History of Oregon Newspapers/Benton County
Corvallis.—Corvallis, once for a short time the capital of Oregon territory, has one of the longest newspaper histories of any of the cities in Oregon. (12)
The town's first paper was the Oregon Statesman. This paper, moved from Oregon City to Salem, has so long been associated with Salem that perhaps few realize that it was not always published in that city. When the capital was moved to Corvallis, for a few months in 1855, however, Asahel Bush, printer-publisher-politician, moved along with it, going back to Salem with the final shift of the seat of government back to that town.
The next paper in Benton county—the first that really was a Corvallis institution—was the Occidental Messenger, started by Avery in June, 1857.
The "Ox" became the Democratic Crisis, with Odeneal as editor-publisher in February, 1859. Odeneal, soon tiring of his paper, cast a longing eye on J. H. Slater's bookstore. It happened that just about that time Slater was dreaming of what he could do if he just had a newspaper to play with. So they swapped, and Slater be came the editor-publisher.
The name Democratic Crisis didn't sound business like enough for the new owner, who changed to the Oregon Weekly Union. It supported Breckenridge and Lane in 1860. After the election of Lincoln, Slater urged that Oregon take a neutral stand the impending war, and, May 18, 1861, vowed his unalterable opposition to possible "war of subjugation" in the south. After the firing on Fort Sumter the paper, whose name was becoming a misfit (it was called the Onion by Bush of the Statesman, who had become a strong supporter of the preservation of the Union), grew more outspoken for the secessionists. finally was suppressed by the government in 1863 for pro-southern utterances, as were several other newspapers in Portland, Eugene, Jacksonville, and Albany, and never was revived.
Slater, however, was not the editor at the time of its suppression; that "honor" belonged to Patrick Malone. Slater was of statesmanly stature, it seems. Admitted to the bar while in Corvallis, he later, while a resident of La Grande, became representative in congress and United States senator.
There was considerable pro-slavery sentiment, even, Dr. J. B. Horner says (13), a certain amount of negro slavery, in the Willamette valley at the time, and war feeling ran high in Oregon. The Corvallis Gazette was established 1862 as a stanch Republican, Lincoln-following newspaper, with T. B. Odeneal as editor. This the same Odeneal who had edited Avery's Ox and the Democratic Crisis, but, like Bush at Salem, he had been converted to the Union cause and the policies of Lincoln. W. F. Boyakin was editor in 1865. Later the 60's William B. Carter, assuming the editor ship, advocated Republican policies and also swung the Gazette over to the support of prohibition, making the paper the official organ of the grand lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars in Oregon. The courage of the temperance policy from a business point of view may be realized when recalled that half the business houses in Corvallis were saloons and little Philomath was the only dry town in the county. (14).
Sam L. Simpson, journalist-poet, moist author of "Beautiful Willamette," was made editor for the political campaign of 1870, with Mr. Carter, later state printer, in charge of the business department. Mr. Simpson thought it proper to make the following frank, albeit wordy, statement of his attitude and that of the paper on the liquor question:
Temperance ceases to be the specialty of this paper, as, in fact, it is not the forte of the present editor. Right here the bright habiliments of neutrality are laid aside forever, and wheeling into line the good champion of prohibition goes down in the smoke and fury of political war.
All of which rhetoric meant that the Gazette was no longer "dry."
Carter later resumed the editorship and continued at the helm until his death in 1880.
William Browne Carter was born in Sangamon county, Illinois, June, 1831. He learned the printing trade in Springfield, Illinois, and crossed the plains to Oregon in 1852. He was the first printer of the Pacific Christian Advocate, continuing on that publication until 1867, when he became editor of the Gazette. (15) He became state printer in 1878, succeeding M. V. Brown.
