When The Logan Banner was started some 130 years ago, it was just one year after an indictment had been handed down for the arrest of Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield for selling whiskey, and it was six years prior to a huge portion of Logan County becoming in 1895 what is now Mingo County.
In fact, Logan, Mingo and neighboring Boone County, which was created in 1847 with territories annexed from Kanawha, Cabell and Logan counties, was still considered mostly a wilderness in which timbering was about the only industry in the area and coal mining was not yet foreseen.
In the early winter of 1874, just 10 years after being taken prisoner by Union forces, a former Confederate soldier named Henry Clay Ragland made his way into the town of Aracoma, which would in 1907 be renamed Logan. The aspiring attorney and journalist would become one of the most influential men who ever lived in Logan County. He is credited, along with the richest man in the county at that time - James Nighbert, another former Confederate soldier - in establishing The Logan County Banner, now named The Logan Banner.
The newspaper was created to chiefly support the views of Nighbert and Ragland, who believed the timbering era was coming to an end and that coal should become the base for the local economy. The newspaper's specific agenda included the establishment of a railroad into Logan, which would open up the coal industry, thus generating wealth that could be used for better education and civic improvements.
By 1902, when Ragland retired from the newspaper, the community had already progressed - and by 1904, the first shipment of coal left Logan by way of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The newspaper had been solely dedicated to the service of its readers, even advocating for the creation of the very first high school in Logan County.
Over the years, The Logan Banner, The Williamson Daily News and Coal Valley News in Boone County have relayed thousands of stories of local, state and national interest to its coal camp communities. From pictures of new born babies to obituaries, including coal mine disasters, these written types of news media have announced everything from a local Little League baseball outcome to the assassinations of U.S. presidents. For folks living in Mingo, Logan and Boone counties, for many years your respective news sources have truly been your "hometown newspapers."
I remember when I was growing up, I waited sometimes impatiently for our Banner to be delivered, just so I could see the baseball standings and read about my favorite team's success, or lack thereof, during baseball season. I also recall being very envious of those guys and gals who wore their canvass bags strapped around their shoulders, the bags full of daily Banners to be delivered from door to door. I so wished to be what was then called a "paper boy."
There have been hundreds of "paper boys" in Logan County over the many past decades. One of those former newspaper boys includes local businessman Jack Frye, who as a grade school student in Logan not only delivered the Logan Banner in the afternoons and evenings, but also delivered the Charleston Gazette and Huntington Herald in the early morning hours prior to attending school. Jack, who turns 70 this coming month, currently is a machine shop instructor at the Vocational Center.
It is truly a difficult task for most of us to fathom when one considers the newspaper route that Jack Frye traveled almost daily. When there were many apartment buildings on Stratton Street during the 1950s, Frye would climb the stairs to each and leave a newspaper at the apartment doors. From there, he would continue down the street to the courthouse, then deliver to most restaurants and other businesses before riding the elevator up to the five floors of the White and Browning building back when there were many offices located there, including three dentists.
His day would continue with deliveries to Deskins Addition, Coal Branch and City View in addition to his daily treks across the Guyandotte to what was Logan General Hospital.
"That was back when you didn't just toss a newspaper into somebody's yard. I would place the newspapers inside the screened doors at most people's homes," explained Frye, who still appears physically fit enough to work the same route even today.
Frye's incredibly interesting "paper boy" recollections, which includes him saving up enough money from his paper route to purchase his first automobile - a 1964 Plymouth Fury (383 engine four-speed) - will be told in full in a later edition of this newspaper.
One never knows what God's plan is in life. No, I never got to deliver the newspapers in my community (although I still can picture myself doing so on my trusty bicycle, placing them in people's newspaper boxes throughout my coal camp neighborhood), but many years later I was fortunate enough to actually deliver the news. That is to say, I became a reporter for The Logan Banner.
