History of Oregon Newspapers/Wheeler County

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WHEELER


Fossil.—As in some other instances in Oregon, Wheeler county journalism is older than the county. Organization of the county, from parts of Crook, Gilliam, and Grant, did not come until February 17, 1899; but the Fossil Journal, first paper both in Fossil and the county, was established 14 years before.

The founder was H. H. Hendricks, city attorney of Fossil. The town then had fewer than 300 population; but Hendricks saw a chance to skim the cream of the land-settlement notices.

The first issue, four pages, seven columns, appeared September 15. Sloan P. Shutt, connected with numerous early publishing projects in Oregon, was the first editor. The familiar Washington hand-press similar in general design to the one on which Oregon's first news paper was printed, and some nonpareil (6-point) type for the body of the paper were purchased in Portland. The old press, long since retired from service, is still in the Journal office as a historical relic. Mr. Shutt soon moved on to other fields, and after John Hosford had functioned for a time, Mr. Hendricks added editing a newspaper to his legal duties. He carried on successfully until 1890, when he sold the paper to James S. Stewart.

Stewart was his own editor. Leadership in the fight to form the new county fell on his shoulders. He also succeeded in getting the county seat brought to his town.

Stewart was a lifelong promoter of good roads, boosting the cause not only in his home county but over the state. He was a member of three sessions of the state legislature and in 1899 was elected president of the Oregon Editorial Association.

Stewart sold the Journal to H. J. Simmons in 1919 and spent the remainder of his life in Corvallis. Mr. Simmons is entering his 21st year in charge of the paper, which never, from its inception, has had competition in its community.

Mitchell.—Mitchell's early journalism is made memorable chiefly by the flash across its horizon of Bruce ("Rocky Mountain") Smith, peripatetic printer-editor, who spent much of his time "putting down liquor" in more ways than one. He dropped into Mitchell one day in November 1894, got in touch with W. F. Magee, a school-teacher with journalistic yearnings, and with him launched the Mitchell Monitor. He didn't stay long, but he left unmistakable evidence he'd been there. The Condon Globe of November 30, 1894, described the incident:

The first issue of Mitchell's new paper, the Monitor, reached our table last week. "Rocky Mountain" Smith, the notorious temperance reformer (who tries to drink all the liquor himself in order to discourage others from drinking) and W. F. Magee, a school-teacher over there, were partners until the first issue came out and in it their dissolution notice appears. "Rocky" has hit the road again, and the paper is now owned by Mr. Magee. The first issue was, of course, edited by "Rocky" and is filled up mainly by abuse of neighboring editors, some of them receiving flattering comments. We wish the paper success under its new management but believe it will fall short of its main object, that of having a new county cut off-for a number of years yet, at least until the population and wealth justifies it.

The Monitor had hard sledding under a number of successive publishers. Finally (about 1898) A. C. Palmer of the Crook County Journal, Prineville, purchased the paper and plant (mostly plant) and moved it to Prineville, to be absorbed in the Crook County Journal.

In March 1904 the Mitchell Sentinel, a six-column folio, appeared in the field, published by Helm & Gillenwater. A. Helm Jr., who was to have a longer career in Mitchell journalism than any other person and who carried the Jr. on his name until old age claimed him when close to 8o, bought out his partner and carried on. On his death in 1923 Lallah L. Gage took up the editorship. The paper was suspended in 1925.

The field was again occupied in 1929 by another newspaper, the Wheeler County Chronicle, established by Lindsay Brothers, with Arthur R. Jones, clergyman who likes the editorial sanctum as well as the pulpit, as editor. The present publishers are R. H. Jonas & Son, owners of the Central Oregonian, Prineville.