The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 10.


Publishing History of Porter County Dates Back To 1842 When Valparaiso Republican Was Launched By J. Castle

Of the long line of Porter county newspapers dating back to the Republican established in 1842, the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger is the only surviving daily.

The Republican was founded by James Castle, who bought a small hand press and a meager supply of type from Solon Robinson, of Lake county and removed the outfit to Valparaiso. It was "devoted to the dissemination of independent political views and diffusion of general knowledge." Compared with newspapers of the present day the Republican was an insignificant sheet, but it was successfully conducted by its owner, for about two years, when it was sold to William M. Harrison who changed the name to the Western Ranger. Mr. Harrison also changed the political policy of the paper and published it as a straight Democrat advocate.

On April 24, 1847, William C. Talcott acquired an interest in the Ranger and a new series was begun. By this time the paper had been increased in size to a five-column folio. Although Mr. Talcott was a Free-soil Democrat and his partner a Whig, with leaning toward the Abolitionists, their political views did not interfere with their personal relations which were always pleasant.

In June, 1849, Mr. Talcott purchased his partner's interest, and on July 25, 1849, announced the change of name to the Practical Observer, the first number of which appeared the following week. Within a short time the paper was enlarged to a seven-column folio and the name of the Valparaiso Practical Observer was adopted. In March 1852, the word Valparaiso was dropped from the name. In January, 1853, the paper was made a tri-weekly, published on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. In addition to these issues the regular weekly edition was published on Thursdays, and subscribers received the whole four papers for the price of one subscription. The paper was reduced in size, however, to a five column folio.

On September 3, Mr. Talcott began the publication of a small daily - the first daily, tri-weekly and weekly were furnished to subscribers for $5 per year. Near the close of the year the subscription was changed to $5 for the daily, and $1.50 for the daily, and $1.50 each for the semi-weekly and weekly, the tri-weekly being discontinued.

The Observer began the year 1854 as a six-column, four page paper, and in the issue of January 5th the publisher claimed: That it was the largest paper in the state of Indiana; 2, That it was the largest paper in the world publishing in so small a town; 3, That it was the only semi-weekly paper in the world published either in so small a town, so sparse a country, or at so low a price. He further claimed that the Observer published more faithfully and impartially than any other paper, all the local and general news free from personal vilification, and in the interest of "true Democratic principles as laid down by the Declaration of Independence." During the next two years Mr. Talcott had several assistances, but none of them remained for any length of time. Early in 1857, MR. Talcott having been elected to office sold the paper to Dr. R. A. Cameron, announcing the sale in his valedictory April 7, 1857.

At that time the Republican party was just making its appearance, and as Dr. Cameron was an exponent of the principles of that party, he determined to change the name of the paper to agree with his political faith. Accordingly, he issued, on April 14, 1857, the first number of the Valparaiso Republican. The following September, F. McCarthy became associate editor and continued in that capacity until March 23, when he was succeeded by Thomas McConnell, who is remembered as a vigorous and forceful writer. On July 29, 1858, Dr. Cameron sold the paper to Mr. McConnell and Henry W. Talcott.

William C. Talcott, who had been so long associated with or as owner of the paper, bought an interest on October 14, 1858, and early in the succeeding year a new series was commenced, consisting of a one-page daily, a four-page semi-weekly, and an eight page weekly. This arrangement continued until March, 1859, when Dr. Cameron again purchased it and took as associate editor, J. C. Thompson. The latter remained with the paper until March 1850, the name in the meantime having been changed to the Republic, September 8, 1858.

With the first call for volunteers in 1863, Dr. Cameron offered his services to his country, and the issue of April 25, 1861, bears the name of E. R. Beebe as editor and proprietor. It does not appear that Dr. Cameron relinquished the ownership, for in August the Republic bore the names of McConnell, Cameron and Beebe as editors.

It is said that Beebe bought the paper, but was unable to meet the payment of his notes according to agreement. McConnell then purchased the paper, but met with no better financial success than Mr. Beebe, and in April, 1862, Dr. Cameron's wife assumed control and installed Mr. Beebe as editor. This arrangement lasted until December 11, 1862, when Mr. Beebe severed his connection with the paper, which was then advertised for sale by Mrs. Cameron. No purchaser appeared and Mrs. Cameron continued to get out the paper regularly, with the assistance of her husband, who during all these vicissitudes had been "corresponding editor," sending home from the front, long, interesting letters regarding his army experiences and the "progress of the war."

