History of Oregon Newspapers/Washington County

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Washington county journalism, of course, goes back to 1848, when the rather irregular Oregon American and Evangelical Unionist was started at Tualatin Plains, near the present Hillsboro. Even if we ignore that rather odd publication as a real newspaper, there is still the Oregonian, which was actually started in Washington county, for the county of Multnomah was not carved from Washington and Clackamas until four years after the Oregonian had made its bow, December 4, 1850. The new county, incidentally, was formed over the vigorous opposition of the Whig Oregonian, which regarded it as merely a means of getting whatever the 1854 equivalent of "deserving Democrats" happened to be, into more offices. The Oregonian referred derisively to the new Multnomah county as "boot" county, from its odd shape.

Forest Grove takes the palm from its neighbor cities of Washington county as the seat of the first publication after the establishment of the county.

Forest Grove and Hillsboro.—Pacific University, in its Forest Grove Monthly, had a little four-column publication, practically a magazine, in existence as early as the fall of 1868—five years after Harvey Scott's graduation. The Oregon Historical Society has a copy of volume 2, No. 3, dated September, 1869.

The first actual newspaper was the Forest Grove Independent, a Thursday weekly, launched by Wheeler & Myers, March 22, 1873. The third issue, dated Saturday, April 5, 1873, carries under the title on page 1 the expressed purpose of the paper: "Our Aim, the Development of the Resources, Agricultural, Commercial, and Educational, of Washington County."

It was a four-page, seven-column paper at the start, with frequent later changes of format in those days when papers occasionally went to a nine-column blanket sheet. The front page carried the usual miscellaneous matter clipped from eastern publications. There was three-quarters of a column of advertising of the card type in the left column. Page 2 carried three columns of advertising; page 3, two columns, including a full-column "office ad" for commercial printing by the Independent —the ad, incidentally of the same size and style as one for W. I. Mayfield, Portland printer. Two columns of ads were carried on page 4. This was not very heavy advertising patronage—which may have had something to do with the early shift over to Hillsboro.

The name of Frank F. Myers was carried in the issue of May 24 as proprietor. The name was gone before November.

In a September issue the Independent copied not only the long telegraphic story from the New York Herald of August 20 on the execution of two murderers at Baltimore but also the eight-section head, which was credited also to the Herald, including such phrases as "Foul Murder," "Human Wolves," "Terrible Crime," "Salvation Made Easy."

By December 18 (volume 2, No. 38 in the file) the paper, now known as the Washington Independent, was dated out of Hillsboro with H. B. Luce editor and proprietor. The format had been changed to four-page, six-column. For advertising Luce was charging $1.50 a square (about 12 lines) a week (figuring about 75 cents an inch or $10 by the column). A square would be run for a year for $10; in those days of hand composition the advertiser was allowed a premium for continuous unchanged copy. Label ads, without life or unusual display, were much preferred; the art of advertising was in its infancy, and there was little realization of the value of space.

An example of an extra issued by a weekly paper is the edition of the Independent, at Forest Grove, February 28, 1874. The occasion, one might guess, was political. The extra, a seven-column one-page affair, printed on only one side, was taken up largely with a call signed by 375 citizens, whose names are signed, asking for a convention to name independent candidates for office. It was charged that "through political leaders and rings, comprising members of both parties, the agricultural, mechanical, and labor interests of Washington county have been criminally neglected and extravagantly taxed." The convention was called for Hillsboro April 4, 1874, to select candidates irrespective of party for all county officers and for members of the legislative assembly, to appoint delegates to a state convention to select candidates for state offices and for members of congress, to appoint a county central committee....

An editorial in the same issue expresses sympathy with the grievances of the 375 citizens; wants the move a liberal and comprehensive one.

In the issue of October 14, 1875, five columns on the front page and a run-over of one column on page 4 were devoted to the annual address by Joseph Gaston at the Washington County fair. Gaston, newspaper editor-historian, was at the time engaged in promoting the West Side railroad against the East Side—a losing fight—and among other things he inveighed vigorously against railroad monopolies.

