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Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press

July 15, 2000
First Newspapers
Brief history of Fresno County Pre-1891 News Journalism.
By Amy Williams, Staff Research

CLOVIS -- The first newspaper printed in Fresno county was issued by Samuel J. Garrison, and was known as the Fresno Times. It was issued at Millerton and appeared for the first time on January 28, 1865.
     Up to that time all legal publications had been made in a newspaper at Mariposa. The office of the Times was located in a wooden building on the south bank of the San Joaquin River, directly opposite McCray's Hotel. It was a small office, poorly equipped as to material and men.
     Garrison,had but one assistant, and frequently drew upon the citizens and soldiers at Millerton to help him work off his edition. It was Democratic in politics. The Times did not last quite a year, either from want of patronage, or causes to be found within the proprietor himself, and the material was removed to Visalia.
     The only file of the Times now known to be in existence was kept by William Faymonville, and by him presented to Hon. J. W. F erguson, editor and proprietor of the Expositor, who had it bound. Though not much of a paper, it makes very interesting reading even at this date, and especially so to the gentlemen who figured personally in the early history of the county.
     After the death of the Times, the want of a good paper was seriously felt, but it was not until 1870 that J. W. Ferguson came to supply it. It was on April 27th of that year that the Fresno Weekly, Expositor first made its appearance at Millerton, under Mr. Ferguson's editorship and ownership.
     It was a small publication, but a very enterprising one, nevertheless, for the times and the place. On the day of its first issue, sill the prominent people of the town gathered at Mr. Ferguson's office, and in one way or an other assisted in the production of the paper. It had many godfathers, and was christened with many libations of the favorite drink of the miner.
     When the county seat was removed to Fresno in 1874, Mr. Ferguson also seat, brought his plant to Fresno, and there the paper has been published ever since. Since then the weekly has been materially enlarged, has never changed publishers, nor once failed to appear on the day of its publication.
     The enterprise of Mr. Ferguson kept march with the progress of the town, and in 1881 the daily Expositor made its appearance. In 1891 it occupied a building of its own, the plant is one of the best in the State, including six fine presses, and the daily edition has grown to eight pages of six columns each, set in Minion type, and publishing the full afternoon report of the Associative Press.
     Mr. Ferguson is a pioneer of California, having arrived in San Francisco in August 8, 1849. He has grown up with Fresno; is identified with all its prosperity, much of which he helped to achieve, and which in his turn has given him a competence.
     In March, 1875, Charles A. Heaton, at one time associated with Mr. Ferguson in the Expositor, issued a weekly newspaper. called the Review, at Fresno. It does not appear to have been a healthy enterprise and lived only a few weeks.
     The Fresno Republican was established in September 1876, by Dr. Chester A. Rowell, who had associated with him A.L. Hobbs, George McCullough and Lyman Andrews, M. J. Donahoo, Frank Dusy, A. Tombs, J. W. Williams, C. W. DeLong, Russell Flemming, Cottle & Luse and some other gentlemen, Republican in politics. The first editor was Emmett Curtis, a young journalist who had been brought here from San Francisco.
     The first issue made its appearance on September 23, 1876, and being the first Republican paper ever issued in the county, created somewhat of a sensation. Seven hundred and fifty copies were issued, and a copy sent to every known Republican in the county, and seems to have made a favorable impression.
     Mr. Curtis remained in editorial charge until after the presidential election of that year, when it was found that if the paper were to be continued, the expenses would have to be very materially reduced. It was $900 in debt, had practically no subscription list, and a very limited advertising patronage. The election was over, the politicians was apathetic, and Republicans refused to contribute to sustain the paper.
     Dr. Rowell then assumed the personal management, dispensing with the services of an editor, discharging all help not absolutely necessary to the production of the paper, temporarily postponing the indebtedness with new notes, and turning in his personal medical accounts to assist in the support of the enterprise. It was a very hard struggle, but the paper never lost an issue, though it was kept alive only by constant self-sacrifice and the continual making good of deficiencies.
     On September 28, 1878, Dr. Rowell gave the Republican into the charge of Clarence Hedges and William Shanklin, two printers who had been identified with the office almost from the beginning of its publication. They continued as editors and publishers until April 26, 1879, when Dr. Rowell sold the paper to S. Adison Miller, stipulating, however, that it should remain a strictly Republican paper, that it should always be known as the Fresno Republican, that it should in no way amalgamate with or enter into any agreement of business or politics with its rival, the Fresno Expositor, nor change its policy in any respect relative to public matters.
