|History of Knoxville: Chapter 15: The Press|
From Rule's Standard History of Knoxville, Tennessee, with Full Outline of the Natural Advantages, Early Settlement, Territorial Government, Indian Troubles and General and Particular History of the City Down to the Present Time. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1900.
The Gazette, Knoxville's First Newspaper -- The Register and Its Long Life -- The Plebeian, Knoxville's First Daily -- Brownlow's Whig and Its Remarkable Career -- Recent Ventures in Knoxville Journalism -- The Chronicle -- The Press and Herald -- The Tribune -- The Journal and Tribune -- The Afternoon Sentinel -- The Church Newspapers.
The first newspaper published in Knoxville, which was also the first in Tennessee and the third west of the Allegheny mountains, began publication in 1791, the year before Knoxville was laid out as a town. Since then more than fifty periodicals have found birth here and all, with the exception of two dailies, with weekly editions, and four with only weekly editions, published at the present time, have also come to their death here. A few of them had comparatively long lives; the life of most of them reached only a few years, in many cases only months. A few, only a small number, of the men who have been connected with these various publications gained considerable fame; most of them have been forgotten, except to a few persons of advanced age and a few others who attempt to gather up the faded facts of unwritten history.
It was nearly half a century between the date of the publication of the first Knoxville newspaper and the appearance of the first one issued more than once a week. The first daily paper attempted was in 1851, but it was not a paying enterprise. The first daily that was published for more than a year came out in 1861, and suspended in 1863, as one of the casualties of the Civil war. Since 1866 Knoxville has not been without a daily paper, and at one time had four. At least one Knoxville paper, as will appear further on in this chapter, reached, under all circumstances, a phenomenal circulation, others have had fair success, while many others have printed only small editions being dependent upon a territory with meager mail facilities.
The first paper published in Knoxville was The Gazette. Its first number appeared on the 5th day of November, 1791. It was the Knoxville Gazette from the beginning; but the first number was printed at Rogersville, where it continued to be published for nearly a year. It was founded by George Roulstone, who, according to a recent article written by Dr. George F. Mellen of the University of Tennessee, and printed in the Knoxville Sentinel, had been connected with an unsuccessful newspaper enterprise at Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Gazette at first and for some time came out only once in two weeks, and its issues were not uniform in size, probably on account of the difficulty in procuring paper upon which to print it. This appears upon examination of a bound file of the paper now in possession of the State Historical Society. In the issue of June 16, 1792, appears the conclusion of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, which had been running from the issue of November 5, 1791.
The paper was removed from Rogersville in the fall of 1792. The issue that should have appeared on October 6, 1792, did not appear until the 10th, which had the following explanation: "The removal of the printing office from Hawkins C. H. to this place prevented the publication of this paper till this day, by which means we have an opportunity of presenting the public with the following important intelligence." (Here follows an account of a supply of arms and ammunition to the Indians from Pensacola, by the Spaniards Carondolet and O'Neal.)
Mr. Roulstone had a partner named Ferguson, but in April, 1793, the partnership was dissolved and the publication was continued by Roulstone & Co. In the fall of 1793 a number of issues of The Gazette did not appear on account of the miscarriage of a load of paper. The publisher had troubles common to newspaper men in the earlier days under the credit system, as, in December, 1793, he mentioned outstanding unpaid accounts of two years' standing. The Gazette was a small three-column, four-page paper, not attractive in its appearance, but its appearance was quite an event to the hardy pioneers who were then laying the foundation of the sixteenth of the American Commonwealths. Mr. Roulstone was a printer and came to Tennessee, then the Territory South of the River Ohio, at the suggestion of Governor William Blount, appointed governor of the territory by President Washington in 1790. He was printer afterwards to the territorial and state legislatures and was the clerk of the territorial legislature when it was organized at Knoxville on the 25th day of August, 1794.
He continued to publish The Gazette to the date of his death, which occurred in the year 1804. He was doubtless aided in his endeavors by Governor Blount and the authorities in the infant state, who felt the importance of having a medium through which to make known the laws enacted to the people governed. The income of the Gazette was supplemented in that way. The difficulties that confronted the publisher of the Gazette can be easily imagined when it is known that paper and all other material had to be transported hundreds of miles through a country that was without roads except those of the most primitive character. George Roulstone was a man who commanded the respect and enjoyed the confidence of the people of his day, which is attested by the fact that he was elected public printer to the state, held that position at the time of his death, and after he died his wife was elected to fill the office two successive terms.
Mr. Roulstone started two other papers in Knoxville, The Register, a weekly, in 1798, which he published about two years, and then The Genius of Liberty, in connection with John Rivington Parrington. Knoxville then had three weeklies, in every one of which Mr. Roulstone was interested. In 1804, in the month of January, George Wilson became the publisher of Wilson's Gazette, the successor of the Knoxville Gazette. It was a weekly and continued to be published in Knoxville for fourteen years and in the year 1818 Wilson removed to Nashville, that city having then become the capital of the state.
In the year 1816, on the 3d day of August, Major Frederick S. Heiskell and Hu. Brown began the publication of the Knoxville Register, which continued to be published for a longer term of years than any other paper yet published in the city. It suspended publication upon the arrival of General Burnside with the Union army, about the first of September, 1863. Its life was within a few days of forty-seven years, and in the main it was a distinctly honorable career. In this connection a brief sketch of its distinguished founders will be proper and of interest. Major Heiskell remained one of the proprietors of The Register for about twenty-one years, devoting his whole time, energy and ability to its success. He was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, but when yet a child his parents removed to Shenandoah county, Virginia. He learned the printer's trade in the office of his brother, John Heiskell, in Winchester, Virginia, and came to Knoxville in December, 1814. After working as a journeyman printer something less than two years, he, in conjunction with Hu. Brown, whose sister he afterwards married, founded The Knoxville Register, a weekly paper.
In 1829 Hu. Brown retired from the paper, and Major Heiskell continued its publication until in 1837, when, on account of impaired health, he retired to a farm ten miles west of Knoxville, having sold his interest in The Register to W. B. A. Ramsey and Robert Craighead. While publishing The Register, Major Heiskell was intimately acquainted with Hugh Lawson White, John Bell, Ephraim H. Foster, James K. Polk and other famous men of his time. For years be was a trusted friend of Andrew Jackson, and fought his earlier political battles with characteristic vigor. He also knew Henry Clay well and was one of his earnest, sincere supporters. In 1847 he was elected to the state senate, the only office he ever held, and distinguished himself as an able, conscientious and zealous representative of the people's interests. He was always a gentleman in his habits and deportment, and universally recognized as thoroughly incorruptible. He was a public-spirited man and took a deep interest in the cause of education. He was one of the trustees of the East Tennessee Female Institute and for years up to the date of his death was also one of the trustees of the East Tennessee University, now University of Tennessee. While conducting The Register his counsel and influence was eagerly sought by men in public life and his advice was always received with consideration. His life was long, strenuous and useful. He died in the 94th year of his age at Rogersville, Tennessee, in November, 1882. He remained an omnivorous newspaper reader to the last, and at the time of his death left twenty large scrap-books made up of clippings which he considered of value.
