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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
LIII. THE PRESS
"A thoughtful brow and face--of sallow hue, But warm with welcome, as we find him there, Throned in his old misnomered 'easy-chair,' Scrawling `leader,' or a bookreview." .... James Whitcomb Riley
A REMINISCENT PICTURE of the old-time editor is drawn for us in the form of verse by the inimitable Hoosier poet. That beloved country editor lives again as we read Riley's lines. We follow on and see the editor "staring through the roof for something new with which to lift a wretched rival's hair, or blow some petty clique in empty air and snap the party-ligaments in two."
"A man he is deserving well of thee,--So be compassionate--yea, pay thy dues, Nor pamper him with thy spring-poetry, But haul him wood, or something he can use; And promptly act, nor tarry long when he Gnaweth his pen and glareth rabidly."
What a splendid service the editor has rendered to the small town to community life. How eagerly have the subscribers looked forward to receiving once a week the little "sheet" that gave them the news of village arid countryside, as well as views and comments, and, like spice, a little humor, gossip, and mild ridicule thrown in! He had his critics, the editor had,, even in the serenest field. He made his mistakes, no doubt, arid took his punishment gallantly. He had his worries, but cast them aside. For example, there was the budding poet, existent most everywhere, who would take his pen and write, then bring the product to Ye Editor, handing it over to that individual with Rileyesque words, such as these:
" . . . . And now, my friend,
You may print it--upside down!"
Ye Editor was not all of Ye Press of olden times. There was that patient artist. Ye Old-time Printer-man, who stuck to his type and "stick" and "copy" and "case," through thick and thin. What if he did, more or less frequently, serve up to the reading public a lovely piece of "pi," or garble the wedding of the squire's daughter? What if he did plant the poetry upside down, or misquote the preacher, or send the leader of village society to **&&"&&'@) ('?X for all indefinite visit'? What if he did? He held the "stick" for long hours in a dingy little shop, and, as the editor's mechanical aid-de-camp, brought out the news, more or less on time, to appease the cravings of the public.
Although the territory which in the course of time became the state of Indiana, boasted the first newspaper west of the Alleghenies, the "Western Sun," established in Vincennes in 1804 by Elihu Stout as the "Indiana Gazette," and although newspapers appeared in the neighboring communities of Plymouth, Bourbon, and Argos much in advance, it was not until as late as 1894 that the first "news-sheet" was run from the press in Union Township. The "press" got off to a late start in this "neck of the woods," though the woods long since had been leveled and had been replaced by productive farms and thriving villages.
The fact of the matter is that, prior to 1894, Union Township did not feel any urgent need for a local newspaper; the "county papers," produced at Plymouth and distributed over a wide area, seemed to meet the demand adequately. It was quite by chance and surely unexpectedly that the first newspaper finally did come to Union Township. Mohammed did not go to the mountain; the mountain came to Mohammed. So came the "press."
A venturesome journalistic spirit in the form of George Nearpass walked into Marmont one day, set up his little printing press, and began the spreading of the local news and gossip through the medium of type. From that small and somewhat crude beginning, and after forty years of up-building, during which time four editors have occupied the chair in the "sanctum," has evolved the present strictly modern and highly developed "Culver Citizen."
One hundred years ago, newspapers were as scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth in northern Indiana: The southern part of the state had some real "old timers," but a century back the nearest newspaper even to Fort Wayne, an ancient settlement as western settlements go, was the "Cass County Democrat," at Logansport. The Union Township region, now less than an hour distant by auto, train, and plane, was then backwoods to Logansport. The Indians and other creatures of the wild held this ancient wilderness, quite alone and unmolested. The first white settlers were yet to arrive, although some of them already were on their way.
In the early days of Indiana, the number of newspapers increased slowly, as new counties were organized. The story is retold by Julia Henderson Levering, the historian, that one of the earliest sheets was printed with swamp mud used for ink, and run off on a cider press. The paper on which the earliest journal was printed was often brown wrapping paper; and maple sugar, jeans, tow-linen, oats, chickens, corn meal, firewood, and coon skins or deer hides were solicited in payment of arrears, "before whiter set in."
