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Elk County
Chapter VI


Journalism - Schools




THE first newspaper printed and published in Elk county was called the St. Mary's Republican. It was born in the town of St. Mary's in the latter days of the year 1849. After a struggle of a few weeks, it died of starvation; this, too, in the thriving borough which now supports two sprightly Jeffersonian-Democratic journals, One of them a semi-weekly. What a change to be wrought in only thirty-eight short years!

The Elk County Advocate first saw the light of day on March 9, 1850. It was in size 22x28, and in appearance ranked fairly with the county papers of that day. The press and types were bought with money subscribed mainly by citizens here, but with some assistance from non-resident land owners. Practical printers were gathered in from Jefferson, Clearfield and Warren counties. After an all-night effort, the paper was got in readiness for the weekly horseback mail, then carried by the late ex sheriff, David Thayer, through the almost unbroken forest to Warren. The second number was also issued without definite arrangement, with the name of Henry Souther, now a prominent citizen of Virginia, as editor. In the meantime a contest was going on among the imported printers for the job of running the Advocate. Arrangements were finally made with Jerome Powell, one of the importation, to edit and publish the paper for one year - the sum of $600 being guaranteed him for the service.

The editor of the Advocate noticing the organization of the "Know-nothings" in April, 1854, says: ~' The patriots of the Revolution fought not only for their liberties and firesides, but also to build up a country here, where the oppressed of all nations could find a refuge and home throughout all future time. But the Know-nothings are out for a different order of things."

The result was that the Advocate was published and edited by Mr. Powell, assisted for a short time in the editorial department by Mr. Souther, for about five and a half years, or till September 8, 1855. The paper was then sold to our now prominent citizen, J. L. Brown, of Wilcox, who changed the name, we believe, to the Elk County Reporter. From that point the paper changed hands frequently. Maj. J. A. Boyle succeeded Mr. Brown, followed in turn by

P. W. Barrett, H. A. Pattison, Dr. J. S. Bardwell, in 1870, and others. John G. Hall finally bought it, and carried it on for a whi]e in the interest of pure and unselfish Democracy.

The Advocate came into possession of the Republican party by purchase about December 1, 1868. An organization was formed called "The Elk County Advocate Association," and certificates of stock issued to the amount of about $1,300. We are indebted to J. H. Hagerty for one of the original certificates of stock. In size it is 4 ½ x8 1/2 inches. It is printed in two colors, red and green, and reads as follows:

No______________ RIDGWAY, ELK COUNTY, PA., $__________

Ridgway, Pa., December 1st, 1868.

This certifies that_____________________________________________ has paid to


The sum of Two DOLLARS, which entitles him, or the bearer hereof, to One Share of Stock, at two dollars per Share, in the said Elk County Advocate Association.

J. S. BARDWELL, '-Trustees.

On March 2, 1871, Henry A Parsons, Jr., became owner of the Advocate, vice Mr. Souther, and, abolishing the old numerals, commenced with Vol. I, No. 1, and introduced steam power presses. On September 19, 1872, H. A. Pattison became publisher. In 1884 the office was sold to the Ridgway Publishing Company, limited, the present proprietors, who purchased and added to the plant the Schoening series of law blanks, and some new machinery and type. Just when the name of the paper was again changed from the Reporter to the original name Ridgway Advocate, we have been unable to learn. *

