History of the Press of Oxford County
Source: Joseph Griffin, editor, History of the Press of Maine (Brunswick, Me.: 1872).
[p. 118]PRESS OF OXFORD COUNTY.We are indebted to Messrs. G. B. Barrows, W. A. Pidgin, N. T. True, Wm. E. Goodnow, and others, for the History of the Press in this county.FRYEBURG.One of the earliest papers published in Maine was Russell's Echo, or the North Star, established in Fryeburg, Feb., 1798. It was started by Elijah Russell, who had formerly printed a paper in Concord, N. H. The Echo was published, weekly, less than a year. Its size was about 24 by 18; terms, 1.50 per annum. A single copy is in the possession of Hon. Geo. B. Barrows, of Fryeburg, who writes that every spring, in digging his garden, he finds stones which were part of the foundation of the old printing-office. The late Arthur Shirley, of Portland, is said to have set the first type in the office of the Echo. A few copies of Russell's Echo are to be found at Worcester, Mass., and at Dartmouth College, and perhaps in the library of the Historical Society at Concord, N. H.
RUSSELL'S ECHO.NORWAY.The printing business commenced in Norway on a small scale as early as 1826. David Noyes, in his History of Norway, says, "Asa Barton then commenced publishing the Oxford Observer in
OXFORD OBSERVER.[p. 119]this village, and from 1828 Wm. P. Phelps was associated with him until April, 1829, when Wm. E. Goodnow bought out the interest of Asa Barton, and the paper was published by Goodnow and Phelps until October, 1830." At that time Mr. Goodnow bought out the interest of Phelps, and published the Observer until June, 1832. The title of the paper was then changed to the Politician, (Wm. A. Evans, editor), to conform to the high state of political feeling then existing, on the eve of a presidential election. The Politician was continued until April, 1833, when the establishment was sold to Horatio King, of Paris, who took it with the Jeffersonian establishment to Portland. The county was left destitute of a paper until June, 1833. At this time, Asa Barton commenced the publication of the Oxford Oracle, an independent paper, and after having issued seven numbers, sold the establishment.
In April, 1832, the Journal of the Times, a small, independent, weekly paper, was commenced by Wm. E. Goodnow, and published about three months. It was then discontinued, from the fact of its interfering with the subscription list of the Politician. In March, 1830, a small, independent paper, called the Village Spy, was commenced by Asa Barton; but in a short time it was discontinued for want of patronage.NORWAY ADVERTISER.The Norway Advertiser, an independent family paper, was commenced by Ira Berry in March, 1844; subsequently published by Ira Berry and Francis Blake, Jr. After the dissolution of the copartnership, it was published by Berry alone. The paper was subsequently published by Edwin Plummer; then by Albert B. Davis and Cyrus W. Brown; then by Thomas Witt; and lastly, by Mark H. Dunnell. Mr. Dunnell soon altered the name to the Pine State News. It was discontinued in Jan., 1851.
In July, 1851, a newspaper under the old name of the Norway Advertiser, printed on a large, handsome sheet, was established by Moses B. Bartlett. It was subsequently purchased by George W. Millett. Until the publication of the Advertiser, with the exception of the Politician, (which was whig), the Norway papers[p. 120]have been what in common parlance are styled neutral papers; but within a few months the Advertiser has shed its old neutral skin, and appears at this time (Jan., 1863) in a democratic garb. The Advertiser was discontinued at the time of the election of Abraham Lincoln.[NORWAY, Feb., 1866.]PARIS.The first attempt at journalism in Paris was the starting of the Oxford Observer, July 8, 1824. Asa Barton was the editor and proprietor, and added to these duties the care of a country store. The paper was a folio of five columns to a page, and was independent in politics. Paris lost this luminary in a sudden and unexpected manner. Village rivalry made the citizens of Norway ambitious to have a newspaper. An arrangement was made with Mr. Barton to move to that place. By the aid of an ox team the whole thing was accomplished in a single night, in December, 1826, without the knowledge of the citizens of Paris. The subsequent history of this paper is noticed in Capt. Goodnow's sketch of the press of Norway.
OXFORD OBSERVER.JEFFERSONIAN.In 1828 the Jeffersonian was issued in Paris. It was a political paper of the democratic school. We gather from an incomplete file belonging to E. R. Holmes, Esq. that it was started in 1828. It was for some time published by Hon. Hannibal Hamlin, and Hon. Horatio King. It was printed in the building now occupied by the Democrat and Register offices. This paper was removed to Portland in 1832.OXFORD DEMOCRAT.In March, 1833, a paper with the above title was issued by George W. Millett and Octavius King. It was radically democratic in politics. King sold his interest to Millett at the end of six months. The paper was edited by the late Hon. Joseph G. Cole, Clerk of Courts for Oxford county for many years. Mr. Millett's services were rewarded by the lucrative appointment of[p. 121]village postmaster. The paper was continued with varying fortune until 1849, when the neat building which Col. Millett had erected for an office was destroyed by fire, and the property was a total loss. In a few months the paper was again issued, Geo. L. Mellon, a native of Paris, being associated with Col. Millett. Mr. Mellen had learned the business in the Democrat office, but had been engaged in Boston, in the publication of the Boston Museum, for some time. The paper was printed in the shop of John R. Merrill, and was a handsome seven column folio. The interest of Col. Millett was purchased by politicians in Paris, and subsequently by Mr. Mellen, who published the paper until 1853; at which time he received the appointment of mail agent from Portland to Bangor. It was then purchased by a number of gentlemen, and appeared in the name of Noah Prince, who owned one-fifteenth of the paper.
