Tracing our history: Lufkin Daily News got its start in early 1907 - News - Mobile Adv

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Tracing our history: Lufkin Daily News got its start in early 1907


As a result, the only way to find even the approximate date that Charles L. Schless arrived from Chicago and began publishing the city's first daily Newspaper is to search through the archives of its contemporaries - the Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches in particular. Small Newspapers in the 19th century and even well into the 20th commonly exchanged subscriptions and liberally "borrowed" material from each other. Thus, the first notice found of a new daily Newspaper in Lufkin is in the Feb. 14, 1907, Sentinel: "Lufkin has an afternoon daily paper, the News. While a copy of the new paper has never reached this office, it is said to be a right Newsy little sheet." A few months later, the Sentinel editor, as was common, reprinted a piece from Schless, with the former's own commentary. Schless bragged, a bit excessively, that "The Daily News is today the biggest thing that ever happened in journalism in towns of this size in Texas." Giles Haltom, the Sentinel editor, in print kindly replied, "You are right, brother, the News is an excellent paper for a small town." A number of weeklies preceded the Daily News' debut in Angelina County. At Homer, the previous county seat, Judge McGowen published the Pioneer until paper shortages caused by the Civil War forced him to shut down. (Interestingly, Angelina County was the only East Texas county to vote against secession in 1861.) The next known paper to publish in the county, also at Homer, was the Banner, published by F.H. Robinson with help from his sister, Georgia, beginning in May 1882. Eight months later, Robinson sold the press and materials to J.M. Stockton, who moved the plant to Lufkin and renamed it the Lufkin Clarion. Lufkin owed its existence to a decision by Paul Bremond, founder of the Houston East and West Texas railroad, to bypass Homer and run his track in 1882 through a modest settlement then called Denman Springs, the goal being to run the track from Houston to Shreveport. Bremond founded a number of towns named after railroad executives and associates. Our town was named after Capt. Abraham P. Lufkin, who was a Galveston city councilman and cotton merchant - and a close friend of Bremond. But it would be three years before HEWT officials and land developers began selling town lots, so subscribers and advertisers were scarce for Stockton, who a few months later moved the plant once again, first to Moscow and then to Livingston. Another version of the Clarion started up here in 1886 but only lasted a year, when its office burned. In 1887, veteran Newspaperman R.W. Haltom (Giles' older brother), who had started working for Nacogdoches Newspapers a decade earlier - and who would co-found The Daily Sentinel in 1899 - went into partnership with R.L. Christopher to found the weekly Lufkin Leader, ushering in the permanent era of Newspapering in Lufkin and Angelina County. A plethora of weeklies started up and failed, a common occurrence in small towns where the proprietor spent much of his time trying to talk subscribers and advertisers into paying - either with cash or produce. In 1902, George E. Watford left the Beaumont Journal where he had been city editor to take over the Lufkin Tribune - the successor to the Leader. Five years later, Schless arrived from Chicago and began publishing the city's first daily Newspaper. In 1909, he purchased the Tribune office and organized a group of local stockholders. Watford left the Tribune to operate a paper in Hamlin, northwest of Abilene. After two years, Schless decided he could make a better living elsewhere and went to Beaumont to edit the Journal. The stockholders hired H.A. McKelvey in 1912 to operate the daily. That didn't last long, and soon McKelvey left to operate a printing shop. George Watford re-entered the picture, returning from Hamlin in April 1913 to buy the Newspaper from the stockholders. He immediately dropped the paper from a daily into a twice-weekly, published on Tuesday and Friday. Watford also eliminated the weekly issue, which was a compilation of the previous five issues that was mailed to rural residents who couldn't get daily delivery. He also announced the office would be moving to the old Tribune building on Lufkin Avenue, writing not long after the move: "The News is thoroughly at home now on Lufkin Avenue in the same building we formerly occupied with the Lufkin Tribune, and the latch string hangs on the outside of the door at all times. We want all our friends from both town and country to come to see us..." Several months later, W.C. Binion, a 43-year-old native of Mississippi who arrived in Lufkin in 1900, bought McKelvey's printing shop. In August 1914 he and Watford became partners - along with J.H. Kurth Sr., one of the owners of the Angelina County Lumber Company - of the Lufkin News. Newspapering was back-breaking work back then, and commercial printing was essential for financial survival in a small town. All type was set by hand, meaning every single character on a sheet had to be placed by hand. Once the paper was printed, the type had to be dismantled for the next issue. Competing weeklies popped up from time to time, and the editors often groused about slow-paying subscribers and reluctant advertisers, but Watford and Binion's partnership proved successful. In April 1915, the editors proclaimed that circulation had doubled in two years. Watford announced the company was buying a Mergenthaler Linotype machine, which produced metal slugs of type far faster than