The Monroe Journal published for the first time April 9, 2008. Born from a merger of the the Aberdeen Examiner and The Amory Advertiser. The following is each newspaper’s history prior to the merger.
THE AMORY ADVERTISER – HISTORY
The citizens of Amory have relied on newspapers as their medium of choice for over 110 years. But the name and nature of its paper have seen many changes over the years. It’s about to take on one more change, perhaps the biggest in its history.
This newspaper, the April 2, 2008, issue, will soon be a collectible since it’s the last one that will bear the name “The Amory Advertiser” across the front page.
Journal Publishing Company, which has owned The Amory Advertiser since 1991, has opted to merge Monroe County’s newspapers in Amory and Aberdeen into one bigger, more comprehensive newspaper with county-wide coverage. The reasons for the merger are many, but primarily the move is to bring a better product to Monroe Countians that will contain news and advertising from the entire county. It’s rare for a county to have two weekly newspapers owned by the same company.
The new publication will hit the newstands on April 9 with the new name “Monroe County Journal.” But much will be the same, including the same staffs and the same two offices to serve customers, one in Amory and the other in Aberdeen.
NAME CHANGES IN AMORY
The Amory Advertiser has a long and distinguished history, as does the newspaper industry in Amory. During the course of its publishing history, Amory’s local newspaper’s name changed several times.
Amory’s very first newspaper was called “The Amory Hustler” with the first copy printing on August 3, 1888. It was a once-a-week Friday publication.
Thanks to the concern that Amory Museum and Amory Library staffs have, copies of some of Amory’s oldest newspapers are archived there.
Museum volunteer Hobdy Bryan has worked hard to preserve Amory’s earliest newspapers as they are a written record of the times. The first and second issues of “The Amory Hustler” are showing their wear, but are laminated and can now be handled without causing harm to the yellowed and decaying documents.
Bryan said most of the area’s oldest newspapers were acquired from Miss Mae Owens’ collections. “The Amory Hustler” did not resemble today’s colorful and local newspapers. It contained many Memphis advertisements, including on its front page. There were some Amory businesses advertising in it, however., including ads for the lumber yard, the billiard room, a livery and feed stable and the Amory Hotel (which was located near the present day fire station) with $2 a day rooms and 50¢ meals.
“The Amory Hustler” also contained lists of the names of people who stayed at the local hotel under the heading “Hotel Arrivals.” Train schedules were also prominent. “The Amory Messenger” came along around 1890 and was published and edited by Ed Johnson who hailed from Coldwater. It didn’t look much like today’s newspapers, it was only about four pages long and the pages were about the size of a piece of notebook paper. And, as was traditional in that era, advertisements covered the front page.
“The Messenger” had a short life, but around 1892, Paul and Roger Johnson took over Amory’s newspaper business, naming their paper “The Amory Star.” It, too, lasted only a short time before Jack Smith published “The Amory Argus” beginning around 1903.
Smith sold his “Argus” to a young railroad employee named H.F. Willis who published it for about three years before the railroad moved him to another town. Around 1912 an Itawambe County native and Amory attorney named Alfred Bean started “The Amory Times.” This paper lasted until Bean closed his law practice and moved to Miami, Fla.
In 1916 and early 1917, T.D. Harden was the publisher of the “Itawamba County News,” a weekly newspaper in Fulton. Harden would go to Amory to help Bean publish the “The Amory Times.” When Bean’s printer left him without notice, two Amory school boys, Carl Tubb and Greely Kirkpatrick, assisted Harden in getting out the hand-set “Amory Times.” A fine copy of “The Amory Times’” special Industrial Section is among the museum’s collections and the original copy is at the Amory Library.
In 1917 the late E.M. Chilcoat, father of Mrs. Laverne “Zook” Rogers of Amory shut down a newspaper he was publishing in Brooksville and moved his family to Amory where he established “The Amory Progress.” In 1924 Chilcoat decided to quit publishing this paper and to just operate a printing shop.
It was in 1926 that Harden purchased “The Amory Progress” and moved his family to Amory. He changed the name of it from “The Amory Progress” to “The Amory News,” a name it kept until the late 1930s.
During Harden’s ownership of the paper in 1928, two of his employees, the late Mrs. Willie Willis and Jack Senter, resigned from “The Amory News” and established their own newspaper “The Amory Advertiser.” It was published in Tupelo but only lasted about one year until Harden bought it out.
Mrs. Willis returned to work with Harden in 1934, resigning a second time to begin another competing newspaper “The Amory News.” Harden, who was still publishing “The Amory Advertiser,” eventually bought this paper out as well in 1940, making “The Amory Advertiser” again the area’s sole newspaper. The original sales contract and non- competing agreement between Harden and Mrs. Willis is on display at the Amory Regional Museum.