The Gazette was still printed on an old Washington hand-press, operated, Mr. Horner observes, "by the hand that wrote the editorials." Most of the time the paper had a "patent inside," leaving only two pages to be printed on the old hand-press and making only one impression necessary for each paper. The subscription price was $3 a year. Editors following Carter and Simpson were numerous, including W. P. Keady, later speaker of the house in the Oregon legislature; M. S. Woodcock, James Yantis, Will H. Parry, later founder of the Salem Capital Journal, city editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, city comptroller of Seattle, and member of the federal trade commission; Frank Conover, B. W. Johnson (1894), George Paul, Ruthyn Turney, W. P. Lafferty, G. A. Dearing, and Charles L. Springer, under whom the daily edition, first in Corvallis, was started in 1909.
On the death of William B. Carter, April 25, 1880, James A. Yantis and M. S. Woodcock bought the Gazette. The next year (May 6) Woodcock bought Yantis' interest. (16) January 1, 1884, the Gazette Publishing House was incorporated by M. S. Wood cock, A. P. Churchill, and Wallace Baldwin.
The building of the Oregon Pacific Railroad, from Corvallis to the "coast in the eighties, which, as the promoters promised, was to be the western end of a transcontinental railroad, not only built up the hopes of Yaquina Bay, then in Benton county, but dominated a lot of the commercial and political thinking of Corvallis at that time. Robert (Bob) Johnson, who came to Corvallis in 1882, and was for his first year in the city associate editor of the Gazette under the Woodcock ownership and foreman of the mechanical department, says it "was closely allied with the life of the newspapers in those days and for a time the promoters owned and controlled the utterances of every newspaper in Benton county." (17) When the scheme collapsed, the promoters' influence went with it and the newspapers were freed of their domination.
C. A. Cole, editor of the Gazette, was fired (18) "for his re fusal to obey political instructions from the owners of the paper in that he supported the Republican nominee for state senator in stead of the Democrat whom the owners favored." Cole was Parry's successor on the Gazette. "The railroad," Mr. Johnson relates, (19) "which had a controlling interest in the Gazette as well as the Leader, put out a subtle suggestion that Cole should not be too active for the Republican candidate for senator, who was less friendly than the Democratic candidate to the railroad. Cole, new in the town (he had conducted the News at Newport), asked me for advice.
"'Well, if you like your job,' I told him, 'you'd better do as you're told. "Cole, however, decided to support the Republican. The day after election he was removed as editor."
Smarting under this treatment (20) he told the railroad representative that he wanted to get out an issue and tell the people why he had been fired. The permission was granted, but proofs were to be submitted to Wallis Nash, representing the railroad company. Johnson set up the type for Cole, including a supplement explaining the situation fully from Cole's point of view. Proofs on the supplement were not submitted to the railroad man, and a bit of a political furore was created in the county when the unexpurgated material reached the readers.
As a result the Republicans decided to finance another paper, and the Chronicle was started as an independent Friday weekly in 1886, with Cole and Wallace R. Struble, who later conducted newspapers in eastern Washington, in charge. They failed to stem the tide, however, and the Chronicle soon died.
And here we come to the founding of the Times, which, with the Gazette, has come down to the present. Robert (Bob) Johnson, previously quoted, who later became a Corvallis banker, and was then one of the journalistic independents of the town, bought the Chronicle plant at sheriff's sale and in 1888 launched the Times, carrying right under the title logotype on page one the phrase "Independent, Fearless, and Free." This referred especially to railroad influence. Johnson ran the Times for five years, selling in 1893 to B. F. Irvine, local agent and telegraph operator for the railroad. Irvine, a Linn county young man, graduate of Willamette, where he had been a varsity baseball pitcher, was to go from Corvallis to Portland in later years as editorial writer on the Journal, reaching the editorship, which he held for many years. That year (1893) the Leader, an older paper, and the Times were consolidated by Mr. Irvine as the Times. "The Times," said Professor Horner (21), "was a particularly strong newspaper."
