Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 24/First Newspapers of Southern Oregon and Their Editors

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FIRST NEWSPAPERS OF SOUTHERN OREGON AND THEIR EDITORS

By George H. Himes

The first paper in Oregon south of Salem was the Umpqua Weekly Gazette,[1] a five-column folio, the printed page being 11⅞ × 18 inches, issued at Scottsburg, Umpqua County, Oregon Territory, April 28, 1854—devoted to literature, agriculture, mining news, general intelligence, etc. The printing office was in Harris's new building, corner of Main and Yoncalla streets. Price, $5.00 a year; $3.00 for six months. Advertisements on reasonable terms; one square, 10 lines or less, first insertion, $2.00. Great reductions on yearly contracts. The first editor was Daniel Jackson Lyons; publisher, William J. Beggs. Politically the paper was Democratic. There was a sprinkling of Whigs in Umpqua County, but they were in a hopeless minority. The Republican party was just emerging from its shell in some of the states east of the Mississippi river, but as yet not a member of that party had strayed far enough away from home to get into Oregon Territory, so far as known. According to the custom of those days, job printing was solicited.

The body type in the printer's language of that day was bourgeois, or nine-point of the present day; and the smallest type—that used in advertising, poetry, extracts, etc.—was minion, or seven-point of the present time.

Mr. Lyons was born in Cork, Ireland, March 28, 1813, and came to the United States with his parents in 1826, who settled in Louisville, Kentucky. As a lad in Ireland he was being educated for the priesthood in the Roman Catholic church; but having one eye destroyed by a stone thrown by a playmate, his plans for life were changed and he learned the trade of brush and broom maker. He followed that pursuit for a number of years in Louisville and other cities, and at length made his home in Lexington, Ky. Possessing a studious disposition, he put in all his spare moments in reading and studying music. On June 20, 1849, he was married to Miss Virginia Fayette Putnam, a sister of Charles F. Putnam, a printer, who came to Oregon in 1846. Mr. Lyons crossed the plains to Oregon in 1853 and settled in the vicinity of what is now the town of Drain. In the spring of 1854 he went to Scottsburg. His eyesight having become seriously impaired, a change of occupation became necessary. Then he acquired an interest in a hotel owned by Captain Levi Scott, the founder of the town, and with the aid of his wife managed that business successfully.

About this time Captain Scott, being very anxious to exploit his embryo city, bought a second-hand newspaper plant in San Francisco which had been used about two years, and caused it to be shipped to Scottsburg, with William J. Beggs in charge as printer. Beggs brought a few exchanges with him from San Francisco and these were read to Lyons by his wife, and selections were thus made. Lyons dictated editorial notes and his wife wrote them out. On the first page, in the first column, was a poem entitled "Now-a-days," which I copy in full in order that those who hanker after the "good old times" to which our seniors are so fond of alluding, may see something of the changes which have taken place in the past sixty years:

"Alas, how everything has changed
Since I was sweet sixteen,
When all the girls wore homespun frocks
And aprons nice and clean;
With bonnets made of braided straw
That tied beneath the chin—
The shawls laid neatly on the neck,
And fastened with a pin.


"I recollect the time when I
Rode father's horse to mill
Across the meadow, rock and field,
And up and down the hill;
And when the folks were out at work,
As sure as I'm a sinner,
I jumped upon a bare-backed horse,
And carried them their dinner.


"Dear me, young ladies now-a-days
Would almost faint away
To think of riding all alone
In wagon, chaise or sleigh;
And as for giving Ta' his meals
Or helping 'Ma' to bake,
Oh, saints! 'twould spoil their lily hands,
Though sometimes they make cake.


"When winter came the maiden's heart
Began to beat and flutter;
Each beau would take his sweetheart out
Sleigh-riding in a cutter.
Or, if the storm was bleak and cold,
The girls and beaux together
Would meet, and have most glorious fun
Regardless of the weather.


"But now, indeed, it grieves me much,
The circumstance to mention.
However kind the young man's heart
And honest his intention,
He never asks the girls to ride,
But such a war is waged,
And if he sees her once a week —
Why, surely 'they are engaged.'"


Mrs. Lyons is supposed to have been the author of this poem.

The following was Mr. Lyons' first editorial:

"To our Subscribers and to the Men of Southern Oregon:

"In launching forth our little bark on the waves of public opinion, and unfurling our sheet to the breeze, we trust that one and all will come forward, and extend to us, not only kindness and lenity, but the necessary support requisite to keep our boat afloat and in proper trim. The prospectus of the Umpqua Weekly Gazette has already been extensively circulated, and all know the grounds we intend to occupy. Liberality and justice is our motto, and our columns shall remain free from the stain of political acrimony, or sectional abuse.

