The honor of establishing the first newspaper in Harrison County belongs to Edwin R. Martin and Samuel Allen, who, in the summer of 1859, came from Memphis, Mo. and started what ws known as the Bethany Star, an independent local sheet, the first number of which made its appearance on the 4th of August, of the above year. Messrs. Mrtin & Allen were practical printers, and men of more than average literary abilities, and under their management the Star became an important factor among the business interests of Bethany. While started ostnsibly as a neutral paper, the Star soon took advanced grounds upon the great political questions of the day, and being considerably Southern in its tendencies made many enemies throught the county. The paper was a six column folio, and in mechanical make up and general appearance compared favorably with any of its numerous successors.
Martin & Allen continued its publication until 1861, when the Star was purchased by William A. Templeman, who changed the name to the Weekly Union, by which the paper was known until it again changed hands in 1863. The office of the Union was in the third story of the building now occupied by the Dunn Bros., on South Street, and the paper was printed upon an old fashioned Franklin hand press, which under the management of E.R. Martin turned out work that would not suffer in comparison with the production of offices more recently established. The political complexion of the paper, as indicated by the name, was strongly in favor of the national union, and the able editorials of Col. Heaston and others did much toward counteracting the influence of the disloyal element in Harrison County at the breaking out of the war. It was ably edited, presented a fine appearance, and before changing hands had reached a circulation considerably in excess of 600
In 1863 Henry Howe purchased the office, and, changing the name of the paper to the Weekly Union of States, secured the services of Howard T. Combs, son of Gen. Leslie Combs, of Kentucky, a writer of fair ability, as editor. Mr. Combs was popular with the people, and during the year he exercised editoral control the paper increased in circulation and became one of the most vigorous ultra Republican sheets in Northern Missouri. At the end of one year Mr. Howe took charge of the editorial department, but after a short time spent in that capacity he went to Council Bluffs Iowa, leaving the office in charge of his sons, Ed. and James Howe, who continued the publication until 1865, at which time Thomas D. Neal purchased the office and established the North Missouri Tribune. Mr. Neal was a man of great energy and determination, and as a political writer soon took rank among the most aggresive Republican editors in this part of the State. He made his paper the Repbulican organ of Harrison County, and continued its publication very successfully until 1872, at which time it was purchased by William T. Foster, who subsequently changed the political complexion by his fearless advocacy of the Grange movement, the effect of which was a division in the Republican Ranks of Harrison. Under the editorial management of Mr. Foster, who was a practical printer and trenchant writer, the Tribune grew in popular favor among the farmers, and was regularly issued as a Grange journal, until its purchase by John H. Phillibaum in 1875. AFter disposing of the office Mr. Foster went to Iowa, where he afterward achieved considerable notoriety as the "weather prophet" of Burlington, and as a contributor to the Hawkeye published in that city. Upon taking possession of the Tribune, Mr. Phillibaum converted it into a Democratic sheet, and chnging the name to the Harrison County Herald, published it until 1876, when the office was purchased by Al. S. Hickman and James P. Berry. Both Hickman and Berry were experienced printers, and spared no efforts to give the people a well edited and spicy local paper, but, the Democratic party being a small minority in Harrison County, the publication soon suspended for want of proper financial support. The Herald was a neat folio, eight columns to the page, and in point of editorial ability and mechanical make up, has been surpassed by no other newspaper in Harrison County.
In 1868 The Harrison County Press, a weekly Independent sheet was established by a stock company, with Col. William P. Robinson as editor. The columns of this paper wre made a medium of the discussion of all the leading questions of the day, and through them the political opinions of a number of local writers were given publicity. From its independent course the Press gradually merged into a conservative Republican sheet, but as such it antagonized certain elements of the party upon the great question of negro suffrage, which Mr. Robinson strenuously opposed upon grounds of moral as well as public policy. After the nomination of Grant and Seymour for the presidency, Col. Robinson severed his connection with the Press, and was succeeded by Paul Conner, of Illinois, who effected a complete revolution in the political feature of the paper, making it the local Democratic organ of Harrison County. Like some of his predecessors, however, Mr. Conner failed to make the paper financially remunerative, and after continuing the publication about one year sold out to D.J. Heaston, who in 1870 changed the name to the Bethany Watchman , by which it was known as long as the office remained in Bethany. Having had considerable experience in the field of journalism. Mr. Heaston soon succeeded in working up an interst in behalf of the Watchman, and within a short time gained a good circulation and fair advertising patronage. It made its periodical visits until 1873, in which year the office was purchased by a stock company and moved to Grant City, where it was subsequently published under the name of the Worth County Times.
The Bethany Republican was established by Thomas D. Neal, and made its first appearance on the 22d of May, 1873. It was started as an uncompromising political paper, devoted to the interests of the Republican party, as witness the following from its first statement to the public: "This paper shall be strictly Republican. None need look for anything else. It will do all in its poer to secure economy in our county affairs, low taxes and to induce immigration to our borders.****It will be the friend of the farmer, the laborer, and the interests of our county generally.*** It will be the organ of no man or ring, and will not be used as a means to place any man in office except the regular nominees of our party, the assertions of demagogues to the contrary notwithstanding. Its columns will be open to communications from all parts of the county on all questions." The pressess and material of the Republican were purchased entirely new, and for the first two years the paper appeard as a six column quarto, but was subsequently changed to an eight column folio.