The first newspaper in Marshall County was reputed to be "The Plymouth Journal," which was said to have survived but a day. It was published about 1844-45, according to Daniel McDonald. That was ten years after the arrival of the first white settlers in Union Township. The first newspaper regularly established in Marshall County, the "Plymouth Pilot," was first issued April 16, 1851. John Q. Howell was editor and proprietor.
Then came "The Bourbon Independent;" established in 1865 by J. Frank Beck, and the "Argos Globe," started in 1867 by Charles Riddle.
In Union Township
On the 13th of July, 1894, appeared the first issue, Vol. I, No. 1, of the "Marmont Herald," George Nearpass, editor and publisher.
Dave Smith tells the story of the coming of the first editor, and beyond a doubt he was the first of Marmont's citizens to meet and talk with the man who had the idea or "bunch" that Marmont finally was ripe for a newspaper. Dave, then a comparatively young man (it was over forty years ago), was walking along the Hibbard road when he met a man coming toward Marmont. The man, who was a stranger to Dave, was afoot. He said he was going to look the town over with the idea of starting a, newspaper. No doubt he had come in on the Nickel Plate. The stranger proved to be George Nearpass.
That evening, at the customary friendly gathering of the men in the village (all were sociable in those days, and every one was acquainted), Nearpass told of his plans. And he decided to stay. So he set up his press, and, the "Marmont Herald" was started.
Union 'Township's first newspaper was begun in restricted space', in a small one-story frame building, located oft the west side of Main Street between Jefferson and Madison streets. The property is now owned by Harvey Warner, who has another building on the site. The building used by Nearpass was an old photograph gallery, which at one time stood somewhere nearly west of the present "66" gas station on Lake Shore Drive. The building was moved by John Osborn, the banker who financed Nearpass, to the location south of the present Mitchell & Stabenow store. The Nearpass newspaper building stood long side, or "broadside," to the street, because it had been so built to accommodate the photograph gallery. Later, after the newspaper had used it, the building was moved again, to a location back of the present tin shop.
It was there, in the building on the Warner location, that George Nearpass set up his humble hand-press and began the publishing of his weekly newspaper, with little in the way of equipment to help him on his journalistic way.
It has been said that George Nearpass got out his first newspaper in Marmont "in a fence corner," contrary to which Arthur Morris declares, "No, that is not exactly the truth. I was in the shop when the first edition was run off the hand-press, and it was done under shelter, not in the open." "In a fence corner'' may have been one way of expressing it--merely as a form of speech, not literal, but picturing the crudeness of the beginning of what later--and soon--proved to be a going concern. Hence the fence corner can be put down as a bit of romancing, which it is difficult far the chronicler to forego or pass by without recognition.
Arthur Morris was there when the first edition was in the making, and he retained a copy of that epochal news-sheet. He thinks his copy was the third off the hand-press. He adds that the building in which Nearpass had his shop was a low, flat, one-story affair, broadside to the street, extending from where Hawkins now is, almost to the cement block building. It was a thin sort of building, that newspaper emporium, perhaps only about twelve feet wide.
Nearpass edited and published the "Marmont Herald" and the "Culver City Herald" for about ten years. Prior to that period of his newspaper career he had conducted the "Hobart Gazette." The "Marmont Herald" became the "Culver City Herald" when the name of the village was changed.
A Son's Recollections
George E. Nearpass, son of the editor and publisher, gives us some interesting data. He writes: "I take from George P. Rowell & Sons American Newspaper Directory published in 1895, the following listed therein:
"MARMONT--Marshall Co. pop. 374, on the Terre Haute and Indianapolis R. R., about 34 miles north of Logansport. Agriculture.
"Newspaper - Herald - published Fridays; eight pages 13 x 20. Subscription $1.00 per year, established 1894 by Geo. E. Nearpass, Sr., Editor and Publisher. Independent."
This was about all the son had concerning the early edition of the paper, but he gives us an interesting sketch of the history of his father, George E. Nearpass II:
"George E: Nearpass II was born on a farm near Concord, Michigan. His father, George E. Nearpass I, was a Methodist Episcopal preacher, or in those days a circuit rider. He had several churches.