"We call particularly on the farmers to put their shoulders to the wheel, as the men who, in all civilized nations, make up the bone and sinew of society, and by their products furnish the nucleus, not only to the manufacturer, but to the commercial interests, of all lands.

"We will wind up this article, not with a promise of things we never intend to perform, but with the assurance to all of doing everything in our power to render our sheet both useful and agreeable."


A report of the Umpqua County Democratic Convention on April 22, 1854, is given, and in it is mentioned the nomination of S. F. Chadwick as county judge. This gentleman years later became very widely known in Masonic circles, and in 1870 was elected Secretary of State on the Democratic ticket, re-elected in 1874, and became the fifth Governor of the State of Oregon from February 1, 1877, to September 11, 1878, as a result of the election of Governor L. F. Grover to the United States Senate. He was also the first postmaster of Scottsburg.

In referring to exchanges, Mr. Lyons says:

"We must crave the indulgence of our readers for a few weeks until we get our exchange list properly established. Arrangements will be made, if possible, to get our exchanges by way of Port Orford, which will place us in possession of San Francisco dates some three or four dates in advance of any other paper in the Territory."

An interesting clipping from the New York Herald appears as follows:

"Our Relations with Japan.—What's to be Done Now? — According to the late news, the Emperor of Japan is dead, and it seems that the established law of respect to his memory requires that no official intercourse should be held with any foreign power for the space of two years; not even a foreign ambassador being allowed a reception until the expiration of that time.

"This places our relations with Japan in a very awkward position. On the 14th of July last, Commodore Perry had an interview with the nobles of Japan, at Gorehama, a town near Uragua, on which occasion he presented his credential in a great state, and a letter from President Fillmore to the Emperor in a gold box; and on the 17th of July (1853) Commodore Perry sailed, promising to call for the Emperor's answer in the spring.

"Now, what's to be done? The spring is at hand, and no foreign embassador can be received for two years to come. And are the great objects of Commodore Perry's mission thus to be staved off? The opening of a mighty trade with Japan, a commercial treaty, and the conversion of all those heathens—are these great objects to be postponed for two whole years, on account of the death of a half savage, gouty old Emperor? Is Commodore Perry to be kept beating about in Japanese waters for two years, waiting for an answer to the President's letter?

"Let President Pierce write a new letter, put it in a new gold box for the new Emperor, to be carried up to him, if necessary, at the point of the bayonet; and if the Emperor resists, let Commodore Perry be instructed to annex him and all his islands to the United States. Let the new Emperor understand, in three words, that he must trade or fight; and let Marcy prescribe his costume without delay."

Look upon that picture, and then consider the conditions of the present day, and the relations of Japan and the United States.

Parenthetically, perhaps, it may be of general interest to note that the English language was first introduced into Japan by a native son of Oregon, Ranald McDonald, who was born at Astoria in 1824. His father, Archibald McDonald, was a Factor in the Hudson's Bay Company, and his mother was an Indian woman, the daughter of Chief Cob-a-way, of the Clatsop tribe. He received the rudiments of an education through John Ball, a graduate of Dartmouth College, who came to Oregon in 1832, and taught a school at Fort Vancouver beginning m November of that year. He received additional education m Manitoba, and soon after he was out of his teens went to New York, took passage on a whaling vessel named the Plymouth, Capt. L. B. Edwards.[2] In shipping with this officer he made it distinctly understood that when he arrived at a point in the ocean where he wished to leave the ship he was to have that privilege. The place selected was in the sea of Japan, a few miles from the shore. Captain Edwards allowed him to take his best boat and supplied him with food and instruments to navigate with. He drifted at length to the beach, was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned. He soon made friends, however, and taught them the English language. Pupils of McDonald were among the interpreters on behalf of Japan when Commodore Perry first reached that country in 1852.

In Mr. Lyons' opinion a wagon road from Scottsburg to Winchester was very important to the Umpqua Valley, as it not only would open a market to the farmer for his produce, but would enable the merchant to send out his goods at trifling expense, compared with the hitherto heavy rates of packing. At that time between seven and eight thousand dollars had been subscribed.

A note is made of the arrival of a grampus between 50 and 60 feet long in the mouth of the Umpqua river. From his haggard appearance it is supposed that he ran out of provisions in doubling Cape Horn. An attempt was made to catch the monster, but without success. It was reported by some travelers from Coos County that a large whale had been cast ashore a few miles below the mouth of the Umpqua. This enabled the Indians there to fare sumptuously, as they devour whale blubber with the gusto of ravenous wolves.