The speech very likely was set up by Henry G. Guild, recently his from native Illinois, who was working on his first newspaper job for Luce in 1875-77, and who had acquired so much competence and confidence at the end of this two years that he purchased the paper and ran it for a time, leaving to go to the Portland Telegram as a typo at 40 cents a thousand ems with a chance to hobnob with such picturesque figures as J. W. Redington, printer, editor, Indian war scout.[1]

After a year or so Luce bought the paper back and continued its publication for many years, maintaining it at Hillsboro. Most of the time he ran it as an independent Republican paper. In 1885 the paper was sold to Jones & Tozier. The Tozier was Albert Tozier, who in that same year, at New Orleans, was one of the organizers of the National Editorial Association. Already he had started the tradition, as a boy of 12, of ringing out the old year on the bell of the old Hillsboro church—a custom he continued for 64 years, ceasing only when the infirmities of old age rendered him helpless. He had on occasion hurried back to Hillsboro from New York city in order not to break the custom; he had a feel for history and tradition. Through his long life he was connected with many publications as editor or manager, and he served for years as custodian of the Oregon Historical Society's museum at Champoeg. He served many years as secretary of the old Oregon Press Association. He had a great love for Oregon.

Tozier did not stay long on the Hillsboro paper; his partner, W. L. Jones, bought him out two .years later. S. T. Linklater became publisher about 1890, followed by D. M. C. Gault in 1892. J. R. Beegle appears to have been in charge after his return from the World's Fair in 1893, but Gault resumed and stayed a long time.

Gault, born in Iowa in 1842, had received his formal education at the Forest Grove academy in the fifties; had broken in on the old Jacksonville Sentinel in 1865; was city editor of the Salem Statesman in '68 and '69; the next year he was one-third owner of the Polk County Republican at Dallas; he served a term in the legislature from Washington county and one from Multnomah county.

Gault remained in charge of the Independent for about 13 years. After two years under Irving Bath, publisher, and D. W. Bath, editor, the paper was purchased by S. C. Killen, who continued at the helm, running a paper as independent as the name implied and building up a reputation for his editorial soundness which made up for increasing weakness on the news end as time took its toll. He sold the paper, in his old age, to the Argus, lusty young competitor, only about 38 years old, in 1932 and retired to Portland, to watch the other fellows do it.

E. H. Flagg, Oregon editor-publisher whose record of half a century in Oregon journalism includes several papers started and many others edited, launched the Washington Democrat at Hillsboro, February 15, 1869. The Independent, a Republican paper, was then running, under the editorship of W. L. Jones, at the time.

The Democrat was an eight-column, four-page paper, the outside printed in Portland by Palmer & Rey. In about a year the paper was moved to Forest Grove, reversing the journey made by the old Independent in the early seventies. Prof. S. T. Adams of Pacific University was announced as local editor in the issue of August 15, 1890.

Almost simultaneously with the advent of the Democrat in Hillsboro, the Forest Grove Times was started, February 14, 1889, published by the Forest Grove Printing Company.

This provided plenty of competition in a field already occupied by the Independent.

Taking up the Democrat:

In the masthead, above the salutatory, was carried a card of endorsement for the new publisher, Mr. Flagg. It was signed by D. J. Switzer, county judge; E. E. Quick, county clerk; G. W. Cole, county treasurer; and W. A. Meeker, sheriff, all Columbia county officials, saying they had known Mr. Flagg for six years (he had been publishing the St. Helens paper) and that he was "square and honest in business matters;" that the Oregon Mist had been an important factor in building up the county. "Any enterprise he is connected with is likely to be of advantage to the community in which he resides."

In his salutatory Mr. Flagg noted that the men signing the card of commendation were his political opponents. The Democrat's politics, he explained, were to be reliably Democratic; "but will not support incapable and dishonest men merely because they are labeled 'Democratic.'" He asked, "If anything of local interest has happened in your neighborhood, send it in as a news item, and I will be pleased to publish it. Church notices, lectures, concerts, and entertainments of all kinds, where the object is not exclusively moneymaking, will be published free of charge."

Mr. Flagg, continuing, said:

It is hardly necessary to remind the Democrats of Wash ington county of the need for a party organ. The recent election is too fresh in your minds to need any reminders .... no such misrepresentation hereafter will be possible, as the Democrats will be on hand to nail any slanders . . . . from unscrupulous political opponents.

