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2008-02-27 / Front Page

What's in a name?

Editor recalls how she proved this newspaper really is the oldest weekly in Texas

Circa 1955 FILE PHOTO People line Main Street for an opportunity to enter a drawing for a free television set at the Cherokeean office in Rusk. Circa 1955 FILE PHOTO People line Main Street for an opportunity to enter a drawing for a free television set at the Cherokeean office in Rusk. Erected in front of the Cherokeean Herald is a coveted Texas historical marker proclaiming this publication as the oldest, continuously published weekly newspaper in the state.

Today marks the newspaper's 158th birthday. A total of 11 name changes and dozens of publishers and editors have left their mark on this publication as it has morphed from the Pioneer and the Cherokee Sentinel to the Cherokeean Herald.

Satisfying the Texas Historical Commission's rigid standards required carefully documented research. In the early 1970s, three other publications all claimed to be the state's "oldest, continuously published weekly newspaper."

In 1972, newspaper editor Marie Whitehead decided to prove once and for all whether the Cherokeean could legitimately hold the bragging rights. Two years and a 300-page thesis later, she found the answer.

More than two decades passed as her finished thesis waited in an old safe that she inherited with the purchase of the Alto Herald in 1978. In 2000, she decided to fill out the paperwork and submit her thesis as documentation to the Texas Historical Commission.

On Oct. 7, 2001, members of the Cherokee County Historical Commission, family, friends and supporters gathered as the historical marker was unveiled.

The following excerpts are from Marie Whitehead's thesis, followed by recent recollections:

The first newspaper published in the county was the Rusk Pioneer published in 1848 in Rusk at a home known as the Cherokee Hotel. Its editor and proprietor was Joseph A. Clark.

A copy of the newspaper from that year was obtained from the Boston Athenium. Mr. Clark and family departed for Palestine in late fall, 1849, and he took the publishing equipment with him and established the Trinity Advocate.

One historian dubbed Mr. Clark a "bird of passage" who did not stay put in one place for any length of time. He lived a long and interesting life, subsequently establishing Add-Ran College to honor his two sons. It is an interesting story to follow the thread and learn how Mr. Clark's education project became known as Texas Christian University (TCU).

Following the publication of the Pioneer, Andrew Jackson and I. E. Lang partnered to form the Cherokee Sentinel. Six sources confirmed a critical piece of evidence used in proving the thesis.

The newspaper printed until the Civil War. After the war ended in 1865, Mr. Jackson changed the paper's name to The Texas Observer to reflect a new beginning.

It is amazing that newspapers can be historians' best friends. In 1876 at the request of President Grant, The Texas Observer published a history of Cherokee County, which was later reprinted in 1918 in The Press Journal. The committee appointed to prepare the historical sketch included Sam A. Willson, A. Jackson, William T. Long, Asa Dossett, E. B. Ragsdale, W. J. Ragsdale, R. H. Guinn, John J. Bowman and Isaac Lee.

Before the community had heard of a chamber of commerce, citizens pulled together for a July 4 celebration 1876 and the document was read. The oldest inhabitants had been invited as honor guests. Like many good ideas, without full support of all citizens, some die a'bornin'. President Grant had intended this to be done in all counties nationwide, and published as a "Centennial History of the United States." It didn't happen because so few counties cooperated. It is a blessing that our county did. Otherwise that precious bit of history would have never been compiled.

Two years later in 1878, The Texas Observer changed name and ownership. M. A. Shook bought the paper from its current owner, Sam A. Willson and changed the name to The Rusk Observer.

A new owner, R. E. Hendry, changed the name to The Cherokee Standard in 1882. Following a five-year period of changing editors and owners, a new face appeared and was destined to serve long (no pun intended) and well. He was John B. Long. Mr. Long published the newspaper until 1905 and held many elected positions including U.S. House of Representatives, mayor of Rusk and member of the Texas House of Representatives.

The next nameplate change reflects a trend among early newspapers. In 1888, the Cherokee Standard became the Standard Enterprise as the result of consolidation with a competitive newspaper. (The competing paper had been named Labor Enterprise.)

An important point in my research indicates Mr. Long was the first to boast of his newspaper's years of service in 1901 by adding one line of copy to the front page flag: "Originally Established February 27, 1850."

