Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Back on May 8, 1798 John Burd and Elliott put together a four-page newspaper to be published for the bustling seaport town of Georgetown, South Carolina.
The Georgetown Gazette was the name of their fledgling adventure. Together, these two men set the stage for South Carolina’s oldest newspaper.
While there have been plenty of changes in the past 215 years, we work hard every day and for every issue to live up to the legacy of providing community news to the people of Georgetown County.
Currently, the Georgetown Times is published twice a week, on Wednesday and Friday.
About five years ago, we started the Waccamaw Times, a Thursday newspaper that focuses on the Waccamaw Neck and the communities stretching along U.S. Highway 17 from DeBordieu, Pawleys Island and up to the Litchfield area.
On April 5, 2012, we published the first issue of the weekly Inlet Outlook. That Thursday paper covers Murrells Inlet and Garden City Beach, along with nearby communities like Burgess, Socastee and Surfside Beach.
But going back 215 years, Burd and Elliott focused their attention on Georgetown. President George Washington visited Clifton Plantation and Georgetown in 1791. Theodosia Burr married Joseph Alston in 1801. She was the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr and Alston was governor of South Carolina. Her mysterious disappearance after leaving Georgetown on Dec. 31, 1812 has never been solved.
Other presidents visited Georgetown through the years.
Rice was king, replacing the naval stores and indigo that had been the source of wealth for merchants and planters in the years before the American Revolution.
The Winyah Indigo Society was founded in 1755. While other papers, letters and journals told the tale of life in Georgetown, there wasn’t a regular newspaper until after the Revolutionary War.
Members subscribed to newspapers and set up a library. Later, that group of planters formed the first free school in the area and probably one of the earliest free schools in the country.
When I took my first journalism class at the University of South Carolina, one assignment we had was to find the oldest issue of our hometown newspaper that we could, copy the story and then rewrite it in a more modern style.
I went to the microfilm library and found an article in the Georgetown Gazette from 1798. It told of a ship’s captain who had arrived in Georgetown after a dangerous crossing of the Atlantic. He eluded and engaged a French privateer in a running naval battle during our undeclared war with France.
That was 21 years after the French Marquis de La Fayette landed in America at North Island at the mouth of Winyah Bay. He and Baron Johannes DeKalb came to the new United States to offer their services to the infant nation.
In later years, the Georgetown papers told about the political controversies, the questions of slavery and freedom, and the economic development of the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
Carolina Gold Rice became the new source of wealth in South Carolina, and Georgetown County in particular.
The Transatlantic slave trade ended on January 1, 1808. It took the Civil War — or War Between the States — to end slavery in America.
Through those years, the Georgetown Times had a number of ancestral newspapers.
The Georgetown Gazette began publication in 1798, with Elliott and Burd as publishers. Started as a weekly on Tuesdays, the paper changed to biweekly that September. It returned to weekly status on January 2, 1799. The subscription price was $5 per year.
Over the next few years, the Gazette changed hands at least three times.
Tucked into the pages of the Georgetown Gazette and its successors were also stories that happened in New York, London, Paris and around the world.
Francis Baxter bought the paper in 1806 and changed it to the Georgetown Gazette and Commercial Advertiser.
About the time Baxter ceased publication, the current Georgetown Lighthouse or North Island Light was built in 1811. The War of 1812 also brought the construction of Fort Winyah, about where Morgan Park is today, in 2013. There’s not a clear record of whether there was a newspaper in Georgetown for a few years, until 1813.
At that time, the Georgetown American and the Georgetown Gazette came back. Eleazer Waterman’s name appeared on the masthead. His was a familiar name over the next 40 or so years in local journalism.
Waterman changed the name to the Georgetown Gazette and Mercantile Advertiser, and continued publishing until June 28, 1817.
Then, Waterman started the Winyaw Intelligencer in 1817 as a semi-weekly paper on September 6.
A dozen years later, the Georgetown Union began operating as a competitor to the Winyaw Intelligencer. It was first owned by J.B. Matthews and Co. and later Taylor and Matthews. It ceased publication about 1839.
William Chapman was the last editor of the Georgetown Union, and then became the editor of the Georgetown American in 1840. He quit that paper after a year, writing “This concludes my first volume of the American and also my connection with it. … (I am) disgusted with the business from my entire ignorance of the mechanical department of it.”
And, running a printing press and setting type can certainly be frustrating. But that printer’s ink can get in your blood.
I got my start in radio at WGOO-AM, 1470 radio in Georgetown in 1966. That was my senior year in high school.
But before that, I got my first “real” job when I was 9 1/2 years old. I sold Grit newspapers. I walked my route around Georgetown, but my boots weren’t made for walking as much as Nancy Sinatra’s were. I made enough money to put down a $10 deposit on a $49 bicycle at Rose’s 5 and 10 cent store on Front Street. I paid a dollar a week and finally managed to pay off the balance. Then, my newspaper sales earnings let me ride my bike in style. I earned 4 cents commission on each ten-cent copy of the Grit paper.