     Under Mr. Miller's management the Republican steadily advanced and enjoyed an era of unusual prosperity, bringing to its owner a very comfortable fortune.
     In 1885, Mr. Miller sold the property to the Rev. Mr. Brewington, who conducted it for six months, when he sold it to J. H. Short and J. W. Shanklin, who devoted most of their efforts to the daily issue.
     In May, 1890, Messrs. Shanklin and Short transferred their interest, which included the entire plant, to T. C. Judkins, who increased its news service and generally placed it upon a higher plane of journalism.
     It published the full dispatches of the Associated Press, and was the equal of any morning newspaper in the State outside the City of San Francisco. It continued to be an aggressive Republican newspaper, though it treated all parties with fairness and liberality. It was outspoken and independent, and did not hesitate to commend or condemn officials of any party. It had not enjoyed any official, patronage and succeeded entireiy on its own merits.
     The Central Californian is a weekly newspaper, the result of a consolidation of the Fresno Saturday Budget and the Fresno Inquirer. It presented a handsome eight-page paper, generally accompanied with a four-page supplement, designed as a general old county family newspaper. It was owned by J. C. Hodges and had been espousing the cause of the Farmers' Alliance. It had a wellequipped office, and was a very creditable representative of the farmer interests.
     The Fresno Turf was a monthly publication, mainly devoted to the interests of horses and sporting matters generally. It was a sixteen-page paper, with a handsomely printed cover, and popular with sportsmen and people alive to racing interests. It was ably edited by J. M. Reuck, the proprietor, who was also secretary of the Fresno Fair Grounds Association.
     1n 1880, E. E. Vincent established the Mercury at the town of Madera, and has conducted it successfully ever since. He wisely selected as his first editor, John M. McClure, who devoted hintself assiduously to placing the advantages of Madera and the surrounding country prominently before the public.
     The Mercury progressed with the prosperity of Madera, and attained a considerable influence in the northern part of the county. It was edited by W. D. Bresee, a well-known and popular young man, for some years connected with the Republican and other newspapers of the county seat.
     The Selma Weekly Irrigator was established in 1886 and the Daily Irrigator followed in 1888, and both have been regularly published. These papers were devoted to the interests of the town in which they are published, and have done much to build up the country in that vicinity. In politics they are Democratic. W. L. Chappell and W. T. Lyon were the publishers.
     Selma's only other newspaper is the weekly Enteiprise, which was established in 1888 and represents the Republican party in that section of the county. It was not a paying enterprise and frequently changed owners. It was, on two or three occasions, published daily editions, but they were not been maintained beyond the political campaign for which they were projected. The manager and editor was Harry R. Rivers.
     E. P. Dewey was the owner and editor of a handsome and enterprising newspaper at Sanger, the only paper in the town. The Herald made its first appearance on May 11, 1889, and was quite prosperous from the beginning. It was independent in politics.
     The only other publication in the eastern section of the county was a small sheet known as the Centerville News, which had a violent death, as a correspondent wrote, "... a fractious colt putting its hoofs through the forms." It was edited by Lucius Powers.
     After a service of two years and eight months on the Madera Mercury, Mr. John M. McClure concluded to engage in business for himself, and on December 12, 1890, established the County Review, at that place, which achieved a marvelous success in a very few months. It was a bright and enterprising eight-page publication, a credit to the owner and editor and an honor to the town.
     On March 26, 1891, the first copy of the Reedley Exponent was issued at the thriving town of Reedley. It was an eight-page paper, neatly printed and ably edited by the proprietor, A. S. Jones, of Mandan, Dakota.
     There is nothing sensational to record in connection with the history of journalism in the county. It has always been in advance of the community and all of the publications have been above mediocrity. Their ambition was first to give all the news and to advertise to the world the wonderful attractions of Fresno county for those seeking homes.
     Duels, shooting affrays and all that sort of thing, generally so common in new countries, are totally lacking. The only thing out of the ordinary that occurred to any member of the craft was the election of Mr. Ferguson to the Legislature in 1874, a station that he filled with distinguished ability and to the entire satisfaction of his constituents.   

[Editor's Note: Sources of documentation were obtained from official public documents in the Big Dry Creek Museum holdings, and 0fficial 1891 archives of the Fresno County Supervisors, and Hobbs family records, and the Official Historial Atlas of Fresno County, and historical documents, deeds, and business filing of record.]

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