History of Oregon Newspapers/Columbia County
Rainier.—So far as available records indicate, the Rainier Review, Rainier's present newspaper, was the first launched in the town. Volume 1, No. 1 came off the press Friday, February 8, 1895. The publisher was W. H. Imus, who years later retired from journalism, became a prominent lawyer and business man of Kalama, Cowlitz county, Washington-and forgot all about the Review.
The first number was a five-column, eight-page edition, half of it printed at home, the other half the work of the American Typefounders ready-print plant in Portland. Subscription was $1.50 a year.
The Review, (Mr. Imus said in a brief salutatory) is here for the benefit of Rainier, Columbia county-and W. H. Imus, Esq. We believe that a correct portrayal of Rainier's advantages as a business and manufacturing point will result in a marked development of this town
. . . . Come in and let's shake hands. Respectfully, W. H. Imus.
Material ordinarily contained in a salutatory was reserved for a longer editorial in the next column, running, as did all the other editorials, without headings.
The Review (he said) has no apology to make for its existence. It hasn't come to fill any "long-felt want," nor for the philanthropic purpose of enlightening the people of this city and county. The publication of this Great Family Necessity was undertaken principally because the publisher thought there was money in it. No other consideration would have induced him to make this investment. But while the Review shall be published as a business enterprise, it shall have due regard for the fitness of things, and reject everything scandalous and sensational.
It shall always endeavor to be free to offer just criticism, to uphold the right and condemn the wrong. If there are any schemers who have jobs or schemes of questionable character and wish the assistance of the Review, they will have to be dissapointed [sic]. We shall participate in no factional fights. Harmony and union of purpose and effort are needed to bring Rainier to the front, and for this object the Review proposes to work. A strong pull, and a pull altogether [sic] will bring success and prosperity to us all.
The paper was equipped with a grand and glorious conglomeration of type faces— old styles, moderns, gothics, with which the printer managed to do a surprisingly neat job. Nine columns of local advertising was carried. Every bit of it reflected the general label character of the advertising of the 90's.
Smith, the cash grocer, uses up six inches double column to urge the reader to "watch this space" and see what he would fill it with the next week.
The only ad of a different type was one by Dean Blanchard, proprietor of the townsite, who, under the heading "Romulus Built Rome," pointed the contrast between his building a wall around it and the Rainier policy of inviting people in to help build up the town.
The description of Rainier which occupied the three non-ad vertising columns on the first page indicated what was back of the town, which, incorporated in 1887, had obtained its new charter six years later. The town had eight lumber and shingle mills in or near it.
Mr. Imus was one of the state's bright columnists of the period. He had a little column headed "Light and Trashy," some samples of which are here given:
A Tacoma gentleman who had fought many a wordy battle over the name of Mt. "Rainier-Tacoma" got mad and wanted to lick the stuffin' out of us because we would not drop the name "Rainier" in christening this paper.
The Ole Man Imus was down from Kalama the other day and bought a mule for breeding purposes, declaring that he believed there was more money in mules than prunes.
The Review carried its local news, all headless, on page 8 — two and a half columns of it. That is, it is all headless except one item, which might be regarded as advertising. Its presence, incidentally, indicates the relative looseness of the lottery law of the time. Under the heading "Prize Drawing at Smith's" is a list of the lucky numbers that had drawn the hanging lamp, sauce dishes, etc., the previous month, with the names of the winners. "The first prize this month will be an eight-day clock," the notice concludes.
Clatskanie news occupied a column and a half.
The paper carried a column and a half of editorial with no apparent political bias in the fourteen items. One of the most significant was one urging the direct election of senators, in place of the old legislative method.
Mr. Imus had just sold the Kalama Bulletin to Adams & Smith (134) and wanted to find another location as good as Kalama. . . . There was certainty of a railroad through Rainier to Astoria, with promising industrial sites. There was also some talk of moving the county seat to Rainier, which might have influenced his choice to some extent.