The advertisers in the first issue were as follows:

George Haynes & Co., general merchandise, 575 Main street; Isaac N. Hall, groceries, etc.; Merritt, Oppenheimer & Co., wholesale dealers in dry goods, groceries, provisions, hardware, boots and shoes, clothing, liquors, cigars, etc.; Scottsburg House was a hotel kept by Joseph Putnam, the father of Charles F. Putnam, who married Roselle, the oldest daughter of Jesse Applegate; Allan, Lowe & Co., commission merchants, San Francisco; Samuel S. Mann had a lot of groceries and kindred stuff which he assures the public is entirely new and was purchased on terms so favorable that he "cannot fail to suit purchasers."

"Crosby's Hotel" was personally superintended by the proprietor, F. S. Crosby, who declared that the table was always to be supplied with the best that the market affords, and that "choice liquors and cigars were always available at the bar." In 1865 Mr. Crosby became an ardent temperance worker. His daughter was married to Rev. Myron Eells, a Congregational minister, at Boise City, Idaho, January 18, 1875. She is a widow now and lives at Union City, Mason County, Washington. Her oldest son is a graduate of Whitman College, and for a number of years has been the superintendent of the fine dairy farm of the late General Hazard Stevens, the son of General Isaac I. Stevens, who was the first governor of Washington Territory. This farm is located between Olympia and Tumwater, and no dairy farm in Oregon or Washington is more up-to-date in all respects.

Hinsdale & Co., wholesale dealers in general merchandise, corner Main and Nelson streets, Scottsburg.

The fast sailing schooner Frances Helen, Joseph B. Leeds, master, is announced to sail the first of May. The sloop Muckshaw, Capt. John Walker, will sail for the Coquille May 15th.

Allan, McKinlay & Co. announce that the steamer Washington will make tri-weekly trips between Lower Scottsburg and the mouth of the Umpqua river. A good scow always in readiness for the transportation of cattle. This was a branch house of the firm of that name at Oregon City, which succeeded the Hudson's Bay Company at that place, established about 1836.

William E. Lewis, boat builder and spar maker, on Mill Creek, Umpqua River.

W. N. Wells, house carpenter and ship joiner, Main street.

B. F. Johnson, blacksmith and gunsmith; also horseshoeing.

Local news very scanty. Paper, however, was well filled with a variety of miscellaneous items of interest.

From the column headed "All Sorts of Paragraphs" the following items are selected:

Cost of census of United States for 1790, $44,377; for 1850, $1,316,027.

The world was to have been destroyed on May 10, 1854, the date fixed by the Millerites, of Boston.

The mayor of a town in England sent a circular to all bakers in the corporation urging them, during the high cost of flour, to leave out the yeast, as he had reason to believe that it was the yeast which made the bread rise. That is not the cause now.

A Democratic paper in Ohio, after grave deliberation over the question of reducing the accidents in connection with railroad travel, concludes that the only way to do so is to abandon the use of steam and run the cars by oxen.

There are 13 individual banking houses on one street in San Francisco, all charging 3 per cent per month for money, and often more.

The American car is being admitted into England, it being regarded as superior to the English type.

In the second number of the Gazette the advertisement of Addison C. Gibbs, attorney at law, appears. He was elected governor of Oregon in June, 1862.

In No. 3 the names of those to whom contracts were given by the county commissioners for building the bridges on the Scottsburg-Winchester road appear as follows:

Elk Creek, Mr. Winchester, $1,500; Anyheim's, Capt. Hathaway, $150.00; foot of the Big Hill, John Frere, $75.00; No. 2, Sawyer's, and No. 2, Chadwick's, Casey & Frere, $150.00 each; Hudson's, Clark Hudson, $150.00; Burgess', Burgess, $150.00; Golding's, Golding, $150.00.

In No. 4, the question of whether the Territory should become a state was being discussed.

A large number of Indians were congregating on the Coquille. It was feared that this boded evil for the whites.

Gold claims on the beach were reported as paying well, $12.00 to $40.00 per day being frequently made.

Market prices: Flour, Chili, per pound 7 cents; bacon, 22c; butter, 37½c; sugar, China, 12½c; crushed, 17c; coffee, 17-20c; tea, 60-65c; dried apples, 15c; brown soap, 14c; soda, 50c; saleratus, 15c; raisins, per box, $5.50-$6.00.

In No. 5 the marriage notice of Legrand H. Hill to Miss Bethenia Owens, May 4, 1854, appears. This lady, now known as Dr. Owens-Adair, living near Astoria, was present at the fiftieth Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association on June 15, 1922.