His partner and brother-in-law, Hu. Brown, was also a superior man. He retired from The Register in 1829, to accept a professorship in the University of Tennessee. Under their management the power and influence of The Register was second to no paper in the state. It was a credit to its publishers and to the section of the country in which it circulated. Its proprietors took an active part in the politics of the period and made themselves felt by friends and by foes.
In 1836, contrary to the will and wishes of Andrew Jackson, who had been the most influential man in Tennessee politics, and who had decreed that Martin Van Buren should be his successor in the Presidential chair, The Knoxville Register supported Hugh Lawson White for that office. He carried the state, his majority, in spite of Jackson's opposition, being a little more than nine thousand in a total vote of 61,000. In the Eastern division of the state Hugh Lawson White carried every county with the exception of Greene, Sullivan and Washington, most of them by overwhelming majorities. Four years previous to that, in 1832, Andrew Jackson had carried every one of the counties in East Tennessee. This year, against the influence exerted by the Knoxville Register, he could influence but three counties to vote for Martin Van Buren. This is mentioned as showing the influence of The Register in those days. Some of the men who were at times connected with The Knoxville Register office afterwards became prominent in the state. Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer worked as a printer in the office. He afterwards became, as editor of the Nashville Republican Banner, one of the best-known journalists in the South, was elected state comptroller, served in the lower house of congress, and was killed at Mill Springs, Kentucky, in February, 1862, while gallantly leading a brigade of Confederate soldiers of which he was the commander.
From John E. Helms, one of the oldest newspaper men in the state, it is learned that Major Heiskell, the founder of The Register, was the president of the first meeting of the Tennessee Press Association. It was held in the old Mansion House, an excellent hotel in its day. It stood on the grounds upon which the county court-house now stands. The meeting was held about the year 1838.
In 1840 Thomas W. Humes was the editor of The Register, when it was an earnest supporter of the Whig Presidential ticket and the organ of the Whig party in this section. Mr. Humes afterward took orders in the Protestant Episcopal church, was rector of St. John's church in Knoxville eighteen years and also served eighteen years as president of the University of Tennessee. In 1838 James C. Moses came to Knoxville from Exeter, New Hampshire. He was a practical printer and was first employed as foreman of The Knoxville Times. He afterwards purchased The Register and with his brother, John L. Moses, with whom he was connected for a time, remained with the Register until in 1849, when they retired from the newspaper field and entered mercantile business. For the next ten years The Register was less prosperous. For two or three years its editorial department was conducted by John Miller McKee, who afterwards removed to Nashville and for years was on the editorial staff of the old Union and American. At another time, when quite a young man, with brilliant prospects, Hon. John M. Fleming presided over the editorial department of the paper. About the year 1859 the services of George W. Bradfield were secured as editor and the paper, which had been Whig, espoused the principles of the Democratic party. Mr. Bradfield was a strong partisan and an upright gentleman, universally respected.
Early in 1861 Mr. Bradfield severed his connection with The Register, and it passed into the hands of J. Austin Sperry. The Civil war began soon afterwards and the paper became a vigorous, uncompromising advocate of secession. About the time that the Confederate soldiers began to be mobilized in the vicinity of Knoxville in 1861, The Register was issued as a daily, six days in the week, and continued to be so issued until some time in August, 1863, when it suspended publication, and never again resumed. A large majority of the people of East Tennessee were opposed to secession and remained loyal to the Union. These were antagonized bitterly by The Register, and Mr. Sperry realized that with the advent of the Union army it would be impossible for him to continue the publication of his paper, therefore upon the approach of General Burnside he fled South and the paper was never afterwards revived. Thus was ended the career of a newspaper that had been published for forty-seven years, a longer period than any of its predecessors or successors. As already shown, its career for the most part was one of which its founders had good reason to feel proud.
In 1823 The Enquirer was started. It was printed in the office of Hiram Barry, who came to Knoxville in 1816, and who carried on the printing business here for more than fifty years. When Mr. Barry was the owner and publisher of The Enquirer it was edited by J. J. Meredith. It lived a precarious sort of life and came to an early death, without having made an impression sufficient to give it a permanent place in local history.
Hon. John R. Nelson, a lawyer of considerable natural ability, combative in disposition, without literary attainments to speak of, but nevertheless a man of marked character, made two ventures in the newspaper world, starting The Republican in 1831, and Uncle Sam in 1834. There was no place for them, and they soon disappeared.
In the year 1838, Mr. Heiskell having disposed of his interest in The Knoxville Register, some gentleman of character and influence became dissatisfied with that paper and determined to start another. When the matter was finally settled, all of those who had favored it and had decided to put money into it declined, except Mr. Perez Dickinson. He went to Philadelphia and bought an outfit. He then went to Boston, and while there, James C. Moses was recommended to him as being a good man to take charge of the mechanical department of the new venture. Mr. Dickinson secured his services and he came on to Knoxville. The paper was brought out under the name, The Knoxville Times. Thomas W. Humes was engaged as editor, and tri-weekly editions were printed, it being the first paper printed in Knoxville oftener than once a week. It was published successfully for two years, when its owners bought The Knoxville Register, and the name of The Times was dropped, The Register being continued. While it was published, The Times was printed on the best paper, was tasteful in its make-up and edited with ability.
In 1841, Capt. James Williams, afterwards United States minister to Constantinople under President Buchanan's administration, started the Knoxville Post. In 1848 The Post was removed to Athens, Tennessee, where it was published to the time of his death by Sam P. Ivins, who had been employed as a printer in the office of The Post at Knoxville. He was one of the best known newspaper men in the state, and as a writer of editorial paragraphs had few equals. It may be noted here that while the office was conducted in Knoxville a book was published there, of which J. W. M. Brazeale was the author, entitled Life as It Is, which attracted much attention, and though long out of print is sought after yet. While relating facts of history, it contains comments upon the customs of the early settlers, notable for their freshness and freedom from all restraint. It also relates how two noted murderers, "The Harps," went about the country killing people, for no other purpose than murder. The Post is still in existence and is published at Athens, Tennessee.
