History of Oregon Newspapers/Baker County
The present Baker Democrat is the direct continuation of the old Bedrock Democrat, Baker's first newspaper, founded in 1870 by L. L. McArthur, a former Confederate army officer, and M. H. Abbott, formerly of Albany, whose name occurs frequently in the annals of the old Oregon journalism. When he and Abbott started the Democrat, McArthur was county judge. He later became circuit judge, and his activities soon carried him entirely away from journalism and into a successful bar-and-bench career. But, as co-founder of the Bedrock Democrat, his niche in Oregon journalism is permanent.
This old paper, one of the oldest in eastern Oregon, told the story of a pictureque community—of a mining boom that flourished and failed; of the building of two railroads; of the burning of a wooden jail from which four trapped victims mainly sought escape while crowds stood helpless outside; of the hold-up of the Sumpter stage-coach, the mining country's first and only big bullion robbery. Its files are full of history.
Baker was already becoming a mining center, and the local news columns of the Democrat's first issue, Saturday, May 11, 1870, contained references to the mining camps of the county. The editorial columns were devoted to political questions, as was the general rule in those days, and the public debt, following the Civil war—which had mounted to a mere fraction of the figures of the 1930's, drew comment. (118).
The Democrat was a four-page paper 21×28 (6-col.). The circulation, at $4 a year, was reported at 480.
In the second number, May 18, appeared the announcement that the Pioneer stage line had reduced the running time from Umatilla to Boise to three days. May 29 there came a rather unseasonable snowstorm which aroused the editor to comment disgustedly about the "poets who sing of genial spring, its balmy breezes and budding treeses," etc.
Judge McArthur, whose wife was a daughter of United States Senator James W. Nesmith of Oregon and sister of the wife of Levi Ankeny of Walla Walla, prominent banker and later United States senator from Washington, and whose two sons, Clifton N., later U. S. representative from Oregon, and Lewis A., authority on Oregon history, were active in the civic and business life of Oregon, retired from the Democrat in July, and Abbott became sole proprietor.
Two years later (Aug. 1, 1872) J. M. Shepherd purchased the paper, and May 5, 1875, Mr. Shepherd associated with him his son, H. C. Shepherd, as a partner. J. M. Shepherd ("old Shep") was a brother-in-law of Delazon Smith and with him had founded the old Albany;;Democrat;; in 1859 and had later founded Idaho's first news paper, the Idaho City World.
In 1873 young I. B. Bowen became, as a lad of 14, an apprentice on the paper, beginning a career on the Democrat which was to last for close to half a century.
Shepherd sold out, Dec. 15, 1880, to the Bedrock Publishing Co., with I. B. Bowen and J. T. Donnelly, local editors. April 1, 1882, the masthead carried the firm name of J. T. Donnelly & Co.
The firm Bowen & Small (which included J. T. Donnelly as a partner) purchased the paper May 9, 1887, and continued ownership for many years. Mr. Bowen was a real pioneer of the Baker country, having crossed the plains with his parents to the Baker valley from his birthplace in Illinois in 1862. He was then in his fourth year. Young Bowen was graduated from the Baker City Academy and at tended school also in Salem. During a six-year absence from the Democrat he was employed for five years as an apprentice in the printing office of George H. Himes in Portland. Completing his apprenticeship he returned to the Democrat and soon afterward formed the company whose name was to remain at the masthead of the Democrat for four decades. The Bowen-Small Company leased the paper, still a weekly. The partners purchased the paper May 9, 1887, and made it a daily under the name of the Morning Democrat.
In 1893 (119) the Democrat had a steam Cottrell rotary press and a complete plant valued at about $10,000, employed 12 persons in the mechanical department, running a day and a night force. The weekly circulation was about 2500. The daily reported about 1200.
Competition entered the field in 1873 with the establishment of the Herald, also Democratic, by R. B. Boyd & Co. When the Herald, issued Wednesday, was purchased in 1876, the Democrat had the field to itself for about five years. The Herald ran Democratic for two years, then in 1875, with W. S. James as editor, switched over to the Republicans. Even this move failed to save it, however, and it was dead within the year. The paper was listed in Ayer's as co-operative, one of the first in Oregon.