Prosperity was "around the corner" and money was scarce in newspaper offices most of the time in those early days. Collections were a problem. Mr. Johnson recalls one incident which perhaps throws a bit of light on the conditions. Old Haslip, known as the "pilgrim printer," had worked on one of the papers for two days. Johnson happened into the office. "Have you seen the boss?" Haslip asked eagerly. "I've had nothing to eat for two days." Just then a customer came in with a poster job. Johnson, who was an all-around printer, got out the posters, charged the customer a dollar and a half C. O. D. and gave the famished typo the money. There were days when a certain publisher actually feared to go down town lest he run into insistent creditors. On one occasion he gave his printer an old watch in payment for running a hand-press. This publisher later in life succeeded much better elsewhere.
J. H. Upton, who later started the first paper in Curry county, gave the Gazette a little brief competition in 1869 and '70 with the Willamette Valley Mercury. He charged $3 a year for a four-page, seven-column paper. It gave place to another competitor for the Gazette, the Benton Democrat, in 1871. The Democrat, established by R. G. Head, was a four-page, seven-column Saturday weekly, which soon claimed a circulation of 400 at $3. G. W. Quivey was editor for several years in the middle seventies. W. A. Wheeler was editor and publisher in 1877.
"The only Democratic paper published in the county; in heart of a rich agricultural country on the Willamette river and on the line of the Oregon Central railroad" is part of its advertising in Ayer's. All this failed to save the Democrat, which suspended in 1878.
The suspension of the Democrat was followed by the advent of the Benton County Blade in 1879. Charles L. Mosher, a grandson of General Joseph Lane, was editor, and Charles L. Mosher & Co. publishers. The publishers charged $2.50 a year for the paper.
The Blade failed to "cut it," and the next journalistic departure was the New Benton Democrat, established in 1880. Johnson Odeneal was editor. Its ad in Ayer's for 1881 said the paper would be "devoted, first, to the dissemination of general and local news; secondly, to the advancement of the interests of Benton county and its inhabitants; thirdly, to the advocacy of the principles of the Democratic party." The paper was to be . . . free of all matters unfit for the family circle . . . lively, spicy, original, and reliable.
The Benton Leader was started by W. H. Mansfield in February, 1882 (22). In August, 1884, Mansfield admitted W. W. Saunders to partnership, and the new partner acted as editor. A shooting scrape in Albany, in which the other fellow was killed, left an opening for a young southerner named Martin Luther Pipes, who became editor of the Leader. Saunders, convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for the slaying of C. L. Campbell over a girl, was finally pardoned after once escaping from the Albany jail while under death sentence. But his newspaper usefulness in Corvallis was over, and Pipes was made editor in 1886.
Though Mr. Pipes is remembered chiefly as lawyer and judge, he was eminent in Oregon journalism early in his career. In 1876 he started the Semi-Weekly Telegram, the first newspaper in Independence, in partnership with a printer named William A. Wheeler. This survived about six months. He also ran in 1881 the Independence Riverside, which had been started by G. W. Quivey two years before. He and George Belt conducted it for several weeks. (23). Then he was editor of the Polk County Itemizer, moving to Dallas to handle that position in 1882. He remained in Dallas for two years, then served two years as timekeeper on the Oregon Pacific railroad construction work out of Corvallis. He left this work to accept the position on the Leader. While on that newspaper he installed the first power press ever brought to Corvallis. This $2,000 machine represented a considerable investment in those days. Pipes remained on the Leader until appointed to the circuit judgeship in 1893 to succeed Judge Robert S. Bean, who had just been appointed to the state supreme bench, where he served until elevated to the federal bench. It was while editor of the Leader that Mr. Pipes was elected first president of the Oregon State Editorial Association at Yaquina City (1887).
Mr. Pipes' elevation to the bench terminated his active journalistic career, though years afterward he contributed articles and editorials to newspapers in Corvallis and Portland at the request of editors who knew his wide knowledge and writing facility. Late in life he was appointed to a seat on the State Supreme Court bench.
