Saturday, May 14, 2011

“Reporter’s Notebook”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I have sometimes observed here that the best columns seem to write themselves. Often, useful prose comes not from careful preparation, but instead, through the humble magic of everyday events.

A recent note from relatives in Brunswick proved this truism, once again.

Their message carried information about upcoming events, to be held in Burton this year. I learned that they would be attending a commemoration for the Civil War 150th anniversary, on June 17-19th, 2011.

My aunt and uncle have long been ‘reenactors’ who study the period with meticulous care. So they cheerfully suggested that I might participate by assuming the role of a nineteenth-century reporter. In that capacity, I would be able to interview soldiers and citizens with respect to the North-South conflict.

The suggestion made me wonder – what local newspapers were in existence during the war? As a former sports editor in Ashtabula County, I knew that the Ashtabula Sentinel was being published in Jefferson during the Civil War. The original Jefferson Gazette came into being shortly afterward. But what of Geauga?

A search through the Library of Congress provided clues to this riddle:


Geauga republic. (Chardon, Ohio) 1849-1854
Free Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1849-1850
Chardon Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1850-1852
Free Democrat. (Chardon [Ohio]) 1852-1854
The Jeffersonian Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1854-1865
The Geauga Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1866-1871
The Geauga Republican. (Chardon, Ohio) 1872-1921
Geauga record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1886-1887
Geauga Democratic record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1887-1888
Geauga record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1888-1888
The Democratic record. (Chardon, Ohio) 1889-1891
Geauga County record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1892-1921
Western Reserve times. (Charndon [Chardon], Ohio) 1872-1872
Chardon times. (Chardon, Ohio) 1873-1875
Burton independent. (Burton, Geauga County, Ohio) 1883-1884
The Geauga independent. (Middlefield, Geauga County, Ohio) 1884-1885
The Geauga leader. (Burton, [Ohio]) 1874-1915
Daily record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1886-1886
Middlefield messenger. (Middlefield, Ohio) 1885-1903

According to this list, the county had one newspaper being published at the time:


Title: The Jeffersonian Democrat. : (Chardon, Ohio) 1854-1865
Place of publication: Chardon, Ohio
Geographic coverage: Chardon, Geauga, Ohio

Publisher: J.S. Wright
Dates of publication: 1854-1865
Description: Vol. 5, no. 1 (Jan. 10, 1854)-v. 17, no. 52 (Dec. 22, 1865).
Frequency: Weekly
Language: English
Subjects: Chardon (Ohio)--Newspapers; Geauga County (Ohio)-Newspapers.
Notes: ‘Devoted to the dissemination of Republican principles, education, temperance, literature, agriculture, and the news of the day,’ 1857-1865.

A closer look revealed libraries around the country that have material from this newspaper in their collections:

SUMMARY HOLDING: Brigham Young University Library, Provo, UT
Dates Available: 1854-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy

SUMMARY HOLDING: Burton Public Library, Burton, OH
Dates Available: 1859-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy

SUMMARY HOLDING: Duke University Library, Durham, NC
Dates Available: 1862
Available as: Original

SUMMARY HOLDING: Geauga County Public Library, Chardon, OH
Dates Available: 1859-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy

SUMMARY HOLDING: Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH
Dates Available: 1854-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy
Available as: Microfilm Master
Available as: Original

SUMMARY HOLDING: Western Reserve Historical Society, Newspaper Project, Cleveland, OH

Dates Available: 1854-1865
Available as: Original

SUMMARY HOLDING: Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project, Madison, WI
Dates Available: 1861
Available as: Original

My closest personal connection with the county’s newspaper past came through a tattered copy of the Geauga Republican purchased on eBay. The document was from 1919 and discussed issues of the day including the prohibition of beverage alcohol. I wrote at least two columns that examined this curious artifact. Additionally, I uncovered a long-lost bit of local UFO journalism with help from the Geauga County Archives. A 1957 copy of the Geauga Times Leader boasted reporting about the curious alien experience of Olden Moore. Each of these encounters-through-newsprint offered a sense of the historic value of professional writing.

But what about the Jeffersonian Democrat?

A new mission lay ahead. It was time to visit local libraries, and investigate!

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