History of Oregon Newspapers/Josephine County

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Grants Pass.—A. E. Voorhies, publisher of the Grants Pass Courier, has been connected with the paper for more than 40 years. He has been to the Courier-and for a longer period-what C. S. Jackson was to the Oregon Journal. But he did not found the paper, and the Courier was not quite the first newspaper in its home city and county.

The Courier, as a matter of record, comes within three weeks of being the first Josephine county publication. The first was the little old Argus, started by Dr. Keeler H. Gabbert, the first issue of which appeared March 13, 1885. Gabbert's paper was tiny. Mr. Vooorhies has in his possession a copy of the f1rst page of the first issue that went through the press. The paper, indeed, was printed one 6×9-inch page at a time, making the most of limited press facilities. The Argus appeared irregularly for several weeks—and the irregularity was attributed by a contemporary of the publisher to Gabbert's unwillingness to let his throat get dry. The paper finally brought its owner $10 in a sale to W. J. Wimer, who was then publishing the Courier.

J. H. Stine, who founded the Grant's Pass Courier April 3, 1885 (the town name had the apostrophe those days) had similar tastes in beverages to those of Gabbert, and tragedy overtook them both. Stine already had started the Heppner Gazette (1883), first paper in Morrow county, and during his career started several, one might say many, country weeklies. He was shot and killed near McMinnville in 1897. Gabbert's last bit of newspaper work, after a lifetime of wandering, was done in Anacortes, Wash., in the early years of the twentieth century as a reporter on weekly papers and correspondent for a Bellingham daily, the Reveille (which also is dead now—"another story"). His body was recovered from the bay at Anacortes one day in 1905.

Amenities between editors in the eighties are illustrated by the compliment paid by Dr. Gabbert of the short-lived Argus in its issue of April 23, 1885, to Stine, editor of the new Courier:

That pious editor of the Courier tries to hide from the Robertson letter by whining for protection from the Sunday school. What has the Sunday school got to do with his and Robertson's personal matters? We suppose he was mad be cause Robertson would not divide the stolen money as he was an ex-preacher. So becomingly gloriously intoxicated he fell where he lay in the gutter with two canines barking themselves hoarse until Robertson and Jim Moss appeared on the scene and lifted up his angelic form.

We, even to this day, have a kindly remembrance of those who lugged us home after swallowing copious draughts of the ardent and becoming paralyzed.

But he is too low down in the scale of infamy to appreciate a kind act. We suggest that he again demolish the crockery ware in his kitchen, make another attempt at suicide, and tell how he left a certain town in Colorado.

This, bad grammar and all, appears rather definite as to how Brother Stine stood with Brother Gabbert.

Stine's Courier was a seven-column folio. It was ably edited, in the opinion of Mr. Voorhies, who has studied what copies he could find. Mr. Voorhies notes that of all the six publishers who conducted the Courier between 1885 and 1897, Mr. Wimer, who carried on for a year, was the only one who kept a file. Within the first five years of its life the Courier had six owners—Stine (1885), Wimer (1886), A. A. Allworth (1887), Frank T. Sheppard (1888), George Hoskins Currey (1889), who later edited the La Grande Observer, and J. Nunan (1890-1897). Mr. Nunan's ownership lasted until C. S. Price and A. E. Voorhies took charge as partners. Complete ownership by Mr. Voorhies dates from 1899. (160) The paper was started as the Grants Pass Courier, its name to day. The title, however, underwent several changes. Wimer made it the Rogue River Courier, at the suggestion of H. B. Miller, then active in the consular service after having been president of the Oregon State Agricultural College. The paper retained this name until the weekly was discontinued several years ago. The Daily Courier, established September 18, 1910, kept the name Rogue River Courier until after the town of Woodville changed its name to Rogue River, when the confusion brought Mr. Voorhies to change the name back to Grants Pass Courier.

The Courier celebrated its 50th anniversary April 3, 1935, in its own remodeled building 50×100 feet in area, which houses one of the most complete small-newspaper and commercial printing plants in the United States.

The Courier's daily edition established in 1910 was not the first daily paper Mr. Voorhies had given the little city. During the Spanish-American war, in 1898, the Courier, regularly running as a weekly, published a Daily Bulletin of war news. This was a small sheet of four pages and had a regular list of subscribers at 50 cents a month. Abbreviated news dispatches, principally relative to the war, and local items were published. The files of the Daily Bulletin have been lost.

Mr. Voorhies experienced the general scarcity of money at the time of the founding of the Courier. He had come to Oregon in 1891 from his native Illinois, where he had worked without pay learning the printing business in the office of the Greenville Independent. In Portland he helped lay the type for the Irwin-Hodson Co. when that concern started business. The 1894 depression caught the young printer out of a job, and he finally joined the mechanical force of the Portland Sun, a daily morning newspaper started by idle printers, many of whom had just been thrown out of work by the introduction of eight linotypes on the Oregonian. When, after a few months, the Sun went down in financial ruin, in 1895, Voorhies was selected by his fellow-workers to wind up the business.

