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Historical front pages

The first of 51 newspapers published in Wood County was The Parkersburg Republican, founded in the summer of 1833 by John Brough, an ex-governor of Ohio.

Brough was his own editor, foreman, typesetter, president and printer. Some historical accounts list another staff member as a Marietta boy, Percival I. James and later Josias M. Stead, who purchased the name to the Parkersburg Gazette and Courier. Information from the "Historical Atlas" states that in 1838 the paper was purchased by a company headed by Gen. John J. Jackson. S.C. Shaw became managing editor in 1840.

In 1843, the paper was purchased by David McCrary. His brother-in-law, A.M. Sterrett, assumed editorship until his death in 1853. At that time, the paper was purchased and edited by J.E. Wharton of Wheeling, Va. About 1860, E.T. Drahosh entered the picture. He purchased the paper and changed the name to The Parkersburg Gazette and Times. It continued as such until 1874.

Another newspaper, The State Journal, was established in September 1869 by a joint stock company with O.G. Schofield as editor and manager. In June 1871, ex-governor W.E. Stevenson became editor-in-chief. In 1882, A.B. White, formerly of the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal, and C.F. Scott, postmaster of Parkersburg, purchased the paper. The Journal was described as "one of the largest papers in the state" by writers of the "Historical Atlas," written in 1882.

The paper was published out of offices on Market Street between Third and Fourth streets.

On July 15, 1875, the first edition of The Sentinel was published. It was then a weekly newspaper.

The Sentinel began publication as a daily paper on Oct. 21, 1889. "The News Publishing Co.," of Wheeling (later changed to Ogden Newspapers Inc.) purchased The Parkersburg Sentinel in 1912. The first paper to have the name The Parkersburg News was a weekly newspaper that began publication on May 14, 1852. However, the newspaper office was destroyed by an angry mob of Union sympathizers in 1861 and the paper's editor, Charles Rhodes, was run out of town. The present Parkersburg News was published in 1897 as a daily.

Newspaper historian Adrian Headley said there was no direct tie with the earlier paper, but he noted similarities in design and both supported the Republican cause. A year later, its named was changed to The Parkersburg Daily Morning News. It had four pages, offices in the city building and cost 10 cents a week.

An edition of The Parkersburg News
from 1898. View other historical front pages

The paper, which was published every Saturday, had a circulation of around 1,000 at the time. In 1902, after another ownership change, its name was changed again to The Parkersburg News.

In 1915, The Parkersburg News was sold to Herschel C. Ogden of Wheeling, who already owned The Parkersburg Sentinel. But it was sold again in 1921 to Edwin A. Brast. Eleven years later, it was sold again to Ogden.

Although housed in the same building, The Sentinel and The News operated as separate businesses until the official business merger in 1951. The news/editorial departments continue to operate independently until 2001. The two newspapers merged into The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on April 25, 2009.

Special interested sparked the founding of The West Virginia Freeman in the spring of 1881 by several men interested in the temperance movement. The men put up $1,000 to establish an independent state temperance newspaper. This paper resulted in the incorporation of the Freeman Publishing Co., of which Prof. A.L. Purinton was named president. I.H. Johnson was the editor of the paper and W.F. Attkisson was business manager.

Two other early newspapers were The State Standard, established in 1878 by S.H. Piersol, and Smith's Index, established in 1878 by Channing M. Smith, who served as editor and proprietor. The Index was a monthly and the Standard was issued weekly, on Wednesdays, from its Market Street offices and had a circulation of 2,000.

Hornor Starts Sentinel During "Guilded Age"

On Oct. 21, 1889, during the stretch run of an era known as The Guilded Age, the debut edition of The Parkersburg Daily Sentinel hit the streets as a saucy supporter of anything democratic.

With robber barons, bosses, labor strife and communists providing the backdrop, The Sentinel used a blend of news, gossip and a hefty dose of sarcasm every day except Sunday to do battle on the streets of Parkersburg with its Republican counterpart, The State Journal.

