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Phoenix made its appearance. The publisher was Benjamin B. Smith, a spirited and
versatile writer, who became one of the representative men of the town. The motto
of the new paper was: "The liberty of the press is the palladium of our rights."
The paper was Democratic in politics and ardently supported Jackson and Calhoun
for president and vice-president in 1828. Mr. Smith secured the services of John
P. Donaldson, a young printer from Danville, through Tunison Coryell, who was
then publishing the Lycoming Gazette, in Williamsport, and with his aid in the
mechanical department the Phoenix started on its career with considerable spirit and
vigor. Smith was a cultured and original writer, quite a humorist, and considerably
above mediocrity in intellect.

The people of Wellsboro were greatly elated at again having a newspaper in
their midst, as it placed them once more on an equal footing with their active rivals
at Willardsburg. Politics, too, was rife in those days, and it is a question whether
the political animosities were not more bitter and intense then than they are to-day.
The Phoenix ran along quite smoothly for a few years, when it began to meet with
reverses and trouble loomed up to retard its progress. Much of Editor Smith's


attention was given up to looking after other business, and Mr. Donaldson was
devoting some time to clerking in tlie prothonotarjr's office, aad studying the polities
of the day. The paper finally languished, grew weaker, and at last suspended. This
was a blow to the prospects of the town. A county seat without an organ looked bad
for the people, to say nothing of the aspiring politicians. Pressure and promises
were brought to bear, and in 1833 Mr. Smith was induced to revive the Phoenix, in
partnership with Charles Coolidge. But it did not last long under this manage-
ment. Smith had tired of newspaper work; and disappointment had something
to do with his decreasing interest. Consequently, in 1834, the paper was sold to
John P. Donaldson, the old printer, who conducted it for two years. In January,
1836, Mr. Donaldson was appointed prothonotary of Tioga county by Governor
Kitner. He had labored hard to secure the office, but when the three years
passed away Governor Porter appointed A. S. Brewster. In 1839 the office became
elective, when Mr. Donaldson obtained the nomination, and was elected; and through
his political sagacity, aided by an exceedingly obliging disposition, he managed to
be re-elected at the close of each term until 1873. With but a single break of one
term he served altogether for thirty-six years — thirty-three of which were con-

With the departure of Mr. Donaldson from the Phoenix it passed into the hands
of Josiah Emery and Asa H. Corey, and they continued its publication until the
summer of 1838, when it was sold to Mr. Hartman. He seems to have changed the
name to Tioga Phoenix and Potter County Gazette. Soon after Emery again
appears as publisher, with J. Merry as editor. The number before us giving these
facts is dated March 17, 1838, whole number 491. This would indicate an existence
of nearly ten and a haK years. Hartman, who seemed to have a controlling
interest, changed the name to the Herald, but it nowhere appears just when this
occurred. The paper evidently had a precarious existence. Sometime in 1838
Hartman died and the establishment passed into the hands of Howe & Eumsey. In
the meantime the polities of the paper seems to have been changed from Democratic
to Whig, thus leaving the Democrats without a party organ.


This paper, which appears to have been the successor of the Herald mentioned
ia the foregoing paragraph, began its career November 35, 1845, with Henry D.
Eumsey as pubUsher. In December, 184G, George Hildreth took charge of the
paper, which soon after came out as the Tioga County Herald. It was Whig in
politics, and the plant was the property of a stock company, organized doubtless for
the purpose of maintaining a party organ at the county seat.

Mr. Hildreth was a true type of the old-time printer. He was born in Delmar
township, December 3, 1818, and in 1837, when but nine years of age, became an
apprentice in the office of the Pheonix, soon after it was started by Benjamin B.
Smith. The office of the paper was then in a room in the home of Mr. Smith, which
stood on the site of the residence of Mrs. Sarah M. Billings, on Main street. In
1836, when Mr. Donaldson sold out, Hildreth went to Philadelphia, where he
obtained a situation as compositor on the United States Gazette, which paper was
afterwards merged into the North American. He worked there for a year and a
half and was known as the most rapid typesetter in the office. He was frequently


heard commenting upon his record of a daily average of 10,000 ems in composition
while he was engaged in that city. This is considered a remarkable record among
printers for a single day's work under pressure; but such an average, covering a long
period, attests the faithfulness and untiring industry of the man.