A Democratic paper called The Argus was started in 1838, the name of which was changed in 1844 to The Standard. It was continued precariously for a number of years under various managements until 1855, when its light went out. In 1850 The Plebeian was started by John E. and William T. Helms. In 1851 it was published as a morning daily, being the first daily paper published in Knoxville, but it was not a success.
In the year 1839 Brownlow's Tennessee Whig made its appearance at Elizabethton, Tennessee, William G. Brownlow, editor and proprietor. After being published a year at Elizabethton, it was removed to Jonesborough, where it continued to be published for nine years. It was, as its name indicates, a Whig paper and its editor was a remarkable man, fond of controversy, given to the use of vigorous language, and consequently had bitter enemies as well as warm, sincere friends. In 1849 he determined to remove to Knoxville, this city, though then a small town, presenting a more promising field for his enterprise. The first number of the Knoxville Whig was published about the first of the year 1850. It soon won for itself and its editor a national reputation. It was taken and read solely on account of its editorials, and before the end of the decade, although a weekly published in a small town with limited facilities for reaching the outside world, its circulation reached the phenomenal figure of twelve thousand copies weekly. It was common in those days for newspapers to adopt mottoes, or devices, printed at the top of their front pages, meant to be explanatory of the policy of such papers. Among those thus printed in Brownlow's Knoxville Whig were "Cry Aloud and Spare Not," and "Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing." These devices very succinctly set forth the general policy of the paper.
While The Whig was a political paper, an enthusiastic adherent of the Whig party, Mr. Brownlow, the first years of whose manhood life had been spent as an itinerant Methodist clergyman, a "circuit rider," engaged actively in the discussion of religious questions, and was an outspoken champion of temperance. Besides preaching frequently, in addition to his duties as editor and publisher of a newspaper, he was often called upon to deliver addresses on temperance, and his denunciations of the liquor traffic were amongst the most scathing that ever fell from man's lips. He also became involved in some very acrimonious controversies on religious questions, once with Rev. Frederick A. Ross, an able Presbyterian divine, and again with Rev. James R. Graves, an able and distinguished Baptist clergyman. He himself, as already stated, being a Methodist, stood up valiantly for his own church and its peculiar doctrines and controverted the doctrines of his antagonists. His style was vigorous, incisive and few men have excelled him in the employment of invective and sarcasm, which he used without stint in dealing with his antagonists, whether the subject of controversy happened to be politics or religion. It is perhaps impossible for men and women of the present day to realize fully the full measure of bitterness with which religious controversies were waged about the middle of the century. In his intercourse with the public, Mr. Brownlow adhered to his motto, "Cry Aloud and Spare Not."
While an outspoken champion of Whig principles, he did not always support the Whig candidates for office, he was "independent in all things, neutral in nothing." A notable exception was in the presidential campaign of 1852, when the Whigs nominated Gen. Winfield Scott for President. Brownlow refused to support him and supported and voted for Daniel Webster instead, although Webster died a few days before the election was held. He also opposed the election of Hon. Horace Maynard, nominated by the Whigs of the district for congress in 1853. Mr. Maynard was defeated by William M. Churchwell, who, by the way, was the last Democrat elected to congress from the Knoxville district from that day to this. Mr. Maynard was afterwards, in 1857, again nominated for congress, was supported by Mr. Brownlow and was re-elected eight consecutive times. He and Mr. Brownlow became fast friends and remained so to the close of their lives, Maynard outliving Brownlow five years. These things are mentioned to show that Mr. Brownlow was never neutral and always independent.
During the years immediately following the removal of The Whig from Jonesborough, the question of slavery became a more conspicuous issue than it had ever been before. In the years 1854-5 a new party arose, called the Know-Nothing, afterwards the American party. Its motto was, "Put None but Americans on Guard," and it sought to extend the period of residence required of foreign immigrants before naturalization. The party also made war upon the Roman Catholic church. Mr. Brownlow warmly espoused this new party, the old Whig party being dead, not only through the columns of The Whig, but also on the stump. He also wrote and published a book about that time, entitled, Americanism and Romanism Contrasted. In this place it may be remarked that he also wrote a book during the decade here under consideration, entitled, The Great Iron Wheel Examined, and Its False Spokes Extracted. It was written in reply to a book of which Rev. J. R. Graves was the author, called The Great Iron Wheel, being an attack on the doctrines and the polity of the Methodist Episcopal church. Brownlow's reply was published by the Book Concern of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and with the official sanction of that church. It was during the ten years, from 1850 to 1860, when he was from 45 to 55 years old, that he won a national reputation. He was then in his prime, and besides editing The Whig, did a prodigious amount of other work.
Going back to the fierce discussion of the slavery question, precipitated by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Mr. Brownlow took the pro-slavery, or Southern, side of the issue. His paper became very popular in this section and had a large circulation in every state in the South. This popularity was increased when in 1858 he held a debate lasting five days, in the city of Philadelphia, with Rev. Abram Pryne. Brownlow defended the institution of slavery, and Mr. Pryne attacked it. The joint discussion was published together in a volume soon afterwards. About this time his paper reached a very large circulation for a country weekly. In the campaign of 1861, when the question of secession from the Union was the issue, Mr. Brownlow was an uncompromising Union man, and the secessionists printed extracts from his speeches against Pryne as a campaign document. But they were garbled. He was always a strong Union man. When the nullification movement was inaugurated in South Carolina in 1832, Mr. Brownlow was riding a circuit and preaching in that state. He opposed nullification earnestly and vigorously at considerable personal peril. In his debate with Pryne, he indulged in a strong plea for the Union, from which this is an extract:
"Who can estimate the value of the American Union? Proud, happy, thrice-happy America! The home of the oppressed, the asylum of the emigrant! Where the citizens of every clime, and the child of every creed, roam free and untrammeled as the wild winds of heaven! Baptized at the fount of Liberty in fire and blood, cold must be the heart that thrills not at the name of the American Union!"
Two years after this debate, he supported his personal and political friend, Hon. John Bell, of Tennessee, for President on the platform, "The Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of the Laws." He entered this campaign with all the ardor of his nature, both in his paper and on the stump. He denounced disunion and the men who favored it as a remedy for alleged evils. John Bell carried the state of Tennessee, but Abraham Lincoln was elected President.
