History of Oregon Newspapers/Union County

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of the publisher, says, "about 1875.") The paper, then published by E. S. McComas and his partner-printer, Jasper Stevens, was a seven-column folio, issued each Saturday and printed on a Washington hand-press. The original subscription price was $4 a year. The paper, Democratic in politics, was edited, successively, by E. S. McComas, his brother W. H. McComas, F. M. Ish, Ed. E. Gates, John E. Jeffrey, J. B. Fithian, L. B. Rinehart, J. O. Kuhn and George H. Owen, partners, until its suspension in 1886. The plant was moved to La Grande by Owen & Kuhn that year and used to start the Journal, a Democratic paper.

A high point in the history of this paper was its publication of the first daily edition in Union county. Beginning Monday, September 3, 1883, L. J. Davis and J. E. Jeffreys published the Daily Sentinel, a four-column folio, in the Sentinel office at Union. The daily, which appears to have been a separate venture from the weekly, ran for six consecutive issues, then suspended.

Another achievement was the publication of an Indian war extra June 20, 1877, while the paper was still a weekly. The editor was E. S. McComas, elsewhere mentioned (108) in connection with his interview with Chief Joseph. The extra, apparently printed on a job no press, was really more of a special edition, since it contained other material and was not made-over from a previous regular issue. The text, with its hortatory editorial head and its skeletonized construction, follows:



Indians Murdering Settlers on Camas
Prairie, Slate Creek, and Palouse

Seven or Eight Hundred Indians
Supposed to be in Arms!!

Union, June 20, 10 o'clock A. M. Latest reports by courier from Walla Walla to Mr. Veasey in Wallowa, inform the settlers that a large band of Indians are heading in the direction of the Wallowa Valley.

Captain Perry and many soldiers under his command, surrounded in a canyon on Slate Creek.

Captain Perry killed.

Lieutenant Boomis wounded.

Many soldiers killed and the remainder fighting desperately against heavy odds.

Thirty families, from Camas Prairie to the mouth of White Bird, killed.

Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Palouse, Yakima, Flat Head, and White Bluff Indians all massing together for war.

One hundred volunteers, citizens of Walla Walla, start to Idaho this morning.

Such are the telegraphic and couriers' reports, received here. Citizens of Union County are requested to meet at Union this evening at 4 o'clock to report number of available men, horses, and arms.

E. S. McComas
С. О. Skackhamer
R. S. Cates
M. Johnston
D. F. Dwight
M. Bockowitz
E. C. Brainerd
H. F. Bloch
J. H. Shinn
Sieg. Baer
A. Maer

E. H. Tully

The Grand Ronde Post was established in Union in July 1882 by John L. Sharpstein and J. C. Swash, from Walla Walla. Mr. Sharpstein, who was a young lawyer, remained with the paper but a short time, then returned to Walla Walla and re-entered the law, becoming prominent later in both law and politics. Mr. Swash conducted the paper alone after Sharpstein left.

The Post is remembered for having brought the first cylinder press to Union county. Politically it was independent. It was a seven-column folio, issued on Fridays. The paper lasted only a year, discontınuing after a fire that destroyed its quarters Tuesday, June 19, 1883. The Friday after the fire Mr. Swash issued No. 43 of Volume 1 from the office of the Mountain Sentinel, and that, a small-sized publication, was the last number of the Post.

The Oregon Scout, a weekly newspaper Democratic in politics, was Union's next newspaper. It was established in Union in July 1884 by Amos K. Jones and Charles M. Jones, photographers, and Emery Clingham, a printer. At first issued as a four-column folio, it was printed one page at a time on a quarter medium job press but was later enlarged to a six-column eight-page paper, printed on a hand-power cylinder press. Later the firm was changed to Jones & Chancey. B. Chancey took over the publication March 5, 1891, continuing for several years. Amos K. Jones succeeded Chancey and conducted the paper until his death in 1899. W. H. McComas then took charge, continuing until 1901, when W. A. Maxwell purchased the paper and began a long regime, which lasted until December 1916. Floyd W. Maxwell, son of the publisher, then took charge and continued publication until February 11, 1918, when he went to war and the Scout plant was sold to the Eastern Oregon Republican, its competitor in the field, and the Scout discontinued. Floyd Maxwell, returning from the service, became editor of the Emerald, University of Oregon student paper, and later became motion-picture editor of the Oregonian, thence going into theatre management and into public relations work.