In one sense Mr. Hildreth was the Nestor of the Agitator, the establishment
in which he learned his trade being the progenitor of that paper, and the line being
continued unbroken to this day. After retiring from the Herald Mr. Hildreth
engaged in farming at Stony Pork and so continued for many years; but during that
time if an extra hand was wanted in the Agitator office he was frequently employed
until the rush was over. In January, 1870, he was regularly employed in the
office and continued with little loss of time until 1890. In announcing his death,
which occurred December 11, 1892, the Agitator gave this interesting sketch of
his life:

Mr. Hildretli was forced to give up his work here by reason of failing health and de-
clining mental vigor. For many months before he relinquished his place at the "case"
it was noticeable to those around him by

The types decreasing click, click,
As they fell within his "stick,"
That of his life's clock the tick
Was running down.

He was an accurate compositor, untiring and faithful in the discharge of his* duty,
and his great fund of general information made him a most valuable helper in the de-
partment for which he had been specially trained. Mr. Hildreth was a printer of the old
school. He knew comparatively nothing of the art of job printing, and he used to say
that when he was young that deiJartment of the printing business was a mere cipher, a
few posters or an occasional sig-n-card or legal form being the extent of the demand made
on a country printer, and even of such work the jobs were few in a year.

When we come to think of the experiences of Mr. Hildreth in early life, we are for-
cibly reminded that in no business or practical art has there been greater improvement
during the last half century than in the appUances and machinery for printing. When
young Hildreth worked in the Phoenix of&ce, that paper was printed on a Bamage hand-
press, and it is probable that all the type and tools of the office were worth less than $300,
and if that paper had a circulation of 300 copies it was considered good in those days.
The forms were made up and proofs taken and corrections made on the press. The type-
forms were inked with two balls made of leather and stuffed with cotton; and when the
composition rollers came into use, by which the speed of printing the papers on those
old hand-lever presses, "the levers of the world," could be increased to 350 or 300 an hour,
those old-time newspaper proprietors felt more pride over the matter than a proprietor
does to-day in fitting out his office with stereotyping machinery and a perfecting press
capable of turning out in an hour 15,000 completely printed and folded newspapers.

Mr. Hildreth's paper cutter was a shoe knife and a straight-edge. Besides his crude
press, fifty years ago a dozen fonts of type, all told, comprised the outfit, besides a wood
stove, a mallet, shooting-stick, composing-stick, and perhaps a wooden galley or two.
This reminds us that in the Agitator office to-day is an old wooden galley made of pine,
the only connecting link left to remind us of the Phoenix of sixty-five years ago, when
typesetting at night was done by the light of tallow "dips," and when to be an editor
meant also to be business manager, typesetter, pressman and chore boy — and it was a
precarious living at best.

Mr. Hildreth was a man of the strictest integrity. His experiences in life had made
him something of a pessimist. He was naturally retiring and almost unapproachable by
strangers, who were unable to understand the character of a man of such habitual
silence and reserve. But those who knew him best had the utmost respect for him be-


cause of his many excellent qualities of mind and heart. We doubt if there is another
printer in the State who has spent so many years at the "case" as had Mr. Hildreth. The
final "proof" of his life has been taken, and we believe that it will be found to contain
few errors.

The Herald was continued until 1849, when the plant was sold to William D.
Bailey, Mr. Hildreth retiring to Stony Fork, where he engaged in farming.


In 1849 the Herald was purchased by William D. Bailey, who started a new paper,
named The Wellsboro Advertiser, the first number of which was issued August 8, 1845.
This paper was conducted with decided ability and was noted for its neat typo-
graphical appearance. It was Whig in polities and gave that party unfaltering
support. Like Hildreth, Bailey was a thorough printer of the olden time, and
probably learned his trade in the office of the Pioneer or the Phoenix. On Septem-
ber 30, 1853, Louis J. Cummings, of Muncy, Pennsylvania, became a partner with
Mr. Bailey and assumed editorial charge of the Advertiser, the firm being Louis J.
Cummings & Company. In December, 1853, Cummings retired, and Bailey resumed
control. He continued to publish the paper until July, 1854, when he sold the
plant to M. H. Cobb. The Advertiser then passed out of existence, and its successor,
the Wellsboro Agitator, made its appearance.

