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From History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois, Springfield, IL: Continental Historical Co., 1885, pp. 120 – 140. Not a complete transcription. There will be typographical errors.
Backwoodsman was the title of the first newspaper ever issued within the limits of the county of Jersey. It was established in 1837 at Grafton by Paris Mason, who was sole proprietor; but the editorial management was under the control of John Russell, quite a noted and talented gentleman. He was a native of Vermont, born at Cavendish, that state, July 31, 1793. He entered Middlebury college in 1814, against the wished of his parents, and was driven to the drudgery of authorship by the stern necessity of procuring funds for his education and living. His first venture in this line was “The Authentic History of the Vermont State Prison,” published by Preston Merrifield. He was a noted school teacher, after leaving college. While teaching in Bonhommie bottom, Missouri, in 1819 or 1820, he wrote for the Missourian, a local paper, an anonymous article entitled, “The Venomous Worm,” that much resembled in pithiness, pungency and brevity the writings of Benjamin Franklin, which attracted attention over the world. It was afterwards placed in Pierpont’s and in McGuffey’s readers, as a specimen of native talent. He took charge of the Backwoodsman on its inauguration, and remained at the helm of that paper until the organization of the county in 1839, when he moved to Louisville, Ky., and in 1841 and 1842 edited the Advertiser, of that place. In 1828 he came to Bluffdale, a very romantic place in Greene county, where he made his residence, except at such times as related above, until the day of his death, Jan. 21, 1865. As a writer, and he was considerable of an author, his language was chaste and classical, his style clear and concise, although sometimes vigorously ornate; his taste was pure and his thoughts always appropriate and frequently striking.
In 1839, when Jerseyville was made the seat of county government, a joint stock company of Jerseyville people purchased the paper and material and moved it to the county seat, and in the spring of 1840 its publication was resumed, with A. S. Tilden as editor. This gentleman did not remain long, but was succeeded by Fletcher and Parenteau, who had obtained control of it and changed its name to that of the Newspaper. This paper had a life of only about four months, when the office was destroyed by fire, and it never was revived. Mr. Fletcher afterwards started and published the Carrollton Advocate in 1842.
The Democratic Union. During the year 1854, this paper was established at Jerseyville by Thomas Wright, who came from Indiana. The Union was the first democratic paper ever published at Jerseyville. Its publication was continued by Mr. Wright until 1856, when it was suspended and he left town. The following year Henry H. Howard revived the paper, and was succeeded in 1858 by John C. Doblebower, who continued to publish the Union until April 1, 1865, when it was discontinued.
Jersey County Democrat first appeared on April 7, 1865, under the editorial management of Augustus C. Smith. It was a seven-column folio, all printed at home and displayed a good amount of advertising, the life and existence of a country paper at that time. Mr. Smith continued in editorial charge of the Democrat until the issue of April 20, 1866, when the stock company was dissolved, and Thomas J. Selby became editor and proprietor. With the issue of October 9, 1869, Mr. Selby disposed of the paper to A. A. Wheelock and L. L. Burr.
With the issue of September 29, 1870, Wheelock & Burr sold the Democrat office to J. A. J. Birdsall and J. I. McGready, formerly of the Macoupin Times. Mr. Birdsall was connected with the paper about one year, when he retired and Mr. McGready became sole editor and proprietor. From October 1871 until 1880, the Democrat was under the exclusive control of Mr. McGready. During that time he brought it to a high standard in journalism in this part of the state, and became very popular with all classes, without regard to political belief, and also enjoyed a most prosperous existence. At the the beginning of the new year of 1880, the Democrat was changed in form to a six-column eight-page paper, presenting a very neat and tasty appearance, in which form it has continued permanently. Mr. McGready disposed of the paper to its present editor and proprietor, J. M. Page, Nov. 11, 1880, after a most successful career of over ten years.