"At the age of nine, George E. II ran away from home and landed in Chicago. He was a newsboy and boot-black on the streets of Chicago until he was thirteen years of age, and he secured a job as "devil" in the old 'Chicago Times' office, where he learned the printer's trade. He had a limited education, but he could spell every word, I believe, in the dictionary at the age of eighteen. He was a powerfully built man. Through a friend of his he got a job with a show company.
"With the show company he acted as stage-hand and played small parts, and while doing so he learned the different parts of both shows, and later played the leading parts in those shows for eight years.
Loses An Eye
"In a fencing duel in one of the shows he got his left eye put out, and, having saved some money, he returned to the printing trade, and started a paper in Vermontville, Michigan. He sold this paper and then started one in Shelby, Michigan. From there he went to Charlotte, then to Whitehall, then to Hart. From Hart he landed in Hobart, Indiana, as editor of the 'Hobart Gazette.'
"He was in Hobart four years, and started a paper in Bremen, Indiana, called the 'Bremen Standard.' As the `Inquirer' was also published there at that time, he soon found out that Bremen could not support two papers, and he started to scout around for a location. He went over to Argos, Indiana, and learned there about an opening in Marmont. He took a train to Hibbard, and as there was no train connection he walked from Hibbard to Marmont.
Locates in Marmont
"In Marmont, he called on several business men of that day, John Osborn, Sam Medbourn, E. B. Vanschoiack, Dr. B. W. S. Wiseman, Dr. O. A. Rea and many others, and told them if they would raise him a bonus he would start a paper in Marmont. They got busy, raised the bonus, and he moved his plant to Marmont in 1894, and established the 'Marmont Herald.' His equipment consisted of an old Washington hand-press, an old foot-pump Gordon job press, a printer's stone and three cases of type.
"He moved his family to Marmont about two weeks later. My brother, Homer, and sister, Myrtle, both helped in the office, and as we younger kids grew up we all had to take our turn in the office. (I have set pied type until I was black in the face.)
Getting Out the News
"In those days there were a lot of tramp printers roaming over the country, and many of the old timers of Marmont will recall a printer by the name of Billy Millross, one of the best printers who ever held a stick of type. Billy worked for Dad several years.
"On publication day, and it took all day to print the paper, Sumner Wiseman, who is now Dr. Summer Wiseman of Union Mills, Indiana, would run the press. Ed Gandy was the chief roller, when my brother Floyd could not be found. The roller was the one who put the ink on the type. My job was to take the papers off the press. Harry Medbourn was my substitute, and I got a licking if I did not show up. Tim Wolfe also used to run the press, and many others helped to get the paper out on publication day.
"Dad liked the lake and stayed in Culver around nine years or so. I remember when the town was changed to Culver City, then to Culver. Father sold the paper to J. H. Koontz."
"Dad was a real newspaper man and a writer of ability," George E. Nearpass III relates, continuing the story of the family. "At one time he was offered City Editor of the old Terre Haute Gazette, but he would not take it. He published the paper in Culver for about nine years and sold it to J. H. Koontz, who changed the name to The Citizen.
"Father was one of the men who helped to change the name of Marmont to Culver. The first change was from Marmont to Culver City. Then, later, the name was changed to Culver. I remember the week when he sawed out the city part of the heading of the Culver City Herald, which then made it the Culver Herald. I think Dad sold the Herald to J. H. Koontz, April 27, 1903.
"Father and Mother are both dead and buried in Highland Lawn Cemetery at Terre Haute, Ind. There were seven children."
A short sketch concerning these children follows:
Homer L. Nearpass is Superintendent of City Schools at Santa Barbara, California. He is also a graduate of the Culver Military Academy.
Myrtle Nearpass-King, deceased.
Floyd V. Nearpass, former Lieutenant of Police, Pennsylvania Railroad. Terre Haute, Ind., died in 1931.
George E. Nearpass, Jr., is senior train baggageman, Pennsylvania. Railroad. He started his railroading on the Pennsylvania as a newsboy, and has been on the railroad since June 6, 1900, when he was twelve years of age. He is also known as the "Whistling Brakeman." He has broadcasted from nearly every large radio station in the United States. He lives in Indianapolis.