After selling out to Mr. Cobb, Bailey worked for him a few years and then
went to Williamsport to take charge of the jobbing department of the Bulletin.
When the Bulletin and Gazette were consolidated, in N'ovember, 1869, he served
as foreman of the daily for several years. Sometime in the seventies he went to
Belief onte to take charge of a religious publication, and there he died in the begin-
ning of the eighties. His youngest son, JSTewton, is now the publisher of a temperance
paper in Belief onte called the Magnet.


The first number of this paper appeared in July, 1854, the founder being M.
H. Cobb. He was a brilhant and captivating writer; his style was clear and his
choice of words singularly apt and appropriate. As partners he had Laugher Bache
and W. W. McDougall. In 1857 Mr. Cobb purchased the interest of his partners
and became sole proprietor and editor. But the brilliancy of his writing had
attracted so much attention that, toward the close of 1858, he was solicited to accept
a place on the editorial staff of the 'Se.w York World, a journal then being started
as a daily religious paper. The offer was a flattering one and he accepted. He
then sold out to Hon. Hugh Young at a slight advance on the original cost of the
plant, which was $850. Mr. Cobb retired from the Agitator January 37, 1859, and
on the same day his successor published his salutatory.

Mr. Young was an accomplished and vigorous writer and under his management
the paper prospered. He purchased new type and greatly improved the mechanical
appearance, and also gave closer attention to the gathering of local news, which
enhanced the value of the paper. During the exciting period preceding the out-
break of the Civil War, Mr. Young spent six weeks in Washington and wrote a
series of letters to the Agitator, which attracted much attention, on account of
the valuable information they gave about men and affairs, and the outlook of war.



When war came and the patriotism of the people of Tioga county was raised to the
highest pitch, the Agitator was industrious in giving the news to the public, and the
correspondence from eye-witnesses in the field and camp made it much sought after.

Mr. Cobb soon tired of his New York experience, and returning to Wellsboro
in January, 1863, repurchased the paper and resumed his old place at the hehn.
In 1864 he put in a cyHnder press. This was a long stride forward ia local
journalism. In December, 1865, P. C. Van Gelder acquired a half iaterest,
and they straightway enlarged the paper to seven columns. It ran along in
this way until January, 1867, when it was again enlarged. On January 1, 1870,
Mr. Cobb sold his interest to John I. Mitchell (now president judge) and retired to
accept a responsible position in the United States mint, Philadelphia. The new firm
of Van Gelder & Mitchell lasted a year, when Mr. Mitchell retired and Mr. Van
Gelder became sole owner. He employed George W. Sears to edit the paper. Mr.
Sears had dabbled in literature considerably, was a poet of no mean order, and a man
of extensive travel and keen observation.

On January 1, 1873, A. F. Barnes, of Bath, New York, bought a half interest
in the Agitator, and September 1, of the same year, Mr. Van Gelder sold his
remaining interest to Arthur M. Eoy, of Wellsboro, and the firm became Barnes
& Eoy. A new dress of type was soon purchased, and in 1873 a new Potter power
press was added to the ofiice equipment. The size of the paper was also increased
to nine columns, making it one of the largest weeklies in the State. Under the
management of Messrs. Barnes & Eoy the Agitator has not only been prosperous
and progressive, but is conceded to be one of the ablest weekly newspapers in the
State. In its typographical appearance it is exceedingly neat and clean. It is
edited with great care. Mr. Barnes is a close political student and a strong and
lucid writer. Mr. Eoy edits the local department and gleans the news of the week
with care and assiduity. His attention is also given to the mechanical and pubUsh-
tag departments. Excelsior has ever been the word in the Agitator ofiice. As
early as November 10, 1874, steam was introduced to drive the presses and
machinery; and this was the first time that a paper was printed by steam in the
county. This was afterwards supplanted by a water motor, which gives better satis-
faction. For a weekly paper the Agitator is superbly equipped in every department.
In politics it is staunchly Eepublican.