Joseph M. W. Page, editor and proprietor of the Jersey County Democrat, is among the business men of Jersey county who have, by the exercise of industry, energy, a sterling character, and of their natural abilities, won for themselves an honorable station in life. He is a native of Stoughton, Massachusetts. Elisha Page, his father, was born in the same state, and was united in marriage to Almira Wightman, of Boston. She still survives her husband. By this union there were five children, three of whom are living: Lizzie H., who has been a teacher of high standing in the Stoughton high school, Boston, during a period of over 30 years; Elisha W., farmer and grain dealer, Girard, Ill.; and the subject of this sketch, who was born May 20, 1845. His father dying when Joseph was only three years of age, the responsibilities of real life rested heavily on the mother and older members of the family, who were compelled to provide for themselves at a time when more favored youths were receiving an education and fitting themselves for the battle of life. Joseph received a good education in the public schools of Stoughton. He graduated at the age of 16, just at the opening of the late civil war, and yielding to those patriotic desires which so marked his career in after life, he enlisted in the 12th Massachusetts infantry; but after the usual examination to qualify as a soldier, he was not permitted to be mustered in, to his bitter disappointment, on account of age and ill-health. He returned home, where he remained attending school until the next year, when he again enlisted in the 35th Massachusetts regiment, but was rejected for the same reason as on the previous occasion. In the spring of 1863, he bade farewell to friends and companions of the home circle, and launched his craft upon unknown currents, steering to the west. He landed at Greenville, Bond county, Ill., where he was employed to work on a farm. Soon after, he went to St. Louis, and engaged himself as a clerk in a wholesale grocery store, where he worked diligently for some time. Being irrepressible and thoroughly imbued with patriotism, he still desired to serve his country in time of need, and again offered his services to the government. This time he enlisted in the 40th Missouri infantry, in August 1864, was accepted, and served until the close of the war, being mustered out in August 1865. He served under Generals Canby, Schofield and Thomas, taking an active part in various campaigns. He was in several engagements in different states – at Spring Hill, Columbia, Franklin, Nashville, second battle of Corinth, Mobile and Fort Blakeley. After the close of the war he returned home, where he remained nearly a year, and in the spring of 1866 again came west, this time to Jerseyville. He had now reached the age of 21, and upon his arrival his aggregate capital amounted to 25 cents. Then was shown the true metal of his character, for at this age how few young men would entertain the ambition to apprentice themselves for a number of years to learn a trade and call for the sufficient will power and energy to accomplish the object they have in contemplation. This, Mr. Page did. He engaged himself with Wm. Embley, architect and builder, for a period of three years, to learn the carpenter’s trade, receiving for his services, the first year, the sum of $100, and $25 additional for each of the following years. Being apt, as well as industrious, he soon became a skillful workman, and at the expiration of his apprenticeship, was employed as fireman, with a lucrative compensation by N. F. Smith, Jr., for whom he worked until 1877, when, on account of threatened disturbance, occasioned by strikers who boldly disregarded law and order throughout the entire county, he having gained by his fearless, upright manner the confidence of the people and a reputation for undaunted bravers – was unanimously elected city marshal, his predecessor having been removed. Soon after he was elected, an incident occurred that now confirmed the respect and esteem in which he was held by the people. With the assistance of but two officers, Kinsla and Dunphy, he recaptured a train that was taken complete possession of by several hundred strikers, captured the leaders, and brought them to the bar of justice. They were sent to the penitentiary for a term of two years. He succeeded in subduing the mob spirit that had been gaining ground in the vicinity. For this meritorious conduct, he was presented with a family pass by General Manager McMullin, of the Chicago & Alton railroad. It is gratifying evidence of the manner in which he was endorsed by this people, as he was elected without opposition for four successive terms. In November 1880 he resigned, and purchased of Jesse I. McGready, who had been elected circuit clerk, the Jersey County Democrat, the official organ of city and county. He has continued the publication of this news journal to the present. Under his ownership and vigorous management, many improvements have been added. The office has been equipped with an Acme engine and large Campbell printing press, the paper has grown to be the pride of the part it represents in this county, has proved a paying investment, and continues to be one of the most potential democratic