The Elk Democrat was started August 26, 1869, by the Elk Democrat Association. The stockholders were William A. Wallace, of Clearfield; John G. Hall, George Dickinson, J. S. Hyde, W. H. Hyde, G. P. Messenger, Sr., Nelson Gardner, G. G. Messenger, G. F. Dickinson, David Thayer, C. V. Gillis, W. C. Healy, C. H. McCauley, H. S. Thayer and Fred Wilmarth, of Ridgway; and J. K. P. Hall and Louis Volimer, of St. Mary's. The paper was started for the purpose of advocating the cause of John 0-. Hall, the Democratic nominee for assembly, the St. Mary's Gazette, the only Democratic paper in the county, having espoused the cause of C. R. Earley, who ran as an independent candidate against Mr. Hall. John F. Moore, of Clearfield, had mechanical charge of the paper until October 30, 1869. A German printer was imported from Philadelphia, and, during the exciting campaign of that year, each issue contained several columns of German editorials for the special benefit of the German voters in Benzinger, St. Mary's, Fox and Jones. The contest having resulted in the election of Mr. Hall, it was decided to continue the publication of the paper, and on November 1, 1869, Eugene J. Miller, of Harrisburg, assumed editorial and mechanical charge of the office. In 1870 the paper was enlarged from seven to eight columns to the page. After a service of two years, Mr. Miller resigned, and the office was leased to C. W. Barrett. In the latter part of March, 1873, Mr. Miller purchased the establishment from the Elk Democrat Association. Up to that time the office was located on the second floor of J. S. Hyde's building, afterward used as a boarding-house. As soon as Mr. Miller had obtained possession, he removed the office to the second floor of the new building of W. S. Service, opposite the court-house, where it remained until the early morning of September 29, 1882, when it went up in smoke in the disastrous fire which reduced to ashes the business heart of Ridgway, having in December, 1874, absorbed by purchase the job printing office of Fred Schoening, making it at that time the most complete printing establishment in the country. Only one line of type from the entire outfit escaped the flames, and that was not in the office, having been borrowed by Mr. Parsons. This line Mr. Miller still has, carefully laid away, and prizes it highly as a relic of the old Democrat outfit. Thanks to the courtesy of H. A. Parsons, Jr., proprietor of the Advocate, not an issue of the paper was missed. The week following the fire a small sheet was issued, and from that time until the 2d of November following, the paper appeared regularly from the Advocate office as a half- sheet, when a shanty having been built on Court street, opposite Mercer's meat market, and a new outfit procured, it was again issued as a full-sheet, being printed on a Prouty press, which was the first cylinder press ever brought into the county. In August, 1883, the office was moved from the shanty to the second floor of R. I. Campbell's new brick building. In the spring of 1884 a Bookwalter engine was put in, and the newspaper and job presses run by steam. On December 1, 1884, Mr. Miller sold the office to George R. Dixon, A. M., the present proprietor. The Daily Democrat was issued in November, 1887, and continued during the meeting of the institute. Mr. Dixon is a trenchant writer. In 1875 - 76 he wrote a valuable history of the county schools, much of which is incorporated in this work.

The Elk County Railroad & Mining Gazette Company was incorporated in August, 1867, with C. B. Earley, H. Kietz, W. James Blakely, C. McVean, Fred Schoening, L. J. Blakely, E. C. Schultz, and George A. Rathbun, members. The object was to publish a journal showing forth the resources of the county. The first issue of the Gazette is dated September 24, 1868, with Edward F. Hodges, editor. He was followed by L. J. Blakely. Capt. G. C. Brandon, who died at Mount Pleasant, Mich., in 1889, was, for a number of years editor of the Gazette. His daughter, Mrs. E. B. Wilmarth, is now editor of the Democrat at that place. Volume V, No. 3~3 of the Elk County Gazette was issued January 9, 1873, by G. C. Brandon, and he continued regular publication for over fourteen years, until March 11, 1886, when C. W. Barrett succeeded him. In the salutatory of Mr. Barrett, March 18, 1886, this sentence finds a place: "Financially we expect to pay our liabilities and collect our bills, or vice versa, and upon this last declaration hangs all the law and the profits." In April, 1887, the vice versa part of the program seems to have been accomplished, for the office passed from the possession of the sheriff into the hands of P. B. Wilmarth & Co. There was no paper issued on April 14, but on April 21 P. R. Wilmarth & Co. appear as publishers, with H. A. Hall, editor and G. A. Westcott, superintendent. In January, 1890, Harry A. Hall disposed of his interest in the Gazette to the Wilmarth Bros., preparatory to the establishment of his law office at Ridgway.