South Carolina adopted a secession ordinance a few weeks after the election became known, and other states were preparing to follow. The Knoxville Whig became more and more outspoken for the Union. Many of its subscribers in the Southern states refused to take it from the post offices and some of them wrote insulting and threatening letters to the editor. But what the paper lost in the South was more than made up from the Northern states. Subscribers poured in from that section, hundreds of them in a day, and The Whig thundered anathemas against secession and disunion. A large majority of his neighbors in Eastern Tennessee stood by him loyally and to the last. In June, 1861, the state voted on the question of secession and ratified an ordinance to that effect that had been proposed by the legislature at an extra session called for that purpose. But the editor of the Knoxville Whig continued to write and print Union editorials. The campaign preceding the June election was one of the most exciting ever seen in this country, and during its progress Mr. Brownlow was busy with his pen and on the stump. His style both in writing and in speaking suited the times, and he was heard by tens of thousands, while his editorials were read by ten times as many. Hostilities had begun and armies were being mobilized. He was considered a public enemy by many. His state had voted to go with the Southern Confederacy; but he kept the flag of the Union floating from his residence while armed soldiers threatened to tear it down. Still he wrote and printed defiant editorials, hurling thunderbolts of epithet and sarcasm at his opponents.
But the end came. He could no longer send his paper to Northern subscribers, for the mails were cut off. The Southern authorities very naturally regarded The Whig as an incendiary paper and it could not be circulated in the South. Finally, in October, 1861, believing that he was about to be arrested on a charge of treason against the Southern Confederacy, Mr. Brownlow decided to suspend the further publication of The Whig, which he did. He announced his purpose in a signed editorial, dated October 24, 1861, more than six months after the beginning of hostilities and more than four months after the ratification of the ordinance of secession in Tennessee. The editorial was printed in the last number of the paper, issued a day or two after it was written. Measured by the influence exerted upon the people in the immediate section in which it circulated, the temporary death of the Knoxville Whig may be compared to the death of a Sampson, the slain outnumbered those of its life. It is quite possible that Mr. Brownlow so intended it. After announcing the information he had, to the effect that he was to be indicted and arrested, he said that under the usages of the courts he presumed he might go free by taking the oath the authorities were administering to other Union men, or that he might enter into bond to keep the peace, but that he should obstinately refuse to do that, and added, "if such a bond should be drawn up and signed by others, I will render it null and void by refusing to sign it. In default of both I expect to go to jail, and I am ready to start upon one moment's warning." In addition to this he said, among other things:
"I shall in no degree feel humbled by being cast into prison, whenever it is the will and pleasure of this august government to put me there; but on the contrary I shall feel proud of my confinement. I shall go to jail -- as John Rogers went to the stake -- for my principles. I shall go, because I have failed to recognize the hand of God in the work of breaking up the American Government, and the inauguration of the most wicked, cruel, unnatural and uncalled-for war ever recorded in history. I go, because I have refused to laud to the skies the acts of tyranny, usurpation and oppression inflicted upon the people of East Tennessee for their devotion to the Constitution and laws of the government handed down to them by their fathers, and the liberties secured to them by a war of seven long years of gloom, poverty and trial! I repeat, I am proud of my position, and of my principles, and shall leave them to my children as a legacy far more valuable than a princely fortune, had I the latter to bestow!"
A few days after writing the editorial from which the foregoing is quoted, he went into the counties of Blount and Sevier and was the guest of friends. A little more than a month afterwards he returned to Knoxville, under a promise of permission to go North, when he was arrested and put in jail, where he remained a month. He became seriously ill and on the advice of his physician was removed from the jail to his residence, where he was kept under guard by details of armed soldiers. Having recovered sufficiently to travel, in March, 1862, he was sent through the Confederate lines, near Nashville, from which place he went North and remained there, his family being also sent through the lines in the fall of 1862, until the advent of Gen. Burnside in Knoxville in September, 1863.
In the month of November of that year he again began the publication of the Knoxville Whig, to which he added, "and Rebel Ventilator." In 1865, when the state government had been reorganized, William G. Brownlow was elected governor, and he was re-elected in 1867. He resigned in 1869, and took his seat on the 4th of March as one of the United States senators from Tennessee. Having retained his connection with The Whig, in connection with his son, Col. John B. Brownlow, and Tilghman Hawes, the paper went into the hands of a joint stock company in 1869, and Rev. Thos. H. Pearne became its editor. After this Gov. Brownlow gave it little attention beyond occasional signed contributions. Later the Whig was controlled by Joseph A. Mabry, and it became a Democratic paper, with C. W. Charlton as editor. Still later it was sold to Saunders & Clark. It was published as a daily from early in 1869. Saunders & Clark failed of success, and the paper was permanently suspended in 1871.
Much space has been given to The Whig and its famous editor, because of its large circulation and because the reputation of its editor was national. Having served out his term in the senate, Governor Brownlow returned to Knoxville and purchased a half interest in the Knoxville Daily and Weekly Chronicle. The name of the weekly edition was changed to The Whig and Chronicle. He became editor-in-chief of this paper, being associated in its publication with Wm. Rule, one of the founders of The Chronicle. Governor Brownlow closed his vigorous, busy, eventful life at his home in Knoxville, on the 29th day of April, 1877, and he rests in Gray Cemetery, where a beautiful granite shaft marks his resting place. And though his life was a stormy one, his death was sincerely mourned, well nigh universally by those who knew him well. He honored his name, his country, his state and the profession in which he won national fame.
There are a number of reasons for the large success of The Knoxville Whig under Governor Brownlow's management. It was published at a time when controversy was rife; he was a born controversialist. He was a master of invective and burning sarcasm, and he flourished in an age when such things were expected of a public journalist. He kept himself well informed concerning the weak as well as of the strong points of men, and that was a day of personal journalism. He was a man of the strictest integrity, and as a newspaper editor never permitted principle to become subservient to expediency, so his friends had in him unlimited confidence. He seldom made mistakes. And in all of his editorial writings there ran a vein of humor that was sometimes exquisite. This was often exhibited at unexpected times, and sometimes troubled his antagonists more than his bitterest words. But it was not always employed in that way, it made him the center of whatever social circle he became a part.
He employed it on one occasion when a young preacher, lying, it was thought, at the point of death at Abingdon, Virginia. The venerable Bishop Capers and other ministers, a Methodist conference being then in session at that place, were curious to know how the "eccentric parson" felt in view of a possible exchange of worlds. The bishop called at his room, read from the Scriptures and prayed with him, and on taking his leave held Brownlow by the hand, looking him in the face, asked him about his prospects beyond the grave, Brownlow replied: "Well, Bishop, if I had my life to live over again, I could improve it in many respects and would try to do so. However, if the books have been properly kept in the other world, there is a small balance in my favor." He didn't die then, but lived to win a very large measure of fame.
In 1855, 1856, and 1857, The Southern Journal of Medical and Physical Sciences was published by Kinsloe & Rice and edited by Dr. Richard O. Currey, a man of much ability. The publication ceased with December, 1857. It was a monthly, and in the latter years was the organ of the East Tennessee Medical Society.
