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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York

by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher


Chapter VIII.
The First Newspaper in the County - Its Very Early Publication - Its History down to its Present Successor, the Ithaca Journal - Opening of the Telegraph Line to Ithaca - The Ithaca Chronicle - The Democrat and its Predecessors - The Weekly Ithacan - Newspapers of Trumansburgh - Other Publications.

Like the history of the newspaper press elsewhere, papers have been established in Tompkins county and succeeded; others, and very many of them, after a struggle for existence of brief or longer duration, suspended, and the hopes of a host of ambitious publishers disappeared with the close of their issues. The death roll of newspapers is a long one in every populous community.

The first newspaper attempted in Tompkins county was named The Seneca Republican, and its first issue appeared July 4, 1815, seventy nine years ago, and nearly two years before the organization of the county. Jonathan INGERSOLL was the publisher. In 1816 its name was changed to The Ithaca Journal and MACK & SHEPHERD purchased it. The paper was successively issued by MACK & SEARING, Ebinezer MACK, and MACK & MORGAN, until 1824, when William ANDRUS became part owner of the establishment and the paper was issued by MACK & ANDRUS. In 1827 the title was The Ithaca Journal, Literary Gazette and General Advertiser; but the paper survived the burden of such a name.

In the following year the name was shortened to The Ithaca Journal and Advertiser. In December, 1833, MACK & ANDRUS sold to Nathan RANDALL. In 1837 RANDALL sold to MATTISON & BARNABY. MATTISON sold his interest to L. S. EDDY, and BARNABY afterwards acquired the entire interest. In 1839, under an execution, the paper was sold to Alfred WELLS. On the 1st of July, 1841, John H. SELKREG purchased a one-half interest, and WELLS & SELKREG published the paper until 1853, when SELKREG became sole proprietor. In 1842 the name of the publication was again changed to The Ithaca Journal, which title it still holds. In July 1870, the firm of SELKREG & APGAR was formed, and the Daily Journal appeared on July 1st of that year. This firm continued until 1876, when D. J. APGAR resold his interest to J. H. SELKREG. In 1877 The Ithaca Journal Association, a joint stock corporation, was formed, J.H. SELKREG, George E. PRIEST, Charles M. BENJAMIN and George W. WOOD each owning one-fourth. In 1978 SELKREG purchased the interest of WOOD, and in 1880 sold his whole share to PRIEST & BENJAMIN. The Journal Association was dissolved on 1891, and the Daily and Weekly Journal is now published by PRIEST & BENJAMIN. Three papers have been absorbed by the Journal, viz.: The Jeffersonian and Tompkins Times, established by Charles ROBBINS in 1835, was sold to George G. FREER in 1836, and merged into the Journal in 1837. The Flag of the Union, started by Jonathan B. GOSMAN in 1848, was absorbed by the Journal in 1849. The Ithacan, started by H. D. CUNNINGHAM and George C. BRAGDON in 1868, was sold to the Journal in 1970.

The Ithaca Journal was a Jacksonian organ and continued in the Democratic column down to 1856. In 1848 it advocated the election of VAN BUREN as against CASS. In 1856, in July, it became Republican, supporting FREMONT and DAYTON, and has continued an ardent advocate of Republican principles since. The Journal now and for many years past has ranked among the prominent newspapers of the interior of the State.

In 1846 a telegraph line had been constructed and was in operation between Utica and New York - a part of the main line then in process of building towards Buffalo. A branch wire was operated to Ithaca, and for some months the Journal and the Chronicle published small broadside dailies, distributing them gratuitously. No charge was made for the reports received, and the type set for these dodgers (for they were little more than that) was used in the regular weekly issues of the two papers.

In 1820 David D. SPENCER, who had just completed his apprenticeship with L. H. REDFIELD in the office of the Syracuse Gazette and Register, associated himself with Mr. STOCKTON and began the publication of the Ithaca Chronicle. In 1823 D. D. SPENCER acquired STOCKTONís interest and then sold one-half of the establishment to T. S. CHATTERTON, who purchased the remainder on 1828. He changed the name of the paper to The Ithaca Republican, and again changed it to The Tompkins American; but he discontinued the publication in 1834.