At the end of the first volume Mr. Lyons' connection with the Gazette ceased. Notwithstanding his almost total loss of sight, he continued in his hotel and brushmaking business, assisted by his wife, until 1880, when he became totally blind. Then he turned his musical education to account, and in order to aid in making a living, frequently gave "walking concerts" on the pack trail between Scottsburg and the point now known as Drain, and also to Empire, being led along the way by a boy he had taken from an almshouse to raise. It must be remembered that hundreds of pack animals passed along these trails in early days; sometimes as many as 300 left Scottsburg for the interior in a single day.

Mr. Lyons died in Marshfield, August 12, 1895, at the age of 69. His wife was a most efficient helpmeet in many ways. In addition to household duties and teaching her own seven children, she taught school for others from time to time, being among the earliest teachers in Coos County. She died on May 10, 1907, aged 78.

The second editor of the Gazette was G. D. R. Boyd, Mr. Beggs continuing as publisher and printer. The new arrangement did not continue long, it being evident that the newspaper business under the conditions existing in what was then Umpqua County, now included in Douglas County, was not profitable, and therefore the paper was suspended in September, 1855. A few weeks later the plant was bought by Col. William G. T'Vault, in company with two men named Taylor and Blakely. Then it was shipped to Crescent City and packed to Jacksonville, where the Table Rock Sentinel, with T'Vault as editor, was issued on November 24, 1855.

Soon after the paper was started Editor T'Vault was charged with being "tainted with abolitionism." This was too much for the stout-hearted old Democrat — a native of Tennessee, too. Hence he wrote a personal article over his own signature and printed it on the editorial page, denying the allegation in the most positive manner, and challenged his accusers to meet him "on the field of honor," so common in the southland from whence he came. Being known as a good shot, his challenge was declined. Among other things he said: "If I thought there was one drop of abolition blood in my veins I would cut it out." That declaration was wholly satisfactory, and thereafter until the end of his life there was never any question regarding his political faith. His connection with this paper ceased in 1859, after the name was changed to The Oregon Sentinel. His next editorial experience was in 1863 with a paper called the Intelligencer, in Jacksonville, on a plant in that place first used by parties who started a paper called The Civilian, which died after a brief and fitful career—in fact, was a campaign sheet, as far as can be learned, issued in the interest of the National Democratic party in 1859, in opposition to the regular Democratic party. This enterprise failed in a few months, and was his last effort in connection with journalism.

Colonel T'Vault was a notable character in Southern Oregon for many years, beginning in 1852, and had a varied experience as editor, lawyer, Indian fighter, explorer and miner. Moreover, before leaving Tennessee for Oregon he had some newspaper experience, and soon after his arrival at Oregon City in the fall of 1845, he was employed as the editor of the Oregon Spectator, the first issue of which was on February 5, 1846, at a salary of $300.00 a year. He only held the job, however, two months, as it was the policy of the Printing Association which owned the plant to eschew politics, and the uncompromising democracy of T'Vault made that very difficult. He was also postmaster general of the provisional government of Oregon with a salary of $50.00 a year. The rate at that time between any Oregon postofiice and Weston, Mo., was 50 cents for a single sheet. At the end of nine months he resigned, saying that the receipts for that time had not been enough to pay the expense of transportation for one quarter.

William Green T'Vault was of Scotch, Irish and French ancestry, and was born on March 23, 1806. He was married to Miss Rhoda Boone Burns, a native of Kentucky and a grand-daughter of Daniel Boone, the famous Kentucky pioneer, in 1832. He and his wife and one daughter crossed the plains in 1845, and arrived at Fort Vancouver November 20th of that year. This family, as well as a number of other families, when in camp on the Malheur river where Vale now stands, were made to believe by Stephen H. Meek that a shorter route to the Columbia river at The Dalles ought to be taken than the one usually followed. In this these immigrants were misled and suffered a great deal in consequence. The route then followed has since then been called "Meek's Cut-off." Col. T'Vault died at Jacksonville, Oregon, February 4, 1869, as the result of an attack of smallpox.

Notes[edit]

  1. The Gazette was the seventh newspaper in Oregon Territory, those preceding it being in the following order: Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 5, 1846; Oregon Free Press, April, 1848, Oregon City; The Oregon American and Evangelical Unionist, at a farm house, near present-day Hillsboro, June 7, 1848; The Western Star, November 21, 1850, Milwaukie, changed to Oregon Weekly Times June 5, 1851, after removed to Portland; Oregonian, December 4, 1850, Portland; The Oregon Statesman, March 28, 1851. The Spectator was the first newspaper upon the Pacific Coast as well as the first in Oregon, as it antedates the first paper in California by six months and ten days.
  2. The Friend, Honolulu, Hawaii, December, 1848.