Others connected with the publication of the Scout during the ownership of Mr. Maxwell, at different times, were Christ Christensen, Lowell & Sheets, R. J. Kitchen, and B. F. Wilson.

The Eastern Oregon Republican, latest paper to be established in Union, is now in undisputed possession of the field. It is the second paper of the name in Union county; the name of the old Gazette at La Grande was changed to Eastern Oregon Republican in 1879 and remained such for two years. The Republican in Union was launched by the Eastern Oregon Publishing Company, a corporation, with G. M. Irwin as the first editor, in September 1888. Irwin was succeeded April 2, 1889, by Frank C. Middleton, who carried on until April 1, 1890. (109). Lewis J. Davis was the next editor, continuing until March 7, 1903, when the plant was purchased from L. J. Davis and M. F. Davis by Scibird & Glover, with George A. Scibird as editor and manager. John C. Glover died in February 1908, ending a partnership of 24 years, 19 in Colorado and five in Oregon. His interest was purchased by Mr. Scibird, who continued the publication until May 17, 1930, when, after 27 years under one management, the paper was sold to W. C. and Violet Lewis, of Goldfield, Nevada, who a short time later installed a linotype. The Lewises remained in charge for several years. The present editor (1939) is Don MacPherson.

From May 1, 1894, to November 9, 1895, under the Davis editorship, the Republican was issued semi-weekly. The paper at first was an eight-column folio, but in 1890 was changed to six columns, eight pages, and on December 23, 1907, became a seven-column folio. The paper has been printed on the one press throughout, a Campbell cylinder, operated first by hand power, then by a gasoline engine, and finally by electric power. The paper was handset until November 1919, when a Unitype was installed, succeeded fourteen years later by the Linotype.

The sale of the Republican by Mr. Scibird in 1930, after 27 meant the retirement of real veteran, years' connection with after 61 years in journalism. Mr. Scibird, then 74, native of Illinois, had done his early journalism in his native state and in Colorado. Among other achievements he issued the first daily paper published in Leadville, the Leadville Eclipse, printed on Washington handpress, in 1879.

Mr. Scibird, whose great hobby was horseback-riding, continued his riding until his last years. He died in Union February 1936, within few days of his 80th birthday. In an interview given at the time of his retirement Mr. Scibird summarized his pet ideas as follows:

Working hours, 7 a. m. to 5 p. m., winter and summer, longer if necessary

Office always in order.

All bills paid promptly; help paid always at end of week.

No delicacy in collecting—no hesitancy in asking for money earned.

Always fair with employees.

Never a cheap workman—a fair price for good work.

Elgin.—The Elgin Recorder, first newspaper published in Elgin, succeeded the Annotator, published in the neighboring village of Summerville, when the owner, J. E. Devine, correctly decided that the town was too small to require or support their paper, which had been established in 1889. Devine sold the small plant to A. R. Tuttle, father of Lee B. Tuttle, who has been prominent in Oregon journal ism for many years, and G. B. Swinehart.

The new owners, two young school-teachers at the time, moved the plant to Elgin, to which a branch line of the O. R. & N. railroad was about to extend northward from LaGrande. The move was made in February of 1891, and it required all of one day to move the equipment through the deep snow on horse-drawn bobsleds the eight miles from Summerville to Elgin. The first issue of the Recorder came off the press February 24, 1891. The publishers distinguished themselves by surviving two fires within a year of each other. In each instance the small plant was wiped out, within the first four years of the paper's existence, without missing an issue. The second fire, too, came in 1893, during depression days. Mr. Tuttle Sr., who had bought Mr. Swinehart's interest, died in 1904, and his work was carried on by his son Lee. (110).