In 1857 The Southern Citizen was published in Knoxville for about a year. Its editor was the "Irish Patriot," John Mitchell, whose name was familiar, in his time, to all English-speaking people. He was born at Dungiven, County Derry, Ireland, and was the son of a Unitarian clergyman. He was well educated and began life as a practicing lawyer in Dublin. Afterwards he became the editor of The Nation, Dublin, and soon got himself into serious trouble by writing revolutionary articles for his paper and publishing them, for which he was prosecuted and his paper suppressed. Mitchell was sentenced to expatriation for fourteen years. He was deported to Australia, where he remained on parole until 1854, about six years, when he resigned his parole and, escaping from the colony, sailed for New York, landing there on the 29th day of November, 1854. Shortly after his arrival there he founded The Citizen, a weekly journal, which he continued until failing eye-sight induced him to give it up and seek a more congenial climate. It was then that he came to Knoxville, where he associated himself with William G. Swan, then a leading member of the Knoxville bar.
Swan was an extreme man, fond of controversy, and it was probably through his influence that Mitchell came to Knoxville. Mr. Swan, besides being extreme was an able and scholarly man, who wielded much influence over his associates and friends. These two started The Southern Citizen in Knoxville, which was a very extreme paper, and soon got its editor into some warm controversies. Among other things advocated by The Southern Citizen was the reopening of the African slave trade. It is a mystery why a paper advocating so extreme a policy in that day should have been published in Knoxville, for there was not a town in the whole South, or a section, where such a policy had fewer sympathizers than in Knoxville, in Eastern Tennessee. There were comparatively few slave-holders in this part of the state, and there were many who were opposed to slavery.
Mr. Mitchell went from Knoxville to Richmond, where, during the Civil war, he was editor of The Richmond Examiner. After the war he removed to New York and settled there, where he did some literary work. He visited Ireland in 1874, was elected to parliament for Tipperary in 1875, though disqualified for a seat. Soon afterwards he died in Ireland. He was an able and fluent writer, his editorials combining force, choice English and often great bitterness. They were read eagerly by his enemies as well as by his friends and his journals always attracted widespread attention, both those printed in Ireland and in the United States.
John Miller McKee, whose name has already been mentioned in connection with The Knoxville Register, founded a paper about 1846 called The Tribune, which was published about four years, and was then sold out to the owners of The Knoxville Register and was absorbed by that paper, Mr. McKee becoming the editor of The Register. He is still living in Nashville, where he did many years of active newspaper work and was noted for the painstaking methods and for the completeness and accuracy of his contributions.
The Knoxville Argus was published in this city for some time by E. G. Eastman, who was a prominent man in his day. He went from Knoxville to Nashville and spent several years in that city in newspaper work.
It was about the year 1854 that John E. Helms founded a Democratic weekly newspaper called The Knoxville Mercury. It was a neat-appearing sheet and a good newspaper, but it suspended after a life of about two years.
In February, 1862, Hon. John Baxter, a leading and able lawyer of Knoxville, who was afterwards appointed a United States Circuit judge by President Hayes, determined to publish a daily paper in the office in which Brownlow's Knoxville Whig had been printed previous to its suspension. It was called The East Tennesseean. It was a neat paper, but it suspended with its first number. While it was not intended to oppose the Confederate government, its purpose was to defend the Union people of East Tennessee, and to be such a paper as they might read and feel that it was their friend. The paper was started soon after the disastrous defeat of the Confederate forces at Fishing Creek, just beyond the Kentucky border, where the Confederate General Zollicoffer was killed, and its projectors may have anticipated a time coming when they could publish a Union paper. But after mature deliberation it was probably seen that the publication of such a paper as they contemplated would be impracticable and it was at once abandoned. Colonel Baxter remained in Knoxville until the advent of General Burnside and then successfully practiced his profession until in 1877, when he was made United States Circuit judge of the Sixth judicial Circuit, composed of the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, which position he held to the date of his death, which occurred in 1886, at Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Southern Chronicle was started in 1862, but lived only about a year, suspending publication when General Burnside came to Knoxville in September, 1863. It was conducted with ability, but was not sensational enough to suit the public appetite in such eventful times.
In January, 1865, the end of the Civil war being apparently near at hand, J. W. Patterson, an Ohio man, came to Knoxville and founded The Daily Commercial, which he continued to publish for something more than a year. It was a paper of merit, sprightly and newsy; but the political policy of its editor, Mr. Patterson, was in opposition to the sentiments of a majority of the people residing in the section in which it was published. It was at a time when the virtue of toleration was a scarce article and The Daily Commercial occasionally found its course a stormy one. For this reason, and for the additional reason, perhaps, that the outlook for reasonable remuneration was not inviting, its publication was abandoned in the year 1866.
The Knoxville Whig having changed its politics under its changed management, there was no Republican paper in Knoxville, and as an overwhelming majority of the voters of Knox county and East Tennessee were Republicans, Wm. Rule and Henry C. Tarwater determined early in the year 1870 to establish a Republican weekly newspaper in the city. An order was made for the necessary material and a press was bought. The old building on South Gay street, opposite the court-house, which had been the office of The Knoxville Whig when it suspended in October, 1861, was secured as the office of publication. The new venture was called The Chronicle, and it met with much favor from the beginning. Mr. Rule had had some experience in the business, had spent something more than a year as an employee in Brownlow's Whig office before the Civil war, in 1860-61, and had served on the reportorial staff of that paper about three years after the war. The first number of The Chronicle weekly appeared in April, 1870, and a month later a daily edition was printed. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Tarwater sold his half interest in the paper to A. J. Ricks, who had been connected with the editorial department, and the firm became Rule & Ricks. By them it was published successfully until in 1875, when Mr. Ricks sold his interest to Senator William G. Brownlow, whose term in the United States senate was about to expire.
Mr. Ricks soon afterwards removed to Ohio, where he engaged in the practice of his profession, the law. In 1878 he was appointed by judge John Baxter, clerk of the United States circuit court at Cleveland, Ohio. He is now United States district judge for the Northern district of Ohio, having been appointed to that position by President Harrison. It may be said of Judge Ricks that as an editor he was a fluent and vigorous writer and that his knowledge of affairs in general enabled him to write on a wide range of subjects.
Senator Brownlow came in as editor-in-chief in 1875, with Wm. Rule as his associate, and they two published the paper, the name of the weekly edition having been changed to the Whig and Chronicle to the date of Mr. Brownlow's death, which occurred on the 29th day of April, 1877. After Senator Brownlow's death his interest in the paper was sold by the administrator of his estate, R. A. Brown becoming the purchaser. Mr. Brown had been connected with The Chronicle from the beginning and at the time he purchased this half interest was in charge of the local news department. He then became business manager, and Mr. Rule had charge of the editorial department. In the month of November, 1882, they sold the paper to a stock company, and this company published the paper nearly four years.
