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MDN at 130: Among the births 130 years ago -- The Democrat-News

Friday, December 11, 2009

Even looking only at births during 1879, the year was notable.

Comedian W.C. Fields made his debut in Philadelphia.

Josef Stalin was born in the Russian province of Georgia, and Leon Trotsky was born in Yanovka, Ukraine.

Albert Einstein was born in Germany.

Even more important to the American Midwest, Edward Murray East, whose botanical research led to the development of hybrid corn, was joyfully greeted by his parents in DuQuoin, Ill.

Of course, there were deaths.

Artist George Caleb Bingham, who once lived in Arrow Rock, died in Kansas City. Thomas Hart Benton died, too, and so did William Lloyd Garrison, noted journalist and abolitionist, who said, "I will be as harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice ... and I will be heard."

And there were other significant changes.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, women attorneys were granted the right to argue before the Court on February 15; barely a month passed before Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood was admitted to practice before the court, the first female attorney to do so. That made her famous enough to have a World War II merchant ship, the USS Belva Lockwood, named after her.

Saccharine was discovered, milk was sold in glass bottles for the first time and Thomas Alva Edison demonstrated his first electric light.

Halfway around the world, in the little-known country of Japan, barely 20 years after the country was opened to the West for trade by Admiral Matthew Perry, a newspaper called Asahi Shimbun was born that year. It's still going strong today.

In the city of Marshall, though, publication of daily and weekly newspapers was already a well-established tradition.

Newspapers of the 19th century made no pretense of impartiality, which may explain why there were so many of them. The Marshall Democrat made its first appearance in mid-January 1858, under the guidance of John S. Davis, who was determined to publish, in his own words, "a medium through which ... the resources (of the Democratic party) may be more fully developed ... an index to our political views will be found in the name of our paper..."

Davis certainly knew his audience.

"Upon the agricultural portion of the community we shall chiefly depend for our support; and it shall be our constant aim to make the Democrat interesting as a family journal, worth of a place in every home and work-shop; to give each week an epitome of the news, statistics and information in every department of industry and trade, together with such political matters and light reading as will afford an agreeable variety."

At the same time, The Saline County Herald, edited by G. W. Allen, catered to the political views of the American Party, and was published for a time in Arrow Rock. Yet another paper, The Saline County Citizen, was edited by Sam Boyd, who also supported the American Party.

The American Party, also known as the "Know-nothing" Party, for their habit of answering "I know nothing" when asked about their political beliefs, was mainly opposed to immigration and to the Catholic Church. When party leadership refused to take a stand on slavery during the years running up to the Civil War, membership declined to virtually nothing by 1860, even after their presidential candidate, Millard Fillmore, drew nearly a million votes in 1856.

During the Civil War, local newspapers ceased publication when they lost their employees to the Grand Old Army of the Republic or to the Rebel cause.

When the dust of the war had cleared, throughout the 1870s and 1880s newspapers were published sporadically all over Saline County, including The Marshall Banner, The Saline County Progress, The Marshall Gazette, The Miami Cable, The Slater Monitor and The Slater Sentinel. One oddly-named publication, The Irrepressible Conflict, was devoted to the cause of prohibition, and apparently wasn't a hit with Missourians -- it lasted only 15 months around 1877.

In 1872, Barnabas Frazee, another Democratic Party stalwart, was publishing The Saline County Democrat. Frazee had competition from the weekly Marshall News and The Daily News, which began publication in 1879.

At The Marshall Democrat-News, we celebrate 1879 as our birth year.

In 1879, Rutherford B. Hayes, an Ohio Republican, was beginning the third year of his presidency.

The population of Saline County had grown to 29,911, an increase of 38 percent since the 1870 census, and Marshall was home to about 1,650 residents. The population of Missouri stood at 2,168,604, while the nation's population was pushing hard on 50 million. The national debt, per capita, was $40.42.

The U.S. produced 2,437,482,300 bushels of cereal crops like corn, wheat, oats and rye, and Missouri produced 900,000 tons of coal.

There were 450,000 children in Missouri schools, which lasted 100 days each year. High school graduates intent on pursuing a college education in the Show-Me state could choose from 15 colleges and join 1,559 other students intent on pursuing the same goal.

Missouri had 3,740 miles of railroad track, part of the national network of 86,497 miles, which was increasing at the rate of 4,700 miles each year.

Jesse James and his gang were operating in Missouri then. In October, they stopped a train in Glendale by rolling a large rock onto the tracks, then made off with the contents of a safe onboard.

And at what was then known as Missouri State University, English Professor David R. McAnally taught the first class in journalism, probably in Academic Hall. McAnally became a reporter for the St. Louis Globe Democrat several years later, and the class was discontinued.