E. H. Flagg, veteran Oregon publisher, bought the paper from Lee Tuttle in 1908, later selling to W. J. Henry, who carried on until 191 7, meanwhile installing the first Linotype in Elgin. Mr. Henry, who is now living at the national home for union printers at Colorado Springs, sold the paper back to Lee Tuttle and associates. E. E. Southard, another newspaper veteran, was the next owner, purchasing the paper from Mr. Tuttle after about 16 years newspaper experience in Portland. A year later he sold to W. M. Dynes, who stayed less than a year before selling in 1922 to Earle Richardson, of the Clatskanie Chief. Two years later Richardson sold to J. M. Cummins, who remained a year and then (1925) sold to J. Y. Wright. He soon sold to Fred C. Sefton and went back to Montana. Mr. Sefton sold to Manly M. Arant, Polk county boy, brother of Lucien P. Arant of Baker, in 1928. Arant disposed of the paper in 1930 to Everett W. Fitch and Paul T. Sagaser. W. L. Flower and Mrs. Ruth P. Flower were the next owners, followed by A. R. McCall September 1, 1931. The present publisher (1939) is Fred Guthrey.

A fire which, September 27, 1930, burned a block of residences, a church, and a lodge building, gave Manly Arant, then publisher, a chance for a metropolitan feat. He rushed the Recorder forms with the story of the fire to La Grande, the county seat, 20 miles away, ran off an extra there, and sold 300 copies to curious La Granders at 10 cents each.

Another Elgin paper, founded in 1908, about the time Mr. Flagg bought the Recorder, was the Elgin Leader, H. A. Snyder and H. H. Palmer publishers and H. H. Palmer editor. It was a Thursday Republican paper. The Recorder was too strong, and the Leader soon suspended.

Summerville, an unfulfilled hope in Union county, had three newspapers in four years, and since then has had no more.

La Grande.—The newspaper history of La Grande revolves to a considerable extent around the Currey family from 1896, when George Hoskins Currey started the Eastern Oregon Observer, forerunner of the Evening Observer of today, to 1931, when his son George Huntington Currey, who had successfully published several Oregon newspapers, sold out his District News and retired from journalism to devote his energies for a time to psychological and sociological research, chiefly in California, (111).

La Grande, county seat of Union county, was founded in 1861 by Oregon Trail immigrants, just two years before the town of Union was started 15 miles to the southeast. The early history of La Grande journalism is to a degree the account of the rivalry of these two ambitious communities—rivalry over the county seat and rivalry over railroad development when the Union Pacific built through the country in 1884.

For seven years after its founding La Grande was without a newspaper. Then, suddenly, two newspapers raced for the field; and in the course of a few hours, as Mr. Currey expresses it, "La Grande became a properly 'fortified' post-Civil war community with both a Democratic and a Republican weekly newspaper. The race for the honor of printing the first newspaper in La Grande still lingers in the memories of the pioneers. The Democrats won. Editor E. S. McComas and Printer John E. Jeffrey rushed out Vol. 1 No. 1 of the Mountain Sentinel a few hours before Publishers Micajah Baker and George Coggan were able to get the first number of their Republican Blue Mountain Times off the press." After about a year, Baker, who was an attorney, and Coggan, a stockman and rancher, killed by Indians near Meacham in 1878, discontinued the Times.

The Times was never particularly strong. An examination of the third number of the paper, issued Saturday, May 2, 1868, shows little editorial and less news; the editor's shears kept the printers in copy.

Page 3 carried a column and a half of side-headed local news. As usual in the papers of the day, great emphasis was laid on how the news was obtained. For instance:

Body Found.—We learn from O. R. Wilkinson, of this city, that the body of a man was found . . .

Horses Stolen.—We are informed by a gentleman just down from Shasta . . .

On page 4, among the three columns of clipped miscellany and news, is a half-column story from the San Francisco Bulletin indicating the prevalence of the same style on the metropolitan paper.

The Times was succeeded, in September 1870, by a second Democratic paper launched to compete with the Sentinel. This paper, published by John W. Kelley and Charles V. Harding, was discontinued after a short time.

M. P. Bull, later founder of the Pendleton East Oregonian, took over the Sentinel for a time, but after La Grande lost the county seat to Union he turned the paper back to McComas, August 22, and associated 1874. McComas moved it to Union in 1876[1] with him Jasper H. Stevens in place of John E. Jeffrey as printer and co-publisher. For several years La Grande worried along without a newspaper.