Mr. Imus was in Rainier from February until July 1895, when he was forced to return to Kalama to take back his paper, the purchasers of which had failed to keep up their payments. He left the Review in the hands of a succession of printer-publishers, one of whom, a young rustler named Brown from Texas, "supplied the town with printing for six months ahead, worked until 1 o'clock in the morning," Mr. Imus related, "and at the end of the month collected every cent and borrowed every other cent from anybody he could, and went to Portland 'to buy supplies.' He never came back." Successive editors as recalled by old-timers, or indicated in incomplete files (135) are F. B. Brown, C. W. Herman, W. M. Perry, who announced "with reluctance," after election in 1896 that "as a matter of business" the paper would be suspended (136). The paper had fallen off to a four-column eight-page paper, half home-print, with only 60 inches of advertising and a subscription price dropped to $1. Mr. Imus, however, continued the publication, with W. R. Cobb as editor and manager (137).
In 1898 J. C. Smith was in charge, and W. A. Wood was an other editor of that period.
Now comes an odd part of the story. Nobody seems to know whether the Review was in existence between 1898 and 1905, when the present Review was launched. When Miss Jerzyk of Rainier saw Mr. Imus in 1926 in his office in Kelso, where he was prosecuting attorney, he could not remember himself what he had done with the paper. "Girl," he said, "that's a long time ago, and I've been thinking about a lot of things since then." Ayer's lists the Review as running under direction of W. J. Rice in 1900.
In any event, Rainier was not without a newspaper all those years, for in November 1900 C. W. Herman, having come back to Rainier, launched the Rainier Gazette with a plant he had been using to publish the Uniontown (Wash.) Gazette. Mr. Herman sold the paper to R. H. Mitchell for $350. Mr. Mitchell after two or three years (138) moved his plant to the nearby little town of Houlton, where he established (139) the Columbia Register.
Another Rainier Review, vol. 1, No. 1, was established July 20, 1905, and it has remained through to date. The founder was W. P. Ely, who, like the other Rainier journalistic pioneers, came across the river from Cowlitz county, Washington, where he continued to conduct the Cowlitz Valley Journal of Kelso. The new paper's salutatory, signed by W. P. Ely and G. E. Kellogg (Mr. Kellogg probably was the resident editor), said:
We do not come with a brass band nor street parade, nor make any great promises; that is not our style; but we will endeavor in a painstaking manner to publish a live, newsy, up-to-date paper that will merit your liberal patronage. The paper will be four pages in size for the present, but it is the intention to increase to six or eight pages as soon as business will justify it. . .
Display advertising was 50 cents an inch a month, with a double rate for transient matter. Cost accounting systems were not in general use in those days to guide those incurable optimists who expected to conduct a newspaper on rates such as those. A. P. Bettersworth's name was at the masthead as editor for a few issues in 1906. George H. Umbaugh, lately of the Lincoln County Leader, was a later editor.
An anti-saloon paper named the Advance, printed in the Houlton Register office, made its first appearance Saturday, April 14, 1906, Its editor was H. G. Kemp, a Methodist minister, who at the time was editor of the Register, and W. F. Ficher, a Rainier attorney, assistant editor. It pledged itself to an open warfare on the saloons. The Advance was a four-column paper of eight pages, four of them home-printed. In later years the Review itself supported prohibition.
Ayer's records indicate that Mr. Kemp was running the Register as a twice-a-week in Rainier in 1906. Within two years the Review had the field to itself. This was the last competition faced by the Review until 1927, when for a few months a bit of local factional fighting resulted in the publication of the weekly News by F. J. Robertson. It suspended the following January. For a time, in 1907, E. H. Flagg, Oregon newspaper veteran, publisher of several news papers, was editor of the Review. Walter C. Fry, who like Mr. Kemp, was a Methodist minister, was editor for a time after Mr. Flagg, remaining until March 1911, when he was succeeded by P. G Garrison. Charles A. Nutt became editor March 14, 1912, and publisher November 7 of the same year.
Up to this time the Review had been handset. Mr. Nutt in stalled a linotype in November 1912 and increased the size of the paper from six to seven columns, some of which, however, was plate matter.
Another Washington newspaper man, A. E. Veatch, a former teacher, farmer, and lawyer, who had lately sold his Washington Call at Montesano, took charge of the Review in September 1919 and remained through to December 1932, when his health gave way and he sold the paper to Harold Axford of the Oregon Journal, Portland, a former employee of the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald.
Maurice Nelson was the next publisher, succeeded in 1938 by A. R. McCall from Elgin.