anyone could set type by hand. "This machine gives us the necessary equipment for a daily paper on a day's notice, and at any time the management feels that such a venture will justify, which we trust will not be very long..." Seven months later, on Nov. 1, 1915, the Newspaper became a daily once again, publishing every afternoon except Sunday. Watford wrote, in part, "The management of the News takes pleasure in announcing that the first issue of the Lufkin Daily News will makes its appearance next Monday, November 1st, 1915, and hereby warns everybody to govern themselves accordingly." The owners inserted "Daily" into the paper's nameplate once again. This Newspaper has published daily ever since. As the war in Europe raged across that continent, and American ships supplying the Allies were attacked by German U-boats, prompting heightened interests in global events, the Newspaper added wire service subscriptions to United Press and the Associated Press in late April 1916. The editors wrote that, "This means to the people of Lufkin and surrounding territory that they will no longer have to rely upon the larger daily papers, arriving here hours after publication, for the important News of the world - the Lufkin Daily News will carry the same stories in its afternoon editions." While News of the Great War vied for space with front-page advertisements, the four-page paper inside was filled with local News and commentary. The longtime rivalry with Nacogdoches in all matters of commerce, athletics and aesthetics elicited frequent comments. For example, a November 1919 issue announced a special train had been chartered to take Lufkin residents to Nacogdoches, to watch the undefeated Panther football team, "when the Lufkin High will undertake to show the Nacogdoches boys just how the contest is played." Alas, Lufkin lost that match, 37-6. A few months later, the Sentinel's editor crowed about a Lufkin man thinking about moving to Nacogdoches to farm, writing that, "Occasionally a Lufkin man awakes to the fact that paradise is just north of Lufkin across the Angelina - Nacogdoches, of course." Lufkin's editors replied, "If there is an Angelina County citizen contemplating moving from this section to the miserable county of Nacogdoches, it is perhaps best to let him go, rather than reason with him and try to point out the error of his way..." In May 1920, Watford and Binion doubled their capital stock in the business to $16,000 and bought a new press, selling the old one to the Alto Herald. As was the case with virtually every Southern Newspaper editor of that era, Watford and Binion rarely wrote about blacks, unless it was to report someone accused of a crime. Occasionally, the death of a well-respected elderly black person might rate a mention, but coverage was invariably negative and the use of racial slurs common. A Ku Klux Klan initiation in Angelina County that reportedly drew 5,000 spectators in 1922 received positive mention, while the lynching of a black man outside of Livingston for supposedly making indecent proposals to a white farmer's wife was matter-of-factly reported. The byline of Morris Frank first appeared over a football story in 1922, a 10-8 win by Lufkin over Center. Frank covered sports for the Daily News for several years before taking a similar job with the Houston Chronicle, for which he later became a well-known columnist. Watford and Binion continued to publish a weekly edition on Friday that compiled the previous week's daily editions and went out to the outlying communities. By the mid 1920s, photographs were often published but rarely of local folks. The process to make a photograph suitable for reproduction involved mailing off the picture to have a metal or wooden etching made of it, with the tonal range reproduced by series of tiny dots - what was called the halftone process. Getting a photo back often took a few weeks, so most small Newspapers subscribed to services that provided stock photos of famous actresses and sports figures. By 1927, ads no longer appeared on the front page, which was dominated by state and national News, with local News appearing inside the generally six-page section. In March 1929, Watford and Binion bought a new press that was capable of printing up to eight pages at the then-impressive speed of 3,500 copies an hour. As The Lufkin Daily News ended its first quarter-century of publishing, Watford and Binion bought a second Linotype machine to further expand production capacity. The Newspaper appeared well-poised for the growth that would occur as Angelina County emerged from the Depression and became a major industrial center with the establishment and expansion of a number of manufacturing facilities, discussed in the next section. Sources: Newspaper microfilm and commemorative editions; "Land of the Little Angel: A History of Angelina County, Texas, Bob Bowman, editor; and the Handbook of Texas Online. The Lufkin Daily News staff gathers for a group photo in front of the Newspaper office on Cotton Square in 1907. On the front row (from left) are Jessie Perkins, Joe Satterfield, Harry Kerr, Allsey Childers, Grover Chesnutt and Sam Kerr. On the second row (from left) are Emma Collins, Tom Collins, Charles Schless, Betty Curtis, Carrie Collins, Winnie Green, Tobe Shearer, Fannie Thomas and Doc Lively. Lufkin Daily News file photo This stock certificate for the Lufkin News Publishing Company certifies that G.A. Kelley owns two shares of stock. The certificate is dated September 1909. Lufkin Daily News file photo The May 7, 1919, front page of The Lufkin Daily News. The Sept. 17, 1929, front page of The Lufkin Daily News. The March 1, 1930, front page of The Lufkin Daily News.