Notable Hoosier Obits: William Merritt Chase

Today in history, on October 25, 1916, American Impressionist William Merritt Chase died.  Chase was born in 1849 in Williamsburg (now Ninevah), Johnson County, Indiana.  He spent some of his youth in Indianapolis before pursuing an art career in New York City, St. Louis, and Europe.

Two of his obits can be accessed in Chronicling America below.

Washington Times, October 26, 1916. Chronicling America.
New York Tribune. October 27, 1916. Chronicling America.

A Brief History of the Marshall County Independent (Plymouth, Ind.)

56 issues of the Marshall County Independent are available by clicking here.
56 issues of the Marshall County Independent are available by clicking here.

The 1900 U.S. Census reported that Plymouth, Indiana, located in a rich agricultural area in north-central Indiana, had a population over 3,600.  The town had supported two major newspapers, the Plymouth Republican and the Plymouth Democrat, since the 1850s.  With the rise of Populism in the 1890s, another newspaper debuted in Plymouth in 1894, the Marshall County Independent.

42 issues of the Semi-Weekly Independent can be accessed here!
42 issues of the Semi-Weekly Independent can be accessed here!

Albert R. Zimmerman started the Independent as an eight page weekly.  He took on A. D. Smith as a partner in July 1895, changed the paper to a semiweekly titled the Plymouth Semi-Weekly Independent, and began issuing a daily edition, the Plymouth Daily Independent.  Reported circulation for the Independent was 750 in 1897, barely half the respective circulations for its in-town rivals.  In 1896, Smith sold his interest to Zimmerman who then sold the paper to Silas H. Joseph and Clinton H. Grube.  The new owners split management and editing duties, but after a year they sold the Independent to Clay W. Metsker.

185 issues of the Marshall County Independent from 1897-1901 are available here.
185 issues of the Marshall County Independent from 1897-1901 are available here.

In 1897, Metsker changed the title back to the Marshall County Independent and by 1900 returned to a weekly publication schedule.  By then, the Independent was faring well in terms of circulation with its chief competitors, the Republican and Democrat.  In March 1902, Metsker purchased the Plymouth Democrat and continued issuing the daily edition as the Daily Independent, but he switched the title of the weekly edition from the Independent to the Weekly Democrat.  The acquisition of the Democrat nearly doubled the Independent’s weekly circulation from 1,650 to 3,200.  Metsker retired the Independent name completely in 1909 when he started issuing the daily edition as the Plymouth Daily Democrat.  Metsker sold the paper in March 1931.  The new owners changed the daily title to the Plymouth Daily News and discontinued the weekly edition of the Democrat in 1941.

 

The Indiana Sentinel: Indianapolis’s Democratic Voice

Indiana State Sentinel, July 21, 1841. Chronicling America.

Click on the links throughout this essay to access digitized issues of the Sentinel through Chronicling America

After shuttering the Wabash Enquirer in Terre Haute, the Chapman brothers, George A. and Jacob P., moved to Indianapolis and purchased the Indiana Democrat, and Spirit of the Constitution in 1841.  The Chapmans renamed the newspaper the Indiana State Sentinel and produced its first issue on July 21, 1841.  The Sentinel was a Democratic paper and displayed on the masthead the party mascot, a rooster, with the motto, “Crow, Chapman, Crow!”[1]  The majority of Indiana’s elected officials throughout the 1840s and 1850s were Democrats, and the Sentinel became the preeminent Democratic organ in the state during these decades and the major foil to the city’s Whig and later Republican voice, the Indianapolis Journal.  The Chapman brothers issued the Sentinel as a weekly but produced a daily edition while the Indiana General Assembly was in session from 1841 to 1844.  In 1845, the newspaper inaugurated the twice-weekly Indiana State Sentinel. A tri-weekly edition also appeared during legislative sessions.  After 1853, the weekly version was called the Weekly Indiana State Sentinel.