The first editor under the new management was Hon. Henry R. Gibson, present representative in congress from the Knoxville district, who had previously published and edited the Knoxville Republican. The name of the weekly was again changed, to the Republican-Chronicle. Judge Gibson was succeeded by George W. Drake, who had been for some time editor of the Chattanooga Commercial. Hon. L. C. Houk, at that time a representative in congress, served as editor for some months. In the spring of 1886, the paper having become involved financially, went into the hands of a receiver, and in the month of July, 1886, was sold at public sale, and was bid off for Major E. B. Stahlman of Nashville, who was one of its largest creditors. John J. Littleton, afterwards killed in Nashville, edited it a short time, when the establishment, with its good will and franchises, was sold to Wm. Rule and Samuel Marfield, they then being the publishers of the Knoxville Journal. The Chronicle being thus merged with The Journal lost its name, after having been published as a daily and weekly for a little more than sixteen years.
In 1879 Henry R. Gibson started The Knoxville Republican, a weekly, and continued its publication until 1882, when he, with others, purchased The Chronicle and he became its editor.
In June, 1867, a daily paper called The Knoxville Press was started, with John M. Fleming as editor. In politics it was Democratic and its purpose was to support the administration of President Andrew Johnson, who was then engaged in a controversy with congress over the question of the reconstruction of the states in the South that had attempted secession. Mr. Fleming had had some previous newspaper experience and was a graceful and vigorous writer. On the 27th of October, 1867, another Democratic daily, The Herald, made its appearance -- Wm. J. Ramage, publisher, and Major Thos. B. Kirby, an ex-Union officer, editor. Soon afterwards, Mr. Ramage purchased from M. J. Hughes a weekly paper called The Messenger. In January, 1868, these papers were consolidated, the daily becoming The Knoxville Press and Herald and the weekly The Press and Messenger. In the spring of 1868, Samuel C. Ramage, a brother of William J., came to Knoxville and became associated with Wm. J. Ramage. The services of Col. John M. Fleming were retained as editor of the consolidated paper, and Major Kirby was assistant editor. Afterwards Major Kirby went to Chattanooga, where he started the Daily Times, in that city, in December, 1869. The Press and Herald continued to be successfully published under the same management until 1876, when it was sold by Mr. Ramage to John M. Fleming and Samuel McKinney, who had just started another Democratic daily called The Knoxville Tribune, and the name Press and Herald disappeared.
William J. Ramage, besides being a good business manager, is a practical printer. He is a native of Philadelphia and learned the printer's trade in the old Johnson type foundry in that city. When a young man he went to Chicago, and was employed as a journeyman printer in the office of The Chicago Democrat, "Long John" Wentworth's paper. He was there at the beginning of the Civil war and enlisted at the beginning in the Nineteenth Illinois infantry volunteers, in which he served three years and was mustered out in July, 1864. In the fall of 1864 he went to Chattanooga, where he worked as a printer in the office of The Chattanooga Gazette for a time, and then started a news stand business. Some Northern gentlemen, about that time endowed with great expectations of Chattanooga's immediate future, had purchased an outfit, expensive and complete enough to run a great metropolitan paper. Their paper was called The American Union. Finding that they had an elephant on their hands, they induced Mr. Ramage to come to their relief. He took hold of the paper, reduced its expenses and continued to publish it until in the fall of 1867, when he came to Knoxville, as above stated, and founded the Herald, acquired The Press and then continued to publish The Press and Herald and The Press and Messenger until he sold out to The Tribune, as before stated, in 1876. Since he retired from the newspaper business he has established a thriving book and stationery business in Knoxville, in which he is still engaged.
Soon after the close of the Civil war, M. J. Hughes founded a Democratic weekly called The Messenger, which he published until in the latter part of the year 1867, when he sold out to William J. Ramage, the proprietor of The Daily Herald. It was continued as The Messenger until in January, 1868, at which time Mr. Ramage became the owner also of The Press, and the weekly was continued as The Press and Messenger until in 1876, when it was absorbed by The Tribune.
In December, 1884, Wm. Rule and Samuel Marfield, then a citizen of Circleville, Ohio, determined to publish a daily and weekly paper to be, called The Knoxville Journal. Being denied the Associated Press news service, Mr. Rule went to New York and made arrangements for a news service with W. P. Phillips, then with the United Press, and with Mr. Somerville, manager of the press department of the Western Union Telegraph Company, by which a news service was obtained. The service was to be edited and sent out from the Washington office of the United Press, then in charge of two young men, P. V. DeGraw and John Boyle. Mr. Rule visited them, explained the competition he would have to meet and the character of dispatches he wanted. They promised to make the service the best possible under the circumstances and they did, making up in quality very largely for what was lacking in quantity. The first issue appeared on the 26th day of February, 1885. A little later, on the 4th of March, 1885, when Grover Cleveland was inaugurated for a first term, as President, its proprietors convinced the public that The Journal was going to be a newspaper. Mr. Marfield took charge of the business, and Mr. Rule of the editorial department of the paper. In June, 1886, The Knoxville Chronicle was sold at public sale and was bid off by one of its creditors, who, after running the paper for a short time, sold it with its good will and franchises, to Rule & Marfield, the proprietors of The Knoxville Journal, after which the combined papers were published under that name. In 1889 Mr. Rule purchased the interest of Mr. Marfield in the paper, and about the same time organized a joint stock company under a charter from the state.
This company was organized with a board of directors, and Mr. Rule was made president and general manager; Henry T. Cooper, vice-president, and James F. Rule, secretary. The paper was then, as The Chronicle had also been for many years, the only daily Republican paper published in the eleven states that seceded and joined the Southern Confederacy. The paper continued under this management for eight years, when, on the 30th day of June, 1898, it was sold at public sale, by a trustee, and E. J. Sanford became the purchaser. In these eight years a Web perfecting press and Mergenthaler Linotype machines had been added to the outfit of the office. On the same day that Mr. Sanford purchased The Journal, he also purchased the good will and franchises of The Knoxville Daily Tribune.
A joint stock company was organized at the same time and the two papers were combined under the name of The Knoxville Journal and Tribune, and it is still so published. The new company was organized with Alfred F. Sanford, president; Edward W. Ogden, secretary, and Samuel L. Slover, business manager. The editorial department of The Journal remained the same as that of The Journal -- Wm. Rule, editor; George W. Denney, managing editor. The Knoxville Journal and Tribune is a seven-column, eight-page paper, published seven days in the week, its Sunday issues covering from sixteen to twenty-eight pages, sometimes more. It has a circulation larger than has ever before been reached by any seven-days-in-the-week newspaper published in the city.