The Grace Church Record, a monthly sheet, was published at Ridgway in Jane, 1876, with Rev. William James Miller, editor, by Charles B. Earley and W. F. Geary.

The Herald was issued semi-weekly, at St. Mary's, June 11, 1887, by C. W. Barrett, formerly of the St. Mary's Gazette. He sold the office, January 10, 1888, to F. J. Wimmer and T. A. Jacob, the latter being now sole owner.

The Clarion Breeze, No. 1, Vol. I, was issued at Johnsonburg July 18, 1889, by A. J. Quimby, formerly of Coudersport. This journal, like the town it represents so well, started pretentiously, and continues to carry out its pretentions.


The first school in Elk county was opened in 1821, two years after the establishment of a school in Cameron county. It was presided over by Cephas Morey, and carried on in one of the two rooms into which the leading building on Meadic run, in what is now Benezette township, was divided.

In that early age there were many peculiarities in habit and in diction, the words would and could were pronounced by some wold and cold, the letter z was pronounced zed, and had been pronounced a short time previous izzard, the words cubic, music and others, now ending in ic, were written cubick. musick, and the words ending in or were spelled and written our, as honour, labour, etc. In those schools there were no blackboards in use; slates were used for the purpose, and all examples in the lessons in the arithmetic were performed on the slate. The pens used were made from the goose-quill, the ink from maple bark, copperas and pokeberries. Dilworth' s and Webster's spellers, which were succeeded by Comley's and Byerly's, Murray's English reader and introduction were the principal books used in those schools. The arithmetics were Pike's and Dilworth's; Walker's abridged vocabulary was referred to as a standard on pronunciation, providing the schoolmaster was so fortunate as to have- one in his possession. Spelling from memory, words given out or pronounced by the teacher, produced somewhat of emulation, and as the higher branches were not taught, the pupils having more time and by freqaent exercises in orthography became excellent spellers.

Capt. Peter Goff opened a school in Jay township in 1822. In 1823 the first school in Fox township was opened at Irishtown. Dr. William Hoyt was the teacher, while his daughter, Camillo, presided over another school on the Little Toby. Olive Brockway conducted a school at Brandy Camp in 1826 and Hannah Gilbert at Ridgway. In 1832 Miss Graham conducted a little school at Millstone village, and eight years later John Knox presided over a very primitive school at the mouth of Spring creek. In 1842 Peter Hardy taught in a little frame building erected about that time at the crossing of the turnpike and St. Mary's road, in Jones township. The schools of Benzinger date back to 1844 - 45, when two lay brothers of the Redemptorist order - Joseph and Xavernis - opened a school. The following year the first public school was presided over by Fred Clarinaav, who was succeeded by John Fresh and Charles Luhr. The convent schools followed, as related in the history of St. Mary's. In 1861 L. S. Houk taught the first school in Highland township, and the beginnings of education were made in every section of the county.

The report of Superintendent C. J. Swift, on the schools of Elk county, dated June 4, 1888, gives the following statistics: 81 school-houses or 99 rooms; 10 graded schools; 28 male and 89 female teachers; 1,890 male and 1,645 female pupils, of whom 2,440 attended schools; school tax $37,196.69, State moneys $3,203.21, total revenue $44,573.52; teachers' salaries $23,613.15; total expenditures $41,930.47, including salaries, and $9,357.67 expended on houses and rents. The figures for June, 1889, correspond with the increase in population and wealth. In the sketches of the townships and boroughs a history of the local schools appears compiled from Mr. Dixon's admirable centennial paper, and from other sources.

