Chapter XIX
The Press in Jefferson County 

The First Paper Started in the County - John J.Y. Thompson the First Editor - The Jeffersonian Democrat - The Brookville Republican of Fifty Years Ago - The Backwoodsman - The Jeffersonian - The Jefferson Star - The Republican - The Graphic - The Democrat - The Newspapers of Punxsutawney - Journalism in Reynoldsville - The Brockwayville Record - The Newspaper of Fifty-five Years Ago Compared with that of To-day - Veteran Editors

The Press has and still forms an important factor in the affairs of Jefferson county, and is the greatest educator in the country. Reaching every home, the different newspapers are read by all classes, and their influence is felt in religious, social, business, and political circles as no other agency is. The large circulation of the leading papers of the county is one of the most potent guarantees of the intelligence of the people.

The first record we find of any paper in the county is that of the Jeffersonian Democrat, which was established at Brookville in 1832, by John J.Y. Thompson. The following year Thomas Reid purchased a half interest, and the paper was changed from a Democratic to a "neutral" sheet. Reid soon retired, and Thompson and J.P. Blair continued the publication of the paper until 1834, when Thompson disposed of his interest to Dr. K. Scott, and the firm became Blair & Scott. In 1835 Scott sold his interest to George R. Barrett, who, soon after, also bought out Blair, and published the paper for one year. Then Jesse G. Clark and James P. Blair were the editors and proprietors for six months, when James H. Laverty and James McCracken (of Clearfield) became the proprietors, and continued the publication of the paper until 1836, when Laverty retired; and it was published by McCracken and Levi L. Tate until November 9, 1837, when Tate retired; and McCracken published the paper, under the name of the Brookville Republican, until the fall of 1838.

We have "No. 3, Vol. I" of this paper, dated Wednesday, November 29, 1837, before us. It is printed on rather fair paper, and is a five column to the page sheet. The first page is devoted to miscellaneous selections; the inside contains a report of the "Reform Convention," a brief resume of the news of the day, a few short editorials relating to the weather, and a gentle hint to the patrons of the paper that prompt payment is expected.

In the advertising columns, the sheriff, Joseph Henderson, advertises the court proclamation, and sheriff sales - six writs; the prothonotary, Thomas Lucas, the list of causes for the December term of court, twenty-three in number; notice to collectors by the commissioners, James Winslow, John Philliber, John Pierce. William Rodgers, postmaster, advertises fifty-six, letters remaining in the post-office, at Brookville, on the 1st day of October, 1837. A temperance meeting, to be held "at the court house, on the 4th of December, and to be addressed by Rev. Mr. Hill," and a notice of a "Malitia Appeal to the field officers of the 145th Regiment, P.M.," also appears. The names of some of the other advertisers were William Clark, James M. Mahan, Dougherty & Kerr, John I. Wilson, Levi L. Tate, McLain & Mathews, Luther Geere.

In the winter of 1837-8, Thomas Hastings & Son started a newspaper in Brookville, called the Backwoodsman, and soon after Mr. McCracken removed his press and fixtures to Strattanville, Clarion county, where they were afterwards purchased by William T. Alexander, who removed the office to Clarion and commenced the publication of the Clarion Democrat.

The Backwoodsman was published by Hastings & Son and by John Hastings, until the latter, about the year 1841, sold the establishment to William Juck and Levi G. Clover, who placed the paper in charge of George F. Humes, an eccentric character, who published it for about a year. In his valedictory Humes informed his patrons that they might "go to h—ll, and I will go to Texas."

In 1843 David Barclay and Barton T. Hastings assumed control of the paper, under the firm name of Barclay & Hastings, and changed the name from the Backwoodsman to the Brookville Jeffersonian. Barclay soon retired, and the paper was published by Hastings, until November 10, 1846, when the office was purchased by Evans R. Brady and Clark Wilson.