organs in this congressional district. It is in a great measure due to his efforts as a worker, and to the political articles published in his paper, that the county has remained so strongly democratic. Politically, he is most soundly indoctrinated in the principles of the democratic party, and has been an active member of that political organization since he cast his first vote for Seymour and Blair in 1868. In political campaigns he has taken an active part, is an effective campaigner, and his time and services are in great demand in all interesting political times. He has held various office of public trust at different times, among which have been city alderman, clerk and treasurer, is now chairman of city and county democratic central committees, secretary of congressional committee, 12th district, member of central committee of 7th circuit, secretary of Jersey County Soldier’s Monument Association, and of the Jerseyville Manufacturing Co., Sir Knight Commander of Washington division No. 2, U.R.K. of P., Chancellor Commander of Antioch lodge No. 65, K. of P., Post Commander of Lowe post No. 205, G.A.R., member of Jerseyville lodge No. 295, A. F. & A. M., and of Apollo lodge No. 877, K. of H. His fidelity to public trusts received still further evidence of the approbation of the people by his being appointed by the three judges of the 7th circuit as master in chancery of Jersey county in the spring of 1885. In all his undertakings he has been eminently successful, and it is evident that all he has accomplished has been through his own efforts, and that, too, from very disadvantageous beginnings, when he had no friends – not even an acquaintance, and in a strange land, thrown upon his own resources. His success in life is only an evidence of sober industry, backed by an indomitable will-power. The world’s measure of success is success. On March 17, 1871 he was united in marriage with Sadie M. Remer, who is of American parentage, a native of New Jersey. Her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Abram Remer, are yet living, and are residents of Jerseyville. Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Page are both consistent members of the Baptist church, he having joined in 1871. They have one child, Theodore.
Prairie State, a newspaper with this name was established at Jerseyville, somewhere about the year 1857. A diligent search has failed to discover any of the files of it, and therefore it is impossible to be exact as to the time. It ran along until the campaign of 1860, between Lincoln, Douglas, Breckenridge and Bell, in the race for the presidency.
Early in 1860 the republicans of Jersey county, foreseeing the gigantic struggle for the presidential office of that eventful year, formed themselves into an association. . . . the Republican Club of Jersey county. The club numbered among its members some of the best citizens of the county, as as they were much in need of a newspaper to further their political interests, arrangements were completed by which the trustees of the association – George E. Warren, J. J. Paris, James A. Barr, E. M. Smith and Harley E. Hayes – purchased the Prairie State of Augustus S. Smith, then editor and proprietor, for the consideration of $1,625. An agreement was also entered into at that time with A. C. Clayton, now a resident of St. Louis, Mo., to conduct the paper for the association. The first issue under his management appeared Jan. 20, 1860. Mr Clayton was an able writer, and conducted the paper with success and satisfaction for the association until January 1862, when he retired and the services of Lambson Williams were secured. After this, the paper had a varied experience until 1863 or 1864, when it came to an end.
The Jerseyville Examiner was established in Jerseyville in 1878, the first issue appearing August 14. The material affairs of the office were owned by a stock company known as the Jerseyville Publishing Company, of which William H. Pogue, James A. Barr, Horace N. Belt, William McBride and Morris R. Locke were stockholders. The paper was a neatly printed five-column quarto, issued Wednesdays, J. Sterling Harper being engaged as editor. The journal was an uncompromising advocate of the temperance cause, and continued as such during its entire existence. With the issue of November 27, the Examiner was leased by the editor, Mr. Harper, who continued to publish the paper but two weeks, when he withdrew entirely. Morris R. Locke had editorial management, and the paper was continued under his management until its consolidation with the Republican, Sept. 10, 1880.
The journal Jerseyville Register was established in the early part of November 1865 by Frederick S. Houghawout, editor and proprietor. It was a seven-column folio, all printed at home, at a subscription price of two dollars a year. Mr. Houghawout continued the publication of the Register until 1867, when he disposed of the paper to L. Williams, familiarly known by his friends as “Yank.” He afterward moved to Topeka, Kan., and his son, Charles F., leased the office and became its editor and publisher. In October 1868 the office was advertised for sale, and later purchased by Col. G. P. Smith, of the Jacksonville Journal, who established the Jerseyville Republican.