The first superintendent of schools was W. B. Gillis, chosen by the school convention in June, 1854, and granted a salary of $75 per annum. At the time of his appointment there were only twenty-nine schools in the county, and the directors of many of them were so adverse to the new office and its incumbent as to refuse him admittance. The position was so disagreeable, and the condition of the public schools so disheartening, that Gilles resigned within a few months, Dr. C. B. Earley being appointed to fill out the term. He reported that "nearly every male at the age of twenty-one years had signed a petition for the repeal of the law creating the office of county superintendent." Notwithstanding this report, the directors, in convention, re-elected the doctor in May, 1857, and increased his pay to $400. In 1860 he was again elected; but, resigning in 1861, Rufus Lucore was appointed and served until May, 180:3, when James Blakely, of St. Mary's, was elected. Mr. Blakely was re-elected in 1866, and during his six years' tenure of office he witnessed the remarkable growth of the school system. George Walmsley of St. Mary's was elected in 1869, but being ineligible, Rufus Lucore was appointed. At this time the salary was placed at $600, but in 1872, when Mr. Lucore was re-elected it was increased to $1,000. George R. Dixon, A.M., was elected in 1875. His attention to school affairs created among the people new and favorable impressions of the system, and won their interest. At the beginning of his term, and in 1876, there were sixty-six schools in the county. Superintendent C. J. Swift has now about one hundred school rooms under his supervision.

County Institutes. - The first institute was held in June, 1856, under the call of Dr. Earley. When he took the chair only one teacher was present, Wallace W. Brown, but others came in, and a session of two weeks was pronounced a success. The institute has met annually since that time. In December, 1884, there were present W. J. King, Maud Paddock, Edith Henry, Mary Gray, Mary Haskin, Benezette, Penn.; Mary Reed, Pry Saw Mill, Penn.; William Gross, Charles Ritter, Ralph J. Hirsh, Maggie Weidert, Lizzie Rogan, Minnie Fillinger, Mary Kangley, J. L. Henry, Kate Fillinger, John J. Laumer, Theresa Laumer, Frank J. Lion, Fred Burnhard, St. Mary's, Penn.; S. E. Hayes, Mary McGrady, Mrs. Lemuel McCauley, A. A. Newell, Kate McQuone, P. W. Moyer, Ella Donovan, Orpha Keltz, Viola Keltz, Kate Callahan, Emma Callahan, Maggie Ahern, Bridget Walsh, Annie Gillen, Kersey, Penn.; Viola Hayes, Dagus Mines, Penn.; J. H. Hayes, Lawrence Fee, Weedville, Penn.; Alice Neill, Flora Irwin, Kane, McKean Co., Penn.; Alice Brian, Brookston, Forest Co., Penn.; J. C. McAllister, Jr., Brandy Camp. Penn.; Ottis Sibley, Brockwayville, Jefferson Co., Penn.; W. J. Morrison, W. A. Smith, Eva Richards, Brockport, Penn.; Bertie Lindgren, Delia Van Aiken, A. E. Whitney, Emma Beman, Ada Malone, Jennie Mitchell, Babe E. Wilcox, Prof. Swift, Ella Kime, Hattie Warner, May Little, Kate O'Connor, Kate Gresh, Cozy Miller, Kate McNaul, Julia Flynn, Ridgway, Penn.; Matie Locke, Kate Murphy, Amanda Wilcox, John B. Ague. Nellie Northrop, Flora Weining, Wilcox, Penn.; Laura Warner, Jessie Parsons, William Deveraux, Miss Annie Dill, Rasselas, Penn.; Hattie Van Stienberg, Eliza Brosius, Blanche Hindfnan, Emma Campbell, Raughts, Penn.; M. F. Hindman, Millstone, Penn.; Eliza Donachy, Whistletown, Penn.; Maggie A. Whitehill, J. B. Dunn, Luna Rodgers, Arroyo, Penn.; Ida Millin, Haliton, Penn.; Mrs. Maud Cram, Carman, Penn. During the last five years the list of attendants has been so extended as to preclude the possibility of reprinting here.

* From Jerome Powell's sketch and file.

± By Eugene J. Miller, who for fourteen years was the editor and proprietor or the Elk De~nocra1, and who subsequently ownel and published the Columbia Herald. Erie Observer and the Kane Leader. He left Ridgway in April. 1886, with his family, for Southern Pines, N. C., to engage in business there.

Source: Page(s) 613-619, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania. Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.
Transcribed December 2006 by Nathan Zipfel for the Elk County Genealogy Project
Published 2006 by the Elk County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project

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