It was during Mr. Mellen's proprietorship that Geo. F. Emery, Esq., undertook, as editor, to correct, within the Democratic organization, some of the pro-slavery and other sentiments which he then believed began to disfigure its record. With a graceful pen he entered upon the task; but immediately found himself in the midst of a bitter personal controversy with various members of his own party. This controversy was really introductory to that which followed; and the causes which gave rise to it, and the measures involved in it, were at that time apparently identical.
During the last year of Mr. Mellen's ownership the temperance and anti-slavery sentiment of the country, and especially of this State, created much discussion and threatened a division of the Democratic party. The "crushing out" letter of Hon. Caleb Cushing — Pres. Pierce's Secretary of State — followed by Gov. Hubbard's signature to a more stringent liquor law, hastened this event. For these causes the Oxford Democrat now became the nucleus of a rebellion, rallying to its standard a host of true and zealous supporters, ripe for opposition to what they believed to be errors of policy and party organization. Under the new proprietorship, the inside of the paper (now called 'bogus' by its oppo-[p. 122]nents) was under the editorial charge of Thomas H. Brown, M. D., an able writer, who vigorously sustained the political conflict against the Norway Advertiser, then edited by Rev. G. K. Shaw, who very zealously upheld and advocated the pro-slavery policy of the Democratic party.
The Democrat was the first paper in Maine that openly revolted and left the party, and fought alone in the campaign which resulted in the election of Hon. Anson P. Morrill as Governor. In 1855 the interest of the shareholders was purchased by R. S. Stevens and W. A. Pidgin,—the paper appearing in the firm name of W. A. Pidgin and Co. In 1856 Mr. Stevens retired from the firm. Dr. Brown continued to edit the paper for about three years, when Hon. John J. Perry became his successor, as political editor, the duties of office editor devolving upon Mr. Pidgin, who gave more prominence to local matters, and organized the system of local correspondence, for which the paper has become so well known. In 1867 the paper was purchased by Col. Fred E. Shaw, its present able editor and proprietor. In June, 1869, Mr. Shaw enlarged the paper (which had been cut down during the war) to its original size of 36 by 25, and by the aid of new apparatus put a new dress upon it. The circulation (1,400 at the time of purchase) was soon increased to 1,850.OXFORD REGISTER.The publication of the Oxford Register was commenced Oct, 1, 1869, by M. and O. F. Watson of Biddeford, under the firm of Watson Bros.; Geo. K. Shaw, editor; Samuel R. Carter, local editor and business manager. The paper was printed at the office of the Maine Democrat, Biddeford. April 28, 1871, a printing-office was established at Paris Hill, and the first number was printed here; the size changed from an eight to a seven column paper; Mr. Carter retiring, and C. M. Watson, son of the senior proprietor, taking his place. Oct. 20, 1871, Samuel R. Carter purchased the paper of Messrs. Watson, and became sole editor and proprietor.[p. 123]BETHEL.This paper was issued at Bethel under the copartnership of D. Cady and F. Smith. Its first number bears date, Dec. 17, 1858. After the fourth issue, Mr. Cady sold out his interest to Mr. Smith, and a copartnership was formed by F. Smith and James Nutting, as proprietors. Most of the editorial matter from its commencement was written by N. T. True, though this fact was not generally known until he was publicly announced as editor, July 15, 1859. At this date, Smith sold out to Nutting, who was sole proprietor until the 46th number of vol. ii., when, ill health compelling him to seek different employment, he sold out his interest in the paper to J. Alden Smith. A card, job, and power-press, with new type, was now procured, and the appearance of the paper much improved. Dr. True continued as editor until June 7, 1861, when he retired from the business. The paper was published by Mr. Smith until July 26, 1861, when the high prices of stock compelled him to give up the paper, much to the regret of the citizens of Bethel. Its list of subscribers was united with that of the Oxford Democrat.
During the existence of the Courier, Dr. True contributed ninety-seven chapters on the History of Bethel; Dea. George Chapman several chapters on the early History of Gilead; and J. G. Rich, of Upton, wrote quite a number of interesting and valuable articles on the Wild Animals of Maine. The writer is not aware of the existence of more than two files of the paper; one in possession of Mrs. Moses Mason, and the other in possession of John Q. A. Twitchell, in Portland. Duplicate copies of the History of Bethel were cut out of the paper by the editor, and put in scrap book form, one volume of which he deposited in the library of the Maine Historical Society, and the other he still retains. Dr. True's editorial labors were gratuitous.