On the 19th of January, on account of having all the legal and official advertising to do for the county of Elk, Brady & Wilson changed the name of the paper to the Jefferson Democrat and Jefferson and Elk County Advertiser.

On September 26, of the same year, Brady bought the interest of Wilson, and again changed the name of the paper, to the Jeffersonian and Elk County Advertiser. W.W. Wise became associated with Captain Brady in the publication of the Jeffersonian, June 8, 1849, under the firm name of Brady & Wise, until December, 1851, when Brady purchased Wise’s interest, and changed the name of the paper back again to the Brookville Jeffersonian. The paper was enlarged and greatly improved, and was ably edited by Captain Brady, until he went into the service of his country, in 1861. He was very fond of rafting, and, being a good pilot, his services were always in great demand when there was lumber to run, and there are frequent notices in the early columns of the Jeffersonian to the effect that the "editor and all hands are down the creek, and no paper will be issued next week."

After the death of Captain Brady the Jeffersonian passed into the hands of B.T. Hastings, who continued the management until 1865, when the establishment was purchased by Captain J.P. George.

These papers had all been neutral or Democratic in politics, the Whig party laying no organ in the county, until October 16, 1849, when the Jefferson Star was started by Samuel McElhose and J.A. Duck. December 7, 1850, James C. Brown purchased the interest of Mr. Duck, and the firm was McElhose & Brown, until May 24, 1853, when Mr. Brown retired.

J. Potter Miller’s name appears for one month as publisher of the Star, during the illness of Mr. McElhose, and April 12, 1846, John Scott became a partner in its publication until May, 1859, when the firm of McElhose & Scott was dissolved. Mr. McElhose continued the publication of the paper until his death, which occurred in the army August 16, 1863. The Star was the organ of the Whig, and also of the American party, during the existence of the latter, and the first organ of the Republican party.

William Lofflin purchased the press and material of the Star office from the estate of Mr. McElhose, and, in 1864, commenced the publication of the New Era, an independent paper, which he continued until January, 1865, when the Jeffersonian and New Era were purchased by Captain J.P. George, who consolidated them, under the name of the Brookville Herald.

In May, 1869, Captain George disposed of the Herald to G. Nelson Smith, who again changed the name back to the Jeffersonian. He published the paper a little over six months, when he resold the establishment to Captain George, who continued the publication of the same until November, 1874, when he sold a half interest in it to Samuel G.W. Brown, of Kittanning; and the paper was published by George & Brown, with J.P. George as editor, until February, 1876, when Mr. Brown took charge of the office, with A.A. Carlisle and William Horn as the editors and publishers of the Jeffersonian, and continued until January, 1878, when Mr. Carlisle retired and was succeeded by J.B. Oswald, who formed a partnership with Mr. Horn, under the firm name of J.B. Oswald & Co. This continued until January, 1880, when the paper suspended. In April of that year Captain George took charge of the establishment for Mr. Brown, and published the Jeffersonian until June, 1884, when it was sold to McMurray & Sansom, and merged with the Democrat.

Captain J.P. George commenced his career as a printer in Brookville, by going into the Jeffersonian office, to work for Captain E.R. Brady, in 1852, and remained with him until 1858. In 1860 he published the Jefferson Star for S. McElhose, and left that paper in May, 1861, to march to the front, with Company K, Eleventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserves. On his return, in 1865, from the army he purchased the Jeffersonian from B.T. Hastings, and again engaged in the printing business, as above stated.

In 1885 he started, in connection with his son, T. Norton George, a job printing office in Brookville, which business they still continue under the name of J.P. George & Son.