The editor, William Rule, has been continuously, with an interim of two years and four months, from the date of selling The Chronicle to that of founding The Journal, connected with the Knoxville daily press for more than twenty-nine years. The Journal and Tribune is now the only daily morning Republican paper published in the eleven seceding states. While a political paper, it is thoroughly devoted and loyal to the agricultural, industrial, commercial and educational interests of Knoxville and of the country tributary to, Knoxville. It will be seen that it is the legitimate successor to The Knoxville Tribune, established in 1876; The Knoxville Chronicle, established in 1870, and The Knoxville Whig, established in 1839.
The Knoxville Tribune, daily and weekly, began to be published in March, 1876. Its founders were Col. John M. Fleming, who had been editor of The Press and Herald, and Samuel McKinney. It started with an excellent outfit and presented a fine typographical appearance. It was Democratic in politics. It was published for about two years by Fleming and McKinney, when it passed into the hands of Col. Moses White and Frank A. Moses, a son of James C. Moses, who some forty years previous to that time had published The Knoxville Register. Colonel White had charge of the editorial and Mr. Moses of the business department. The paper was continued under their management until 1880, when it suspended for a short time, and was then sold to Joseph H. Bean, James W. Wallace and Alexander Summers, who revived The Tribune. Mr. Bean is a practical printer, and four years previous to this date had been publishing a weekly paper at Sweetwater called The Monroe Democrat.
In 1888 Mr. Wallace retired from The Tribune and the publication of the paper was continued by the remaining partners until, in 1891, it was sold to a stock company and W. C. Tatom became its editor. He continued in that position until in the summer of 1898, when he resigned to accept a commission as major in the Fourth Tennessee volunteers. He is a writer of rare ability and established an enviable reputation as an editor. In June, 1895, the paper was sold to J. B. Pound and R. H. Hart, who, after publishing it for three years, sold its good will and franchises to Col. E. J. Sanford, and it was consolidated with The Knoxville Journal on the 1st day of July, 1898. The consolidated paper, The Journal and Tribune, is still being published.
Rev. Charles W. Charlton was at different times connected with the press of Knoxville, including two afternoon dailies, since the Civil war, The Age and afterwards The Dispatch, neither of which were successful, though both were edited with ability. Mr. Charlton was a man of energy and a writer of note on agricultural and industrial topics. His papers were devoted also to politics, he being an ardent champion of the Democratic party. But he never was able to enlist sufficient capital to assure the success of his enterprises.
The Knoxville Sentinel, an afternoon daily, was established in 1886 by Mr. John T. Hearn, a native of Kentucky, who had some experience in newspaper business before coming to Knoxville. He brought the first Web press to Knoxville. The Sentinel was not a success under Mr. Hearn's management, and the paper was sold to J. B. Pound of The Chattanooga News, in 1892. Mr. R. H. Hart was put in charge of the paper and remains with it yet, being in charge of the business department. Messrs. Pound and Hart secured control of The Knoxville Tribune in 1894 and from that time to July 1, 1898, The Sentinel and The Tribune were published from the same office, a Web perfecting press and Mergenthaler Linotype machines being added to their outfit. After selling The Tribune, July 1, 1898, Mr. Pound returned to Chattanooga, though he still retains his interest in The Sentinel.
George F. Milton became editor of The Sentinel in 1895, and continued in that position until in the summer of 1898, when he resigned to accept a commission as first lieutenant in the Sixth United States volunteers, in the war with Spain. In the fall following he resigned his commission in the army and returning to Knoxville again became the editor of The Sentinel. In February, 1899, Mr. Milton having acquired a controlling interest in the paper, a reorganization was effected, and its present managers are: George F. Milton, president; J. B. Pound, vice-president, and R. H. Hart, secretary and treasurer. In the thirteen years of its life, The Sentinel has made many substantial improvements and ranks well among the afternoon papers of this section.
The Holston Methodist, published in the interest of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, was first printed at Morristown in 1871. It was founded by Rev. Richard N. Price, a man of learning and ability. Associated with him was Rev. T. P. Thomas. In the fall of 1873 the paper was moved to Knoxville. Among others concerned in its publication here, at different times, were Rev. J. R. Payne, W. W. Gibson, Thos. A. Lewis, J. H. Bean and Rev. W. L. Richardson. In 1881 the paper was moved to Bristol, and Rev. Frank Richardson became its editor, John Slack being its publisher. In 1885 it came back to Knoxville, and again Rev. R. N. Price became its editor. He was the editor of the paper in 1898, and Owen W. Patton was in charge of the business department, having purchased a half interest in the paper in 1890 from John W. Paulett and W. L. Richardson. In March, 1898, the paper was removed to Nashville, where it is now published as The Midland Methodist.
In March, 1898, another paper was started, called The Holston Epworth Methodist, the name of which has been since changed, and it is now The Holston Christian Advocate. It is published by The Holston Company and edited by Rev. James I. Cash of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It is well on in the second year, is vigorously edited and quite popular.
The Methodist Advocate-Journal is the successor of a paper published first, in Atlanta, Georgia, more than a quarter of a century ago. It was published in Chattanooga for a number of years and removed to Knoxville in 1898. It is the organ of a number of Southern conferences of the Methodist Episcopal church, and is recognized as one of the official papers by the general conference of that church. It is edited by Rev. R. J. Cooke, an able scholar and divine. The business department is managed by Rev. John S. Petty.
Knoxville was the center, during the first half of the present century, of two separate seasons of religious controversy, remarkable for their fierceness and for the substantial ability of some of those who led in them, all of whom have long since been gathered with the fathers. These controversies led to the establishment of church periodicals, the editorial departments of which were conducted by men of marked strength. The first of these was The Holston Messenger, a monthly, of which Rev. Thomas Stringfield was the editor and publisher. He had previously published a church paper at Huntsville, Ala., called The Western Armenian and Christian Instructor. He had no other motive in the publication of these journals than the defense of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which he was a member, being at the time an active pastor, for the expense of the publications was borne by himself and little income resulted. He was a man of large ability, good education and wonderful powers of endurance. He was involved in an unusually vigorous controversy, and met it from the pulpit and through his publications. It seems to have been kept up for ten years, though the publication of the Holston Messenger was not continued so long. Mr. Stringfield had for antagonists foemen worthy of his steel, in the persons of three able Presbyterian clergymen, Messrs. Gallaher and Ross, and Dr. Nelson. He acquitted himself to the entire satisfaction of his church and his partisans. Of Mr. Stringfield, Rev. David R. McAnally, for many years editor of The St. Louis Advocate, said in 1859:
"In this struggle for the very existence of the church of his choice, Mr. Stringfield spent not only his time and mental labor, but hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of his worldly means, for which he will never, in this world, be recompensed. Yet, by these labors and sacrifices, he gave an impulse to Methodism, the result of which may be distinctly traced all along her history there, from that day to the present."