It used to take a certain type of personality to immerse oneself into the newspaper industry, especially in the newsroom, where writers there were daily trying to meet a printing deadline that was rarely extended. There were times when grossly underpaid reporters, cameramen and editors practically ran over each other, dashing from their rapid-fire desks to the composing room, where stories were placed on pages and put together like a jigsaw puzzle before ever going to press.
However, things change. There is a Latin proverb that says: "Times change and we change with them." It's just a fact of life.
The local flavor that once enveloped a full cast of newspaper employees is no more at any of our local newspapers. In fact, it hasn't been in existence in a good while. Like the dinosaur, many newspapers have become extinct, while others struggle in today's social media society that relies heavily upon links found through the internet, including fake news.
It really wasn't that long ago that The Logan Banner, for example, consisted of six departments: editorial, advertising, composing room, circulation, press and business. As late as the 1990s, The Banner had 46 full-time employees, numerous part-time employees, and about 130 foot routes, as well as nearly 40 motor routes. Newspaper boxes were filled daily and located throughout the county. Like I previously said, though, things change.
When I left the newspaper in the mid-1980s, there were over 12,000 people in a five-county area that received a Logan Banner, Monday through Friday and on Sundays. Even during the 1990s, circulation consisted of 12,000 people. Shucks, when I worked there, The Banner costs 25 cents Monday through Friday and 50 cents on Sunday. Again, things change. After all, at one point in The Banner's history, its circulation was 37,000 people.
Some readers may recall when birth announcements were published daily, obituaries were printed free, and even admissions and releases of hospital patients at Man Appalachian Regional Hospital, Logan General, Guyan Valley and Holden hospitals were printed in every edition. Engagements, weddings, anniversaries, civic and social club happenings, and even children's birthdays were a part of the Logan Banner.
Church events, courthouse news, and news of area military servicemen were always printed to go along with a sports staff's contributions of local basketball, football, baseball and other school athletic functions. Toss in tons of Buddy League, Little League, T-ball, Babe Ruth League and even bowling leagues of yesteryear, combined with all of the rest of the sporting world's news, and it's of little wonder why local newspapers were the dominant media of its time.
Still, there is much more value to a newspaper than all of the above. A newspaper must be a reliable and truthful watchdog that readers can count on for the truth in matters that might otherwise never surface to the general public. Think about it: former President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal all were the results of good investigative reporting, it being just one of hundreds of newspaper examples, both on the national, state and local levels.
Freedom of the press was adopted as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1791 as one of the 10 amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights. Our Founding Fathers, who had been oppressed from writing the truth in colonial newspapers, made certain via the amendment that information, ideas and opinions could be expressed in writing without interference, constraint or prosecution by government, and to me that is the underlying factor for any investigative reporter worth his or her salt.
If and when the newspaper business completely folds, my real fear is that governments and institutions will feel free to do the undermining of its people without much fear of public retribution. Certainly, there are those individuals and forms of government that desire the positive aspects that newsprint provides to the public, but some of those same people also prefer to be hidden behind the curtain at times when it comes to certain matters - much even like the Wizard of Oz in manipulating the society he presided over. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," said the Wiz.
I may be called an old "fuddy duddy" by some, but I have great respect for "good" reporting, be it newspaper, radio or television.
Admittedly, I got used to the dry reporting of the facts, as in NBC's Huntley and Brinkley TV news reports of years gone by, or that of CBS's Walter Cronkite. Of course, those were the days when a newsman's smoking cigarette in an ashtray could be seen clearly during a nationwide news report, and nobody thought a thing about it. Yes, indeed, things do change.
The Logan Banner and Williamson Daily News will now join the ranks of Boone County's Coal Valley News in becoming a weekly newspaper, delivered only on Wednesdays. I'm told there will be other changes made, but that my weekly ramblings will continue.
I am, of course, pleased with that bit of news, but like so many other people who perhaps have relied on the newspapers for decades, I am saddened, almost as if in the loss of a close friend.
Some loyal readers may wish to keep today's edition of the newspaper; it being the final printing of Sunday's Logan Banner.
Dwight Williamson serves as a Logan County magistrate. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.