The Brookville Republican was established August 10, 1859, by John Scott, who had, only a few months previous, retired from the Jefferson Star. It was a neatly printed twenty-four column paper, and was well received by the people, who gave it a liberal support. It at once took a foremost place among the newspapers of the county; a place it has held ever since. August 28, 1866, F.A. Weaver, a native of Westmoreland county, and a practical printer, was associated with Mr. Scott, in the publication of the Republican, under the name of Scott & Weaver, which partnership continued for nine years, during which many valuable and costly improvements were made. The size was enlarged to eight columns to the page, and the first cylinder power press introduced, making an era of great change in the publishing business of the county. They also introduced the first first-class job press, compelling their competitors to follow their example, and by this means greatly benefited the craft, by doing away with the old, unsatisfactory machinery and employing in its stead that of a more advanced and superior style of mechanism, thus placing the printing business of Jefferson county considerably in advance of many of the neighboring counties.

In the disastrous fire of November 20, 1874, the Republican office was destroyed, losing all their presses and the greater portion of the material of the office, involving a loss of three thousand dollars.

In 1875 Colonel J. Riley Weaver, then consul-general of the United States, at Vienna, Austria, became the owner of the Republican, Mr. Scott retiring altogether from the business, and the office was managed by the Weaver brothers, F.A., W.S., and H.J., until December 1, 1885, when the establishment was purchased from Colonel Weaver by W.S. and H.J. Weaver, who are now conducting it. F.A. Weaver, who has had editorial charge of the paper since 1866, is still in charge of that department. Since the death of Mr. McElhose, and the suspension of the Jefferson Star, the Republican has been the only organ of the Republican party, and is one of the most prominent journals of that party in the State, and has done much towards placing the party it represents upon its present standing in the county.

The office is well fitted out with the best and most approved newspaper material, steam power presses, and has everything necessary for a complete job office. The liberal support given to the Republican by the party and the public generally, in the large circulation and extensive advertising patronage, evinces the estimation in which it is held in Jefferson county.

From the time of the merging of the New Era and Jeffersonian in 1865 until the fall of 1876, the only two papers published in Brookville were the Republican and Jeffersonian, the organs of their respective political parties.

On the 8th of September, 1876, William G. Clark and William F. Brady, two young men who had just finished their apprenticeship in the office of the Republican, started an independent paper called the Jefferson County Graphic. This venture was quite a hazardous one, and the new paper commenced with very little encouragement, but the peculiar style of the editorials, which possessed a quaint style of drollery, and the attention paid to the local columns - no event occurring being counted too trivial for mention, caused the Graphic to receive large accessions to its subscription list, and its prospects brightened to such an extent that the second year of its existence the young editors felt justified in enlarging their paper from a twenty-four to a twenty-eight column sheet. They also changed the name to the Brookville Graphic.

In December, 1878, the sudden death of the junior editor, W.F. Brady, cast a gloom over the Graphic, from which it never emerged, and March 19, 1879, the paper was consolidated with the Democrat, under the name of the Graphic-Democrat, with McMurray & Clark editors and publishers.

The Brookville Democrat was founded in 1878, by A.A. Carlisle, the first number of the paper being issued January 16, 1878. On December 25, 1878, Mr. Carlisle sold the establishment to Major John McMurray, who conducted the paper until March 19, 1879, when the Democrat and Graphic were consolidated, under the name of the Graphic-Democrat, and W.G. Clark was associated with Mr. McMurray in its publication, the firm being styled McMurray & Clark. Mr. Clark sold his interest to William Horn, the change going into effect January 1, 1880, and Mr. Horn in turn sold his interest to William L. Sansom, the first issue under the firm name of McMurray & Sansom being on July 21, 1880, after which the name of the paper was changed to the Brookville Democrat again.

The firm has continued thus up to the present time; but June 18, 1884, the Brookville Jeffersonian was merged with the Democrat, McMurray & Sansom buying that establishment, since which time the paper has been issued under the title of the Jeffersonian Democrat.

This paper, as its name indicates, is Democratic in politics, and is the only organ of that party in the county. It is neatly printed, ably edited, and ranks among the leading Democratic journals of the day. The large circulation in the county attests the estimation in which it is held by the party and citizens generally. The office is fitted up with a Potter power press, Gordon job press, and well selected news and job material, making it in every respect a first-class office.

