"Prominent Men and Civil, Edited this Paper" By Angie Fitzgerald
Little is known concerning some of the early editors of the "Jeffersonian-Democrat" and the following story of the predessors of Major John McMurray is pieced together from several available histories.
The oldest newspaper in this region, the "Jeffersonian-Democrat" was started by Thomas Hastings and his son, John, both of whom were outstanding men in the community. Thomas Hastings was a member of the convention to amend the state constitution in 1837. Coincidentally, Major John McMurray, won his successors in the business, was elected to the constitutional convention of 1872-1873.
John Hastings, 18, was the editor and publisher of the "Backwoodsman," the first name given to the present newspaper.
His claim to fame does not rest on that fact alone however. He was also prominent in state and national politics, serving as Postmaster of Brookville and, as a legislative representative, was the first person to advance the name of James Buchanan for the Presidency.
The second editor was George Humes, who held the post under the ownership of William Jack and Levi Clover from 1841-1843. This venture was not a success for Humes and in his valedictory editorial told his patrons to "go to h--l" and he would go to Texas. He was a poet, orator and Mexican War soldier.
Humes successor was Barton T. Hastings, another son of Thomas Hastings. He was the editor from 1844 to 1846, during which time he was in partnership with David Barclay.
Hastings bought the paper again in 1861 when Evans R. Brady entered the Union Army in the Civil War and edited it until 1865 when Capt. J. P. George returned home. He was a foe of Governor Porter as is evidenced by his toast on the Fourth of July 1843, when he said, "Gov. Porter, the foe of democracy and equal rights, and captain for the lumber dealers and state robbers, let the honest portion of the party prepare to impeach him for his usurpation of power and afterwards consign him to the traitor's doom as the greatest of them all."
In 1846, Evans R. Brady and Clark Wilson became the publishers and editors. Brady became the sole owner a year later and continued to edit the paper until the Civil War when he organized a company and went out as its Captain. He made the supreme sacrifice, being killed in action at South Mountain, MD. in 1862.
Brady's First partner, Clark Wilson, remained in business less than a year. In 1849, Brady took another partner, W.W. Wise, who sold out two years to Brady.
William Williams Wise was born in Greensburs, Westmoreland County on April 27, 1827. At the age of 14, he entered the office of the "Indiana Register" in Indiana where he learned the art of printing at the same time burning the midnight oil to prepare for the study of law.
He served in Company D. 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteers, in the Mexican War and during this time edited and printed a newspaper at General Winfield Scott's headquarters in Mexico City.
At the close of the war he decided to locate in Brookville where his father owned some land. On June 8, 1849, he entered the partnership with Brady. Capt. Wise served in the state legislature and in the U. S. Congress.
Captain Wise was elected as the captain of one of the first companies from this area to serve in the Civil War and performed daring service as a spy behind enemy lines in the early days of the war. He was fatally wounded at the battle of Stones River on Dec. 31, 1862.
Following the departure of Brady to join the army, B. T. Hastings returned and edited the paper until Capt. George bought the paper in 1865. He was associated with the paper for over 63 years. He started as a printer in 1852 and returned to his printer's box in 1915, just a few months before his death.
George relinquished control of paper to G. Nelson Smith from 1869 to 1874 but entered the business again only to sell it again to Samuel G. W. Brown. The paper was suspended for three months in 1880 until Brown resumed publication with George as editor. Major McMurray entered the picture a short time later.
Historians have largely ignored these rural editors who labored long over printers sticks to bring home the news.
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