History of the Hillsboro Journal

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Up until 1907 the Hillsboro Journal was housed in the old Lyceum building on Main Street.
Up until 1907 the Hillsboro Journal was housed in the old Lyceum building on Main Street.

The history of Hillsboro newspapers during the many years of establishing and failures by publishers in Hillsboro that it is difficult to follow completely the predecessors of The Hillsboro Journal. However, authentic history shows that "The Prairie Beacon", established in 1838 by a stock company with Aaron Platt as editor was really the "granddaddy" of the present Hillsboro Journal. That is the field was being supplied with a newspaper, predecessor of The Hillsboro Journal, practically continuously since then. The Prairie Beacon failed about 1 1/2 years later and the press and type of the plant were sold and taken to Plattsville, Wisconsin.

In 1850, Frank and Cyrus Gilmore established the Prairie Mirror at Hillsboro with Rev. Thomas Springer as editor. The Gilmore "boys" sold the business to Wm. K. Jackson in 1851 with C. D. Dickinson as editor. Mr. Dickerson bought out Mr. Jackson in 1854 and continued as publisher and clanged the name. In 1856, to The Montgomery County Herald and sold the business to James Blackman, who continued until 1858 when he sold to J. W. Kitchell and F. H. Gilmore who continued it through the presidential campaign of 1860 when Lincoln was elected.

They then sold it to “Davis, Turner and Company”, the owners being Robert W. Davis, James W. Davis and Kinzie Turner. They published the newspaper though the campaign as a Democratic organ, and then sold it to F. A. Gilmore in 1862. He sold it to E. J. Ellis (described as an old editor refugee from Missouri). Ellis later sold the business then named The Herald, to Edw. L. Reynolds and Wilbur F. Stoddard and they continued publication as a Democratic newspaper until in 1867 when they sold it to Wm. McEwen and E. J. C. Alexander. Alexander, who was editor, was against both national parties and was outspoken in his opinions.

On April 29, 1874, Alexander changed the name of the newspaper to "The Anti-Monopolist" and was an exponent of the farmers and grange in opposition to the merchandisers and all who profited by the sale of grain, merchandise etc. Sentiment was so strong against the "monopolists" in those days that Alexander's editorial stand was popular (if not prosperous). He soon changed the name of the publication to The Blade - and changed its politics to Republican. He sold it to James L. slack in May, 1877.

James L. Slack changed the name of the publication to The Hillsboro Journal. He sold it to Chas. R. Truitt and Ben F. Boyd in 1881. (Ben F. Boyd was the father of Mrs. Robert Evans of Hillsboro, the former Miss Orville Boyd. The safe now used in The Hillsboro Journal, bears the inscription "B. F. Boyd & Co., and has been used continuously from about 1881 and is now used in this office. The Truitt's mentioned as owners at various times of The Hillsboro Journal were relatives of Mrs. Evans and all prominent citizens of the community but are now all deceased).

Chas. R. Truitt sold his half interest In The Hillsboro Journal to Ben F. Boyd in 1894 and that same year, Mr. Boyd sold a half interest to Atty. James M. Truitt. Mr. Boyd was appointed postmaster at Hillsboro in 1897 and continued to publish the newspaper and serve as postmaster.

In 1898, the government made a ruling that postmasters could not operate a private business and to get out of one or the other. At that time Mr. Boyd and Mr. Truitt sold The Hillsboro Journal to Josiah Bixler, who had declined to serve longer as superintendent of schools here and wanted into the publication business.

In 1904 Mr. Bixler got intrigued in Texas as a great farming section and a land speculator sold him a tract at Mission, Texas. Mr. Bixler and Jacob J. Frey who had a financial interest in the plant sold it to Sam Little and Harry Shipman with Little furnishing the purchase price with borrowed money.

Sam Little had been associated with The Hillsboro Journal since 1900 when he graduated from Hillsboro High school, but had written numerous items for The Hillsboro Journal as far back as 1898.

Little and Shipman continued as partners until 1912 when Shipman got the Texas-land "fever" and left here. Incidentally, The Hillsboro Journal was incorporated in 1907 with Sam Little and relatives as stockowners. The corporation was dissolved several years later after innumerable controversies with the Democratic national administration which kept piling up expenses on The Journal as a "bloated" corporation publishing a Republican newspaper, and insisting that silent and non-active stockholders should be considered employees In the business on whom to pay taxes.

Sam Little was appointed postmaster at Hillsboro in July 1924, and served until December 1933 but continued management of The Hillsboro Journal. During much of that time, James E. Colvin, now secretary and manager of the Illini Alumni Assn. at Urbana, was editor of The Journal and kept the newspaper on a high standard. Little was postmaster when the present Post Office building was erected on West Wood Street.

During the Governor Dwight Green administration, Little was on the Governor's committee of publishers to visit Illinois newspapers to keep the Governor in touch with newspaper persons, as a service to the publishers. His territory was Montgomery county and all of Illinois to Cairo, excepting a few counties in Eastern Illinois. During this time he continued management of The Journal and traveled night and day to regularly contact many friends he had made in the vast territory served and loyal associates kept The Journal going in service to its friends, readers and advertisers.

In 1912, Sam Little became sole owner. In 1945 Delford Galer and Mrs. Miriam Cress became partners in The Hillsboro Journal. Mrs. Cress withdrew in 1955. Mr. Galer's son, Phillip C. Galer, joined The Journal staff in June, 1952, after finishing college training in journalism and two years service in the U. S. Army in Italy and North Africa. He is photographer, reporter and handles advertising and job printing orders.

His father is an efficient printer, machinist and business executive and works tirelessly for the benefit of patrons and friends of The Hillsboro Journal. Mrs. Bernie Weatherford who has been associated with The Journal since January 5, 1956, has charge of general bookkeeping, payroll accounts and writes many items for publication in your Journal.

Mrs. Kenneth Keepper has been holding a responsible position with The Hillsboro Journal since May 5, 1963, writes personals society news and other material and has charge of the subscription records. She appreciates your calls with personal items.

The Hillsboro Journal has been affiliated as a member for many years of the Illinois Press Assn., and the Southern Illinois Press Assn. Sam Little declined in 1918, a nomination by the Illinois Press Assn., which would have led to the presidency of the state-wide group.

Written by: Sam Little

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Jeff Dunn

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