In Saline County, Pennytown was already a thriving community of about 64 acres in 1879. The 1880 census shows there were as many as 26 households in the tiny enclave south of Marshall, which began as eight acres of land purchased by a former slave from Kentucky named Joe Penny in 1871 for $160.

On March 1, 1879, Farmers' Savings Bank opened its doors in Marshall, joining Wood & Huston Bank.

Microfilm of every newspaper published in those years isn't available, but records for The Saline County Progress are fairly complete.

The February 27, 1879, edition carried a front page story about Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the "Little Giant" of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, when the two orators were running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The story was a reprint from John W. Forney's Progress, a weekly Democratic political journal founded the year before.

Another story, headlined "Effect of an Exclusive Corn Diet on Swine," quoted the National Live Stock Journal: "While we are fully in accord with the popular belief that corn is the cheapest and best food for fattening swine, we feel disposed to repeat the warning that we have often uttered heretofore against the dangers of its exclusive use."

A front page ad taken by R. Lowenstein & Co., "dealers in hides, furs, wool, pelts, rags, tallow, beeswax, feathers, copper and brass &c." wanted readers to know they could be found at "the stand lately occupied by Jake Smith as a saloon, one door west of Harrison's tin shop" in Marshall, and would pay "the highest prices in cash."

Yet another front page ad announces that Dreyfus, Hill & Woracek, dealers in lumber, lath, shingles, doors, sash, blinds and mouldings were operating out of their office and yard south of the railway near the depot, with Jos. Fisher Jr., Agent, in charge.

Under a headline "A Model Senator," Senator Lamar complained he couldn't save any money out of his salary. He was spending $300 per year on newspapers because, he said, "I like to read them."

"I could save $1,000 a year if I would do certain things, but I do not think my conscience would be satisfied if I did," he added, referring to railroad passes, telegraph passes and other "perks" of the his job as senator.

This appears to be a reference to Senator Lucius Q. C. Lamar of Mississippi, who had a reputation for honesty and forthrightness. He later served as Secretary of the Interior and was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Grover Cleveland in 1888.

Although the population of Saline County stood at 29,912, not many of them lived in Marshall, which then counted only 1,933 residents.

Things were about to change.

By 1889, the combined publications were known as the The Daily Democrat-News, which emerged as the great-grandfather of the paper published today as The Marshall Democrat-News.

Contact Kathy Fairchild at marshallhealth@socket.net

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Takealoadoff: Thanks for that information. We appreciate it and hope others will pass along more history to us!

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Mon, Dec 14, 2009, at 9:22 AM

Thanks for the history lesson! For those that don't know, the R. Lowenstein & Co. building was located on W. Arrow St., where the far west door into Generations used to be. That building is currently being remodeled again.

-- Posted by Takealoadoff on Mon, Dec 14, 2009, at 8:39 AM

Thanks Eric and Kathy for the information.

-- Posted by Ray on Sun, Dec 13, 2009, at 2:47 AM

enjoyed this history, yes slater news rustler is still around, weekly i think, maybe different name not sure.marshall messenger is still with us and of course our local newspaper which i enjoy reading.as far as leaning toward a certain political party i dont think so, you favor any elected official no matter what party, you refuse to follow up any stories that may show some officials are in question.

-- Posted by yank on Fri, Dec 11, 2009, at 5:52 PM

Ray: I have a stack of copies here from microfilm records at the Marshall Public Library and here's what I see: The Saline County Democrat and the Marshall Daily News merged to became The Daily Democrat-News in 1889. By 1899, it was The Weekly Democrat-News. Between 1929 and 1939, it became The Daily Democrat-News again. By 1969, it was The Democrat-News, and between 1989 and 1999, it became The Marshall Democrat-News.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Dec 11, 2009, at 4:02 PM

There was a newspaper in Slater in the 1960s known as The Slater News Rustler. You could see the whole operation through the big glass windows at the front of the building. It looked like an interesting enterprise from the street view and The Rustler gave the town a real feeling of community. The Rustler was located on the south east corner of Maple and Main. I believe it also shut down publication in the 1960s. I've always wondered why they shut down. It was a decent newspaper.

There was also a paper known as The Marshall Messenger in the 1960s that published mostly advertisements as I recall.

1. Is it still around?

2. Also, what year did The Daily Democrat News become The Marshall Democrat News?

3. What is The Marshall Democrat News' position today (if any), regarding publishing the views of any particular political party compared to another?

-- Posted by Ray on Fri, Dec 11, 2009, at 2:54 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
1. I think the News Rustler became Slater Main Street News when the current owner took over.

I'll defer to Kathy on question No. 2 (or whoever else remembers).

The MDN no longer has a political affiliation or preference, though I hear occasionally from people who are convinced we do. Democrats seems to think we lean Republican and Republicans seem think we lean Democratic.

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