History of Oregon Newspapers/Wasco County

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WASCO


The Dalles.—Oregon statehood was followed, within a few weeks, by the appearance, April 1, 1859, of the first newspaper in eastern Oregon. This was The Dalles Journal, a weekly paper, established by Capt. Thomas Jordan, then commandant at Fort Dalles The paper, according to an early resident, Mrs. Lord (55), "was edited by two educated soldiers." Captain Jordan's printer was a Virginian named Thomas Snyder, who later was a printer on the Oregonian and is recalled by George H. Himes (56) as having participated in the production of the Oregonian's Lincoln assassination extra April 15, 1865. Snyder was new from the South.

W. H. Newell, capable newspaper man, well known also in the annals of Washington journalism a bit later, purchased the Journal April 1, 1860, and carried it on for five years, the last three as a morning daily. On taking charge he changed the name to the Mountaineer.

Newell "was an able writer but extremely deaf," commented Mrs. Lord (57), and she told of an occasion when a particularly gusty wind blew off the front of his office in the Victor Trevitt building while he was busy in the back shop. When his attention was directed to it, he said, "Well, well, I thought I heard some thing."

Newell left the paper Nov. 1, 1865, to become publisher of the Walla Walla Statesman, oldest paper in eastern Washington. The Daily Mountaineer, a six-column folio, ran for another year under Cowne & Halloran, then resumed (June 23, 1866) its former status as a weekly. The four years of daily publication covered the period of greatest activity in the Idaho mining country, for which The Dalles was one of the leading outfitting points.

Cowne & Halloran were succeeded by W. M. Hand, described as a man of great personal affability, who jollied his way along for 12 years, until his untimely death, September 19, 1881, when he was only 47. Col. T. S. Lang conducted the paper until its consolidation with The Dalles Times, August 14, 1882.

The Times had been established by R. J. Marsh and John Michell, April 27, 1880. It was a seven-column, four-page daily paper, and Republican. In their salutatory the new owners said they had lived in the country for 15 years. The consolidated paper was christened the Times-Mountaineer, and as such ran along for 18 years. This Times-Mountaineer of 1882 was one of the biggest blanket sheets in the history of Oregon. It was nine standard 13-em columns wide and of proportionate length. It was printed on one of the oldest presses on the Pacific Coast—the old Potter which had been used to print the Alta California, historic California publication. The first issue of the Times-Mountaineer was an evening paper, but it was at once changed to a morning paper. This was the second daily published in the town, and it was in marked contrast to the little four-column daily conducted by Cowne & Halloran in 1866. This little paper (the Cowne- Halloran one) had 11¼ of its 16 14-inch columns filled with advertising. The first page was as full of ads as that of the London Times. Its single half-column editorial dealt with the subject of selecting the best possible route for a good road to the Idaho mines, on which the prosperity of The Dalles was then so heavily dependent.

The old Mountaineer's news style was crisp and concise—pretty modern in comparison with what some of the other papers were doing at that time. The Mountaineer's leads were plain and direct, without the great emphasis on the chronology of detail which characterized much of the newswriting of those early days. The reporter, however, was sometimes submerged under the legal phrasing of court procedure, as in this item:

Committed.—James Lomax (colored) was yesterday committed to jail to take his trial in the next term of the District Court on a charge of petty larceny; in this, that being employed by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company on their steamers above Celilo he did feloniously take and con vert to his own use certain knives, forks, spoons, blankets, and other articles of value, in the county of Wasco and the state of Oregon.

Among the contributors to the Times-Mountaineer were Joaquin Miller and his gifted wife, Minnie Myrtle Dyer Miller. John Michell was editor of the paper in the early nineties.

J. H. Douthit bought the Times-Mountaineer September 1, 1895. The daily Times-Mountaineer, which had been running intermittently, was suspended November 23, 1900 (58). The paper was now losing ground in the face of developing competition. November 12, 1901, the Times-Mountaineer began publication of a semi-weekly edition, a six-column folio, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The paper was suspended September 30, 1904. Its valedictory editorial said it had been losing money for three years. Thus died the oldest paper in eastern Oregon, started, as the Journal, in the year of Oregon's admission to the Union. Successive editors had been Captain Jordan, W. H. Newell, Lieutenant Halloran, Lieutenant Catley, Henry Miller (at one time editorial writen on the Oregonian), George B. Curry, Col. Thomas S. Lang, John Michell, and J. A. Douthit. By this time the Chronicle, daily and weekly, established in 1890, had virtually absorbed the field. But more about the Chronicle later.