Shortly after the turn of the century, John B. Long ended his career as a journalist in Rusk when he sold the Industrial Press to the Reverend J. S. Burke in 1905. The previous half century had seen citizens of the area move from an agricultural based economy toward efforts for industrialization through development of its abundant iron ore. Great strides were made in this endeavor through the establishment of a second state prison in Rusk, the first being at Huntsville. This was accompanied by private enterprise with the establishment of New Birmingham, now ghost town south of Rusk. It was a period to acknowledge "times are a'changing."

The following year, editor Burke and a competitive paper, the Rusk Weekly Journal, merged to form The Press Journal. The change of the ownership was noted in the June 21, 1906 issue when The Press Journal nameplate featured a slogan destined to have long lasting service from that point forward to the present time. It stated "Originally established February 27, 1850. This was the same year that Thomas M. Campbell of Maydelle sought the office of Governor of Texas. That issue reported a list of local supporters for the Tom Campbell Democratic Club of Cherokee County. The leaders included A. H. Mc- Cord, W. T. Norman, Frank B. Guinn, Charles Cannon, E. L. Gregg, James P. Gibson, M. J. Whitman, James I. Perkins, John B. Long, L. D. Guinn, George B. Terrell, J. G. Summers, C. B. Immanuel, John B. Reagan, R. L. Robinson, J. E. Bagley, W. H. Shook, J. F. Mallard, J. T. Wiggins, S. W. Lang and W. M. Imboden.

By May 28, 1909, the new publisher was Wallace M. Ellis. It was a short-lived relationship. He left for one year to become district clerk, but returned as editor and proprietor.

Some interesting changes were noted on the pages of The Press Journal in this time frame. The arrival of a Studebaker, built in South Bend, Indiana was offered for sale by W. H.Wallace Hardware Co. located on the east side of the square. This early effort to create the automobile, which was horse drawn, was followed by an advertisement for another version of a car called the Hupmobile.

By this juncture on the calendar, the prison system in Rusk was reflecting signs of failure. Mr. Ellis and Mr. Long took strong positions on behalf of citizens. The two men were strong willed and destined to be on opposite sides. The prison system issue was finally resolved. Mr. Ellis sought the office of state representative against Mr. Long and was elected. He had also been the first to seek acquisition of the home of the distinguished Hogg family. He suggested it be used as an industrial school for boys and that it should bear the name of the "great commoner."

After Mr. Ellis served his term in the House of Representatives, he returned to Rusk and resumed his journalism career.

By 1922 the arrival of cars was noted in the news of The Press Journal. "Johnny Williams informed The Press Journal that he had sold four more Fords since his last Ford notice appeared in this paper with three other prospective Ford purchasers in view."

The Press Journal was confronted with competition July 11, 1919 when W. L. Martin established The Rusk Cherokeean. In a brief period of time, Mr. Ellis sold The Press Journal to S. W. Baker of Woodville and E. E. Sheffield, thus allowing him to continue a race for county judge. The election was held Aug. 26. He did not win and he published a farewell address.

A letter to the editor Jan. 12, 1923, was written by a future legacy in the newspaper field. He was John A. Templeton whose son continued his father's newspaper, the Jacksonville Journal until its sale to Emmett H. Whitehead, Rusk publisher, in 1959. He wrote.

A significant event was reported June 8, 1923. It was the merger of The Press Journal with the Rusk Cherokeean which had been founded in 1919 by W. L. Martin. With this action, the newspaper at Rusk was to continue in service to the present time with "Cherokeean" in its nameplate. The Rusk Cherokeean, though newly established, made it clear to those it served it was appreciative of its historical past.

Under the name, Mr. Martin and his newly acquired partner S. W. Baker, added another line: "With Which is Consolidated The Press Journal Working for a Greater Rusk and More Prosperous Cherokee County, Originally Established February 27, 1850.

The publication's owners sold the Rusk Cherokeean in August, 1925 to H. O. and Pearl L. Ward. He died in 1930. Mrs. Ward was tenacious in her role as owner and presented a quality publication until its sale December 1, 1934 to Elton L. Miller and Quanah Price. The two partners soon parted, with Mr. Price remaining at Frankston where he had purchased the Frankston Citizen some years earlier.

With the arrival of Mr. Miller, who proved to be a dedicated history student, the nameplate reflecting original establishment of the newspaper, was changed. This was the change on the nameplate:

"The Cherokeean is a a dir descendant of the Rusk Pioneer, Cherokee Çounty's first newspaper founded in February, 1847."