Austin H. Brown acquired complete control of the paper in 1850 and made it a year-round daily on April 28, 1851.  The Sentinel changed hands at least six times during the next decade, which partly contributed to the papers loss of influence and subscribers.  During the Civil War years, the Daily State Sentinel and the weekly Indiana State Sentinel were vocal critics of the Republican-controlled government.  The Sentinel’s editor, Joseph J. Bingham, was arrested by the army for treason and conspiracy.  Bingham ultimately turned government witness in the Indianapolis trial by military commission in 1864 of Harrison H. Dodd and others accused of involvement in a Copperhead conspiracy.  This turmoil contributed to the decline of the Sentinel.  In July 1865, Charles W. Hall and a partner acquired the paper and changed its name to the Indianapolis Daily Herald.  Fifteen months later, the newspaper went into receivership.  In 1868, its name reverted back to the Indianapolis Daily Sentinel, and there also appeared a weekly edition, the Indiana State Sentinel.  The paper continued to change hands until 1872 when it was acquired by the Sentinel Company, which dropped “Daily” from the title.  Circulation figures for the daily edition averaged about 6,000 between 1869 and 1888.  The name was changed several more times over the next few years before finally returning to the Indianapolis Sentinel in 1880.  The Sentinel’s weekly edition, with a strong readership among Indiana farmers and stock-raisers, enjoyed a circulation of 12,000 during this period.

In February 1888, Samuel E. Morss purchased the paper and helped to return the Sentinel to the level of influence it had enjoyed back in the 1850s.  Morss came to the Sentinel after editing the Fort Wayne Gazette and Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel and co-founding the Kansas City [MO] Evening Star.  According to a contemporary source, the Sentinel under Morss “has been constantly progressive and eminently the advocate and champion of clean politics, good government and civil service reform.”  During Morss’s tenure (1888-1903), circulation averaged 18,091 for the daily (which was issued as the Indianapolis Globe for a few weeks in 1903), and 49,389 for the weekly edition.  Despite these impressive figures, the Sentinel faced growing competition and financial difficulties.  The paper had failed to take a stand on the dominant political question of 1890s regarding free silver and consequently lost subscriptions and advertising revenue.  In an effort to lure back readers and to compete with cheaper papers, the weekly subscription rate was dropped from a dollar to fifty cents in 1898, causing circulation to spike to 100,000 in 1901-05.  The daily’s yearly subscription was also reduced from six dollars to three dollars.   Morss died unexpectedly on October 23, 1903.  A group led by Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Taggart took over the Sentinel for a few months before Frank T. Baker purchased it.  Under Baker, the Sentinel adopted a more sensationalist tone associated with the yellow press.  The Indianapolis Sentinel ceased publication on February 25, 1906.


[1] The motto “Crow, Chapman, Crow!” reportedly originated in reference to Hancock County, Indiana politician Joseph Chapman, and not the Chapman brothers.

Haunted Hoosier History: John Baer’s Ghost, Thornhope, Indiana

On February 16, 1868, John Baer left his home in Thornhope, Pulaski County, Indiana.  He had $3,000 on his person to buy livestock at Star City.  Baer was never seen or heard from again.  Unless, of course, you believe the testimony of one of his neighbors, Gabriel Fickle, who contended that on the 30th anniversary of Baer’s disappearance his ghost appeared to him.  What did Baer’s ghost say?  You can read about the spooky encounter in the Marshall County Independent by clicking below.

Read more about the ghost of John Baer in the Marshall County Independent, February 24, 1899.

Haunted Hoosier History: Gottlieb Haslinger’s Ghost, Marshall County, Indiana

October is here, and soon it will be Halloween.  Halloween celebrants may be interested to discover what can be found in historic newspapers, including tales of ghosts and hauntings.  I stumbled across the following article (see image) yesterday about a haunting near Big Lake, better known as Lake of the Woods, near Bremen in Marshall County.

"The Ghost Will Not Down," Marshall County Independent, 1 August 1895
“The Ghost Will Not Down,” Marshall County Independent, 1 August 1895. Courtesy of Hoosier State Chronicles.

As a historian, I immediately wanted to know if there was primary source evidence of the person and event the paper referenced.  I found Gottlieb Haslinger in the 1870 U.S. Census.  He was born about 1826 in Württemberg, Germany.  He immigrated to the United States in 1854.  In the 1870 census, the census taker listed him as a hotel keeper with his brother, William.

Gottlieb Haslinger did in fact exist, but the paper was recounting events from two decades earlier.  Was Haslinger really murdered, or was it local lore that started circulating?  Then I found this article reporting his death in the January 7, 1875 issue of the Marshall County Republican.  The article also recounts another mysterious death that occurred at the same place a year before.

Was the area really haunted or not?  Does Haslinger’s ghost still roam the area?  Only a team of ghost hunters could presume to answer the questions.  As for historical researchers like me, it is interesting to find primary sources for a person and event that might just as well be dismissed as fanciful fiction and folklore concocted to drive newspaper sales.