Virtually lost in the haze of time is The Dalles and Wasco county's second newspaper, called The Weekly, issued for a short time in 1860.

The third paper issued at The Dalles was W. W. Bancroft's Daily Journal, which ran opposition to the Mountaineer, giving the city two dailies during those Civil war years which were at the same time boom times for The Dalles, because of mining activity in Idaho, which was dying out just as the war was coming to an end (59). The Daily Journal was a Democratic paper. Little further information about it survives.

The fourth paper issued in The Dalles is mentioned here only because its editor and publisher was M. H. Abbott, either founder or editor of several prominent Oregon papers in Albany, Baker, La Grande, Pendleton, and The Dalles. His paper in The Dalles was the Tribune, started October 28, 1875, and run for two years, after which it was discontinued and the plant removed to La Grande to start the Gazette. The Tribune was a Democratic six-column weekly.

T. B. Merry, an able writer who was soon to be the first editor of the Sunday Oregonian, ran the Inland Empire in The Dalles for two years, starting it July 6, 1878, and suspending December 10, 1880. This was paper No. 5 for The Dalles.

The Wasco Weekly Sun, which ran for 13 years, from June 4, 1881, until the great flood of 1894, was another publication washed out of existence by the high water. The founder was T. Draper, and it had nine or ten owners before the flood, at which time its publisher was D. C. Ireland, whose name dots this story at frequent intervals. The flood washed out the plant, and publication never was resumed. Successive editors so far as checked have been F. S. Floed of Roseburg; W. S. Worthington, Col. T. S. Lang, F. C. Middleton, T. H. Ward, George P. Morgan, James W. Armsworthy, then Mr. Ireland.

Several other papers fill out the list for The Dalles—the Oregon Democratic Journal (1884-85), M. H. Abbott editor; the Trade Journal (1896), T. J. Simpson editor; the Morning Dispatch, founded in 1896, with J. G. Miller editor, which failed to last long; the Baptist Sentinel, religious weekly founded in 1889, which ran for several years; the Economist, monthly (1889-90), published by the American Progressive League at the Times-Mountaineer office, with Dr. Wingate editor; and finally, the Chronicle, daily and semiweekly, founded Dec. 10, 1890, which in its daily edition has come down to the present, and the weekly Optimist, founded by George H. Flagg in 1906 and now published by Ralph B. Bennett. A namesake of Mr. Bennett's, old Addison Bennett, later of the Oregonian, served for a time as editor of the Optimist.

The Chronicle, launched as an evening daily, was born of a municipal fight concerning the water question. J. H. Cradlebaugh was the first editor. The principal stockholders were D. M. French, J. W. French, Robert Mays, B. F. Laughlin, W. Lord, Max Vogt, Hugh Glenn, I. C. Nicholson, A. S. McAllister, S L. Brooks. The five incorporators, D. M. and J. W. French, Mays, Brooks, and Laughlin, subscribed $500 each of the total capital stock of $5,000. Laughlin was the first business manager (60).

February 26, 1891, Hugh Gourlay became editor. J. H. Cradlebaugh had gone to Hood River to edit the Glacier. D. C. Ireland, veteran of Portland, Oregon City, Astoria, etc., etc., was editor for a time, resigning to edit the Wasco Sun (1893-94). Editors of the Chronicle up to 1905 were Cradlebaugh, Gourlay, Ireland, S. L. Brooks (later circuit judge), F. W. Wilson, Cradlebaugh again, R. J. Gorman, Miss Rose Michell, John Michell, and Miss Rose Michell again.

Later publishers of the Chronicle have been H. G. Miller, H. T. Hopkins, Clarence Hedges, W. P. Merry, and Ben R. Litfin. Mr. Litfin, now sole owner, became associated in the ownership of the Chronicle in 1909, selling to Mr. Hedges in 1915, repurchasing an interest in 1920, and becoming sole owner in 1923.