This McComas, incidentally, was a personage. He had [2] come to Oregon from Iowa in 1862 and started mining in Baker county. He was appointed a deputy assessor in the district comprising Union county, then a part of Baker, and in this capacity made the first assessment ever made in the Grand Ronde valley, thus getting his first glimpse of that beautiful country. In 1866, having moved to La Grande, he was chosen clerk of the new Union county. His connection with the starting of the Sentinel has been told. Up to 1881 he continued editor of the Sentinel in its new home at Union. All the time he was a leader in Oregon Democratic politics.

In 1865 he organized a writing school in Baker county, giving the district a name that has persisted to this day. So many of the residents had to sign X as a substitute mark for their names that McComas at once got the idea of teaching them to write and of naming the district. He called it Sawbuck, from the resemblance of the "signatures" to that useful bit of woodshed furniture.

It was while he was editor of the Sentinel that he accompanied the peace commissioners into the Wallowa valley in 1877 to try to settle with Chief Joseph just before the beginning of the Nez Perce war. He and another scout went boldly into Chief Joseph's camp, though the tribe was, of course, far from friendly. From this meeting McComas was able to send a big news story to all the important Pacific Coast papers by wire. It was really an interview with the old warrior. The old chief sat, with his fighting men in a circle around him and the two scouts as he told his story of the trouble with the whites. The chief [3] got down on his knees and drew a rough map of northeastern Oregon in the sand with his fingers, drew an inner circle representing the Wallowa valley, and with tears in his eyes, said: "This has been the home of my fathers as long as the oldest Nez Perce can remember. You can take all outside of this valley; but this valley is my home, and I am going to fight for it and my children will fight for it. That is all I have to say." And he motioned the scouts to leave.

It was in this same year of 1877 that a group of Republican business men and property-owners, headed by W. J. Snodgrass and Daniel Chaplin, founded the La Grande Gazette. This paper, whose first editor was "a man named Abbott" [M. H.] who moved the Oregon Tribune plant from The Dalles, continued as the leading paper of La Grande until well into the late 90's. Abbott's successor was Micajah Baker, who had edited the Times in 1868. After a short time Rev. H. K. Hines, president of the pioneer Blue Mountain University, became editor.

Sheddon F. Wilson, a newly-arrived attorney, took over the Gazette in 1879 and changed the name to the Eastern Oregon Republican. In about a year Snodgrass and his business partner (named Minor) had the paper back. In June 1881 E. L. Eckley, young graduate of Blue Mountain University, and E. T. Beidleman, printer, purchased the paper (and changed the name, says Currey, without giving the new name). After a year Eckley became sole publisher until September 1884, when the paper again reverted to Snodgrass. Alonzo Cleaver, the next editor, who died in Portland in 1938, restored the original name, and the Gazette, as a Republican weekly, continued until about 1898.

The year 1884 saw the coming of the railroad, making possible the industrial development of La Grande. The new line missed La Grande by a mile, and Union by two miles. These were considerable distances in those days of small towns and slow transportation. "While Union stormed its indignation, La Grande moved down to the tracks, 'New Town' having outdistanced 'Old Town' before the rails were connected and train service inaugurated."[4]

So when Mr. Eckley gave up the Gazette he had his eyes on the new town growing up around the railroad. He teamed up with Don Carlos Boyd and founded the Argus, the first newspaper in La Grande's present business center. C. H. Finn, an attorney, soon succeeded Boyd and edited the paper until a fire in August 1886 wiped out both the building and the paper.

In the fall of the same year J. O. Kuhn and George H. Owen, his brother-in-law, who had purchased the old Mountain Sentinel from McComas, moved it back from Union after 10 years, setting it up in the new part of the town, a mile nearer the railroad than the old town had been. They changed the name to the Journal and made the politics Democratic as the paper had been when founded.

Soon afterward the old Gazette, Republican paper, was moved by Snodgrass and associates from "old town" and housed in a fine new brick building of its own in the growing new business section. The original townsite was now without a paper. Under the Snodgrass ownership W. F. Snodgrass, a son of the founder, was editor for a time. Other editors were Mr. Stevenson, C. T. McDaniel, who later went into the banking business at Wallowa.