Mr. Stringfield was present at Knoxville in 1824, November 27, and participated in the organization of the Holston conference of the Methodist Episcopal church and was that year appointed presiding elder of the Knoxville district, in which capacity he labored for many years afterwards. In 1836 the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal church established the Southwestern Christian Advocate at Nashville, and elected Thos. Stringfield editor, in which position he served four years.
The other period of controversy mentioned was along in the '40s, and a weekly paper called The Methodist Episcopalian was published. The project of starting this paper originated with Rev. Thos. Stringfield and Rev. D. R. McAnally. Estimates were made of the cost and submitted to a number of Methodist preachers in Knoxville who were on their way to attend an annual conference that was held at Athens in the fall of 1845. The plans were approved, a publishing committee was appointed by the conference, at Athens, proposals were circulated and subscribers obtained. The first number of the paper appeared on the 5th day of May, 1846, with Rev. Samuel Patton as editor. He continued to be the editor of the paper, the name of which was changed in 1850 to The Holston Christian Advocate, to the date of his death, which occurred at the home of his friend, William G. Brownlow, on the 24th day of August, 1854. Soon after his death the paper was discontinued, or merged with the Nashville Christian Advocate.
The Methodist Episcopalian and The Holston Christian Advocate were devoted to a defense of the doctrines and polity of the Methodist church, and was intended to meet and supply the necessity of such a periodical suited to the wants of the mountainous, and then isolated position of the Holston conference of the church. The paper was conducted with singular ability by Dr. Patton. Its tone was elevating and its editorials evinced an the part of their writer a very high degree of ability. He lived at a time when controversy was rife, and while such polemics were probably distasteful to him, he did not shrink from them. The income of the paper was not large enough to remunerate sufficient help to get out and mail its issues. As a consequence the editor had to do much of the drudgery of the office, including work to which he had never been accustomed. This told on his health and physical strength, and doubtless hastened his death, which occurred at the, home of W. G. Brownlow in 1854. Dr. Patton was a native of South Carolina, born in Lancaster district, on the 27th of January, 1797. In eulogy of him, immediately after his death, William G. Brownlow said in his Knoxville Whig:
"He was the ablest divine in the Holston conference and a man of the greatest variety. He fervently sought the spirituality of those who attended his ministry, and burned with a holy zeal for his Master's glory. These were the uniform, unvaried objects of his preaching, and, to promote these ends, he was prepared to sacrifice his ease, his health and even his life."
Samuel Patton and William G. Brownlow, both able men, both distinguished as newspaper editors, in their spheres, were very unlike in some respects, but they were lifelong devoted friends, and when Dr. Patton died Mr. Brownlow sincerely mourned his departure as if he had been his own brother. Dr. Patton began the publication of his is paper when there were no railroads to carry his mails, and before the modern improvements that have rendered the publication of newspapers less difficult in some respects; the smallness of the revenues coming to him made his remuneration wholly inadequate, but now since nearly a half-century after his death, it may be said of him that a greater man than he has not been connected with the religious press of Tennessee.
A paper was published in Knoxville in 1819, called The Western Monitor. The writer of this chapter has not been able to secure data as to its publisher or editor or to fix its exact character; but through its columns the Presbyterian clergymen reached the public to give information concerning the state of the church in this section.
About the last of the year 1850 or the first part of the year 1851, a weekly church paper was established, called The Presbyterian Witness. It was published by J. B. G. Kinsloe and Charles A. Rice, and edited by an able young man, Rev. Andrew Blackburn. He was born in Jefferson county in 1828, And was consequently less than 23 years old when he accepted this responsible position. The purpose for which The Presbyterian Witness was started was to advocate the doctrines and advance the interests of the church, which it did, with signal ability. It was published at a time when there was much controversy over denominational differences and The Witness, with its able young editor and its able contributors, represented their side of the controversy to the satisfaction of their people. It was a paper dignified in bearing and admirable in spirit, commanding the respect of even those whom it failed to convince.
Mr. Blackburn's health failed, but the paper continued to be published under his editorial supervision until a short time before his death, which occurred at Maryville in 1859. He was in charge of a church at Bristol, but still the editor of the paper. While in the pulpit of his church at that place, delivering a sermon, his voice suddenly dropped to a whisper, and he never regained it. He removed to Maryville, for treatment and care, where he died about six months afterward and was buried near the place of his birth, at Westminster Church, in Jefferson county, Tennessee. He studied theology with Rev. Wm. Minnis of New Market, Tennessee, who visited him a short time before his death and when taking his leave said to Mr. Blackburn: "My son Andrew (he called him son), you are about to be cut down in your young manhood, but you have a consolation and comfort to know that you have already accomplished more good than many of us who have been in the ministry for forty, years and more."
This was a tribute from a high source to Mr. Blackburn's worth in the Gospel ministry, and as an editor. He was only about 31 years old at the time of his death, but had conducted an able and influential paper for eight years, besides establishing a solid reputation as a minister of the Gospel. When quite young he was married to Miss Ann E. Gillespy of Blount county, who is still living and resides at Maryville. He was a son of Col. Alexander Blackburn, who was for a long term of years a ruling elder in old Westminster Church in Jefferson county, and a grandson of Rev. Gideon Blackburn, one of the pioneers in the early settlement of the country. While Mr. Blackburn and William G. Brownlow were wide apart in their theological views, their papers were for a time printed on the same press and they were warm personal friends.
In 1893 George W. Ford began the publication of The Knoxville Independent and is still publishing it. It is a weekly and is devoted chiefly to the interests of organized labor.
The latest venture in Knoxville journalism is The Chilhowee Echo. It is the first and only paper ever published in the city by women, devoted to the interests of women. It began publication in October, 1899. Its editors and proprietors are Mrs. Samuel McKinney and Mrs. W. C. Tatom.
It is a handsome weekly, ably edited and has been received with substantial evidence of public favor.
In closing this chapter, the author acknowledges indebtedness to Col. Moses White for much of the information pertaining to the earlier papers published in Knoxville. Colonel White, a number of years ago, delivered an able address before the State Press Association, in which he related much valuable history, which address has been drawn upon for much of the information contained in this chapter concerning the earlier newspapers.
The papers now published in Knoxville are The Journal and Tribune, morning, daily and weekly, Republican in politics; The Sentinel, afternoon, daily except Sunday, and weekly; and The Holston Christian Advocate, Methodist Advocate-Journal, The Independent, and The Chilhowee Echo, all weekly issues.