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Publication Details

The free citizen.

More information about this newspaper title may be available on the source website.

Source: Chronicling America [US Library of Congress]

Country: United States

State: South Carolina

City: Orangeburg, S.C.

Issues of this title available in Elephind: 19

Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 194

Earliest Date: 6 March 1875

Latest Date: 27 May 1876


The free citizen

The Orangeburg Free Citizen, a weekly Republican newspaper “devoted to temperance, literature, and politics,” provided a counterpoint to the white Democratic newspapers published in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, in the final years of the Reconstruction era (1865-77). Alonzo Webster and his son Eugene Alonzo Webster established the Free Citizen on August 8, 1874. A Methodist clergyman, Alonzo Webster moved from Vermont to Charleston, South Carolina, shortly after the end of the Civil War to teach at the Baker Biblical Institute (he also edited the Charleston Advocate. Eugene Webster worked as a trial lawyer and internal revenue collector for the federal government.

Alonzo and Eugene Webster’s outsider status notwithstanding, the Free Citizen appears to have been engaged in the affairs of its community. In 1875, the paper ran promotions for the annual exhibition of the Orangeburg Agricultural and Mechanical Association, a county-wide event that included a baseball tournament. The Free Citizen contained approving nods to a number of Democratic papers including the Anderson Intelligencer, Charleston News and Courier, and Orangeburg Times, whose editor, Stiles Rivers Mellichamp, it described as a “gentleman of culture and integrity.” At the same time,  the Free Citizen frequently sparred with the publishers of the Orangeburg News and Orangeburg County public officials, one of whom sued the Free Citizen for $20,000 over its coverage of the theft of funds from the county treasury.

The Free Citizen remained committed to the national Republican Party, its elected leaders in South Carolina less so. The paper contained numerous denunciations of the corruption within the South Carolina Republican Party. But unlike the Georgetown Planet, which endorsed an alternative Republican candidate, the Free Citizen continued to support incumbent Governor Daniel Henry Chamberlain, “the St. Patrick who is destined to expel the reptiles from South Carolina.” 

In 1875, the publishers of the Free Citizen commented that “Our subscription list has increased lately so that we are obliged to add to our issue or stop sending papers to those who have not settled their bills.” In 1876, however, the American Newspaper Directory recorded only an estimated 400 subscribers. The Free Press ceased sometime that year. The exact circumstances leading to its demise are not known.

Provided by: University of South Carolina; Columbia, SC