One of Mr. Pipes' achievements as lawyer and editor was to help, straighten out the situation affecting the title to the site of the educational institution which is now Oregon State Agricultural College. The state had deeded the land, in the 70's, to the Methodist Church South, for an agricultural college. When the local authorities of the church deeded the land back to the state to pave the way for an appropriation for building purposes in the 80's, the higher officials of the church contended there had been no authority for the transfer. The matter was fought through the courts, going as high as the state supreme court, where the transfer to the state was upheld. Mr. Pipes was running the Leader at the time, and he cooperated in the dual capacity of publicist and lawyer, working with Wallis Nash and Tom Cauthorn. The title was upheld, and the legislature's appropriation of $12,000 (regarded then as a lot of money) for building was saved.
The Benton Democrat, incidentally, on June 24, 1881, carried an attack on the management of the college by a resident of Marion county on the ground that it had no right to be called an agricultural college, since it really gave a general wide range of studies. Presi dent Arnold replied through the paper that although the students had an opportunity for general education, the college gave special attention to the various subjects bearing on scientific farming.
In 1897 John D. Daly launched a weekly known as the Oregon Union, which ran for two years. March 24, 1899, the Union and the Gazette were merged as the Union Gazette, which ran semi-weekly, Tuesday and Friday, with Daly and George Paul as editors and publishers. The name Union was soon dropped.
One of the big events of Corvallis history was the driving of the first spike for the Willamette Valley and Coast railway, by William B. Hamilton, president of the railroad company, in September 1879. The Gazette of September 5, 1879, said: "This argues well for the immediate prosecution of the work." The road went through to the coast, but neither Corvallis, nor Yaquina, nor Newport fulfilled the optimistic prophecies of the promoters by becoming a transcontinental railroad terminus.
The first daily in Corvallis goes to the credit of Charles L. Springer and the Gazette. N. R. Moore had gone to Corvallis in 1908 and leased the Times for a year from B. F. Irvine, who had just received from C. S. Jackson the offer to join the Oregon Journal staff as editorial writer. (24) Mr. Moore completed the purchase of the paper the next year and, with business conditions on the up grade in Corvallis, began nursing the idea of starting a daily edition. In 1908 the Gazette was owned by M. S. Woodcock and edited by W. P. Lafferty. W. E. Smith was publishing the Benton Republican, started two years before. Mr. Moore had just purchased the Times. Then Charles L. Springer, of Montesano, Wash., came along and purchased the Gazette. He beat Moore to the punch by issuing the daily edition, May 1, 1909. Merle Hollister, still on the Gazette-Times news staff, was a compositor on the Gazette when the hand-set little four-page five-column daily was launched. The consolidation idea appealed to both Springer and Moore, since neither the Times nor the Gazette had a plant adequate to the publication of a daily paper.
What were they to call the combined paper? Gazette-Times or Times-Gazette? A coin was flipped, as Mr. Moore tells it, and it was the Gazette-Times thereafter. The first issue of the combined paper was published June 15, 1909, with Mr. Moore editor and Mr. Springer publisher. The next year the first linotype in Corvallis was installed, with George Koch operator.
The present editor of the Gazette-Times, Claude E. Ingalls, came to Corvallis in 1915 from Washington, Kansas, where he had been publisher of the Republican-Register, and bought the paper. In 1920 the firm was made up of Mr. Ingalls, Mr. Springer, G. Lansing Hurd, who was business manager (now secretary of the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce), and Mr. Moore, who had come back to the paper after a year in California. C. A. Sprague, Ritzville (Washington) publisher, and M. K. Myers, of Portland, later made up the firm. Mr. Sprague, now publisher of the Oregon Statesman at Salem, came to the G-T in 1925 and Mr. Myers in 1923. Mr. Sprague withdrew from the Corvallis paper in 1936, and the partnership is now made up of Mr. Ingalls and Mr. Myers. In 1926 the firm erected its own publishing plant and increased its linotype battery to three machines. The plant was laid out and arranged by H. M. Lehnert, superintendent of the mechanical department, whose wife (Pansy Peters) was a compositor on the first daily issued in the town. Mr. Ingalls has served several terms as president of the variously-titled state editorial association, which finally became the Oregon Newspaper Publishers' Association.