On June 18, 1863, Aaron Gurney became joint editor and the paper continued on a somewhat erratic and uncertain career until December of the same year, the publication was discontinued.

Upon being mustered out of the service, Dr. Cameron returned to his home in Valparaiso, and on January 4, 1866, revived the Republic, just twenty days later appeared the first number of the Porter County Vidette, Gurney and Pomeroy, proprietors.

In May, 1866, Thomas McConnell again became associated with the Republic as joint editor and publisher, and in November the entire plant was sold to Gilbert A. Pierce, who almost immediately afterward sold it to the publishers of the Vidette.

The two newspapers were then consolidated under the name of the Vidette and Republic, with Aaron Gurney as general editor. The same month, November 1866, Mr. Pierce states a new paper called the Republican, with Orrin E. Harper & Company, publishers, I. Harper, associate editor. After several changes in the editorial staff, this paper was merged with the Vidette and Republic in July, 1868, Mr. Pierce becoming joint editor with Mr. Gurney. On June 4, 1874, the paper was purchased by William C. Talcott, who soon afterward dropped the first part of the name and continued the publication as the Vidette.

In June, 1856, a man named Berry began the publication of the Porter Democrat, which he conducted until February 17, 1857, when the outfit was sold to Rock and Jones. The paper was a six-column folio. Rock and Jones were succeeded by H. P. Lynch, who sold out to B. D. Harper in December, 1858, and soon after that S. R. C. Nash succeeded Harper, and R. Bryant became associate editor, later became the sole proprietor. The last number of the paper was issued on November 22, 1860. Shortly after that Rock and Bryant began the publication of the Porter Gazette, but it was a short-lived affair, only a few numbers being issued.

The suspension of the Porter Democrat left the county without a Democratic newspaper until 1871, when Englebert Zimmerman started the Valparaiso Democratic Messenger. Mr. Zimmerman was an experienced newspaper man and soon placed the Messenger on a paying basis. In August, 1881, H. B. Brown, president of the Northern Indiana Normal school, purchased a half interest, but the demands of the school were too pressing to permit his becoming an active journalist and he withdrew. In 1891 a daily edition, called the Sun, was started.

At one time Valparaiso had three papers, the Sun, the star, published by J. A. McConahy, and the Moon, published by Ulysses S. and Edward Brewer.

Arthur F. Zimmerman was associated with his father in the publication of the Messenger for many years, being city editor of the daily edition, and managing editor from the death of his father in 1906 until his death in June, 1914. The Messenger continued under the administration of Joseph E. Zimmerman until May 15, 1915, when the paper was sold to Hinman F. Strother, of Pittsfield, Ill.

The first issue of the Hebron Free Press was issued in September, 1878 by H. R. Gregory. It was an independent paper in its political views. Mr. Gregory continued at the head of the paper for another year, or until October 1870, when he sold out to W. H. Mansfield, who changed the name to the Local News. The following year the office was removed to Lowell, Lake county. Hebron was then without a newspaper until in 1894, when the News began it career as a weekly Republican paper, published every Friday. After several changes in ownership and management it became the property of J. C. McAlpin, who conducted it for a number of years. He sold it to his son, A. R. McAlpin on August 30, 1909. On August 16, 1916 McAlpin sold the paper to Robert E. Wood, proprietor of the Kouts Tribune. Wood leased the Hebron paper for three years to McAlpin, printing the paper at Kouts in conjunction with several papers published by him in LaPorte county, one being at Union Mills.

Wood, who had started to build up a string of small papers n Porter and LaPorte counties, did not publish the Hebron paper long, and on August 2, 1917, George Robert Harrison, of Valparaiso, assumed charge. After a year Harrison junked the paper.

