Madison County History and Genealogy

History and Genealogy

History of Madison County

From Madison Democrat 50th Anniversary
Published by the Madison Democrat, 1908

"The Old Reliable"

History of the Democrat Written by Its Founder With a Few Additional Facts Added by the Present Managers == Its Advancement.

(The following history of The Democrat was written by M. L. Bryan and was published in the issue of December 19, 1894. It gives briefly a tale of the life of this paper by the head of The Democrat's family, who died May 26, 1902. It is with a feeling of pride that we have occasion to reprint the article, written by one, who saw our city grow from the small village he found when he first located here, and who passed away content that he had done his share in building up the community, its morals and welfare. He left a host of friends and especially among his older friends was "Uncle Toby," as he delighted to be called, a favorite. The foundation and body of the paper were laid by him, and whatever good may be found in this paper must be attributed to his efforts, as well to those of its present owners and force.) — Eds.

"A short sketch of the life of The Democrat — a sort of brief biography, we might say — may not be out of place at this time. In order not to be tiresome we will "cut it short," and only mention a few of the events connected with the birth and existence of this paper.

"During the month of December, '57, news reached Columbus that Mr. John M. Smith, a prominent merchant and an active and energetic Democrat of London, Madison county, wanted some practical printer to come to this town and take charge of a weekly Democratic newspaper he had started with his own means. As an inducement, Mr. Smith proposed that to any printer, who would run the paper one year, he would make a present of the printing material, then comprised of a small Washington hand press and a few cases of badly worn type. This proposition reached the ears of two compositors on the "Daily Fact," an independent daily paper published by Col. John Geary, since deceased. These printers were John A. Kissinger and M. L. Bryan, the present proprietor, who came over to London and found a paper that had been started here Nov. 12, 1857, called "The National Democrat," with J. M. Smith as proprietor and D. M. Creighton as editor, the mechanical department in charge of E. Douglass King. The paper had a circulation of less than 300, if we remember correctly. The first number under the new management was issued Jan. 28, 1858, Bryan & Kissinger, editors and proprietors. The new firm took hold

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time Madison county had a Democratic Sheriff — Wm. Smith — which was a great help financially. The office was then located in the Addison Shanklin building, (occupied by 'Squire Noah Thomas today.)

"The public-spirited citizen, popular

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many excellent traits of character.

"During the latter part of October, the present proprietor bought Mr. Kissinger's interest in The Democrat and has ever since been sole proprietor. On March 20, 1862, we changed the title fo the paper from "The National Democrat," to "The Madison County Democrat," which name it still re-

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with any degree of certainty just what 'A National Democrat,' is or ought to be. During the year 1866, Mr. Shanklin desiring the rooms we then occupied, for a residence, the office was moved to an upstairs room in the wooden building on what was then the London and Springfield railroad, where the Enterprise is now located, the lower story being occupied by Owen and M. M. Thomas as a grocery warehouse.

"On the night of Sept. 30, 1867, the old warehouse building took fire from some unknown cause and burned to the ground — the entire material of the office going up in flames or falling down in melted metal. Not a single type was spared — not even a scratch of a pen against any of the patrons — nothing saved from the wreck except its despondent, dead broken publisher.

"During the ten years of the existence of The Democrat it had won the favor of the people of the county to the extent that they would not consent to see it burned at the stake, as it were, so a subscription was started by some of its good friends and in less than one week a sum between $350 and $400 was secured — many of its subscribers paying one year or more in advance — others donating sums of $5 to $25. With the amount collected the publisher went to Cincinnati and bought about $1,000 worth of material, and after an interval of one week, The Democrat was on its legs again, brighter and newsier than ever.

"At this time there was such a business boom in London that every available room was occupied. As a last resort, we were compelled to set up our business in an old unoccupied rickety frame building, then standing on the site of the present Universalist church, belonging to Dot Dunkin, who offered it rent free. It was a hard job to tide over the severe winter with a leaky roof, the airy windows and the shackly doors, with the wintery wind whistling through our whiskers, but it was done without loss of life, and the next spring The Democrat found somewhat more comfortable quarters above a livery stable, owned by Mike Millay, afterwards elected Marshal of our town. Here the office remained for about one year and was then removed to Judge Clark's building in a room fitted up for the purpose. After remaining about three years in this location and finding more room necessary to accommodate our increasing material, the office was moved across

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ent quarters in the Democrat building, on Second street, in November, 1886.