Corvallis has been the seat of several other publications, some of which may be mentioned here. A semi-monthly known as the Home Guard was running in 1883. A monthly named the Oregon Colonist and Resources of the Willamette Valley, devoted to the attraction of immigration to that part of Oregon, ran from 1881 to 1885. Wallis and C. F. Nash were editors and publishers. The publication was supported by the railroad interests. W. T. Hoff man started a paper called the Hornet April 1, 1887. Soon gone. The Western Pedagogue, launched as an education monthly in 1889, ran for several years. C. Elton Blanchard was editor. The Western Pedagogue was moved in November 1893, to Drain, then seat of a state normal school, where publication was continued for a time by Byrd Bros.
The Benton County Republican was launched in 1906 as a Thursday weekly, Smith & Morgan publishers. The paper ran for several years with a fair measure of success.
Philomath.—Dr. John B. Horner, Oregon historian, was the editor of the first newspaper published in Philomath. He and J. C. Leasure were editors and publishers of the weekly Crucible, published Thursdays in the little college town while Horner was a student there. This was in 1877. The paper consisted of four pages, 24×36, most of which was filled with matter pertaining to the college. The subscription price was $2.50 a year, and the publishers reported a circulation of 250.
Rev. Wayne S. Walker, A.M., of the college faculty, was the next editor (1878). The paper soon faded out.
The next Philomath paper was the weekly Journal, started by T. G. Robinson in February, 1896, as an eight-page Republican paper, 13×20, for which the publisher charged $1.50 a year. This paper was suspended in April of the next year, succumbing to the same malnutrition that had starved out the Crucible.
F. S. Minshall, who was to continue ownership of the paper to 1937. started the Benton County Review in 1904, bringing the first number off the press February 1. A graduate of Otterbein College, Ohio, he taught school in Ohio and Indiana. Coming west, he did his first newspaper work for W. C. Conner on the Roseburg Plaindealer and later was city editor of the Corvallis Gazette, then a weekly.
Opening of tracts of government land in western Benton county gave Mr. Minshall his opportunity, and land notices were important in the early support of the paper. The equipment for printing the paper was that of the old Yaquina Post, which had suspended when the little town burned about thirty years before. The young publisher planked down $100, most of he afterward said, borrowed, and the plant was his—Washington hand-press, 100 pounds of battered long primer, few type cases, and an old imposing-stone.
The old-time "blacksmith" epithet for inept printers was no joke in this case. Mr. Minshall knew nothing of type-setting, and his back-shop employee was young man from the nearby black smith shop, who had done some little composition. "That first issue," Mr. Minshall said many years afterward (27), "was marvel. A rival printer asked me if I was trying to run blacksmith shop and if I had used corncobs to ink my forms. One tramp printer said, 'I have been in a good many printing offices in my day, but this is the damnedest-looking place I have ever been in yet.' And he was not far from right. Our equipment was old and almost worthless."
Tramp printers proved the salvation of this then printerless plant. Before long, however, Miss Hazel Merryman was enlisted as a compositor, and remained with the paper five years, fitting herself for later successful work in a large office in Seattle.
Profit from the land notices provided the money for new plant at the end of three years.
The Review under Minshall was a "family" newspaper in more ways than one. All the five Minshall children, four daughters and one son, have received basic newspaper training the home plant, and four Minshalls skilled as linotype operators have come from this old-time "blacksmith" shop. The policy of the paper has been non-political, devoted more to information than to advice. Between May, 1914, and September, 1916, the publisher's ill health forced him to lease the Review, with Floyd Fisher as lessee. From September, 1917 to September, 1920, Minshall was in the field for the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. The family took charge in that interval.
The present publisher is L. T. Ward, who bought the paper in 1938.