As already stated, Mr. Neal was an able writer, and a politican of the most aggressive school. He continued as editor until the winter of 1875 when he sold out to Walter J. Wightman, who changed the name of the paper to the Harrison County Reublican, the first number of which was given to the public on the 6th of January, 1876. Mr. Wightman had previously published a paper in Eagleville, moving an office to that town in 1874, from Garden Grove, Iowa. He proved a fit successor to the former editor, and by his uflinching adherence to his party did much toward unifying its interests in Harrison County. After continuing the paper a short time alone he effected a co-partnership with Mr. Neal, who subsequently purchased the entire interest and ran the paper until 1891, when F.H. Ramer became sole proprietor and editor. The Republican enjoyed a prosperous career under the editorial management of Mr. Ramer, who as a politician and writer wielded a strong influence in behalf of the Republican party of Harrison and neighboring counties. In the fall of 1887 the paper again changed hands, Mr. Ramer disposing of the office to a stock company, with Hon. Nelson Church as editor.
With no previous experience in the field of journalism, Mr. Church has already gained widespread distinction as a clear and forcible writer, and as a local party organ the Republican under his management will compare favorably with any county paper in Missouri. It is essentially Republican in politics and fearless in the discussion of the leading questions of the day, upon all of which the editor has very pronounced and aggressive views. In mechanical make up it is a model of neatness, and with a good advertising patronage and a constantly increasing circulation, now considerably in excess of 800, we bespeak for the paper a brilliant and prosperous future.
Bethany Broad Ax- In March, 1877, D.J. Heaston and B.F. Meyer purchased the office of the Harrison County Herald and on the 8th of the month issued the first number of the Bethany Broad Ax, a neat seven column folio, which ever since has been the recognized Democratic organ of Harrison County. Mr. Heaston took charge of the editorial department, and ran the paper in partnership with Mr. Meyer until 1881, at which time he purchased the latter's interest, and continued the publication alone about one year. He then sold a half interest in the office to W. L. Robertson, a partnership which last until January, 1884, when J.H. Cover, who had previously published a paper in Albany, Mo. purchaseed the entire interest and became editor. From the first number until the present time the Broad Ax has never wavered in its allegiance to the principles of the Democratic party, and, although fearless in the discussion of political questions, the vituperation and personal abuse which fequently form the chief stock in trade of laocal partisan sheets find no place in its columns. It is now a five column quarto, neat in its mechanical appearance, and has a bona fide circulation of 800.
The Harrison County Eagle-was established at the town of Eagleville in July, 1874, by Walter J. Wightman, who, as already stated, moved in the office and material from Garden Grove, Iowa. The Eagle was a seven colunm folio, Republican in politics, and during the seventeen months of its publication at Eagleville gained the reputation of being one of the spiciest and best edited papers ever published in Harrison County. In December, 1875, Mr. Wightman moved his office to Bethany, and purchased the Republican, his connection with which has already been alluded to. In the spring of 1876 Frank Knapp, of Leon, Iowa, moved to Eagleville, and established the Eagleville News, a small independent sheet devoted to the interests of the town and county. The News was well printed, the editor being an experienced typo, but for want of proper financial support it ran its course in about six months and was never revived.
The Eagleville Clipper- was established at Eagleville in 1877 by W.J. Wightman, who continued its publication in that town until 1880 when he moved the office to Blythedale, where for twenty months if was published under the name of the Blyedale Clipper. In 1882 Mr. Wightman moved to Bethany, and changed the name of the paper to the Bethany Clipper by which it has since been known. Mr. Wightman is one of the oldest and most experienced newspaper men in Harrison County, and as an editor and writer enjoys much more than a local reputation. The political complexion of the Clipper is decidely Republican and as a sprightly local paper it ranks among the best county newspaper in Missouri. It has been a liberal advertising patronage and a good circulation.
The Eagleville Enterprise- This paper was established by J.Frank Ward, and made its first appearnce in 1880. It was an independent sheet with Republican tendencies,and during the time of its publication, two years, gained a circulation of about 500. Mr. Ward was a writer of average ability, and a practical printer. The Enterprise was a seven column folio, neat in its mechanical appearance and compared favorably with the other newspapers of the county.
Elder W. M. Browder, a distinguished minister of the Christian Church established, in 1879, at Bethany, The Gospel Star, a religious paper, the printing of which was done in the office of the Broad Ax. The Star was an able advocate of the peculiar pleas of the Disciples, and in its columns were found many strong articles upon the great religious questions of the day. Elder Browder was an able and agressive writer, and a renouned pulpit orator. He continued the paper about one year during which time it gained a fair patronage.
The Cainsville Signal- was started at Cainsville in 1885 by C.A. Brannon. It was a five colunm folio, independent politically and enjoyed an existence of about one year. The enterprise not proving remunerative, Mr. Brannon closed out at the end of that time and moved to Leon Iowa.
The Cainsville News, established by J.H. Rockewell, of Iowa, made its first appearnce on the 12th of April, 1885. It was started as an independent paper, but subsequently became decidedly Republican in politics. It changed hands in July, 1887, Prof. S.P. Davisson, present proprietor, purchasing the office and taking editorial control. The News is well edited, has a liberal advertising patronage, and a sublscription list of 500.
The Eagleville Journal- is the name of a small local paper established at Eagleville, in 1885, by J. Fred Cramer. It was published only two months, and proved a very indifferent affair.
In the year 1882 M.A. Thorne established at the town of Ridgeway a small local paper known as the Ridgeway Blade, which enjoyed an existence of two years. The Blade was well edited, and became a fearless advocate of the temperance cause, in which Mr. Thorne was an active worker. Like some of its predecessors it was compelled to suspend for want of remunerative patronage.
The Ridgeway Free Press- was started in 1884 by C.C. Bartruff, who continued the publication until 1886. Mr. Bartruff was a practical printer and fair writer, and succeeded during his sojourn at Ridgeway in securing a firaly remunerative circulation for the Press. The paper was a quarto, Republicans in politics, and presented a very neat appearance. The editor sold his office in 1886 and left the town.
Source: The History of Harrison and Mercer Counties, Missouri, Goodspeed Publishing, 1888