The typography was typical of a rather undistinguished period. The effect of a good, newsy paper capably edited was injured by an odd assortment of ill-matched type. Timber-claim notices were conspicuous among the advertising. Important Willamette Valley names appear in the advertising: Baily, Tongue & Schulmerick (the Democrat's spelling) had a two-column advertisement for dry goods and groceries.

By August the Democrat had been enlarged to a nine-column, four-page paper, with only 9½ columns of advertising in 36 columns of space. When the paper was moved to Forest Grove the size was reduced to eight columns, or 32 in the paper.

Back to the Times:

May 25, 1891, the name of A. Rogers appears in the masthead as manager. The same name appears in the church directory as pastor of the Congregational church; probably Mr. Rogers was "doubling in brass." In a notice Mr. Rogers announced that he was taking full charge of the business and editorial management. P. O. Chilstrom, "who has been my associate under the new management, is retiring." In announcing the change, the new "manager" complains of lack of support, reciting that a neighboring Hillsboro office has invaded the field for job work, cutting the home rates in Forest Grove.

Meanwhile the Democrat, with a new publisher, G. A. Sanford succeeding Mr. Flagg, had run an evening daily paper, for a time in 1890, then moved to Forest Grove, and February 13 the Democrat was absorbed by the Times, losing its identity to the other paper. J. Wheelock Marsh succeeded Mr. Rogers at the helm.

Austin Craig, son of David Watson Craig, Oregon pioneer printer-editor, established the Washington County Hatchet April 12, 1895. After two years it was merged with the Times under the lengthy title Washington County Hatchet and Times, which noses out the Southern Coos County American, of World War times, for the long-title championship. Austin Craig, late of the Hatchet, was editor. On his retirement, in 1899, the new publishers, George H. Himes and R. H. Pratt, buried the "Hatchet" and called the paper the Times. Mr. Pratt remained as editor until 1901. Walter Hoge, succeeding him, remained until 1906, when W. T. Fogle was bought out by his partner, with Manche Langly editor. The paper was having trouble in a competitive field.

Two other important newspapers meanwhile had been established—the Argus of Hillsboro and the Washington County News of Forest Grove. The News was established by Earl B. Hawks May 18, 1903, for the Washington County Publishing Company. J. F. Woods, formerly of the Springfield News, became editor and publisher October 6, 1904. Four years later, January 1, 1909, Gerald Volk purchased the paper and at once absorbed the Forest Grove Times. In 1910 A. E. Scott became a partner in the paper and in 1911, after buying out his partner, recognized the Times by changing the name of the paper to the Washington County News-Times. For a time in 1917-18, during Mr. Scott's absence, the paper was edited by J. P. Hurley. Mr. Scott continued at the helm until the summer of 1924, when, shortly after he had placed Earl C. Brownlee, for seven years on the Oregon Journal, in charge, he went to the hospital for an operation, from which he failed to rally, dying in August. Mr. Brownlee, together with George H. Bennett, purchased the paper from the heirs and carried it on, alone after the first year, until he sold it in 1928 and went, with Sheldon F. Sackett, into the Salem Statesman.

C. J. Gillette and Hugh McGilvra bought the News-Times late in 1928, and Mr. McGilvra is still there as editor and manager. Under the new regime the paper has won several firsts in newspaper competition—the Sigma Delta Chi best Oregon weekly contest in 1933. Casey's All-American (for Mr. McGilvra) in 1935, first prize in the National Editorial Association advertising promotion con test in 1935 among other triumphs. Mr. Gillette, after a season as managing editor of the Coos Bay Times, is now editor and manager of the Lake County Examiner at Lakeview.

The Hillsboro Argus, sole survivor of the long train of Hillsboro publications, was founded in March, 1894, by C. W. Clow and R. H. Mitchell. J. A. Bowen associated himself in the paper with Mitchell October 4, 1894. That same fall Lucius A. Long came to the Argus in place of Mitchell. Claude Robinson later bought Bowen out, and Mrs. Emma C. McKinney, already on the paper, purchased Robinson's half interest in April 1904. Henry G. Guild, veteran Oregon newspaper editor, who more than a quarter of a centry before had worked for H. B. Luce on the old Hillsboro Independent, purchased Long's interest in 1907 and was a partner of Mrs. McKinney until 1904, when she purchased his interest and Long returned to the paper with half-interest lease. A native of Wisconsin, where he was born in 1869, Long already had founded the Pacific County (Washington) Independent. He had either worked on or contributed to newspapers since he was 9 years old.