In February, 1828, David D. and Anson SPENCER began the publication of The Ithaca Chronicle. Spence SPENCER, son of David D., was at one period in the firm. In 1853, David D. SPENCER dying. Anson SPENCER became sole proprietor. In 1854 he sold the establishment to A. E. BARNABY & Co., who changed the name of the paper to The American Citizen. The paper again came into the hands of Anson SPENCER.

Timothy MALONEY began the publication of The Tompkins Democrat in the autumn of 1856, continuing it until his death in 1860. Samuel C. CLISBE then purchased the office and sold one half to Barnum R. WILLIAMS. CLISBE retired and the paper was consolidated with The Citizen (just mentioned), and the name changed to The Democrat in November, 1863. The business was conducted by SPENCER & WILLIAMS until the summer of 1872, when Mr. SPENCER again acquired the entire ownership and sold one-half to Ward GREGORY, December 1, 1873. Mr. SPENCER died July 26, 1876, and Mr. GREGORY purchased Mr. SPENCERís interest. On the 1st of March, 1889, George W. APGAR bought a one-half interest in the property. Mr. GREGORY died May 30, 1889, and his widow retaining his interest, the firm remains unchanged. The Republican Chronicle advocated the election of ADAMS in 1824, and was the Whig organ up to 1854 in this county, when BARNABY & Co., made it the organ of the American Party. This continued until 1860, and it then became and has since continued the Democratic organ of Tompkins county. It is ably edited and its sterling principles and firm adherence to the doctrines of its party give it a powerful influence.

The Weekly Ithacan is at the present time (1894) published by Lewis A. CLAPP, son of Asahel CLAPP, who died March 1, 1893. In May, 1856, H. D. RUMSEY started the publication of RUMSEYís Companion at Dryden. The name was soon changed to The Fireside Companion, and again a few months later to The Dryden News. In 1857 G. Z. HOUSE purchased the concern and changed the name of the paper to The New York Confederacy. The paper was soon afterward discontinued. In July, 1858, Asahel CLAPP resuscitated the publication under the name of The Dryden Weekly News. He enlarged and improved it, and in April, 1871, in connection with Haines D. CUNNINGHAM and Edward D. NORTON, the establishment was removed to Ithaca and the name of the paper changed to The Weekly Ithacan and Dryden News, with local editions for each village. After the lapse of about six months the firm was dissolved and Mr. CLAPP became sole owner. In June, 1874, he sold the establishment to George KETCHUM, who failed in 1875, and Mr. CLAPP was compelled to foreclose his lean on the office and bid it in. Since that date the paper has been enlarged and improved and has attained a large circulation. The Ithacan supported the Greenbackers in their day, but has made a consistent record for temperance ever since its establishment.

The Press in Trumansburgh. - The best history of the newspapers of Trumansburgh is printed in a publication devoted to the history of that village and published from the Free Press office in 1890. This publication, evidencing great research and labor in preparation, gives by far the most comprehensive history of the largest village in Tompkins county outside of Ithaca, covering also much of the history of the town of Ulysses and many other matters in which the inhabitants of that locality have an interest. The writer of this volume here acknowledges the great help it had been to him in his tack. We quote from its pages the following facts: The first newspaper in Trumansburgh was the Lake Light, an anti-Masonic paper, commenced in 1827 by W. W. PHELPS. The Light was extinguished in 1829 for want of support. The Anti-Masonic Sentinel was its successor, published by R. ST. JOHN, but it lived only about three months. In 1832 David FAIRCHILD started The Advertiser. He succeeded in his business and in 1837 sold his establishment to PALMER & MAXON; the latter soon afterward retired, and Mr. PALMER continued sole publisher. John GRAY succeeded him, changing the title to The Trumansburgh Sun. HAWES & HOOKER succeeded GRAY, changing the name to The Gazette. Not succeeding, the establishment came into the hands of John CREQUE, jr., who afterwards leased it to S. M. DAY, who changed the name of the paper to The Trumansburgh Herald. Mr. DAY was succeeded by W. K. CREQUE, who called the paper the Independent. Its publication ceased in 1852, and Corydon FAIRCHILD, of Ovid, purchased the materials.