The first newspaper was established in Punxsutawney, in 1848, by Clark Wilson, but was only run for a short time.

The next venture of the kind in that place was made by J.A. Scott and W.S. Barr, both graduates of the Brookville Republican, who on the 13th of July, 1868, issued the first number of the Punxsutawney Plaindealer.

This paper was a newsy and well printed sheet, and was well received by the citizens of the south side.

In April, 1870, Scott & Barr leased the Plaindealer to W.P. Hastings, and June 8, 1870, G.M. Keck purchased from Hastings a half interest in the paper and it was conducted by Hastings & Keck until the spring of 1871, when Scott & Barr sold the material to Keck & Coxson, who changed the name to the Mahoning Argus; Keck then sold his interest to Coxson, and it was published by Mr. Coxson until his death.

The Mahoning Valley Spirit was founded in June, 1873, by Frank M. Smith, of Indiana, who conducted it until December of the same year, when it was purchased by W.P. Hastings and G.M. Keck, both of Punxsutawney. With Hastings and Keck as editors and proprietors, the Spirit maintained a precarious existence for about three years, at the end of which time the interest of Mr. Keck was purchased by Mr. Hastings, who changed the name of the publication to the Punxsutawney Spirit. In ten years of patient labor and well directed effort, Mr. Hastings succeeded in making the Spirit a profitable and popular institution. In September, 1885, the establishment was purchased by the present proprietor, Davis W. Goheen, of Trade City, Indiana county, who secured the services of W.O. Smith, of Reynoldsville, as editor, since which time the paper has sustained its reputation, and increased its circulation to three thousand. The Spirit has always been independent in politics, and is an ably edited paper.

The first issue of the Punxsutawney Valley News appeared on the 21st of October, 1885, with Horace G. Miller and Frank P. Tipton as editors and proprietors. February 3, 1886, J. Lew Allison purchased Mr. Tipton’s interest in the paper and printing-office, and the editorial and business management is now under the control of Miller & Allison.

From the first appearance of the Valley News it has steadily increased in circulation, and has gained a permanent place among the newspapers of the county. It is moral in tone, and allows nothing of a sensational character to appear in its columns, while it makes the publishing of local news a special feature. The Valley News is independent in politics. It is an eight-page, six-column weekly paper, and is published every Wednesday at one dollar and fifty cents per year.

Journalism in Reynoldsville has been subjected to many and various changes since the Press was first introduced into the town by John A. Doyle, who came from Lancaster, Pa., in 1872. His paper only survived six months.

In December, 1874, G.C. Brandon, of St. Mary’s, Pa., and W.S. Reynolds. established the Reynoldsville Herald. Brandon retired after the fire of 1875, in which the Herald building and all the material of the office was destroyed. The paper was continued, with new material after the fire, by Thomas Reynolds, senior, and his son, W.S. Reynolds, and enlarged from a thirty-two to a thirty-six column paper. The sheet has experienced variations in size throughout its entire career.

In 1877 J.R. Bixier leased the establishment and published a three-fourths patent organ, known as the Herald and Star. It soon however ceased to shine, and the Eye took its place, edited and published by Benscoter & Cartin. But the Eye was soon put out and the Herald once more appeared, with W.S. Reynolds, C.C. Benscoter and W.O. Smith at its head, and for a few months in the summer of 1878, a daily edition was issued. In 1879 Tom Reynolds, fourth son of Thomas Reynolds, senior, took charge of the Herald, and in 1880 W.S. Reynolds steps to the front again, and changes the name of it to Our Reynoldsville Paper. He retired April 21, 1881, and G.C. Brandon leased the office and material from Mrs. Juliana Reynolds, who had become owner, by the death of Thomas Reynolds, sr. Brandon published the Paper until January 6, 1883, when N.J. Lawrence and Frank J. Black assumed the editorial control. In about a year Lawrence retired and left the Paper in the hands of F.J. Black, who is its present editor and manager. The Paper is a bright, newsy little sheet.