As evidence of the high standard attained by this paper. Newspaper dom, of
New York, in November, 1895, reproduced a whole page of the Agitator in miniature,
the size being reduced about three by three and three-fourths inches. Every
letter is distinctly legible under a strong glass. Eeferring to the paper Newspaper-
dom says:

The Wellsboro Agitator is a fine example of the big-pag-e newspaper. We hare
reproduced the editorial page of this paper, because the many good qualities of the
newspaper are here so well combined as to form an object-lesson in newspaper making-

The Daily Record was issued for five mornings in May, 1882, from the Agitator
oifice by The Eecord Publishing Company, composed of Barnes & Eoy, of the
Agitator, and 0. S. Webster and S. E. English, employes in the office. It was a
small but neatly printed sheet and was started for the purpose of publishing the
proceedings in the trial of Floyd Whitney, of Chatham, who was indicted for

WBLLSBOKO (contintjbd). 323

homicide. The trial ended in his conviction for manslaughter. The paper then


In 1838 the attitude of the Herald antagonizing the Democratic party in the
county, and a recent transfer of the Gazette, of Williamsport, being inimical to the
party's success in this congressional district, five citizens of Wellsboro and one of
Tioga, contributed $643 for the establishment of a strictly Democratic organ at the
county seat. All the preliminaries having been arranged, James P. Magill was
invited to take charge of the new paper, which was named The Tioga Eagle, its motto
being, "Equal Rights and No Monopolies."

Mr. Magill conducted the paper with marked ability and success until August,
1848, when Alva E. Jones obtained an interest in it, and the iirm of Magill & Jones
published the Eagle until October 21, 1848, when Jones retired. Mr. Magill con-
tinued the paper alone until January, 185D, when he was succeeded by J. and W.
Kirk. On January 1, 1853, Mr. Magill again assumed control, and the Eagle soon
afterward appeared with the following as its motto: "That country is the most
prosperous where labor commands the greatest reward." This was an extract from
one of the speeches of James Buchanan, who was then a rising politician and ex-
ponent of Democratic principles. Mr. Magill continued as editor and proprietor
of the Eagle until 1856 or 1857, when he removed to Philadelphia.

Col. James P. Magill was of Irish descent, his parents emigrating from County
Antrim about the end of the first decade of the present century. Their children,
James, William and Eliza, were educated at the Germantown Academy, near which
the family had settled. James and William became compositors in the Daily
Pennsylvanian office, conducted by John Rice. In 1851 Mr. Magill was elected
register and recorder, and served until 1854. He married Sarah Eliza, daughter
of James Goodrich, of Tioga, December 4, 1845; was elected major general of the
Ninth division, Pennsylvania Militia; was vestryman of St. Paul's Episcopal church,
and also a member of the Masonic and Odd Fellows societies of Wellsboro. Gov-
ernor Packer made him an aid-de-camp with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, hence
the title by which he was generally addressed. He subsequently appointed him
collector of the North Branch cajial, with station at Pittston. On his purchase of
the Sunday Mercury, of Philadelphia, jointly with G. W. Jones, in 1857, Governor
Packer commissioned him one of the eleven notaries public of that city, and
securing the business of four of the banks, he was retained by them by annual
election for thirty-one years as their notary, and until his death, which occurred
May 2, 1889, in his seventy-seventh year. His wife died March 19, previously,
which had much to do in hastening his own death.

The successor of The Tioga Eagle appears to have been The Wellsboro Weekly
Democrat, established under that name in 1858. The issue of October 3, 1858, was
No. 3, of Vol. XX, and the publishers claimed that the Democrat was "the oldest
Democratic journal in this section of Pennsylvania," thus showing that, in everything
but name, it was practically a continuation of The Tioga Eagle. At this time C. G.
Williams was the editor and R. Jenkins the publisher. In December, 1861, the office
was destroyed by fire, and for several months no Democratic paper was issued in


Wellsboro, and there was some little dissatisfaction among the Democrats- on that

