History of Oregon Newspapers/Wallowa County
Enterprise.—Wallowa county's first newspaper, the Wallowa Chieftain, was a going concern in Union county before Wallowa county was organızed.
The Chieftain was established at Joseph May 15, 1884, by S. A. Heckethorn, who had with him as news reporter A. W. Gowan and as compositor Myra Stanley. Miss Stanley (now Mrs. George M. Gannon) still resides in Joseph. The paper was a six-column, four-page affair, 15x22 inches, with ready-print inside. It is now a seven-column 12-em paper, which is standard for a high percentage of the country weeklies. Its regular size is eight pages.
Mr. Heckethorn, the founder, was a pioneer lawyer who left the country shortly after the paper was started (150). The name Wallowa Chieftain was derived from the nearby mountains and the Indians surrounding. Mr. Heckethorn started the paper with $500 which represented the value of the original plant.
Railroad development in the new country was the stimulus behind the establishment of the Chieftain. In 1884 the Union Pacific railroad system, pushing along the line of the Old Oregon Trail, reached La Grande, and new settlers were pouring into the country.
Heckethorn's successor was F. M. McCully, who conducted the paper for eight years. When, in 1892, the Republicans wanted to make a fight against the Populists, led by J. A. Burleigh's Aurora, then running in Enterprise as a Populist weekly, they selected E. Durseland to edit the Chieftain. In the meantime Enterprise had won the county seat away from Joseph, and the paper was moved there January 1, 1893. Durseland remained six months, when he was succeeded by F. A. Clarke, now of Portland, and W. E. Beers, which firm conducted the Chieftain as a regular Republican sheet. After a short time Mr. Beers bought out his partner.
The interweaving of Wallowa county newspapers is interesting and a little confusing. Before the Chieftain moved to Enterprise, the future Wallowa county seat had a newspaper. The story of this paper is told by H. H. Phelps, who with John King started it. (151)
Mr. Phelps and wife rode into Wallowa county on a buckboard, which carried the mail, about the first of June. The big store in Enterprise was being kept in a tent, and the newspaper erected the second building in the community. A part interest was sold to Jeff Ownbey, who supplied part of the needed money, and the paper was launched as the Wallowa Enterprise, a name suggested by Mr. Phelps' father. The paper was purchased by Ownbey in November of the same year.
Mr. Ownbey soon changed the name of the paper to the Signel. (152)
In 1892 the paper underwent another change of name. J. A. Burleigh, a school-teacher, purchased the paper and changed the name to the Aurora, a Friday Populist weekly, organ of the Farmers' Alliance (153). It was this paper that aroused the Republicans to an aggressive policy in the Chieftain, which soon was moved to Enterprise from Joseph.
Business men of Joseph, then left without a newspaper, persuaded Mr. Burleigh to move away from his competition and give their town an organ. Mr. Burleigh moved to Joseph in April, 1893, and continued publishing the Aurora there for two years, then moving back to Enterprise, leaving Joseph again without a paper. How the need was supplied is told under the Joseph end of this story.
When J. A. Burleigh became county clerk in July of 1896 he turned the Aurora over to his brother, W. S. Burleigh, now of Los Angeles. After a year the new owner moved the plant to Lostine.
To supply the need for a Democratic organ H. L. Herzinger started the Bulletin in Enterprise. After a year or two he merged his paper with the Lostine Leader under the title Bulletin-Leader.
April 26, 1907, the News Record was launched in Enterprise, giving the Chieftain competition again. This was the old Wallowa News, which had been running in Wallowa for eight years. Fred G. Conley and J. Arthur Bishop changed the name to the News Record on moving to Enterprise. Later in the same year the paper was purchased by Homer A. Galloway and his sister-in-law, Miss Snow V. Heaton.
Ben Weathers was publishing the Chieftain at the time, and when he was appointed postmaster in November 1908, he sold the paper to the News Record owners. They conducted both papers for a few years, the Chieftain as a weekly and the News Record as a semi-weekly. Mr. Weathers' predecessor as publisher of the Chieftain had been Carl Roe, who with his partner, L. J. Rouse, had conducted the paper since September, 1896. The Chieftain and the News Record were merged as the Enterprise Record Chieftain, June 15, 1911. George P. Cheney, former Kansas City and Chicago newspaper man, came from Kansas City in November, 1911, and bought the paper, taking possession January 10, 1912. One of Mr. Cheney's first undertakings was construction of a new stone home for the paper, which he occupied in February, 1915. The machinery was moved over the snow in sleds from the old frame quarters.
Mr. Cheney has now been directing the Record Chieftain for a full quarter century. In the beginnings the paper carried half a page of advertising on the front page. The paper is now clear of advertising on page 1. The paper formerly was aggressively Republican. Mr. Cheney has made it independent, "due to opinions of the new owners and changed view of the responsibility of a paper to a community." (154) Local photographs were introduced in 1913 and comics in 1920. From a plant variously estimated from $250 to $500, the plant and paper are now valued at more than $20,000. The paper like some of the other Oregon newspapers, the oldest business institution in its town.
Mr. Cheney, former president of the Oregon Press Conference, changed the name to Chieftain in 1938.