Meanwhile the Journal passed from Kuhn and Owen to a group of Democrats headed by Henry Rinehart. Rinehart's editors included G. W. Post and Bert Huffman, the Blue Mountain poet, who occasionally sends a poem from his Alberta home to newspapers in his native country. Huffman, born in Union county in 1870[5] was a man of varied occupations. Lula R. Lorenz, writing of him, said: "He is an editorial writer of recognized force and virility, is a loco motive engineer, has farmed, raised stock, operated sawmills, trailed horses across the plains, mountaineered and roughed it in every phase of western life." More versatile than most, yet he is not untypical of the men who edited and published so many of the early Oregon papers. His poem, "The Lament of the Umatilla," has the honor, according to N. J. Levinson, then Sunday editor of the Oregonian, of being the first original poem that had been paid for in half a century of their publication by the Oregonian.[6] He was managing editor of the East Oregonian, Pendleton, when his book of poems was published, by that newspaper, in 1907.

The era of the daily was approaching. Patterson and Scott, two newspaper men from South Dakota, purchased the Journal in 1888. Patterson was sharp of tongue and pen, and his editorials and speeches built Democratic prestige for the paper. To this firm belongs the credit of attempting the first daily in La Grande. The Daily Journal appeared in November 1889; it was a small letter-press folder carrying under its masthead the slogan "Little Acorns Make Big Trees." This watchword gave the paper the nickname "The Little Acorn." The final issue, No. 72, appeared January 31, 1890, with four 6×9-inch pages, each made up of two 13-em columns. The valedictory blisteringly consigned to Hades all non-supporters of the Little Acorn.

Publisher Glenn of Weiser, Idaho, who followed Patterson and Scott in charge of the weekly Journal, changed the name for a time to the La Grande Post.

Stimulated by the piping political times, the eighteen-nineties saw three brand-new papers springing up in La Grande—the Grande Ronde Chronicle, the Observer, and the Union County Farmer. Two of these, the Chronicle and the Observer, emerged as dailies; the other La Grande papers mentioned up to this time were absorbed or disappeared.

The Chronicle weekly was started by E. S. McComas November 1, 1890, on his return from Union; his partner was John Devine, a printer. Wadsworth W. Parker bought out Devine, and E. L. Eckley and his wife, Hattie J. Eckley, purchased McComas' interests. Parker went east in 1893 and remained there, becoming noted as an expert typographer. The Eckleys became sole owners of the paper and changed the name to the La Grande Chronicle. They started the evening daily Chronicle March 15, 1894. It was a full seven-column, four-page paper with a pony telegraph news service.

The Union County Farmer, a weekly, was started in 1894 by Charles Fitch, who shipped a new plant into La Grande to represent the growing People's (Populist) party. Fitch soon turned the paper over to Bird F. Lewis, who edited it for several years and then went into commercial printing.

La Grande now (1896) had four newspapers—the Democratic daily Chronicle and weekly Journal, the Republican weekly Gazette and the radical Populist weekly Farmer. A fifth paper, the only one of the five to survive, was started October 20, 1896—the Eastern Oregon Observer. This was started by George H. (Hoskins) Currey and developed under his direction into the La Grange Evening Observer of today. George Hoskins Currey was the grandson of Providence M. Currey, the first school-teacher of La Grande, and the son of Col. George B. Currey, noted Indian-fighter, commander of the Department of the Pacific in active charge of Fort Hoskins, Vancouver, Washington, at the end of the Civil war.

George Hoskins Currey had been a schoolmate of Editor Eckley at the Blue Mountain University, had married Edith Huntington, a niece of Editor Micajah Baker of the pioneer Times, and had him self been an early editor of the Courier at Grants Pass.

Currey moved the plant of the former Baker City Blade to La Grande and launched the Observer as a Populist weekly opposed to the radical tendencies of the People's Party movement. The new paper started with 8-column pages, 20×25 inches in size. The next summer Fred B. Currey, brother of George H., returned to La Grande from southern Oregon, and on June 2, 1897, the Observer carried the name of Currey Brothers, editors and publishers.