Plymouth’s Democratic Newspaper from 1856-1870 Digitized

Issued as the Marshall County Democrat from 1855-1859, digitized issues are available through Chronicling America.
Issued as the Marshall County Democrat from 1855-1859, digitized issues are available through Hoosier State Chronicles.

The Marshall County Democrat debuted on November 15, 1855, in Plymouth, an agricultural community in north-central Indiana.  The paper originated not long after the Kansas-Nebraska Act divided the Democratic Party.  While the Marshall County Democrat declared, “Slavery is wrong, either North or South of the Missouri Compromise line,” it also endorsed popular sovereignty stating, “All territory is free until it becomes a State, and then the people alone can control the institutions.”  Thomas McDonald co-founded the paper, and he and his sons, Platt and Daniel, and grandsons, John and Louis, would intermittently own the Democrat over the next 47 years.

Issued as the Plymouth Weekly Democrat from 1860-1869, click to access these issues from Chronicling America.
Issued as the Plymouth Weekly Democrat from 1860-1869, click to access these issues from Hoosier State Chronicles.

During the Civil War, Daniel E. VanValkenburgh acquired the newspaper, which the Union Army suppressed in May 1863.  Early that month, General Ambrose Burnside issued General Orders No. 38 which permitted military commissions to try any private citizen who expressed opposition to the Lincoln administration or sympathy for the Southern rebels.  VanValkenburgh editorialized on what he viewed as Lincoln’s abuses of power, and lamented, “It may be that our liberties are ‘clean gone forever.’”  The last straw was VanValkenburgh’s criticism of Burnside’s lieutenant, General Milo S. Hascall.  The Democrat wrote, “Brig. Gen. Hascall is a donkey, an unmitigated, unqualified donkey, and his bray is long, loud and harmless.”  A few days later, Union soldiers arrested VanValkenburgh and brought him before General Burnside in Cincinnati to answer charges of treason.  Burnside ultimately released VanValkenburgh but cautioned him to be more careful of his criticisms in the future.

After several changes in ownership, the McDonalds reacquired interest in the Democrat in 1869.  By 1877, Daniel McDonald had become complete owner, and with the exception of an interruption in 1879-81, he owned and edited the paper until 1902.  By 1894, the Democrat had expanded to eight pages. It reached its peak circulation around that time with a reported 1,650 copies.

Clay W. Metsker, the owner of the Marshall County Independent, acquired the Democrat in March 1902.  He merged the two publications but continued issuing them under separate titles as daily and weekly editions respectively until 1909 when the Democrat replaced the Independent as the daily edition.  Metsker sold out to Roland B. Metsker and Heyward P. Gibson in March 1931.  The new owners renamed the paper the Plymouth Daily News. They also retained the Democrat title for the weekly edition until discontinuing it in January 1941.

Bibliography

Miller, John W. Indiana Newspaper Bibliography. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982.
Towne, Stephen E. “Killing the Serpent Speedily: Governor Morton, General Hascall, and the Suppression of the Democratic Press in Indiana in 1863.” Civil War History 51 (2006): 41-65.
N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory. Philadelphia: N. W. Ayer & Son, various years.
Geo. P. Rowell & Co’s American Newspaper Directory. New York: Geo. P. Rowell & Co., various years.

Historic Funny Pages to Cheer You Up

It’s a sad day for digitized historic newspapers today.  The federal government shutdown has stopped access to over 6 million pages of newspapers on Chronicling America!  Gasp!

Fortunately, we have new content to share, and maybe reading the funny pages from 1903 will help cheer you up.  Below are pages from the first comics insert to appear in the Indianapolis Journal on September 6, 1903.

Indianapolis Journal, September 6, 1903. Hoosier State Chronicles.
Indianapolis Journal, September 6, 1903. Hoosier State Chronicles.

 

A History of the Plymouth Republican

Access over 20 years of the Marshall County Republican and other Plymouth newspapers at Chronicling America
Access over 20 years of the Marshall County Republican and other Plymouth newspapers at Chronicling America.

Click on the hyperlinks throughout this essay to access digitized issues of the newspapers.

In March 1852, Richard Corbaley acquired the Plymouth Pilot, situated in an agricultural community in north-central Indiana, and changed the title to the Plymouth Banner.  The paper changed ownership five times during the next four and a half years.  In 1855 the paper became the Plymouth Weekly Banner.  Then, on the eve of the 1856 election, Ignatius Mattingly purchased the paper and changed its name to the Marshall County Republican.  While the Banner had aimed to be not “a strictly political paper – but a home newspaper,” the Republican intended to “advocate, zealously and fearlessly” for the Republican Party’s candidates and causes.