In 1972, Harden sold “The Amory Advertiser” to J.R. Scribner and Bill Miles. Miles, an Itawamba County native, continued to publish the Advertiser until it was sold in 1981 to Mid-South Publishing Co. from Spartansburg, S.C.
In 1983, “The Amory Advertiser” was purchased by Birney Imes of Columbus, who owned it until a partnership of Mississippi weekly newspaper publishers purchased it in the late ‘80s. It was in 1991 that Journal Publishing in Tupelo purchased both The Amory Advertiser and The Aberdeen Examiner. The name of Amory’s paper has remained “The Amory Advertiser” for the past 80 years, only now in 2008 giving way to the name “Monroe County Journal.”
It was the late Walter Wood, a long-time former weekly newspaper editor and publisher and longtime secretary of state, who said to former Amory Advertiser publisher T.D. Harden in 1926, “Amory is a newspaper graveyard.” He said this to Harden right after Harden had moved his family to Amory to edit the town’s newspaper “The Amory Progress.” But it did not deter Harden’s journalistic enthusiasm.
While there have been many differently named newspapers in Amory throughout the years, one thing has remained constant, the area’s desire to have a newspaper to call its own. At no time since the late 1800s was Amory a town without a newspaper.
THE ABERDEEN EXAMINER – HISTORY
In June of 1996, the Aberdeen Examiner celebrated itself, publishing a special section for its 130th anniversary. That was 12 years ago. This week marks the beginning of a new enterprise, the Monroe County Journal, and the end of an era, with the closing of another historic Aberdeen business.
That anniversary celebration issue started off by saying changes have been regular at the Examiner the past 130 years. This is the biggest change, yet, and there will never be another change affecting the Aberdeen Examiner. In one article, local historian Helen Crawford wrote, “The Aberdeen Examiner is one of the greatest treasures to be found in Aberdeen. The fact that it has endured 130 years is a tribute to the editors who have guided it. Continuity is a valuable asset in any endeavor and especially in a hometown newspaper.”
This week, April 9, 2008, the first edition of the Monroe County Journal will be published. It is a combination of the Aberdeen Examiner, which is 142 years old, and The Amory Advertiser. The Advertiser has been around for 92 years.
The first issue was published on April 28, 1866, by Major S.A. Jonas, in partnership with R.H. Groome. Less than a year after publication began, another newspaper, The Sunny South, was bought and with it came an upgraded printing press. The editor of The Sunny South moved to Memphis and established a paper that was the predecessor of The Commercial Appeal.
Jonas served as editor of the Examiner for 50 years. For its first three years, it was a morning daily. In or around 1869, the daily became a tri-weekly, then later a weekly. Feeling exhilaration after the first issue rolled off the press, Major Jonas wrote,” The sun was just coming up over the Tombigbee when we finished. I walked the length of Commerce Street in my rolled-up shirt sleeves, a stack of my papers in hand. It was a wonderful feeling.” In 1908, Major Jonas wrote, “For about 43 years, this paper has never changed name, location or management or contained a line of editorial that was not from the pen of its editors – a unique record that is without parallel in American journalism.”
H.B. Sanders became owner and editor on Sept. 1, 1915, just a couple of weeks before the death of Major Jonas. The Examiner was sold to Roy Steinfort in October 1953. The Examiner had had only two editors in 87 years. After that there was a succession of editors, all of whom maintained the high standards set by Major Jonas and jealously guarded by H.B. Sanders.
Now, the Examiner has no editor and hasn’t had since Barry Burleson said goodbye to Aberdeen.
In 1996 Helen Crawford wrote, “Today, the Examiner has the distinction of being the oldest business institution in Monroe County, the olest county in North Mississippi.” Recalling memories, Marcie Sanders, daughter of H.B. Sanders, said, “I honestly can’t think of a harder, happier, more rewarding, and yes, exciting way to grow up than in a newspaper family.” She remembers some of the hard times of the newspaper industry, when subscriptions were 50 cents per year, and paid in cash, farm produce, molasses, or whatever the subscriber had to offer. The building where the Examiner is housed was bought in 1935 when the paper was owned by Sanders.
In 1953, with his health failing, H.B. Sanders decided to sell the paper. After Steinfort purchased it from Sanders, it changed hands several times through the next 50 years. Subsequent owners were W. Emerson Jones, 1961-1964; James H. Lacey Jr., 1964-68; Richard Booth and William Tisdale, 1968-76. In 1976, Birney Imes Jr. bought the Examiner. Imes later bought The Amory Advertiser and the two county papers have been sold together since.
In 1989, both papers became the property of Monroe Publishing Inc., then two years later they were purchased by Journal Publishing Co., which also publishes the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.