The Brockwayville Register was started on Thursday, June 1, 1871, a four-column quarto sheet by R.O. Moorhead, and was published at that size for about two years, when it was enlarged to five columns, and in another year again enlarged to a six-column paper called the Brockwayville Free Press, and leased to Thrush & Sibley, who published it for one year, when the paper was discontinued, and the material sold to Clark & Brady, and taken to Brookville, where they used it to start the Jefferson County Graphic.

In February, 1874, the Brockwayville Record was again started, by J.C. Rairigh, who conducted it very successfully until November, 1886, when he sold the establishment to Butler & Niver, who are now publishing the paper.

The Record is a bright little sheet, and is well patronized by the citizens of the northern and eastern portions of the county. It is independent in politics.

Mr. Rairigh, the former editor of the Record, invented the "New Country Printing Press" upon which the paper is printed. It was patented in 1886, and is manufactured by Rairigh & Rankin. These presses are neat in design and substantially built, the eight column press weighing only three thousand pounds. It works on the principle of the proof-press, and is easy on type, in consequence of having but one motion, the bed being stationery while the sheet is being printed. The cylinder takes the paper off the table, carries it upon the form, prints it and delivers it, without tapes or fly. On the return motion of the cylinder, the bed drops, and the ink fountain, placed between the form and the disc, rises, allowing the rollers attached to the cylinder to take ink and carry it upon the revolving disc beneath the table, where it is distributed. It carries two form rollers and one distributor. All the motions (revolving the disc, opening and closing the grippers, lowering and raising the bed and fountain) are automatic. The hand press is run by a crank attached to the cylinder. This is the result of the inventive genius of a citizen of Jefferson county.

Over half a century has passed away since, in a little one-and-a-half story building, which stood on Main street in Brookville, opposite the court house, the first type was set and the first newspaper published. This building was torn down in 1857, as the Jeffersonian says, "in a dilapidated condition."

What changes have taken place since then! The little paper of that day, which had to struggle hard to maintain its precarious existence, has given place to the large eight column, well printed and prosperous journal. The old Ramage press has been succeeded by the improved steam power presses, the single fonts of type, by the well selected modern material. The job press, then an unknown article, is now found in all well appointed offices. Instead of the little old dingy room, referred to above, we find our newspapers located in large, well lighted, and comfortable offices; and instead of a single sheet to represent the county, we find six well patronized and respectable papers.

Of the pioneer newspaper men, nearly all have passed away. Brady, Wise, McElhose, exchanging the peaceful life of journalism for the battle-field, gave their lives for their country. A few of the younger men, Loflin, Horn, and W.F. Brady, too have laid down the "stick" and the pen.

The oldest newspaper men who remain are Captain John Hastings, B.T. Hastings, and John Scott. The latter is the oldest printer in the county, having learned "his trade" in the office of the Blairsville Record, published by Thomas McFarland, in 1828. He afterwards, in 1831 and 1832, worked on the Allegheny Democrat, published by Leonard S. Johns, at Pittsburgh, and in 1833 was engaged with John Canan, in the publication of the Ebensburg Sky, under the firm name of Canan & Scott. In 1835 he commenced the publication of the Canal and Portage Register, at Hollisdaysburg (this paper is still published as the Holidaysburg Register). In 1837 he disposed of the Register, and returned to Ebensburg, where he established the Democratic Journal. When he had completed the publication of the "New (State) Constitution" he sold out to Robert L. Johnston, in February, 1839, and in May, 1841, removed to Perry (now Oliver) township, and in 1855 he commenced work on the Jefferson Star, and in April, 1856, was associated with Samuel McElhose in the publication of that paper, removing to Brookville in May, 1857.

Source:  Page(s) 228-236, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Jefferson County Genealogy Project (

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