The story of how Ben Litfin landed in The Dalles three days before Christmas, 1906, with 20 cents in his pocket and remained to become publisher of a newspaper which he developed beyond the dreams of any of his predecessors, is told by Charles M. Hulten of the University of Oregon journalism faculty (61). Litfin (he relates) found the Chronicle plant a junk shop when put to work by H. G. Miller, former Minnesotan then running the Chronicle for the stock company. Miller was delighted with Litfin's manner of cleaning up the shop and made a place for him. After Miller had been kicked out by his employers and brought back, in 1908, Litfin became co-manager with him, and together they purchased the paper. They sold to Clarence Hedges, formerly of Salinas, California, in 1915, but Litfin remained as manager. In 1920 Litfin and W. P. Merry, real estate operator and fruit-rancher, bought the paper, and January 1, 1923, Merry sold to Litfin, who became the sole owner.

And here is the part of the story that is good for newspaper men's souls. Accustomed to dictating the policy of the paper, regardless of ownership, for 30 years (62), several of the advertisers, soon after Ben got the paper, demanded that he suppress the news of a sensational divorce case involving a prominent business man. A boycott was threatened. Ben went to a meeting called by some of the advertisers for the purpose of telling him where to head in. He spoke to them briefly.

"I'm going to print the news," he told them, "and people are going to take my paper because of that. I'm going to make my paper so widely read that you'll have to buy space in its columns. And if you want to boycott, I'll fill up the columns with Portland advertising." Portland is 90 miles from The Dalles, not far in days of motor transportation.

There was no boycott. Trouble over this sort of thing has been minor since then, and the print-the-news policy has been maintained.

The Chronicle, through almost all its life an evening paper, was morning paper for a few weeks in 1908. When the stockholders fired Miller, they hired G. W. Willis to clean out the office, with the exception of young Litfin, and bring in a competent crew. Willis turned the Chronicle into a morning paper. Litfin, who had been made night foreman, thought he saw weaknesses in Willis's conduct of the paper. He protested to the stockholders, threatening to leave if not heeded. The upshot was, that Miller came back and restored the evening schedule, which has not since been interrupted.

Ben Litfin has a flair for politics. He is a state committeeman for the Republican party in Wasco county but will not himself run for office. He has been president of The Dalles Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Oregon State Editorial Association. When he can get away from the office, he shoots rather an effective game of golf.

Dufur.—In a recent check-up (1933) the publishers of the Dufur Dispatch calculated that the paper had changed hands 18 times since its first number appeared as Dufur's first newspaper, December 12, 1891. This ought to be some sort of a record, but it probably isn't in a country whose pioneer newspaper men were both mobile and impecunious on the average.

Ayer's directory makes a note of a Dufur Democrat, a Satur day weekly published by the Democratic Publishing Company, in 1890; but it failed to last and nobody seems to remember it (63). There have been, incidentally, more owners of the Dispatch than Ayer's has been able to keep track of, and Mr. Schwab and Fred Lockley have been able to run down several not given a mention in the directories.

W. H. Brooks led the procession. He moved a plant in from Monmouth and edited the paper while Mrs. Brooks set up his copy at the case. The first four years after the move are all fogged up (64) . By 1896, in any event, Mr. Brooks had given place as publisher to H. S. Turner, who carried on from 1896 to January, 1898, when he turned the paper over to Edith Douglas. She man aged and edited it until May, 1899, when Heisler & Temple took hold, letting go in December to Henry Menefee. The new owner managed to stick it out for a year, relinquishing control February 1, 1901, to Charles Reed. Reed handled the publication until March, 1903, when he took in a partner, and Reed & Shepard conducted the paper until 1905, when Shepard left the firm and Reed carried on until January, 1909.

The next owner, T. C. Queen, stayed a while, publishing the Dispatch for 12 uninterrupted years, until September, 1921. Schwab (65) credits him with giving his readers "a fine, newsy paper, especially during the war period, when his paper contained much interesting news concerning Dufur boys ... in the great conflict." M. E. Phillips published the paper from September, 1921, until 1923; then A. Y. Zoller was in charge until April, 1924.