The Democrat started in life as a six column, four page, and was enlarged in the '70's to a nine column quarto. On March 14, 1888, the paper was changed from a 4-page to a 12-page paper; in 1894 to 5 columns 16 pages. When the proprietor became in bad health, he decided to take a much-needed rest and sold out his paper to his two oldest sons, who have since conducted it successfully on the old lines. It soon, thereafter, made its appearance as a semi-weekly, being published on Tuesdays and Fridays. this was made necessary by the demand of the farmers for fresher news, the period of telephone and rural mail delivery being reached, when the farmer is in touch with the every day affairs and events of the world. The Democrat, by its increasing business, found a demand for better machinery and added a Hoe 3-revolution press, speed 2,600, operated by a 4-horse power Otto gas engine. The Campbell press was retained for poster work and three job presses are kept constantly at work.

Seven years ago the proprietors found so much type composition to be done, that a new Simplex type-setting machine, or unitype, was purchased

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(By the Present Editor.)

Fourteen years have passed since the veteran editor penned these words. they have bene years of prosperity to The Democrat as it has gone onward and upward. In this length of time the circulation has been increased from 2,600 to 4,050. The plant has been almost re-equipped. The most radical change having been in the type setting department.

After several years of use the Simplex typesetting machine was discontinued as it had not sufficient capacity to furnish enough type for the paper. In April, 1908, a new model No. 5 Mergenthaler Linotype machine was installed at an expense of $4,000. The Democrat now is printed from new type each issue, cast by this machine.

Fifty years of history. A period representing some of the most eventful epochs in the nation's life. A half century of growth, fo good fellowship, of mutual endeavor to raise the standard of living, to build up local institutions, to make life more desirable and to build up in this county a community of prosperous and contented people.

The Democrat, throughout its half-century of life

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During the fifty years that have passed away since The Democrat became a factor in this county, many changes have been wrought in the physical condition of the county and town. Fifty years is a long time as gauged from the standpoint of the future — in retrospect, however, the time elapsed is a memory and the space but a short span.

Since The Democrat was founded fifty years ago, new generations have arisen, new hands have taken hold of business affairs and those who then lived, with few exceptions, have passed ot the great beyond.

Where a straggling, unimportant hamlet then stood, a sturdy little city now lives; where unbroken forests and primeval waste was the rule, we have wide stretches of well-cultivated land, fine farm dwellings, prosperous farmers. Our forefahters, without the knowledge of present day conveniences of modern life, would be amazed were they to visit us now with the manifold improvements which the years have brought and which we consider as ordinary. Living as we do today with everything about us that will conduce to our physical well being, with multitudes of luxuries on every hand, which we cannot recognize because of their common use, we cannot appreciate the conditions under which our ancestors wrung from nature the things which we now would call as the greatest hardships possible for man to endure.

The Democrat, like all institutions, had its beginning. It had its full share of privations, of hard times and struggles to keep the wolf from the door. The age in which it first saw the light of day was not the age of the present with its modern presses, large circulations, its news from every part of the world, its equipment embodying everything to be desired from a mechanical standpoint. The conditions were much the reverse, requiring incessant labor, with returns often problematical, money scarce and more often payment made in some commodity grown by its constituents. From the early efforts of the elder Bryan, with the little weekly, to the present time is a long cry and the changes exemplified today in The Democrat during its fifty years of existence are truly typical of everything pertaining to the town. The Democrat now contains eight pages every issue twice a week, often sixteen pages are necessary to fill the wants of the people, so that it stands without a rival in this section as in point of size. From the few hundred copies printed fifty years ago, The Democrat goes into 4,050 homes twice a week at a price which would have staggered the founder.

Fifty years. Men now hoary with age look back to that period as the "good old timies," when things were done differently. And they were. We do not wish to take from age any of its sweetness or detract from the conditions, which then existed, because they were necessary incidents to the growth and the building up of the country. But, knowing what our fathers accomplished, looking at the work done as we see it today, it is not reasonable to expect the children of such sires to accomplish as great things as were done in the past? We today have a duty to perform that is as pressing and important as any done by our ancestors. New conditions breed new duties, raise up new questions and make work and effort just as necessary today as ever in our history. The generation today is just as competent, more highly educated, more prosperous and jsut as brave as those who lived in the past, and the things to do are just as numerous as ever in our history.

In conclusion let us say that the mission of The Democrat will be for the betterment of London and Madison county; to bring sunshine and happiness, if possible; to lighten life's burdens in a measure, and to disseminate all the news to its thousands of subscribers, in a clean, pure and wholesome way that will not taint the mind or corrupt the spirit.

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