A correction of his claim was made after research proved that the publication of Joseph Addison Clark was not established until 1848 and that it was moved to Palestine and operated as the Trinity Advocate. Mr. Clark later established the forerunner of TCU in Fort Worth.

Though his ownership was short-lived, Mr. Miller was likely one of the most interesting publishers. He put together a celebration of the newspaper's 89th birthday, providing a copy of a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, page one, with congratulatory words and best wishes for his future success.

He was a first in historical writing. Stories not found elsewhere appear in his issues between December, 1934 and July 2, 1937 when he terminated his service. Among many accomplishments, Mr. Miller was the first to use red ink in printing The Rusk Cherokeean He also established a daily newspaper for a very brief period. He also founded a short lived Dialville newspaper.

Two interim editors, C. R. Duke and E. S. Erwin Jr. served from July 2 until Aug. 1, 1937. This date marked the purchase by Frank L. and Marie Main, who moved to Rusk from Hemphill.

It was under his guidance that The Rusk Cherokeean found a permanent home, at last. He had rented the structure, built to house a laundry, from the heirs of E. B. Snel- lings. Its construction was reported as early 1930s.

World War II drew its share of news space with stories such as the death of Capt. Lance C. Wade of Reklaw. Other news covered the expected range of topics such as the blast furnace

negotiations, the construction of a

new courthouse and its dedication

in November, 1941. This issue was believed by Mr. Main to be the largest ever printed in Rusk. It was 24 pages. Using 72 point type (the largest available then), the page one headline proclaimed, "Plans complete for big day Saturday." Above the nameplate was printed "Cherokee County Courthouse Dedication Edition." With great pride, the Mains showed a copy of this issue to the new owners of the newspaper, Emmett and Marie Whitehead, June 1, 1950.

Journalists are born to seek and print the truth. Mr. Main was given the opportunity to correct a wrong and seized the moment to do it. It was 1946.

"In the midst of his service to the community, editor Main

stopped in 1946 to look internally

at his own publication

and to question its ancestral claim. Main had accepted his predecessor's statement that The Rusk Cherokeean was a successor to the Pioneer established

in 1847. Information given to him by Bonner Frizzell, superintendent of Palestine schools and a recognized historian of that city,

caused Mr. Main to write an editorial of clarification and correct the nameplate.

His new line changed the

date of The Pioneer's founding to July 5, 1848. Based on other facts found at the courthouse, this date also proved to be wrong. The task passed to me to set the record straight.

My husband, Emmett H. Whitehead, was destined to follow some illustrious journalists in pursuit of the same goals--all that was good and beneficial to the people he was to serve.

We moved to Rusk from Livingston where his dad, Emmett Sr. had published the Polk County Enterprise beginning Feb. 23, 1945. He died five months later. His son arrived by the end of the year and joined his mother in the business.

Rusk proved to be a challenge to the 24-year old publisher and his 21-year old wife We survived one of the major events of the community with the riot in Maximum Security Unit at Rusk State Hospital April 16, 1955.

We added radio station KTLU-AM in October, 1955; radio KWRW-FM in October, 1981; also CATV (cable television) in 1962 with a half interest and full ownership in 1964.

Other positions of service were chamber president, mayor of Rusk for a total of 14 years; member of the Texas House of Representatives eight years and county judge four years.

He called his purchase of the Rusk newspaper "One of the best decisions I ever made. Rusk has been good to me and I have tried to be good for the town. The newspaper has helped me to promote progress in various capacities of service. It is my desire to see continued growth and development in Cherokee County. The print media provides an effective instrument for leadership. The newspaper profession has brought me to the present stage of my life and I am grateful." These were his thoughts to the end which came Aug. 13, 2002.

In closing, my late husband would want me to add that in addition to his business and civic life, there was a personal side which brought to him great joy.

These events were the births of two daughters, Terrie and Wendee, and the purchase of land, 75 acres, from Johnny Williams on FM 2972 Jan. 1, 1964.

His beloved farm came to be known as his "little piece of heaven." His happiest hours were spent on the farm with his family, horses and cows. But he remained dedicated to his "serving" side of life, through the newspaper.

Securing a new health care facility--ETMC--for our community just days before the end, was called "my last rabbit out of the hat." He had viewed all of his blessed works as magic, understanding that it was not him, but the One who had blessed him, that had made it possible through him. His works, his thoughts live on, in the hearts of many.

Welcome to the future, which arrives every day through the eyes of a historian.

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