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From: HISTORY OF NEVADA, Myron Angel; Oakland, Cal.: Thompson & West, 1881; pp. 295-297.
THE PRESS OF ESMERALDA COUNTY.
The pioneer paper of Esmeralda County was started at Aurora, May 10, 1862 as a twenty-column weekly being 21x28 inches in size, Republican in politics, subscription price six dollars per year, and its name was
THE ESMERALDA STAR.
Edwin A. Sherman & Co. appeared as the publishers, but the name of the party or parties constituting the balance of the firm was not mentioned. Just before closing the first volume the partnership name was dropped, and at the commencement of the second, Mr. Sherman gave the following interesting history of his paper and the press upon which it was printed. The article contains much that throws out in bold relief some of the peculiar phases of pioneer journalism: -
[Saturday, May 2, 1863.]
TO OUR PATRONS.
To-day we issue the first number of Volume Second of the Star. It may not be deemed out of place to review somewhat of the press and its history.
The press and a very small part of the present material formerly belonged to the late and lamented J. Judson Ames, and from which was issued the San Diego Herald. This press was brought across the Isthmus of Panama in 1850 by Judge Ames, and in coming up the Chagres River was thrown overboard by the upsetting of the canoe in which it was being conveyed to Gorgona. The natives being unable to lift the heavier part of it from the bottom of the stream which had a very rapid current, the Judge, who was a very powerful man, jumped overboard and lifted it out himself and placed it in the canoe, much to the astonishment of his dark-skinned companions. This being a No. 3 Washington press, its weight can be more accurately estimated by the members of the craft than by others; at any rate it will suffice for our readers to know that it weighs more than four hundred pounds. He succeeded in getting it to Panama after much difficulty; and soon after issued at that place the Panama Star for a very short period, and then brought it to San Francisco.
By the advice of his friends he was induced to move it to San Diego, as that point was then advocated as the western terminus of the Pacific Railroad; and it was desired by speculators in town lots to have a newspaper published there, to induce immigration and give an importance to the place. At that time there were but few papers published in California, and as the members of Congress were of Southern proclivities and intent on having a Pacific Railroad for the exclusive benefit of the Southern route, their aid and encouragement of every enterprise in that portion of the State was given to that end; hence the encouragement of the San Diego Herald to that end. For ten long years Ames continued its publication, excepting at times, when the immortal John Phoenix," alias "Squibob," during the Judge's absence, would carry it on in his own inimitable style, playing all sorts of pranks, and scattering gems of wit. The cuts out of which he formed the Pictorial Herald, we still retain. The garrison being removed from San Diego, and that county exporting nothing but hides, its commercial importance died entirely away. The Mormons having left San Bernardino to go to Salt Lake, at the call of Brigham Young, the Americans in that valley sent to Ames at San Diego, offering to pay the entire expenses of moving it to their village, and as Ames said "they were skinning everything in San Diego County, he thought that perhaps they might commence on him, and in order to save his own hide he would accept the offer of the San Bernardinos, before he was flayed alive." He accordingly, in the summer of 1859, moved his press to San Bernardino and published the Herald there.
Unfortunately for him the population was too small to support a paper, and his printers not being willing to take truck in payment for their services, he was compelled to let out his press to other parties, who in turn failed to make anything for themselves, or pay him for the use of the press. Disheartened in every respect, the flower of his life having been thrown away in endeavoring to sustain the fruitless project of making San Diego the Western terminus of the Pacific Railroad, the blasting of all his hopes of prosperity to be realized in its completion, and the failure of men who broke their promises with him, all added their weight to his sorrow, and J. Judson Ames, the true friend and social companion, died of a broken heart.
Previous, however, to his death, the press and material passed into our hands, and with it we received this admonition from him. "If ever you let this press be used in publishing a rebel sheet, or dispose of it to a traitor, my ghost shall haunt you as long as you live, and when you die 'Squibob' shall act as foreman in sculling you across the 'Styx.' Alas, both are now lying 'neath the green turf.
In April, 1861, we commenced the publication of the San Bernardino Patriot. The Holcombe Valley mines having induced a considerable emigration to that section of the country, the prospects for publishing a paper were at that time somewhat flattering. But difficulties soon intervened. The Mormons nearly all returned, the mines were not so rich as they promised to be, large numbers of horse thieves and other outlaws made it their resort, and more than all, armed bodies of secessionists were formed all through that section, and it was extremely hazardous to publish a Union paper among such a people. In October of that year, the press was leased for a certain time, but the lessee was totally unable to succeed, and throwing up the contract it was deemed best in February, 1862, to remove it to Esmeralda; and accordingly it was packed up and brought to Aurora by the Owen's River route. While on the way it narrowly escaped destruction from the hostile Indians; but owing to the kindness of Colonel Evans and Lieutenant Noble of the Second Cavalry California Volunteers, an escort was furnished and it finally reached here on or about the first of May last. At that time we were in Sacramento, and learning that it had arrived, we started from that place on the ninth of May and reached here on the seventeenth. On our arrival we were astonished to find the first number of the Star already issued without giving the publishers names; and also surprised to find it expressing sentiments entirely antagonistic to the principles we cherish. We also found that a heavy sacrifice had to be made on our part before we could get possession of the press and material in order to publish a loyal paper; and that was, to give a bill of sale of one-half of it in order to get the control of the whole, both editorially and financially. We made that sacrifice, and for nine months and a half had to struggle against secession enemies in front and at the same time be yoked with one by compulsion in business.
Yet we staggered along the best we could, avoiding debt, and suffering in the beginning the privations common to all at that season of the year.