In his salutatory editorial in 1884 Mr. Heckethorn argued for the cutting off of the Wallowa country into a separate county. "Politically," he wrote, "the editor is neutral, and the editorials will be independent."
In another editorial paragraph he said:
With this issue the editor fulfills his part of the written contract. Those persons who kindly subscribed a loan to aid him in this enterprise, will please come forward and settle, as his financial affairs need repairing.
Something a little different from ordinary in the opening number of the Chieftain was a signed statement from A. W. Gowan, in which he outlined his news policy:
...One word will suffice as to the character of the locals that will appear in these columns having my sanction: Anything of grave, public importance will appear just as correctly as possible under the circumstances; the exact truth will be aimed at. If the broken elements of incidences cannot all be gathered and united at once they can be supplied afterwards, and redundant matter can be eliminated. It must be remembered that commonly the itemizer is not the maker of the item; he merely presents it just as he sees and feels it. So it will be understood at the outset—there is nothing like an understanding—that they who assume unenviable attitudes before the public have largely themselves to blame. A chief among ye takin' notes and faith he'll print them. With charity for all, etc., I remain A. W. GOWAN.
Mr. Gowan's regular business was real estate.
Under the head "Our Schools," one of the items given a line on educational discipline of that day:
Mr. Altman, a new-comer, we understand, has contracted to wield the birch at Prairie creek school, commencing next Monday.
Wallowa. —Wallowa city was four years old when, March 3, 1899, L. Couch and C. T. McDaniel started the Wallowa News, first newspaper in the town, which later was to form a component part of the Record Chieftain at Enterprise. After some changes of ownership Couch bought the paper back in 1903 and conducted it for two years. In 1905 he sold it to Fred Conley, who after a short time moved the paper and plant to Enterprise.
After a short time without a newspaper, Wallowa in 1907 welcomed R. H. Jonas, who launched the Wallowa weekly Sun and published it for five years. Under various changes of ownership the Sun has continued to the present. The present owners are Harold and Mona Dougherty Hamstreet, who after several years of farming are again conducting their newspaper. Mr. Hamstreet, son of the late O. D. Hamstreet, well remembered as publisher of the Sheridan Sun, was graduated from the University of Oregon, where he was editor of the Emerald in his senior year (1916-17). He was for several years a member of the news staff of the Oregonian, and for a time was associated with his father on the Sheridan Sun.
Will C. Marsh was editor from 1912 to 1914. After a year in which the paper was conducted by Lulu and Ray McNees, J. M. Bledsoe, newspaper veteran, later publisher of the Myrtle Point American, conducted the Sun from 191 5 to 1922, followed by D. M. Major, who was publisher to 1925. He was followed by Harold Hamstreet. R. H. Jonas was back as editor and publisher in 1929. Roy Lovell published the Sun from March 1, 1931, to December, 1932, when he sold to James A. Dement of Boise, who traded an interest in the Dement-Oster Printing Co. in Boise to Mr. Lovell. Mr. Dement in turn sold to M. J. Sevier of Wallowa, who placed Miss Marjorie Martin in charge, while he continued as salesman for a power company.
Joseph. —As told under the Enterprise heading, Joseph was for several years the seat of the Wallowa Chieftain, first newspaper in what was before long to be the new county of Wallowa.
When the Chieftain was lured away to Enterprise, following the county government, in the beginning of 1893, J. A. Burleigh, who later became one of the leading attorneys of Wallowa county, was persuaded to take the Aurora, Populist weekly, Farmers' Alliance organ, to Joseph. But in two years he went back to Enterprise. For a very short time Joseph was again without a newspaper, but W. E. Beers moved in (1895) and started a new paper, the Wallowa Herald, which, now known as the Joseph Herald, has been published there ever since. It was a seven-column folio. The name was changed to the Silver Lake Herald in 1895 and back again in 1899 when Henderson & Henderson took hold, with Lee C. Henderson as editor.
Former publishers of the paper, which was (1938) edited and published by Clinton P. Haight Jr. under lease from the owner, Lawrence G. Allen, while Mr. Allen attends to his duties as post master, have been Mr. Beers, E. A. Pollock (now of Wallowa); G. E. McCully, Thomas Gwillim, L. C. Henderson, Al T. Kinney, Sloan P. Shutt (deceased), W. C. Black, John M. Lowry, W. L. Flower (now of Enterprise), Rev. L. A. Cook, S. M. Smallwood, O. G. Crawford. The latest publisher, succeeding Mr. Allen, is (1939) I. J- Vollmer.
Lostine.—Lostine, one of the smaller Lostine valley towns, has itself been the home of several newspapers, covering the period from 1897, when the weekly Leader was established, to the moving away of the Lostine Reporter to Enterprise, where it became the Wallowa Reporter, in 1919.
The Leader was merged soon after its founding with the Bulletin of Enterprise, which was moved to Lostine by H. L. Herzinger and combined with the Leader as the Bulletin-Leader. It was gone soon after the turn of the century.
Then James Doris Jr. launched the Review, in 1903. This also faded out in less than two years.
The Review was followed by the Ledger and Democrat, established by the Burleigh Bros., prominently connected with other Wallowa county newspapers. J. A. Burleigh, former county clerk, was editor. The paper was gone in two years.