Efforts were finally made to found another paper. In April, 1863, E. Jenkins
was pursuaded to procure new material and start a paper, under the promise of
liberal support. He did so and called it the Tioga County Banner. But it only
appeared for a few months, when he sold it to a company at Tioga and it was
removed there. The faction at Wellsboro was greatly chagrined over the triumph
of the faction down the river, and some boisterous talk was indulged in. The result
was that the paper did not long remain at Tioga. A spirited contest for Congress
was going on between Stephen F. Wilson, of Wellsboro, and Theodore Wright, of
Lock Haven. Mr. Wright had been the editor of the Gazette, at Williamsport, in
the early fifties; then of the Democrat, at Lock Haven. On the discovery of oil at
Titusville he was among the early speculators; was lucky, and soon accumulated a
handsome fortune. The Democrats nominated him for Congress in 1863, and
being possessed of ample means he at " once entered on a vigorous campaign.
Finding no Democratic paper at the county seat of Tioga, Mr. Wright purchased
the Banner, brought it back from the village of Tioga to Wellsboro and handed it
over to the Democratic county committee. The committee then employed Prof.
M. IST. Allen to edit and publish a Democratic paper. The campaign was animated
and bitter, being conducted at the most exciting period of the war. Notwith-
standing Mr. Wright's generosity, he was defeated by Mr. Wilson. The paper
was only continued about a year, when it suspended. In the meantime Mr. Wright,
having lost his fortune, returned to journalism. For twenty years or more he has
been the accomplished and able managing editor of the Philadelphia Record, one
of the brightest, ablest and most progressive dailies in the Quaker City.

After this last suspension the Democrats were without a paper for a year or
more, when, in 1866, C. H. Keeler purchased the material of the Tioga County
Banner, changed the title and began the publication of the Herald of the Union. In
1867 he sold the paper to the Democratic county committee, Charles G. Williams
was appointed editor, and the name was changed back to Democrat. Mr. Williams
published the paper until the fall of 1869, when Mr. Jenkins again became the
publisher and so continued until July, 1873, when the plant passed into the hands
of Messrs. Ferguson & Schlick. The connection of Mr. Schlick with the paper was
of short duration, and Mr. Ferguson assumed control and continued its publication
about a year.


Another effort was now made by the county committee to found a permanent
Democratic paper. In November, 1874, F. G. Churchill, of Elmira, was persuaded
to come to Wellsboro and take charge of the new paper. He was an active, enter-
prising man, and had some training in journalism on the Gazette of that city. Liberal
support was promised him. , The material of the old Democrat was consolidated with
the job office of Dr. Kobert Eoy, and a new paper entitled the Wellsboro Gazette was
issued. Under the vigorous management of Mr. Churchill it started off well.

During the exciting trial of the First National Bank robbers he published a
bright little daily, commencing December 2, 1874, and ending December 13, which
gave the proceedings in full every morning. It was highly prized during the pro-


gress of that exciting event. A bound copy is now preserved among the county
archives in the commissioners' office.

Early in 1877 Mr. Churchill associated with him S. N. Havens. On August 1,
1877, Frank Conevery bought Mr. Churchill's interest, and the latter accepted an
appointment in the auditor general's office, at Harrisburg, the Democrats having
elected William P. Schell to the head of that department. The firm then became
Havens & Conevery. They at once put in a steam power press and a full line of
jobbing and other material. In November, 1881, Mr. Havens sold his interest to
Herbert Huntington, who, in November, 1885, sold to F. K. Wright. On January 1,
1895, Mr. Wright disposed of his interest to Mr. Conevery, who has since been the
*«J editor and publisher.

The Gazette, like all the papers of Wellsboro, is noted for its neat typographical
appearance and close attention to the publication of local news. It has a large
circulation; is thoroughly Democratic in principle and sturdily maintains the doc-
trines of its party. The office is well equipped with material for Job printing. After
the iatroduction of the water works system, steam was discarded and a water motor


This paper, the original name of which was The Troy Banner, made its appear-
ance in Troy, Bradford county. May 34, 1846, with W. C. Webb, "printer, proprietor
and editor." The issue of November 12, 1846, contained the following:

Our friends in Tioga are determined to have a regular Democratic press in their
county, and they have proposed that we remove our establishment to their county seat.

The invitation to locate in Wellsboro was accepted and the plant removed. The
first issue bearing a Wellsboro date was that of November 26, 1846, and it contained
the following editoral announcement:

It will be our purpose to support and advocate the true principles of JefEersonian
Democracy, honestly believing that the true policy of our government is founded upon

Online LibraryEmanuel SwedenborgHistory of Tioga County, Pennsylvania → online text (page 42 of 163)