On the seventh of March last we purchased the interest originally conveyed, and since that time have been " going it alone." That, at times, our columns have betrayed a want of care, and grammatical as well as typographical errors have occurred, we will candidly admit; but we trust our excuse will be deemed sufficient by our friends. We have had the entire business of the office to attend to; to keep the books, collect the bills, and in some cases earn the amount three times over in running after the accounts due us, gather all the local items of interest, climb the hills to give a true account of the lodes, and report the amount of work being done and the progress made, and when utterly fatigued, to sit down and write out copy for the printers, some of whom have been willfully careless; all this duty when summed up together and performed by one individual, is it any wonder, then, that he should some times make mistakes. We doubt whether Lindley Murray might not err a little in some sentences, or the proof-reader of the London Times might not overlook a typographical error, if compelled to perform so multifarious a duty. Yet, with all this, the STAR is out of debt; it has supplied its office with a considerable amount of new type; that it has been the means in some small degree in advancing the interests of this district, we are vain enough to believe; of its loyalty none can doubt; its independent tone none will dispute; that it is hated by copperheads and secessionists, Union men will admit; and from the generous support it has received from the loyal men of Esmeralda, in return we tender our grateful thanks.
It was our intention to have commenced our second volume with a semi-weekly; but printers being scarce, we are at present compelled to defer it.
The Star became a semi-weekly June 24, 1863, and on the twenty-third of the following September a change in the name of its location was made. Previous to this time many had supposed that Aurora was in Mono County, California, but the boundary line survey having determined Esmeralda County, Nevada, to be its location, the Star changed its heading to conform to the newly ascertained state of facts. Between the fourth and eighteenth of November of that year John Hatch joined M. Sherman in publishing the Star. The partnership continued until March, 1864, when the paper suspended, and the material passed into the hands of John Hatch & Co., who used it to start in the same town the
ESMERALDA DAILY UNION.
The first number of this sheet was issued on the twenty-first of the same month that witnessed the Star's suspension. The following regarding the Union IS from the pen of J. G. McClinton: " Rev. J. B. Saxton, formerly of Oakland, California, and then pastor of the First Baptist Church at Aurora, was its chief editor, and J. G. McClinton was city editor till August, 1864, at which time Saxton retired from the paper and McClinton succeeded him as editor, and continued as such till the summer of 1866, when J. W. Avard became sole proprietor and editor and continued as such till the paper finally suspended for want of support, in October, 1868.
In 1864 Aurora was a " booming" town and supported two dailies - the Union and the Times - the latter being edited by Robert Ferral, now Judge of Department Twelve of the Superior Court of San Francisco. The prosperity of the town fled rapidly and the Times suspended in the spring of 1865, and soon thereafter the Union was reduced to a tri-weekly, subsequently to a semi-weekly and finally to a weekly, and for several months before its final suspension Mr. Avard was not only sole proprietor and editor, but also sole compositor, pressman and devil, and also carried and distributed the paper to his patrons.
In the spring of 1870, the old press and material were sold to Chalfant & Parker, who removed them to Independence, Inyo County, California, and there established the Inyo Independent, of which they are still the proprietors, and they probably still have the old historic press.
This press is said to be the same upon which were printed many of the most remarkable productions of the late Lieutenant Derby (John Phoenix), including his trick of converting the Democratic paper, then printed on it, into a roaring advocate of the Whig cause, while he was left temporarily in charge during the absence of the editor. The late John Bigler, being then the Democratic candidate for Governor of California, pretended not to see any fun in the joke, but he probably enjoyed it as much as any one - after he knew he had been elected. It is a curious coincident that, in 1868, the old press repeated its old trick. Mr. Avard went away from Aurora for a vacation, and left his Esmeralda Union (which was a pronounced Republican journal) temporarily in charge of Hon. Joe Wasson and another man. They thought the sleepy old town needed waking up, so without notice to anyone they brought the paper out as a rabid Democratic sheet of a mixed Brick Pomeroy and Petroleum V. Nasby character, with the name of Governor Haight flying at the masthead for President. The hoax was very transparent, but the State Capital Reporter of Sacramento, then edited by ex-Governor Bigler, swallowed the whole thing, and welcomed the new convert with open arms - probably without reading the leading editorial at all, as its ironical character was clearly apparent.
This journal, on the material formerly of the El Dorado Times, of Georgetown, California, was started as a weekly twenty-four column paper, at the place its name indicates, in the forepart of April, 1863, by R. E. Draper and R. Glenn. May 9, 1864, it became a daily, with entire new dress and bright prospects, and during its existence was Democratic, and aggressive. The bright prospects did not continue, however, and on November 7, 1864, on the day before the election, the paper suspended. After a short suspension the Times was revived under the editorship of Robert Ferral, then a young and enthusiastic Democrat, now Superior Judge in San Francisco; but even his versatility of talent and great popularity could not make the paper succeed against the decline of business, and in the spring of 1865, it ceased to exist.
The history of the Times was made eventful by the incident of a duel between the editor, R. E. Draper, and Dr. W. H. Eichelroth, fought on the fifth of October, 1863, at the Bodie Ranch, six miles west of Aurora. T he weapons were shot-guns loaded with ball, firing at a distance of forty yards. At the second fire Draper was severely wounded in the foot, when the parties shook hands and " honor " was satisfied. No political question was involved in the quarrel, the duel resulting from a controversy over trivial matters. Draper survived the wound but was crippled for life.
This paper was started as a twenty-four column weekly by Frank Kenyon, at Aurora, on the thirteenth of October, 1877, and continued his property until March 1, 1880, when it was purchased by M. M. Glen, and has since belonged to him, with the exception of a few months, during which time it was run by Glenn Brothers. It is a weekly paper, Republican in politics, and at present edited by its owner, M. M. Glenn. For two years prior to December 6, 1879, J. M. Dormer was its editor.
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