In 1923 Mrs. McKinney's son, W. Verne McKinney, Oregon State College graduate, became an active partner, and the paper is published under the name of McKinney & McKinney. He is editor and manager, with his mother as associate editor.

The Argus has won many honors in the last few years—including the Oregon best-weekly contest of Sigma Delta Chi for 1929 and 1936. Mr. McKinney has also achieved the honor of selection on one of Professor John H. Casey's All-American country newspaper teams. Honorable mention in National Editorial Association newspaper production contests came in 1934, 1935, and general excellence, 1935. The Argus was third-place winner in two national newspaper contests in 1937—general excellence and best editorial page; winner of second place in the National Editorial Association classified advertising contest in 1939; honorable mentions in general excellence and newspaper production contests, 1938, 1939.

In announcing appointment of Verne McKinney as right guard on the All-American Weekly Eleven for 1930, Professor Casey gave a short appreciation of the Argus and Mr. McKinney's work on it. He said:

Verne McKinney of the Hillsboro Argus wishes to give his mother, who is a partner with him in his publishing enterprise, credit for a large share of his success, but mothers are responsible in so large a measure for all of our successes. Besides, the ladies haven't taken to playing football in large enough numbers as yet. At right guard on the team I have Verne cast for the role of rural news editor because of his well-edited correspondence and his consistent efforts at agricultural development. The Argus was the first weekly in Oregon to take advantage of the circulation audit. The Argus has distinguished itself recently as best weekly in the state in a couple of contests ... An employment bureau is conducted at the newspaper office by Mrs. McKinney. In connection therewith, "work wanted" ads are run without charge. This does those a good turn who need work and creates some good will for the paper at the same time.

Other newspapers have been established in Hillsboro and Forest Grove at various times, none of them as interesting or influential as those mentioned. During the heated political days of 1894-96 the Populists were represented in Hillsboro by a weekly called The Other Side, edited by W. H. Black and published by the Reford Publishing Society. Politics was quieter in 1898, and The Other Side disappeared.

In October 1909 a Republican weekly named the Press was launched by E. C. Klancke with B. C. Suit editor. It was issued Thursdays. In 1910 J. D. Foote became editor and publisher, with G. E. Secour as associate. Secour advanced to the editorship April 14, 1910, and carried on until July 24, 1913, when George Huntington Currey took hold as editor and owner. The paper was suspended in 1916.

It was succeeded in the field by the Express, W. C. Benfer, editor and publisher. This was gone in two years. The News-Times absorbed both of these papers, making the present paper a combination of the Hatchet, Times, News, Press, and Express.

Beaverton.—Beaverton's newspapers date back to 1891, when Oscar Thayer founded the Chronicle. The Saturday Evening Journal was launched in 1903 by a man named Bailey. From 1909 to 1912 Fry, Emmons & Whitmore carried on the Beaverton Reporter, which Earl E. Fisher bought in 1912, changing the name to the Beaverton Owl. Hicks (A.J.) & Davis bought the paper in 1914 and changed the name again to the Beaverton Times. This paper was conducted by R. H. Jonas from 1917 to 1921. The Beaverton Review was started in 1922 by Howard Boyd. Since 1923 it has been conducted by J. H. Hulett and Verne Bright. The present publisher (1939) is Glenn Miller.

Since 1927 H. H. Jeffries has been running the Beaverton Enterprise as part of his chain of weeklies in little towns close to Portland. V. P. Morgan is editor.

Sherwood.—The present Sherwood newspaper goes back to September 29, 1912, when it was started by M. Fleet and L. M. Beckwith as the Sherwood News Sheet. In 1914 the name of the paper was changed to Tualatin Valley News, and in 1923 to its present title, Sherwood Valley News. With the exception of 1917, when I. V. McAdoo was owner and publisher, Fleet and Beckwith have conducted the paper since the beginning.

Tigard.—The Tigard Sentinel, a member of the H. H. Jeffries chain, was founded in 1922 by Jeffries' Pioneer Publishing Company, with E. B. Nedry editor. Succeeding editors have been A. A. Jeffries and V. P. Morgan. The present publisher (1939) is H. H. Jeffries.


  1. Fred Lockley, Oregon Journal, October 16, 1926, editorial page.