During the campaign of 1898, from December 1, 1897, to June 1898, the Observer published a morning paper without discontinuing the weekly. This purely campaign move led to a demand for a regular morning daily paper, and the present daily Observer was established November 1, 1901. After the fusion of the Populists and the Democrats in 1898 the Observer proclaimed its political independence, but leaned toward progressive Republicanism.

Meanwhile the old Gazette, with its name changed to the Advocate (1898) had disappeared. The Chronicle moved into the Gazette building; and the Curreys, with the aid of George's father-in-law, A. C. Huntington, erected the first Observer building on the site of the present one. The Observer absorbed the Journal, and Lewis stopped publication of the Farmer. Then in 1903 the Observer switched from the morning to the evening field. The Eckleys soon afterward abandoned the evening daily Chronicle, continuing the weekly. This left the evening and weekly Observer and the weekly Chronicle occupying the La Grande field, and never since has the Observer had more than one competitor.

The Observer introduced machine composition with a No. 5 Mergenthaler in 1907. Later in the year Fred B. Currey sold his interest in the paper to George H. Currey, who again became sole publisher and editor. A. W. Nelson, reporter on the Observer, became city editor. After eight years, he purchased the Observer commercial printing equipment and established the Nelson Printing Company, which he continued until 1935.

In 1907 E. L. Eckley discontinued the Chronicle, and Molly K. Proebstel launched the La Grande Morning Star. In 1910 Bruce Dennis, then city editor of the Baker Herald, moved to La Grande and purchased the Observer. In the fall of 1911 he bought the Star'and consolidated it with the Observer. Then O. L. Palmer, A. L. Lindbeck, and Clark Wood of Oklahoma (not of Weston) moved a newspaper plant from Oklahoma and started the Morning Messenger. They sold to the Observer after only a few months. Wood returned to Oklahoma, Palmer entered commercial printing, Lindbeck is now Salem correspondent for the Oregon Journal.

Bruce Dennis sold the Observer in 1914 to Clarke Leiter, Mrs. Leiter, and Don Meyers. Clarke Leiter had been city editor of the Oregonian. He installed the first web press in La Grande and added to the metropolitan aspect of the Observer. During the Leiter ownership Roy W. Gakeler and a printer, Hamilton, published a farmersweekly, the Alliance, which soon disappeared.

In 1918 Leiter sold the Observer back to Bruce Dennis and became news editor of the Portland Telegram under the Wheeler regime. He is now professor of journalism at the University of Illinois.

Dennis sold the paper again in 1925, this time to Frank B. Appleby and Harve Mathews. Appleby, who had been a successful publisher in Iowa, and Mathews developed the plant, erected the present building, and June 19, 1930, sold to P. R. Finlay, formerly of Iowa. Appleby and Mathews purchased the Ontario (Calif.) Report. Appleby died suddenly in the summer of 1936. Bruce Dennis, soon after selling the Observer, purchased the Klamath Falls Herald and News, selling them later to enter public-relations work.

On October 24, 1924, L. C. Binford started the weekly Eastern Oregon Scout. He sold the paper March 1, 1925, to George Huntington Currey, son of the founder of the Observer, who changed the name to the La Grande District News. Binford is now a Portland attorney. George Huntington Currey was at the time publishing the Arlington Bulletin, the Boardman Mirror, and the Stanfield Standard. After a short interval, during which his uncle, Fred B. Currey, conducted the News, George Huntington Currey remained with the News until September 1931, when the Curreys sold to the Observer and retired from the newspaper field. Olive M. Currey (Mrs. George Huntington) under this regime became La Grande's first full-fledged woman newspaper editor.

In 1932 C. J. Shorb, who had been a western Oregon publisher, installed a new plant in the District News building and established the weekly Eastern Oregon Review, published Fridays, from an office "next to police station," as it is announced in the masthead.

P. R. Finlay, publisher of the Observer, died February 6, 1932, and La Grande's daily, one of the largest and most successful in Oregon outside of Portland, was published and managed by his son, Harold M. Finlay, until 1938.

Harvey Bowen is the present (1939) editor-manager. Mr. Finlay is conducting the La Grande radio station.

The La Grande Tribune, a weekly, started November 6, 1931, by R. C. Cooke and M. M. Arant, was published for a few issues.

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