In 1875, the students of the Normal School (now Valparaiso university) commenced the publication of the Normal Mirror, which continued for about three years, when it was superceded by the Northern Indiana Journal, with W. J. Bell as editor. A few other attempts had been made to establish publications in connection with the university, but none of them were successful. The College Current was published for a while in the nineties by Garrett W. Doty, Robert B. Ewing and Adelbert Jones, and from 1905 to 1910 there was a journal published under the auspices of the students and known as the College Herald. Of late years the Torch has been the official publication of Valparaiso University.

During the World War when Valparaiso University was a soldiers' training detachment, the soldiers published a paper called the Bayonet.

For a number of years Hebron was without a paper. In 1928, A. P. Gould, of Michigan, reestablished the paper, but remained only a short time, selling it to E. C. Vollmer, who was at the helm of the paper until 1931.

In April of that year Valparaiso and Porter county democrats purchased the paper and Eng. Zimmerman, Jr., formerly advertising manager of the Vidette-Messenger, took over the publishing duties. He was succeeded in December of 1931 by Martin Tornquist, of Benton Harbor, Mich., who is still in charge.

Wood, in addition to publishing papers at Kouts also had a paper at Boone Grove. Kouts had a paper previous to Wood's venture. S. E. Clayton was the publisher. The publication was financed by Kouts business men in the amount of $800, the undertaking proving unsuccessful. Publication of the paper was suspended on July 11, 1915.

On December 1, 1921, Chapter 2, Disabled American Veterans of the World war issued the first publication of the Reveille, a 26-page booklet, with Edward Boyle as editor, and F. A. Plasecki, managing editor.

In 1881 the Valparaiso Herald made its bow to the public. It was edited by P. O'Sullivan, was full of news and met with favor apparently, but after three years it passed out of existence.

The next journalistic undertaking was the Valparaiso Star, which was started as small daily by James A. McConahy in September 1889. After running it as a daily for almost two years, Mr. McConahy changed the paper to a weekly and in this form conducted it successfully until 1898, when he sold it to the Vidette, the first number of the Star-Vidette being issued on September 22, 1898. At that time Mr. Doty, who had been the publisher of the College Current, was connected with the paper.

Captain Edwin Welty, who had conducted the Vidette for a number of years, and also after it was merged with the Star, sold the paper to Atkin & Jones, who conducted it for several years before selling it to John M. Mavity, of Cambridge, Ill., on September 18, 1902. Mr. Mavity changed the name of the paper to the Vidette, dropping the Star.

Soon after the consolidation of the Star and Vidette, Mr. Doty secured the outfit formerly used by Mr. McConahy and began the publication of the Journal, which was soon afterward sold to Charles Martin, who was owner and publisher of the Westville Indicator. The venture did not prove successful from a financial standpoint and the project was soon abandoned.

The Chesterton Tribune began its existence on October 28, 1882, when the first number appeared with W. W. Mikels as editor. It then passed into the hands of a company of which John T. Taylor was president. It was continued for a period of nine months under the co-operation of Chesterton businessmen with Dr. George H. Riley and Martin L. Phares as editors.

In June, 1884, Aurthur J. Bowser, of Valparaiso, and S. D. Watson acquired possession and ownership, but on September 24, 1884, Mr. Watson withdrew, leaving Mr. Bowser sole proprietor.

Mr. Bowser built the Tribune to a high state of affluence and importance in the north part of Porter county. He retired in 1924, selling the paper to John G. Graessle, who had been his foreman for nearly thirty years. Mr. Graessle died on Feb. 5, 1928, and the publication was sold by Mrs. Graessle, to Warren R. Canright, of Waukegan, Ill., who is still at the helm.

In 1924, Lynn M. Whipple, of Niles, Mich., came to Valparaiso and purchased a half interest in the Messenger. A year later he acquired the other half interest of Hinman F. Strother, who had purchased the business in 1916 of the Zimmerman estate.

In 1927, The Messenger and Vidette were merged with John M. Mavity, of the Vidette, as president of the newly formed cooperation; Lynn Whipple, vice president and John Earle Mavity, treasurer.

In 1929 Mr. Whipple purchased the interests of the Mavitys who retired from the local newspaper field. It also marked the retirement of John M. Mavity after forty years in the newspaper business, twenty of which he spent in Valparaiso.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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