In November, 1860, A. P. OSBORN started the Trumansburgh News, with Edward HIMROD as associate editor. HIMROD afterwards leased the office of and continued the paper, but OSBORN sold the plant to John McL. THOMPSON. A. O. HICKS and W. W. PASKO bought of THOMPSON, and were succeeded by J. W. VAN AMIE. and he by W. H. CUFFMAN, who continued the publication until the office was destroyed by fire, February 22, 1864. On April 5, 1865, O.M. WILSON issued the first number of The Tompkins County Sentinel, the name of which was afterwards changed to The Trumansburgh Sentinel. February 13, 1879, he sold the paper to C. L. ADAMS, and January 1, 1894, he sold to Charles A. VORHEES, its present proprietor.

In 1873 A. F. ALLEN published The Advance, which was continued only three months. On the 7th of November Mr. ALLEN revived the Free Press and has successfully conducted it; it may now be properly styled an established newspaper.

The Dryden Harold was started at that village in 1871 by William SMITH, who a few months later sold out to OSBORN & CLARK. In 1876 FORD & STROBRIDGE acquired the establishment. It subsequently came into the hands of A. M. FORD, and is now successfully published by his sons, J. B. & W. A. FORD. The Harold is neutral in politics with Republican tendencies.

Other more or less ephemeral publications in this county have been The Tompkins Volunteer, which was started in Ithaca by H. C. GOODWIN in 1840. John GRAY afterwards owned the establishment, and he sold to J. HUNT, jr., who issued the paper as The Tompkins Democrat. The plant was removed to Chenango county.

The Western Messenger was started by A. P. SEARING in Ithaca in 1826 and continued about two years. SEARING also started The Western Museum and Belles Lettres Repository in 1821, continuing it some two years.

James M. MILLER published The Castigator in 1823. In this paper appeared the proclamations of the Moral Society, famous in olden Ithaca.

O. A BRONSON began the publication of The Philanthropist, a Universalist organ, which lived about a year.

The Templar and Watchman, a temperance journal, was started by Orlando LUND, who sold an interest to Charles F. WILLIAMS. Subsequently LUND sold to Myron S. BARNES, who with WILLIAMS continued the paper about two years.

Edgar ST. JOHN commenced the publication of a temperance weekly in 1845 and continued it about two years. It was printed in the Journal office.

The Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor was started at Mottís Corners (now Brookton) in 1837. It was the organ of the Seventh-Day Baptists and secured a large circulation, principally in the Southern and Western States. The paper continued several years, when the office was removed elsewhere.

The Ithaca Daily Leader was started November 2, 1869, by William A. BURRITT. It was a small sheet six and one-half by nine and one-half inches printed matter, two columns on a page. February 1, 1870, it appeared as a three-column sheet, and the pages enlarged to eight and one-half by eleven inches. It subsequently passed into the hands of H. D. CUNNINGHAM and E. D. NORTON, by whom it was enlarged. It was published by them until December 31, 1872, when it was discontinued.

The Groton Balance was started in January, 1831, by H. P. EELS & Co., who issued it a few months, when it passed into the hands of E. S. KEENEY, and its name changed to The Groton Democrat. It was discontinued in 1840.

The Groton Journal was established by H. C. MARSH, November 9, 1866. He continued its publication until January, 1872, when it was purchased by A. T. LYON, who issued it until December 9 of the same year, when it was sold to L.N. CHAPIN, who sold it to W. H. ALLEN, who took possession July 17, 1879. He associated with him H. L. WRIGHT. L. J. TOWNLEY, the present proprietor, came on the paper October 16, 1879, and established the Lansing department, when the name was changed to the Groton and Lansing Journal and did business as the Journal Printing Company. November 17, 1883, Mr. TOWNLEY purchased the establishment and associated with him H. L. WRIGHT, under the firm name of TOWNLEY & WRIGHT. December 1, 1885, Mr. WRIGHT disposed of his interest to Mr. TOWNLEY, who has since published the paper. The Journal is a large folio, ably edited, and of great influence.

Landmarks - Chapter IX

Thank you Sherry Litterer for transcribing this information into digital format.

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