Jerseyville Republican. Part of the material which went to form the new paper was removed from Jacksonville, by Frank M. Roberts, now senior editor of the Republican-Examiner. The material arrived from Jacksonville on Christmas day, 1868, and on the first day of Jan., 1869, W. H. Edgar assumed editorial control. When the Jacksonville Journal was disposed of in 1869 to Chapin & Glover, the latter named firm also became proprietors of the Republican. The Republican, which was an eight-column folio, all printed at home, continued under the proprietorship of Chapin and Glover, with W. H. Edgar as an editor, until Aug. 25, 1870, when is was disposed of to the latter named gentleman, who then became sole editor and proprietor. The Republican was edited and published successfully by Mr. Edgar for a number of years. In the issue of Sept. 3, 1880, the notice of a business change appeared, in reference to the consolidation of the Examiner and Republican, now the Republican Examiner.
The first issue of the Republican-Examiner appeared September 10, as a five-column quarto, in which form it has since continued. William H. Edgar and Morris R. Locke acting as editors and proprietors, under the firm name of Edgar & Locke, the latter gentleman having served as editor and proprietor of the Examiner. The firm of Edgar & Locke conducted the paper until January 12, 1885, when Mr. Locke retired, and was succeeded by Frank M. Roberts, who some three weeks earlier had leased the office, and who, at present, is the senior member of the firm conducting that journal. In March following, another change occurred in the management of the Republican-Examiner. William H. Edgar, who had edited the paper since its advent in Jerseyville, retiring, and giving place to Will H. Hedley, one of the present proprietors.
Frank M. Roberts was born in Lancaster, Schuyler county, Mo., Aug. 28, 1846, his parents being Thomas and Elizabeth A. (Brown) Roberts. In 1862 the family moved to Jacksonville, Ill., where Frank M. learned the printer’s trade in the Journal office. In February 1865 he enlisted in Company K, 154th Illinois volunteer infantry, and served until September 1865, when he was mustered out at Nashville, Tenn. Returning to Jacksonville, he resumed work at his trade, and continued the same until July 1868. He then went to Decatur and had charge of a job printing office until December. On the 24th of that month he was at Jerseyville, arranging presses and material preparatory to establishing the Jerseyville Republican, now the Republican-Examiner, with which office he was connected eight months. The following year he was in Missouri, but did not follow his trade. He however longed to again enter a printing office, and thus, in November 1870, accepted a position in the job rooms of the Springfield, Ill. State Journal. Five months later we find him a shareholder in the Daily Leader at Bloomington. In July 1872 he went to Humboldt, Kan., where, during the presidential campaign, he published the Southwest. Afterwards the paper was moved to Neodesha, Wilson county, Kan., and the name changed to the Free Press. While in Humboldt, on December 22, 1872, Mr. Roberts was united in marriage with Lydia Boyce, a daughter of William and Diana Boyce. In March 1873 he returned to Springfield, Ill. and again entered the employ of the State Journal company. In the fall of 1873 he went to LaPorte county, Indiana, and accepted a position as traveling agent and correspondent for the Herald, which position he held until January 1874, when he went to Burlington, Iowa, and became superintendent of the Hawkeye job rooms, which were changed to Acres, Blackman & Co., with whom he remained until the winter of 1875. During his stay he introduced many novelties in the job printing business. He next had charge of the Cedar Rapids Republican job office, and in July 1876, became superintendent of the Western Stock Journal and Farmer. In March 1877 he established a job office at Oscaloosa, Iowa, and commenced the publication of the Messenger and Appeal, a publication in the interest of the labor movement, and continued the same until November 1879. He then went to Sigourney and took charge of the News. Then to Ottumwa, and became foreman of the Courier job room. Nov. 10, 1881 he returned to Sigourney and accepted the position of superintendent of the News office. March 29, 1882 his wife died. She had given birth to two children, one of whom, Coral F., is still living. After the death of his wife he went to Chariton, Iowa, and took charge of the Democrat-Leader. July 21, 1881 he went to Santa Fe, N.M., and accpeted a position as foreman of the New Mexico Printing and Publishing Company. In June 1882 he accepted a position in the office of the general manager of the Tertio-centennial Celebration Association, and remained until after the exposition in August. He then took a camp outfit and started out prospecting and mining. He located mines in October, and remained until April 1884. He was then appointed to a position in the government printing office at Washington, which he retained until September, when he returned to Jerseyville. In December he leased the Republican-Examiner job rooms, and Jan. 9, 1885, he bought Morris R. Locke’s half-interest in the paper, and in March assumed editorial charge. April 15, 1885, Mr. Roberts was married to Clara E. Buffington, a daughter of Dr. J. M. and Frances (Gordon) Buffington. Quite a romance was connected with this marriage, of which part will be given here as taken from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. “The bride and groom were betrothed 16 years ago, but owing to the opposition of her parents, the nuptials were not celebrated, and they separated, she knowing nothing of his whereabouts for 13 years. In 1872 he married another lady, and in 1882 she died, exacting from him the promise that if he married again, it should be to the one to whom he was at first bethrothed, if possible. Subsequently, he found her unmarried, and the sequel indicates her fidelity.”