Mattingly owned the paper until 1868, and was succeeded by ten other proprietors over the next decade.  In February 1878, John W. Siders and Walter L. Piper bought the Marshall County Republican.  Although Siders’s partners would change over the years, Siders retained ownership of the newspaper until 1890.  Siders shortened its name to the Plymouth Republican in December 1878. He expanded the four-page weekly to eight pages by 1882 and increased circulation from 960 in 1880 to 1,382 in 1890 in the city of 2,570 residents.

In 1890, Siders shared editorial duties with his partner, Edward S. Brooke, before leaving the paper the following year.  Brooke established a daily edition in April 1896 called the Plymouth Evening News and continued publishing the Republican as a weekly.  Rolla B. Oglesbee owned and operated both papers beginning in April 1897, before selling them to William G. Hendricks the following year.  Hendricks combined the Republican and the Evening News into the Plymouth Tribune in 1901.  The Tribune reached a peak circulation of 1,800 in 1911.  Hendricks sold the paper that year to Samuel E. Boys, owner of the Plymouth Daily Chronicle.  Boys combined the Tribune and Chronicle into a single newspaper, which he renamed the Plymouth Republican, and continued issuing daily and weekly editions.  In 1922, Boys discontinued the weekly edition, and recalling the newspaper’s first incarnation, re-titled it the Plymouth Daily Pilot.  The Daily Pilot operated until Boys merged it with the Plymouth Daily News to form the Plymouth Pilot-News in 1947.

A History of the Wabash Express

Wabash Express (weekly edition) available at Chronicling America, Library of Congress.
Wabash Express (weekly edition) available at Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

On December 13, 1841, John Dowling established a Whig weekly titled the Wabash Express in Terre Haute, Indiana, located on the banks of the Wabash River.  John’s brother, Thomas Dowling, had previously owned the Wabash Courier, and one of the terms of sale prohibited Thomas from establishing another Terre Haute newspaper for five years.  Thomas recruited his brother to establish the Express in his stead to circumvent the provision.  John Dowling sold the Wabash Express in 1845 to David S. Danaldson.  In January 1851, Danaldson issued a short-lived daily edition, the Daily Wabash Express.  John B. L. Soule purchased the Express in November 1853 and edited the paper until June 28, 1854.  Some sources claim that it was Soule who coined the famous phrase, “Go west young man,” while editing the paper.

Daily Wabash Express available through Chronicling America at Library of Congress.
Daily Wabash Express available through Chronicling America at Library of Congress.

Robert N. Hudson began operating the Express in September 1855.  Hudson also acquired the press of the Know Nothing supporting Terre Haute Daily American around this time. He established a permanent daily, the Daily Express, in addition to continuing the paper’s weekly edition.  In 1857, Hudson acquired the Wabash Courier and merged it into the Express’s operations as well.  “Devoted to the Whig Policy” continued to appear below the Express’s title well into 1859, even though the Whig Party had collapsed several years before.  In 1856, the Express endorsed candidates of the People’s Party, a forerunner of the Republican Party in Indiana.

Charles Cruft purchased the Wabash Express in 1861 and owned it throughout the Civil War, even while serving as a brigadier general in the Union Army.  In 1867, Cruft altered the title to the Terre-Haute Daily Express.  Circulations for the weekly and daily editions of the Express neared 1,000 in 1869.  Cruft sold the paper in 1872 to the Express Printing Company.  From 1875-1879, the publishers operated the paper as a Greenback Party organ and retitled it the Terre Haute Dollar Express.  They also started a Sunday edition in 1878.  In August 1879, William R. McKeen acquired the paper, changing its name back to the Terre Haute Express.  He sold it in May 1882, and in that same year Mary Hannah Krout briefly served as the editor of the Express, likely making her among the first female editors of an Indiana newspaper.  In 1883, George M. Allen, the new owner, added a second daily edition published every evening, which was short lived.  Allen also instituted other changes: the weekly edition increased to eight pages around 1888, the daily edition expanded to eight pages during the 1890s, and the weekly edition changed to a semi-weekly in 1897.  Allen sold the Terre Haute Express in March 1899 to a stock company led by McKeen.  Daily circulation reached 3,000 copies in 1900.  After a nearly 62-year run, the last issue of the Express appeared on April 29, 1903.  The non-partisan Terre Haute Morning Star succeeded the Express and until late 1904 carried its name on the masthead as the Terre Haute Morning Star and Express.

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