To those of us who have spent short periods of time at "the Banner," as well as those families and extended families who have spent their career life-time at "the Banner," it has been a history of ups and downs. But most businesses in the coalfields of Southern West Virginia have been up or down with the "'boom or bust" decades of the industry that brought most of us here in the first place.
Clarence H. Frey, in the "City of Logan" Centennial Program in 1952, recalls that early history as follows: "The City of Logan was 36 years of age when Henry Clay Ragland published his first issue of the Logan Banner. Mr. Ragland was a prolific writer and copies of his newspaper record much current news, features, poems and history of the county, most of which he personally prepared."
"The machinery for a weekly newspaper printed 64 years ago," Frey continued, "was simple and uncomplicated. But moving the printing press from the manufacturer to the hills of Logan County was a project that required more skill and hard labor than moving the mammoth, complicated printing machines of today."
"Ragland's worry began after the arrival of the machinery at Marmet. At that point it was loaded on a wagon and draged to the Guyandotte River. Loaded on a barge it began its perilous journey by water to Logan."
According to Frey, "Ragland owned and edited the Logan Banner as a weekly publication until his death in 1911. It was a Democratic newspaper under his ownership. The Brazie brothers, Charles and William, continued publishing the newspaper, but later changed its political affiliation, and it continued to represent the Republican Party throughout Frey's ownership of the paper.
Ownership of the Logan Banner was transferred several times; "the struggle for survival was a pressure that kept its doors closed and the press silent many months of the early part of this century."
It was in 1921, that Clarence Frey first came to Logan County, saw a newspaper that challenged him early on, which he knew he wanted to own. Saddled with debts and depressions, the Logan Banner began a healthy and steady growth from 1921 on. As the years passed, Frey saw the debts gradually fade away and at the time of the City of Logan Centennial in 1952, the Logan Banner had become one of the dominant state newspapers, housed in its own modern building with machinery and equipment not equaled in a town of the same size in any state.
The Logan Banner became an afternoon daily in 1935, published 5 days a week until 1981 when the present schedule was adopted, Monday through Friday afternoon and Sunday morning when your "Hometown Newspaper" arrives on your doorstep.
According to Frey in the 1952 article, the Banner's circulation was at the 10,000 mark, about double the population of the town in which it was published. There were supposedly only three newspapers in the country with that record.
Today the circulation remains the same, according to Richard Osborne, the publisher, while the 1990 Census gives the population of Logan at 2,296; that means 5 times the population of the city of its origin today.
Clarence Frey was publisher of the Logan Banner from 1921 until his death in 1960. Frey and his wife were the parents of one daughter, Betty Frey, who attended Logan County schools, attended Marshall College, as it was then, came back to Logan and married James Thomas, Circulation Manager of the Banner, at the time his father-in-law died.
So with his help, and the advice of Robert O. Greever, Frey's partner in the then functioning WLOG, Mrs. Frey continued the Banner under her ownership until October 1, 1965, when the Logan Banner was sold to a group publisher out of Maryville, Tennessee. They sent publisher Jim Muscia to Logan who later purchased the paper and operated it for several years before he sold it to the Smith Newspapers in 1975 with Tom George as publisher. For a brief few years Tom Schmitt was publisher after George.
Richard Osborne, the current publisher, started working in the advertising department in 1967, became advertising manager and was promoted to publisher in 1988 by the Smith Newspapers.
No history of the Logan Banner would be complete without mention of some of the personnel who have helped bring the news to Southern West Virginia over the years.
Charlie Hylton started at the Banner in 1940 as sports writer; left. for a two-year stint as director of the Logan County Civic Association, returning to the Banner as editor, in 1950, a position he held until the early sixties when he went with a small newspaper in Kentucky. Both he and Harriet Lee, his wife, got homesick and returned, again as editor. Harriet Lee Hylton put in so many years as society editor, she can't remember just how many!
Gaynelle Mullins Hughes, who started working at the Banner after school and summers in 1962, works in the Composing Department. When Joe Kerns retired in 1995, Gaynelle took his place in the composing room. By the way, Joe continued to work one day a week - Gaynelle's day off - until his death in 2005. Joe also took Joe Pritchard's place back in the sixties when Joe P. bought a small-town Virginia newspaper. Don't forget Joe Kerns" wife, Ruth, who worked in the circulation department back in the fifties.
On March 7, 1988, the Logan Banner, Logan County's only daily newspaper, observed its 100th anniversary. The Banner now serves Logan, Boone, Mingo, Lincoln and Wyoming counties, as well as a mail circulation across the United States and around the world.
Several departments are operated within the Logan-based company. Those departments and their supervisors are Editorial, Michael Browning; Advertising, Kathy Chafin; Composing, Gaynelle Hughes; Business Manager, Barbara Smith; and Accounting, Margaret Carter.
The Logan Banner has 45 full-time employees. The Banner is delivered by foot routes and motor carriers within the circulation department.
Providing top-notch local coverage is the goal of the Banner's Editorial Department, which places an emphasis on all local governmental meetings, sporting events and family-oriented news.
That goal will continue, according to current Advertising Manager Kathy Chafin.
"We are committed to providing a quality newspaper for our subscriber family, with a strong focus on local news happenings," she stated. "We also believe we offer a viable advertising medium that reaches over 85 percent of our market area. By reaching into 10,000 homes daily, The Banner can uniquely meet the promotional needs of merchants, businesses and services."
As publisher and staff look forward, The Logan Banner is 119 years old, easily the oldest business enterprise in Logan County. It has been owned and sold several times in that 119 years, but through all those changes, a strong significance has been placed on "local flavor."
"To do all this, our plan is to bring in state-of-the-art computer equipment in order to provide a better newspaper for our readers. It is going to be a privilege to lead this newspaper into the next millennium," adds Osborne. "And with this commitment, we have now made a commitment to offer The Logan Banner online, with www.loganbanner.com. We are ready for the 21st Century."