Will H. Hedley was born in St. Louis, Mo., August 21, 1859. His parents, James and Mary A. Hedley, are natives of Sheffield, England, having emigrated to America about 1852. The subject of this sketch resided in St. Louis until 1869, when, with his parents, he moved to Chicago, Ill., residing there one year; moving back to St. Louis in 1870. Since 1871 the life’s experiences of the above subject have been rather rugged for one so young in years. In 1872 he went to Webster’s Grove, Mo., remaining there about 18 months; from there he moved to Barry, Ill., and took up his abode with a farmer for about nine months; he ten traced his steps back to St. Louis, Mo., and in August 1875, entered the office of the Central Christian Advocate, for the purpose of learning the printing business. He labored in this capacity about one year, when he once more engaged in farm life for two years; returning to St. Louis in 1878, and labored at the printing business there until July 1880, when he left the latter place for Barry, Ill., and entered the printing office of S. Fitch, proprietor of the Unicorn, remaining with him until March 8, 1881; at this date he accepted a position with A. Hughes, Griggsville, Ill., publisher of the Press. He remained at the latter place until Feb. 20, 1884, at which time he departed for St. Louis, Mo., and took a position in the Nixon-Jones book and job printing establishment, remaining there until Oct. 20, 1884. He tne accepted a position in the state printing office of H. W. Rokker at Springfield, Ill., and purchased Col. W. H. Edgar’s half interest in the Republican-Examiner, and associated himself with Frank M. Roberts in publishing the paper above named.
The Grafton Independent was established by Col. W. H. Edgar of Jerseyville in 1877, the first number appearing on October 11th. It was a seven column folio; decidedly neat in appearance, and well filled with local news and pointed editorial paragraphs. The paper was issued from the office of the Republican, Jerseyville, where all the mechanical work was done, though the editor, Mr. R. R. Claridge, prepared all his manuscript at Grafton. The paper continued without any change of management until September 1878, when R. R. Claridge purchased the necessary materials, and moved the office to Grafton, becoming himself sole proprietor as well as editor. The Independent was continued at Grafton until November 1880, when it was moved to Jerseyville, the name being changed to the Jersey Independent.
With the issue of April 5, 1882, Mr. Claridge closed his connection with the paper, disposing of it to Lyman T. Waggoner, who became editor and proprietor. A. M. Slaten became identified with the paper as part owner with the issue of June 4, 1882. The firm name was then changed to Slaten & Waggoner, the latter being the editor. Mr. Slaten soon afterward assumed entire ownership and control, and in turn disposed of the property to J. M. Giberson, of Elsah. In July 1882 the paper and the material was purchased by J. M. Giberson and C. H. Kelly of Elsah, but before a paper was issued the latter bought out the interest of his partner and became sole proprietor. The first paper under the new management was issued August 2, 1882. In the fall of 1885, the support given to the Independent proving insufficient for its existence, the office was closed, and the paper discontinued.
In October 1885 a new journal came into existence in Jerseyville, which bears the title of the Free Press. This is owned and edited by E. T. Lurton and R. E. Smith, and is intended to take the place of the Independent. It is quite a neat and well gotten up sheet.