Mr. Queen returned to the paper at that time, bringing a new partner, L. C. Wright, who handled the mechanical end. Mr. Zoller came back in 1925 with Fred Vieth and published the paper until March, 1926. The next owners were two war veterans, D. C. Evans and L. C. Bliem, who, until June 21, 1928, "turned out the best papers since the . . . first edition in 1891," says Mr. Schwab. L. S. Wright was the next owner, carrying on until July 8, 1930, when he gave way to D. C. Evans and James Nelson. Moe Bros, of Hood River (Mark E. and Roger) took hold in January, 1933, with Lee Schwab as editor and Ray McGuire in charge of the mechanical department. The present editors and publishers (1939) are R. C. and L. A. McGuire.

Dufur, as a matter of fact, was a better little town than most of the Oregon communities when their first newspapers were published. The population was estimated at 500, and the first plant was valued at $3600. The old days when $500 would install a working newspaper plant were passing in 1891. Even so, the paper had its struggles, and one of the sources of this history noted, with grim humor, that the "outstanding event in the paper's history" was the continued effort of owner after owner to keep from starving to death.

Antelope.—This little community, later the scene of the writing apprenticeship of the young H. L. Davis, whose Honey In the Horn was a Harper's and Pulitzer prize-winner and a best seller in 1935, boasted a weekly paper as early as 1892. The Herald was launched, for the first time, July 22 of that year, by E. M. Shutt. It was to be slid off the ways again before its final trip to the journalistic boneyard.

When Shutt went to Heppner to assume his duties as sheriff of the county in 1897, he sold the paper to M. E. Miller, who took charge October 29. At that time Ayer's directory credited the town with a population of 60 and the paper with a circulation of 400. Wasco county, however, had 12,000 population, making the 400 not so highly imaginative if the matter of "net paid" were not too much emphasized. The asked price was $2 a year for this four-page paper, 15×22.

In the summer of 1898 Antelope was visited by a fire which seriously damaged the little business district. Shortly after this, Max Lueddemann took over the paper, the business of which had been hard hit by fire and depression. September 20 of the next year Mr. Lueddemann associated E. L. Goodwin with him, and in November of the next year Mr. Goodwin retired from the partnership. In the spring of 1905 H. G. Kibbee purchased the paper from Lueddemann, who in the meantime had established a little paper in the infant town of Bend. Both town and paper were to expand far beyond the hopes of the founders. B. F. Ames was editing the Herald in 1909, and the Herald's first suspension came the next year.

Mr. Lueddemann was at Antelope during one of the most serious outbreaks between cattlemen and the encroaching sheepmen; and when he got a by-line on his story about it in the Oregonian he wasn't sure he liked it, for both sides were more than touchy. When the town's population was 200, there was a liquor saloon every 200 feet, and sheepmen who had been out with their flocks for several months would come and, laying their $200 or so of accumulated wages on the bar would say to the bartender, "Just tell me when it's all gone, Bill." In few days Bill, who almost universally was honest, would pass the word across the bar, and it would be "back to the sheep" for another stretch.

This, however, is far from the "whole picture" of these central Oregon towns, for Mr. Luddemann found such places as Antelope full of interesting, intelligent people, whose social affairs were pleasant for the young college man from the South who had come to run their paper, and there were many suits of evening clothes in the town.

Bill Kemp was city marshal and printer for Lueddemann at the same time, and the publisher himself was city recorder.

Small as was this little town of 200-odd souls, had all the advantages of newspaper competition right after the turn of the century. In July 1900 A. M. Kircheiner (66) started the Antelope Republican in opposition to the Herald. He ran it until October 1901, then sold to Mr. Lueddemann. Still another paper, the Appeal, tried the field from 1913 to 1905 and gave it up.

Though Antelope had shrunk to a mere 175 inhabitants in 1917, Harold (H. L.) Davis, backed by the Herald Publishing Company,

took up the fight again in that year and continued in charge until 1921. H. C. Rooper carried on from there until the final suspension of the paper four years later.