In 1874 the Democrat defied its competition with the announcement, in Ayer's Directory, that "it is the old, reliable, and wellestablished Democratic paper and has a larger paying circulation list than any other two papers published in eastern Oregon; it is the state official paper for Baker and Grant counties."
M. H. Abbott, who had retired from the Democrat in 1872, was back in the field October 20, 1880, with a competing paper, the Baker County Reveille, issued weekly on Wednesday by himself and sons, with Morris D. Abbott editor. The issue of July 6, 1887 (v. 7, no. 40) announced the editor's death. The paper, Democratic, changed publication days twice (to Friday, then to Wednesday), and in 1889 became an evening publication issued every day except Sunday, with a weekly in connection. It was suspended in 1891.
It was while J. M. Shepherd & Co. were publishing the Democrat that (in 1878) the world was told, through Pettengill's News paper Directory for that year, that "the county is fast settling up with an unexceptional class of people." Perhaps the descendants of Baker's enterprising pioneers would regard this compliment that missed fire as exceptionable.
The Baker Herald, for many years a prosperous evening newspaper with Republican leanings, had its origin in a Populist news paper of the early 90's. When the Enquirer was burned out, in 1892, it was followed by another paper of similar politics, christened the Epigram by its founders, John F. Foster and L. C. Bell, son of J. R. N. Bell, of Roseburg and Corvallis, in 1893. It was a fourpage paper, 15×22. Issued Mondays and Thursdays, it claimed 500 circulation at $2 a year. It was soon changed to a Saturday weekly. In 1900 the title had become the Herald, an independent paper, H. F Cassidy editor. The next year the Herald was sold to E. P. Dodd of the Pendleton Tribune, who made it an evening (except Sunday) daily with a weekly edition. He used to spend three days a week in Baker and three in Pendleton.
In 1907 Mr. Dodd sold the Herald to Bruce Dennis and B. E. Kennedy, who raised the price from $4 to $6 a year for an eight-page daily. Four years later C. C. Powell and H. W. Tenney became editors for Dennis, and in 191 8 W. H. Walton took over the editor ship. George Huntington Currey, who had been editing and publishing the Malheur Enterprise at Vale, became editor and publisher of the Herald in June 1920. Lee Bostwick, now of the Oregonian, was a partner. Three years later the publishers were H. E. Hendryx, James T. Beamish, and Al Van Dahl. In 1925 Bernard Mainwaring, who had successfully published several weekly papers in Oregon after his graduation from Oregon State College, and Lucien P. Arant, a University of Oregon graduate with wide newspaper experience, including several years as a news editor on the Oregonian, acquired the Herald.
The Democrat, meanwhile, had come down under the ownership of the Bowen-Small Company until 1928. Will H. Evans had succeeded George B. Small in April 191 9 as holder of the half interest not owned by Mr. Bowen. Mr. Evans himself had been with the paper for 25 years when the Bowen interest was sold to Ernest L. Crockatt, sales manager of the Eastern Oregon Light and Power Co., in 1929. Crockatt, who became editor, had been employed in various capacities on the Tillamook Headlight, the Oregonian, the Oregon Journal, the Pendleton East Oregonian, and the Pendleton Tribune. Within the year the Crockatt interest was sold to Ralph H. Mitchell, experienced newspaperman of Minneapolis and Portland, who had been a news editor on both the Oregonian and the Journal.
Soon Mitchell announced acquirement of full ownership.
The next step was the consolidation of the old Democrat, pioneer of 1870, with the newer but perhaps more vigorous Herald, as the Democrat-Herald, an evening newspaper, in 1929. The first issue of the consolidated newspaper appeared January 26, 1929, with Bernard Mainwaring, editor of the Herald, as editor; Lucien P. Arant, manager of the Herald, as manager. Will H. Evans of the Democrat remained as advertising manager. The paper is published every evening except Sunday.
By 1892 the People's party ("Populists") was becoming powerful in the Northwest; and when it became obvious that the Baker Populists were determined to start a newspaper, M. D. Abbott, who had become sole publisher of the Reveille in 1882, and had published the paper as a daily "independent Democratic" until 1890, sold the plant to the People's Publishing Company, which started the Enquirer as a daily and weekly. The Enquirer's daily suspended in July, and the next month, when the plant was partly destroyed by fire, the weekly was suspended.