A few months later he was in Grants Pass as foreman of the weekly Observer, then conducted by F. W. Chausse & Co. The foremanship, among other things, called for soliciting of subscriptions, and Voorhies covered a lot of the county on horseback. The day came when the Observer could no longer afford to pay a foreman, and the depression was on again for the young printer. Friends suggested that he buy the Rogue River Courier, which had been on the market for some time. What with? was his answer. He might, the same friends suggested, be able to interest C. S. Price of Ashland, then living on his peach orchard, in a partnership. They promised, if this were done, to go on a note for the first payment on the plant. Voorhies rode to Ashland, forty miles or so, on his bicycle and succeeded in persuading Price to go in with him. Price, in turn, had obtained the necessary money by mortgaging his peach orchard to C. C. Beekman, Jacksonville banker. The new firm took hold July 1, 1897. Two years later Mr. Voorhies bought out his partner and has continued since as publisher.

It has been a policy of Mr. Voorhies to keep his plant fully abreast of the times. He installed a Simplex typesetting machine, the first in the state outside of Portland. Miss Maude Baber was operator. The Courier's first linotype was installed in 1907; it was replaced after 22 years of service, and three are now in use. The old Country Campbell of 800 or so an hour which succeeded the original Washington hand-press used by Stine has been replaced by a Goss Comet. A Kelly automatic, an offset press, and three Gordon job presses look after the commercial printing. The paper has a building of its own, replacing the old rented quarters. The plant is kept constantly up to date.

The Courier publisher is not one of those who believe it necessary or advisable to handle all possible details himself. One of his achievements has been a capable and loyal staff who free him for the thinking and planning that should occupy a publisher. He is not afraid to trust his helpers and finds time to make occasional long vacation auto tours. An early hobby of his was the National Guard, in which he rose to the rank of captain. And he has sung bass in the Presbyterian choir for more than 30 years.

Managing editor of the Courier is Mr. Voorhies' son, Earle Elliott Voorhies. Rex Tussing is news editor. Both young men are graduates of the University of Oregon School of Journalism. Noble D. Stanton is advertising manager, a position he has occupied for more than ten years.

On the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary the Courier issued a 106-page tabloid special edition (April 3, 1935) including a complete history of the paper and of Grants Pass and the southern Oregon territory of which it is the center.

In September, 1935, the Courier added its own photo-engraving plant, in which it was the pioneer among the small dailies of Oregon. At that time no daily newspaper outside of Portland owned and operated its own engraving plant. From the beginning its success has been remarkable. Personally operated by Earle E. Voorhies, man aging editor, the plant produced pictures which have been the envy of fellow-publishers and have drawn praise from professional gravers. Publisher Voorhies himself was surprised by the spontaneous enthusiasm of the Courier's readers for the daily local pictures. The permanence of the picture feature is assured, and the innovation since has been adopted by other small Oregon dailies.

Wilford C. Allen, Grants Pass business man, was editor for Mr. Voorhies between 1912 and 1917 and again in 1919-20. His son, Wilford C. Jr. (Pete) followed him in this position, holding it for several years.

Like many of the other newspapers of the state, the Courier had its fires, and, as in some other places, well-intentioned fire-fighters once did more damage than the blaze. "Enthusiastic but thoughtless persons," the special edition story relates, "tore down the front of the building and with a rope and man-power were about to pull the press out to the street, never realizing that the drop of nearly two feet from the sidewalk to the street level would certainly have wrecked the heavy machine. Other 'helpers' had folded the 'cap' case over the 'lower case,' and several fonts of type were hopelessly 'pied'."

Four other publications in Grants Pass complete the story for the town.

The Oregon Observer ran for 37 years as a weekly alongside the Courier, at one time for several years being printed in the Courier office. The paper was established by George W. Colvig and F. W. Chausse in 1890. It was finally absorbed by the Courier and discontinued in 1927. For the last 16 years the paper was conducted by A. S. Coutant, former Michigan newspaper man, who retired at the time the Observer was sold to the Courier.

The Oregon Mining Journal, a weekly publication, was established in 1895 by Conklin & Wade. Soon afterward Arthur Conklin became sole owner and conducted the paper until 1909, when the name was changed to the Pacific Outlook by William Brower, who had purchased the property. Later the Outlook was published by Arthur Conklin and edited by H. S. Prescott. The paper was suspended in 1912, and the Courier purchased much of its equipment.

The Grants Pass Herald was a semi-weekly launched in 1904 which lasted only a few months. Its publishers, Robert G. Smith and associates, sold the type to the Courier.

The Southern Oregon Spokesman was established March 8, 1924, as a weekly paper by J. J. Hoogstraat and E. C. Bell. In 1927 the paper, which had supported the Ku Klux Klan movement in Oregon, was discontinued, and the plant sold by the receiver. The new owners of the equipment, D. L. Ewing and George T. Pearce, with Pearce as editor, changed the name to the Grants Pass Bulletin, also changing the policies. This regime was succeeded by Benjamin J. Kimber as owner and editor the next year. Mr. Kimber, who had been a Presbyterian minister, made a fair success with some unorthodox journalistic ideas and sold in October, 1932, to Jay Reeves, formerly foreman of the composing room on the Coos Bay Times at Marshfield and later publisher of the Arlington Bulletin. The next July 21 Mr. Reeves sold to Dean D. Sellers, formerly of Forest Grove, Honolulu, and Bend. Publisher Sellers later made Willard D. Arant, a 1933 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism, his editor.

Mr. Sellers sold the paper to R. E. Blankenburg in 1936. Mr. Arant continued as editor, leaving after a year to do graduate work at Harvard. Editors and publishers (1939) are R. E. and Lois Blankenburg.