaper man for some years before coming to Genesee county. He was born in Peoria county, Illinois, in 1851, and was a graduate of the literary department of the University of Chicago. His first journalistic experience was in the publication of the Chicago Real Estate and Building Journal. In 1881 he bought the Gilman (Illinois) Star, which he ran successfully for several years. He then purchased the Belvidere (Illinois) Northwestern and after a prosperous period of editorship, sold it and purchased the Flint Journal. Mr. Coon's proprietorship of the paper was terminated by his death in 1901, and his widow, Mrs. Julia Coon, a woman of fine mental attributes, became the editor and managing owner until she disposed of her interests to George H. Gardner, of Saginaw. In September, 1902, the paper was purchased by H. H. Fitzgerald and consolidated with the Globe.

Actively identified with the publication of the Daily News and the Daily Journal for over a quarter of a century was Alfred Galbraith, who died in April, 1916. During the last few years of his life, Mr. Galbraith was secretary to the Flint Board of Commerce. Mr. Galbraith was a credit to the newspaper profession.

In 1914 a daily, the Flint Press, was started by Arthur C. Pound and William Thompson. Mr. Thompson was interest in a number of state papers, among them being the Battle Creek Daily Journal, the Kalamazoo Evening Press, and the Lansing Press. The venture was not a financial success, however, and the paper was discontinued before the end of the year. Mr. Thompson has since retired from newspaper work and Mr. Pound is now editorial writer on the Grand Rapids Press, having been for a year after his removal from Flint connected with the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal.

The Michigan Mirror, a monthly publication, is published in Flint, and is devoted entirely to the interest of the Michigan school for the deaf.

The Flint Flashes, a weekly paper devoted to the interest of the Socialists, is published in Flint, G. W. Starkweather, being manager and G. N. Lawrence, editor.

Among the newspapers published in villages of Genesee county, only two of the publications which were started in an earlier day are sill in existence, the Fenton Observer and the Fenton Independent. The Fentonville Observer was organized in 1854, by W. W. Booth, and Perry Joslin. The Fenton Independent was established in 1868, by H. N. Jennings, and secured a good circulation in Fenton and throughout the county.

The publications issued at this time, 1916, in Genesee county are: Daily: Flint Daily Journal, weekly: Davison Index, Clio Messenger, Montrose Record, Flushing Observer, Fenton Independent, Fenton Observer, Otisville Star, Flint Flashes, monthly, Michigan Mirror.

 

History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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