Val E. Nearpass is president of the Acute Printing and Stationery Co., and president of the Franklin Amusement Co., a chain of fifteen moving picture theaters, of Minneapolis, Minn. He also represents the Speakers' Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, of Minneapolis.
Vance B. Nearpass is in the advertising business in Saginaw, Michigan.
Verna Nearpass-Walters, deceased.
Vance B. and Verna were born in Culver.
After leaving Culver, George Nearpass, Sr., and George Nearpass, Jr., launched the "Shipshewana Sun," at Shipshewana, Ind. That was not long after the middle of August, 1905. In fact, Vol. I, No. 1 of the "Shipshewana Sun," edited by the father and son, appeared around the first of September, that year.
Editor Koontz then occupied the chair in the office at Culver. The "Art Annual," in 1905, gave the following information about the paper:
THE CULVER CITIZEN.--J. H. Koontz & Son, proprietors. 2000 or more readers. Non-sectarian and non-partisan. A valuable plant, complete with the best type and publishing machinery. The job work was large. The success and profit of the newspaper was due, largely, to the work' of the foreman, O. A. Gandy, who was "certainly a 'master mechan-ic' in his business."
The Citizen was sold by J. H. Koontz; and on April 1, 1906, passed to the ownership of Arthur B. Holt, of Kankakee, Ill. Mr. Holt had been one of the publishers of the "Daily and Semi-Weekly Gazette," in that community.
Mr. Holt remained as editor through the years that saw Culver grow from a village to a town and the paper progressed accordingly. He had a distinct flare for writing with a personal touch that made his paper outstanding. He left the writing of high-powered editorials to the metropolitan papers, while he sought out the small, homely items that concerned the everyday life of his readers. His dry humor persistently cropped out in unexpected places. His long reign in the editor's chair formed an important chapter in the local history of journalism.
On July 1, 1923, he relinquished his interests to M. R. Robinson and F. C. Leitnaker, who came to Culver from Kansas where they had been roommates in college. Both were young men and veterans of the World War. They had had experience an newspapers under the direction of others, but this was their first attempt at producing a paper with full control. The circulation and size of The Citizen enlarged under their energetic management and became a leader in community activities.
Another change in management occurred November 11, 1926, when M. R. Robinson became the sole owner and publisher. In recent years The Citizen has won recognition in state contests for the best weekly papers and its editorials are frequently selected as outstanding by the National Editorial Association. A few years ago it won a prize for one of the best editorials in the country.
The Citizen is a non-political paper since it is the only paper in town and its publisher believes that all parties should in such a case be treated equally,
Edition Number One
Turn back, O Time, in thy flight'.
Let us take a little backward journey to that Friday the Thirteenth, unlucky as it may sound, that first publication day in Union Township, in the month of July, 1894.
"The Veteran printer, Chas. Al vord, is serenely sticking type in the Herald office, having arrived Friday evening," presumably of the week before. So says the first edition.
Also, the Burr Oak items were crowded out. The printer couldn't make out several of the surnames. And the last "r" or the next to the last was crowded out of the "Bur(r) Oak." News for the first issue had been plentiful; economy of space was resorted to, and it appeared that the press had found fertile ground in which to take root, here in Union Township.
Said the editor on his editorial page: "We hearby send you a sample copy of the Marmont Herald, and having published our first issue under adverse circumstances, we beg that you will withhold severe criticism," etc. A sort of "beg-your-pardon" overture, but the paper was nothing to be ashamed of, after all was said and done. And the editor closed his editorial bow to the public with a proud little flourish, ". . . the only paper published in Union Township."
That was the first edition of the
at the Lake Maxinkuckee
Vol. I; No.1, Fri. July13, 1894. (The writer writes after perusing the Arthur Morris copy, was one of the first off the press.)