During much of the period of his ownership of the Review, Mr. Veatch was assisted by Miss Anna Jerzyk, who took a furlough from the paper long enough to complete her college education, graduating from the University of Oregon school of journalism in 1928. The period of his ownership was marked by development of the mechanical facilities and the construction of a new building to house his plant. While publisher of the Review, Mr. Veatch was elected mayor of Rainier. He was recalled for extra-strict enforcement of liquor laws.
There is a difference of belief as to whether the old Review was the first newspaper published in Rainier. John A. Johnson, of the nearby community of Hudson, told Miss Jerzyk he thought he remembered an earlier publication than the one started by Mr. Imus. He could not recall the name nor the date.
"It being so long ago," said Mr. Johnson (140) "I had gotten that paper confused with the Review. When the paper to which I refer started publication they prefaced their introductory remarks with 'We can't come with a brass band' . . . This paper I think was Rainier's first newspaper. It came on the scene sometime between 1885 and 1892."
W. P. Ely's Review (started in 1905) carried almost the identical phrase about the brass band, saying, "We do not come with a brass band nor street parade." Perhaps it may be said, then, that Mr. Johnson's memory of early Rainier newspapers is somewhat like that of Publishers Imus and Mitchell, whose impressions have succumbed to the eroding hand of time. No Rainier paper earlier than 1895, at all events, lasted long enough to get a mention in Ayer's Newspaper Directory.
The Columbia River Pilot was put aboard at Rainier by C. W. Semmes and Edward R. Semmes in 1930. It was soon dropped for more profitable undertakings.
St. Helens.—Newspaper history of St. Helens is long chronologically but short in the matter of definite facts. In the far haze of nearly sixty years ago the clear fact stands out that the weekly Columbian, launched in 1880, was the first Columbia county publication. The founder was Major Enoch G. Adams, who published the paper in his home. (141). The paper ran for five years as a Friday weekly, then was changed to Thursday. It disappeared in 1886.
Meanwhile the old Oregon Mist, which has continued to the present, had been started by a man named Glendye. What has happened to the files of the Mist prior to 1891 is a matter of guesswork. The oldest available copy of the Mist (142) is dated August 14, 1891.
Major Adams of the Columbian, David Davis recalls (143) was a Civil war veteran still suffering pain from old war wounds. His temper had not escaped unscathed as a result of a bullet in his brain from which he suffered frequent paroxysms. His fiery disposition, in fact, had much to do with bringing him competition. When James Muckle, of Muckle Bros., loggers, put in a line of piling in front of Adams' residence property on the bluff at Frogmore, for the pur pose of holding in a boom the logs that came down Milton creek, the Major launched a series of philippics in the Columbian that stir red up the lumberman to encourage establishment of another paper. This paper was the Oregon Mist, whose early history is as foggy as its name.
The founder of the Mist, as already indicated, was a man named Glendye, "whose true Christian name is to deponent un known," being one of the several buried details of Columbia county's early journalism. The Mist is not listed in Ayer's directory for 1881, and later numbers of the directory give the paper's founding date sometimes as 1882, sometimes the next year. The Columbian was credited by Ayer's 1881 volume with a circulation of 425. It is the belief of Mr. Davis, already quoted, who is now editor of the Timberman in Portland, that the Mist was established in the latter part of 1881.
Glendye, whose ideas on what the good newspaperman might properly and conveniently drink coincided closely with those of many thirsty old-timers, was able to last only about six months. There then began a parade in and out of St. Helens of some of Oregon's best-known newspaper figures of the 80's. Glendye's immediate successor was E. H. Flagg, one of the conspicuous figures in early Oregon journalism.
Charles Meserve, who later published the Oregon City Enterprise, was publisher in 1890. J. H. Stine, touring editor-publisher, edited the paper for the month of August, 1891. The paper was then purchased from Meserve by John R. Beegle, son-in-law of Mr. Flagg. When Beegle wanted to go to the Chicago world's fair in the summer of 1893, he engaged young David Davis, who had learned his printing in Astoria alongside such hardy souls as Oscar W. Dunbar and who had worked on the Mist under Meserve, to publish the paper during his absence. On his return Beegle sold Davis a half-interest in the paper. In 1897, when Beegle went to Alaska, he sold his interest to Davis, who conducted the paper until 1902, when he sold it to Dr. Keeler H. Gabbert, journalistic veteran then near the end of the trail. E. H. Flagg bought the paper back from Estella Gabbert, after her husband had died in Anacortes, Wash. (1905), and remained until 1911. A later editor was Ed Miller. S. C. Morton became editor and published in 1918 and continued at the helm until 1926, when he sold to Ira B. Hyde Jr. Mr. Morton was the first president of the Oregon Newspaper Conference, in 1919.