An edition of the Parkersburg Sentinel
from 1875. View other historical front pages

The paper was no stranger to readers though, having been founded on July 15, 1875, as a weekly by Robert W. Hornor. Hornor continued as editor until his death in 1877, when his son Robert E. Hornor took over.The younger Hornor, who had been the publisher prior to his father's death, continued both the policy and look of the weekly edition. The weekly continued to prosper under Hornor, becoming a semi-weekly in the 1890s and continuing until 1920 when it was discontinued.

The Sentinel Publishing Co. was incorporated on July 1, 1884. The incorporators were R.E. Hornor, W.W. Jackson, C.S. Besbard, Geo W. Thomas and A.M. Jackson. The certificate was issued by Randolph M. Stancker, secretary of state for the purpose of printing a democratic paper in the city of Parkersburg. The capital sum of $5,000 was posted. The first daily was published from newspaper offices at 415 Market St., but in 1890 the operation was moved to 218 Fifth St., in the alley between Juliana and Market streets.

The paper through its first few years continued the weekly practice of running the railroad schedule in the left column. The other six columns were mostly devoted to national and world news, furnished by United Press telegraphic services. The news ran straight down the columns in a vertical format, unlike the block, horizontal look of today's newspapers.

Little is known of Hornor, but a small picture can be drawn from his newspaper. As mentioned, he was an ardent Democrat, once writing that the beginning of a new Republican newspaper in Huntington proved that the city "had more money than it knew what to do with." He was, like most Democrats of his time, an opponent of the protective tariffs, enacted soon after the Civil War to protect burgeoning U.S industries, and supporter of the silver faction in the gold-silver debates of the late 19th century.

The first edition, which cost 2 cents, published Hornor's creed. The paper, he promised, "would seek to merit public patronage by close attention to the happenings of the day, and a fair and impartial presentation to the events of the day." A small article immediately below commenting on the federal appointment of a Green B. Raum as U.S. Pension Commissioner – a story carried on page one – said "Another rum appointment, we take it," proving Hornor had a sense of humor, at least. On the inside of that first edition was mentioned a Jack the Hugger, a resident causing "terror among the tender sex of the city by suddenly grabbing them unawares..." If, Hornor told the Hugger, he would just come downtown "a willing victim up Market Street in the person of a young lady who has been dying of something of the kind for a number of years."

In the second issue, Hornor wrote that if "the city health officer has neither nose nor eyes of course his failure to see or smell the filth that is abundant in our city is to be excused." Everybody else smells it, he wrote. He did add that "It makes a frolic for the doctors, however."

But Hornor wasn't always irreverent. He gave good coverage to local affairs, as evidenced by regular stories of city council and commission meetings and complete documentation of several court proceedings. A line or two could always be found to mention a visitor to the city or a resident visiting someplace else.

Hornor's Sentinel of the 1890s, as are newspapers today, was an eyewitness of the day-to-day history of the world. And that world of the 1890s was made much smaller by the United press dispatches that flowed into the newsroom every day.

In an era before television or radio, the Sentinel front page provided readers to a window on that shrinking world. For example, a story in early 1890 announced that all parts of the U.S. had been settled and there was officially no frontier areas left.

Readers followed the killings of Borden family of Massachusetts, and the sensational trial of the daughter, Lizzy.

An epidemic of grippe, a flu-like virus, seemed to have inflicted Parkersburg in the 1890s. A scan of the inside pages reveal several references like: "Two members of the Joe Rickenstein's family are down with la grippe." "Mrs. Leroy McHenry, of 812 Wood St., is seriously ill with La Grippe."

Whiskey and quinine, Hornor told his readers, were the primary medicine for this illness, "particularly the former."

And Parkersburgers, always casting a wary eye toward the rivers because of the danger of flooding, were daily kept informed of the weather.

The Sentinel, Hornor bragged to his readers, was "the newsiest paper in town, furnished at your homes for 10 cents a week."

Hornor continued as editor until 1910 when Allan B. Smith, who had started as business manager, took over the job. In addition, that year the paper started using Associated Press dispatches and had its own correspondent, George W. Summers in Washington, D.C., 1910 was the year The Sentinel moved to its present location at 519 Juliana St. In 1912, the paper was purchased by the News Publishing Co. of Wheeling, W.Va., headed by H.C. Ogden, predecessor company of the Ogden Newspapers Inc.



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