Who's Who in Business
Page one of edition one displays a "Business Directory," which mentions the Village Board; the Churches, two of them, (the M. E. Church, Henry Ross, pastor, and Grace Reform, J. W. Barber, pastor); and the Societies, and the Physicians, B, W. S. Wiseman and O. A. Rea. Also Notary Public, Oliver Morris, and Attorneys, Adam E. Wise of Plymouth, and R. C. O'Blenis of Argos. Then comes Herbert G. Nealy, instructor in music, and J. M. Ohler, tonsorial artist (not a mere barber; they were artists, back in those days). After the artists (music and tonsorializing ) one finds Kreuzberger Park, near the lake, where after being cleanly shaved and dolled up, on this hot July day, one may go, and perhaps hear a little music. The Lake View Hotel, farther on. sitting atop a lakeside follows. One may want to go there. Frank D. Lampson is Manager. He will entertain a guest handsomely. Finally, if one has any left-over cash, one may visit the Marmont Exchange Bank and be relieved of it (to one's advantage) before being banditized farther afield.
Guiding us on our way is George Nearpass, "publisher of the official paper of Union Township."
What's What in Marmont
The region's foremost institution, "The Culver Academy," gets two columns of the front page, as it should. And, of course, "Lake Maxinkuckee' Pleasure Resort" is extolled, (using a favorite editor-word).
The news is dominated by the latest dispatches regarding developments in the big strike that is on, and in which tine railroads have become deeply embroiled. The fur is flying!
Business is picking up "There is talk," says the paper, "of building a brick block from Vanschoiack's store to Beaver's saloon, by capitalists from abroad. It occurs to us that that would be a pretty good location, as there is a store there that sells everything from a toothpick up."
About fifty students are attending the summer school at the Culver Academy. The Academy and the summer school are both in their infancy, just about getting started.
Ratzier has put a branch gallery in Marmont and will make sittings every Tuesday. (He intends to "shoot" a whole bunch of good-looking folk; but pretends not to conduct a shooting gallery. His method is painless).
Story of the Ads Turning to the advertisements, of which there is a goodly display, the business world having rallied valiantly around the new publisher's standard, one reads a true story of Marmont as it was, some forty years ago.
Sam Easterday dealt in furniture.
D. E. Zechiel kept a grocery.
Urias Menser was Gen'l. Hardware (not a visiting General at Culver's Academy).
F. Smyth & Co. had bakery goods.
Mrs. J. W. Quick advertised the latest French styles of millinery.
L. C. Wiseman kept drugs and medicines.
Dillon & Castleman were grain dealers.
W. H. Wilson was the blacksmith.
Henry Oyler was the boot and shoe repairer.
Chas. H. Curtis had bicycles for sale.
F. H. Mow kept the livery, feed and sale stable.
G. L. Morris & Co., were in the lumber business.
Hayden Rea operated a harness shop.
The Exchange Grocery and Meat Market was kept by E. B. Vanschoiack.
Nusbaum, Mayer & Co. had the "big store."
Ozias Duddleson sold pianos and organs.
William Swigart was Gen'l. Drayman (another General.)
J. H. Born was the second blacksmith in town.
Change of Location
As time wore on, Marmont's newspaper and printery grew little by little until at length the expansion thereof demanded larger quarters. The thin building on Main Street became too thin, and a fatter building was sought. Finally, the narrow building was left behind, and the newspaper establishment occupied fairly broad quarters in a. building on East Washington Street.
It is there now, in doubly broad quarters, for it occupies the whole first floor.
One reads that the rooms above the Citizen office were rented. That was May 5, 1904. But, five rooms over the printing office were for rent, December 28, 1905. (Today the big press--a new and bigger one--is 'way down in the basement.)
Change of Make-up
The "Citizen" was a 6-column paper until 1913, and 21-22-inch depth until a 16-page paper. It was changed January 11, 1922, to a 7-column paper, with four pages. It started in 1903 with eight pages, and later dropped to four pages. The "Culver City Herald" (1897-1900) had five columns and a 20-21-inch depth.
The present "Citizen" was changed to a 16-page tabloid, October 18, 1933, from eight 22-inch pages, seven columns to the page, each column 20 inches in length. This was quite a daring change, but it marked a definite step forward, in keeping with the times. The "Citizen" was a pioneer among small-town weeklies in this sort of venture. Time has proven its success.