In 1891 the Mist circulation was reported at 800. The issue of August 14 of that year consisted of four pages. Advertising was carried on the first page. Several saloons carried advertising; and one of the confident liquor-dealers started his chatty ad by saying, "Do you drink? Of course you do."
The St. Helens Sentinel was established in 1926 by Lew Cates and J. M. Cummins. It was soon sold to E. E. Brodie, of Oregon City, who sold to Fred J. Tooze in 1927. In August 1929 Miss Jessica Longston and Miss L. Berenice Anderson (now Mrs. A. T. Brownlow) purchased the paper, which they still publish. In 1933 they purchased the Mist from Mr. Hyde and merged the two papers under the present name, Sentinel-Mist. Miss Longston is now president of the Mist Publishing Co., publisher of the paper. Both she and Miss Anderson received their previous newspaper training largely in Wenatchee, Wash.
The Sentinel-Mist (144) expressed the opinion that the paper is perhaps the only industry or business in Columbia county carried on continuously for more than 50 years.
Vernonia. —The Vernonia Eagle, founded by Paul Robinson, then publisher of the Aurora Observer, August 1, 1922, was not Vernonia's first newspaper. The Nehalem Journal, an independent weekly, issued Tuesdays, was launched at Vernonia in 1889 by Bynon & Braden, with Gus H. Bynon editor. Three years later it was edited by S. Charles Davis; then, in 1894, R. H. Mitchell ran the Journal as a Democratic weekly. The paper died in 1897.
The Sentinel, a People's Party weekly issued Thursdays, was launched by L. W. Vandyke in 1894 and ran four years.
The town ran along without newspapers until Mr. Robinson launched the Vernonia Eagle in 1922. He sold the paper in 1926 to Mark E. Moe, of Hood River, who sold it in 1930. The issue of June 27, 1930, appeared with the name of Ray D. Fisher in the masthead. Mr. Fisher had been a faculty member at Willamette, also a high school principal, but always had had a yen for journalism. Amplifying his journalism knowledge with a series of courses in the University of Oregon School of Journalism, he finally purchased the Washougal (Wash.) Record and after a time sold it to move to Vernonia, taking F. H. Veith with him from Washougal to handle the mechanical end. They sold the paper seven years later. The present publisher (1939) is Marvin Kamholz.
Clatskanie. —This little dairying community with the Indian name is, apparently, not much of a problem for a journalism historian. The same paper, the Chief, a weekly publication, issued Fridays, has been going along since 1891, without interruption and, apparently, without even a change of publication day. So far as records indicate, it was the town's ﬁrst newspaper. Sometimes the paper has announced itself Republican, but usually it has not played the political game very hard.
The founder, E. C. Blackford, continued in charge from 1891 to 1909, when he sold to George B. and Nora H. Conyers. They continued as owners and publishers until 1917, when W. G. Baylis took hold. In 1920 Mrs. Minnie Goodenough Hyde became editor for Mr. Baylis, who sold in 1921 to S. F. Scibird, Mrs. Hyde remaining as editor. In 1922 Earle Richardson, recently from the Oregonian, and W. Arthur Steele, who had taught school and whose newspaper experience ran all the way from carrying the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune to reporting, first on the Tribune and then on the Chicago Journal, bought the paper. The next year when Earle Richardson, after a rapid glance at the Elgin Recorder, decided he wanted to buy it, Steele bought Richardson's interest in the Chief and since has been running it alone.
Steele, who is a native of Idaho, spent a year during the war training rookies at Camp Grant. He is active in public service, having served as mayor of Clatskanie, lieutenant governor of the seventh division of the Pacific Northwest district of the Kiwanis, director of the state chamber of commerce, and district vice-president of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.