Several other papers published in the 80's and 90's left little press on the journalism of Baker county. The Tribune, started in 1882 as a semi-weekly edited and published by G. W. Plumley, was changed to a Friday weekly in 1888 and disappeared soon afterward when Plumley sold it to the Oregon Blade Publishing Co., which issued a daily and a weekly (Thursday). E. G. Hurst, editor, announced the Blade politics as independent. By 1894 the paper had become Republican. A. C. McClelland became editor soon afterward. The paper was dead in three years.
The Sage Brush, started as a morning daily in 1883 by J. M. Shepherd, and announced as an independent paper in the 1885 Ayer's, was listed in 1886 as edited and published by the Bedrock Democrat Publishing Co. Active in charge were Edward M. Mack, now of Portland, and George B. Small. Shepherd's name was back at the masthead the next year, and in 1888 the Sage Brush had withered from the hillside.
The Herald was preceded as an evening daily by the Evening Republican, founded in 1896 by B. F. Alley. This Republican paper ran along until 1902. E. E. Young was the last listed editor and publisher, taking hold in 1901.
An independent weekly which appeared every Saturday for four years was the Maverick, founded in 1905 by J. W. Connella and L. Bush Livermore, who had been friends and associates in Everett, Wash., in the 90's, when Connella was a fighting editor of the News, then a weekly, and Livermore was cutting his eye teeth as a cub reporter with an interest in sports. They came to Baker from the Evening Miner at Sumpter, where Livermore had been working for Connella.
Whitney, a little Baker county town, had two Saturday weekly papers during this heyday of the county following the turn of the century. The News, published by Coolidge & Jackson, ran for four years following its establishment in 1901. The Whitney Pointer, launched in April 1903 and published by the Business Men's League under the auspices of the town council, survived for even a shorter period in spite of its municipal sponsorship.
The Baker Record-Courier, published weekly on Thursday by C. M. Brinton & Sons, is a consolidation of three weeklies—the North Powder News (1901), the Haines Record (1903), and the Huntington Courier (1930). Mr. Brinton is now one of the oldest publishers, in point of newspaper ownership, in eastern Oregon.
The Eastern Oregon News was started in Baker as a weekly in April, 1931, and is still in operation in 1939. Owners and publishers are Ryder Brothers. H. E. Hendryx, formerly of the Herald, is editor; Gilman M. Ryder assistant editor and advertising manager, and William H. Ryder circulation manager.
Sumpter.—This town in Baker County, Oregon, with no surviving newspaper, may, journalistically, have no hope of posterity, but it has had its days of glamour. Those were the days of its mining activity, the late 90's and the early 1900's. To one visiting Baker and Sumpter today, it would be hardly credible that 35 years ago Sumpter had as many daily and weekly newspapers as Baker. Though it has no paper now, in 1903 the town boasted two daily papers and one weekly. One of these, the Reporter, had been going since 1900, much of the time as a morning daily. The Reporter was founded by J. Nat Hudson, who later became a Portland lawyer (120). The first issue appeared December 5, 1900, and before long the paper, started as a hobby for a young lawyer, was taking most of his time. He charged 5 cents a week for a five-column, four-page daily. Hudson had conducted the weekly News before starting the Reporter. The News was launched in 1896 as an independent Republican paper. Walter C. Bignold was a later editor.
The evening paper was the Miner, with a weekly edition, started in 1899. The daily had been started in 1902, and T. G. Gwynne and J. W. Connella, editor and publisher respectively, were putting out a 12×22-inch paper for $5 a year; circulation, 800.
W. D. B. Dodson, former Oregonian cub and war correspondent in the Philippines, was editing the weekly Blue Mountain American, for Charles Lieberstein, publisher. This paper, started in 1896, was still in the directories in 1910, two years after all the others had disappeared. Dodson, later on the Oregon Journal, became executive vice-president of the Portland chamber of commerce, a position he holds today.
One of the several editors and publishers of the American was H. E. Hendryx, later of the Baker Herald, who had the paper in 1908. Still another was Edward Everett Young, 1900.
M. C. Athey, later a Portland newspaper man, was editor of another of the Sumpter journalistic ventures, the Chronicle, in 1900 and 1901.