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Country: United States
City: Ridgway, Elk Co., Pa.
Issues of this title available in Elephind: 165
Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 664
Earliest Date: 7 January 1864
Latest Date: 30 October 1868
Elk County, named for its Cervus canadensis herds, could have been called Lumber County. White pine and hemlock trees guaranteed the county’s financial success for decades. First inhabited by Seneca Indians and a vast wilderness into the 1840s, Elk was formed in April 1843 from parts of Jefferson, Clearfield, and McKean counties. Ridgway, on the Clarion River, was laid out in 1833, part of a huge parcel purchased in 1817 by Philadelphia millionaire Jacob Ridgway. Elk officials solicited land or money for a courthouse and accepted a site in Ridgway offered by Jacob’s son in 1844, making Ridgway the county seat. Ridgway prospered from harvesting timber, with millions of board feet and handmade shingles rafted downriver annually.
When Ridgway’s first newspaper, the Elk County Advocate, began in 1850, the town was a tiny village with a main street “so quiet and new that rattlesnakes sometimes appeared thereon” (History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, J.H. Beers, 1890). The newspaper followed the conventions of contemporary country journalism: fiction and advertisements on page one, odd stories reprinted from other newspapers, boosterism for local business, and unabashedly biased political coverage. Local news, no matter what, was relegated to inside pages. The Ridgway business district, including the newspaper’s offices, burned down in September 1858; this disaster was reported on page three under a one-column headline, “Fire in Ridgway.” The Elk County Advocate (and subsequent names) was published weekly, either Thursday or Saturday. It was four pages long, six or seven columns wide and published all official county legal information (sheriff’s sales, election results, etc.).
Independent politically, the Advocate was funded by interested citizens and used printers imported from nearby counties. Henry Souther, the nominal editor, was soon replaced by one of the printers, Jerome Powell of Warren, who agreed to be editor/publisher for a year but stayed until 1855. It was sold to Jefferson L. Brown, a surveyor from Wilcox. Brown renamed it the Elk County Reporter but found the job neither interesting nor profitable and sold out in July 1856 to local lawyer J.A. Boyle.
The newspaper was renamed the Elk Advocate by the time P.W. Barrett took over in 1864. By 1866 Barrett was replaced by John F. Moore and John G. Hall, who made the newspaper Democratic. Moore departed in August 1867, and Hall partnered with Curtis W. Barrett. Moore soon returned as editor but bitterly reported on October 21, 1868, that he was forced to sell the paper “to the Radical party,” as the county could not support two Democratic newspapers (his and a new one in St. Marys).
The Elk County Advocate then debuted under C.B. Gould, editor/publisher, funded by local Republicans. Gould exited in October 1869, replaced by Dr. J.S. Bardwell, editor until October 1870, when J.C. Luther took over and widened the paper from six to seven columns. In March 1871, a 19-year-old Ridgway native, Henry A. Parsons Jr., took charge, using steam-powered presses. Parsons was replaced by local lawyer H.A. Pattison in September 1872, but the latter retired and Parsons returned by March 1873, soon launching a new slogan, “Nil Desperandum” (Never Despair), after publishing an editorial decrying the public tendency to despair of our country.
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