Charles H. Kelly, the late editor and proprietor of the Independent, is a native of the state of Illinois, having been born in Alton in December 1848. In 1850 his parents moved to Jersey county, where Charles was reared, and where he has lived ever since. He like the other boys, attended the common district schools of the neighborhood in winter, but during the summer was engaged in work on the farm. His latter school days were spent at the Christian Brothers’ College at Alton, the place of his birth. Finishing his education, he returned home where he divided his time between farming and teaching school. Politics now attracted his attention, and he was four times successively elected to the office of assessor of Elsah township, and one term as treasurer of the school fund of the same township. In 1884, after moving to Jerseyville, he was duly elected collector of Jersey township. He was united in marriage in May 1874 with Sarah A. Darlington, and as the result of this union there have been five children, three of whom are living: Bertha K., Samuel B., and Percy D. Myrtle and Willie are deceased. In politics Mr. Kelly is a staunch democrat of the old Jacksonian type, notwithstanding the name by which the journal over which he presided has been known during his connection with it. During his editorial career, his general aim was always to labor in the interest of the general advancement and enlightenment of his country and this community in particular. As an editor he was conscientous in the discharge of what he conceived his duty to his friends and party, and therefore had the confidence of many who admired his honor and adherence to his principles.
When the Independent was moved to Jerseyville in November 1880, Grafton was left without a newspaper. This state of affairs continued until April 1882, when the Grafton News made its appearance, the first number coming out on the 13th of the month named, with J. A. McClintock as editor and publisher. A four-column, eight page paper, it was well gotten up and edited, and was received with genuine greeting by the citizens of Grafton and vicinity.
With the issue of Aug. 22, 1884, the name of the paper was changed to that of Jersey County Prohibitionist. No change was made, however, as regards editorship, form or size, but under its new name it was everything that its name implied, a strong advocate of prohibition. It continued this, without change until the end of 1884, when it resumed its former name of the Grafton News, Mr. McClintock turning over the editorship to C. B. Edsall, and retaining the ownership himself. No changes have been made in these departments since that time, though the size of the paper has been altered to that of a six-column folio.
Corydon Perry Edsall is a native of Jersey county, born three miles north of Grafton. He is a son of William and Lydia H. (Perry) Edsall. The former, who was born in Cayuga county, N.Y., settled in this county in 1838. The latter parent was born in the state of Alabama. The subject of this sketch attended the district schools of his native township, and later the Illinois Industrial University at Champaign, where he became fitted for school teaching, in which occupation he has since engaged. He has taught, altogether, 15 years, 7 years of the time in one school, Shiloh district. He is thoroughly qualified for his responsible position, and as an instructor is highly successful and popular. He was married April 6, 1879 to Catherine Shaffer, daughter of Andrew Shaffer, of this county. They have three children, Thomas Harry, Perry A., and Lennie Edith. Mr. Edsall is a supporter of the prohibition party, and was defeated on that ticket for the position of circuit clerk in 1882. He took charge of the Grafton News, as editor, Jan. 1, 1885, which position he still occupies. He is also the representative of the AEtna insurance company at this point, and a real estate agent.
The Jerseyville Evening Times was established by Messrs. J. A. Walker and J. A. Blannerhassett. The first issue appeared on the afternoon of May 25, 1885, as a five-column folio. On July 13, 1885, the paper was changed to a morning publication and the name altered to that of the Daily Times. Both proprietors were practical printers, and understood the wants of the community, and catered to it. On Aug. 17, 1885, Mr. Blennerhassett retired from the firm and the paper is now in the hands of J. A. Walker, sole proprietor and editor.
John A. Walker, the subject of this sketch, was born in Deavertown, Morgan county, Ohio, Feb. 5, 1853. He spent the early part of his life on his father’s farm, and at the age of 12 years moved to Jerseyville, Ill. in the spring of 1865. In 1867 the family returned to Ohio, and in 1870, leaving his paternal parent there, he again visited Jerseyville, and entered the office of the Democrat, then published by Burr & Wheelock, as apprentice. He remained in the office until 1873, when he went to Carrollton, Greene county, Ill., and engaged as a compositor on the Patriot, published by Minor & Lindley, where on Nov. 11, 1879, he married Susie Sapp, adopted daughter of Hon. George Wright. In the spring of 1880 he moved to Jerseyville and was employed on the Republican-Examiner, where he labored until May 1885, when he became the junior editor and publisher of the Jerseyville Daily Times. He received his education in the free school of his district, and was noted for his close application to study, receiving a good knowledge of the branches generally taught in the common schools of the day.