Later, I branched out, buying another boy’s Grit paper route. At Winyah High School I worked on the Student Prints newspaper, the Winyah Journal literary magazine, and was on staff and later editor of the Gator, the Winyah yearbook.
During college I worked on the Gamecock newspaper, was enrolled in broadcast journalism, took pictures for the Student Union and the Garnet and Black yearbook, and worked at WIS Radio and was a legislative correspondent for WGCD Radio in Chester, covering the county delegation at the State House.
After being drafted, I worked in Camden as DJ and news director for WACA Radio, then worked for Wing Publications in Cayce.
For several years I was editor for a half-dozen newspapers and magazines, then took a lesson from the bumble bee.
I started my own printing and publishing company and bought an old, used printing press that — like me — was made in 1948. I learned how to operate the press and later when I added a new press and paid a service technician to work on the older one, he told me he didn’t see how I ever got it to print anything.
I just figured that — like the bumble bee that didn’t know that aerodynamically it couldn’t fly — I didn’t know I couldn’t print, so I just did.
Later I helped start another printing business that grew from two to about 25 people.
That printing ink may have eventually been washed off or worn off, but it’s stayed in- my blood and in my mind for years and years.
After marrying, living and working in Columbia for 30 years, my wife and I moved to the coast, settling in the Murrells Inlet/Garden City area. In February 2000 I first started working at the Georgetown Times. We moved to Georgetown in 2004.
After going to work for the Georgetown Times I learned more about Georgetown County and its history, and more about our newspaper.
The living stage of America
The rice planters and merchants of Georgetown played large roles on the stage of American life, and their efforts were related to the readers of the newspaper.
The Winyah Observer started coming off the press in 1841. Chapman was done with the paper and here came Eleazer Waterman yet again. He changed the name of the American to the Winyah Observer, and the paper was published under that name until 1852.
That was also the time that “Rice was King.” Georgetown County accounted for half the rice grown in America. The per capita income for whites was the highest or just about the highest in the country.
With papers dated in 1849, proprietors of the Winyah Observer were listed as Waterman and Tarbox. In 1852, Richard Dozier joined that pair in the newspaper. Eleazer Waterman Jr. worked with his father.
That same year, the Pee Dee Times made its debut. Editor was R. Dozier, and owners were Dozier and John W. Tarbox. Four years later, Dozier’s name was dropped and J.W. Tarbox and Co. were listed as the owners.
There were several Doziers involved in publishing around this time. Leonard Dozier was the editor of the Georgetown True Republican in 1850, though only one issue of that paper was found. Sometime in 1858 or 1859, P.C. Dozier was named editor of the Pee Dee Times.
Waterman had transferred his ownership of the Winyah Observer to Tarbox and R. Dozier, which resulted in the Pee Dee Times.
As tensions increased throughout America and shots at Fort Sumter began the War Between the States, the Pee Dee Times ceased publication. Tarbox took off his printer’s apron and went off to war, enlisting in the Confederate army.
After the War Between the States was over — Georgetown was occupied by Federal troops in February 1865, and the Harvest Moon was sunk off Battery White — the Georgetown Times began publication under J.W. Tarbox near the end of the year.
The Georgetown Times issue of June 17, 1869 was numbered Volume IV. Consequently, it appears that Tarbox began the paper sometime in 1865.
After “The War”
The years after the War Between the States were tough on everyone. The newly-freed slaves had their freedom. Many left Georgetown to go elsewhere, many plantations were looted and the property that wasn’t burned was confiscated in many cases. Under terms of the martial law that was declared, plantation owners had to provide food and clothing for their former slaves for six months. Some could do that, others could not, and many whose fortunes were lost were unable to resume ownership and operation of their plantations.
There were success stories for many of the freed blacks, though. Joyce Cox Holmes of the Dunbar Community has been gathering information and working on a history: “Twelve Black Men.” Some freedmen and former slaves pooled their resources and bought the former Dunbar plantation. They divided the land, and the community today is still populated largely by the descendants of those men who banded together just after slavery time.
Bethel AME and Bethesda and Mount Olive Missionary Baptist churches are among the first churches organized locally by black congregations and they all are still thriving churches in Georgetown.
Joseph Hayne Rainey was born of free black parents. After the Civil War he returned to Georgetown from Bermuda and became the first black Congressman in the United States.
Along that same time, the Georgetown Planet began publication. Only one issue was found some years ago of that Reconstruction-era newspaper, which refers to itself as the only Republican paper “in Georgetown County or even in the 10th Congressional District.”
The oldest issue of the Times and Comet that was found was from July 1, 1880. It had a volume number of 15-16, and listed Josiah Doar and Joseph Sessions as editors.
While the ownership connection is sketchy between the Times and Comet and the Pee Dee Times, the typography is the same, as is the American flag on the masthead and the nameplate.
In 1880, a September 2 issue of the Georgetown Times shows Joseph Sessions as editor. That issue shows volume number 15. There is some apparent confusion over volume numbers, as an 1893 issue is numbered volume 23. It appears, though, that the 1865 date mentioned earlier is correct.
In the Nov. 11, 1893 issue Josiah Doar is shown as editor. He made the Times into The Georgetown Semi-Weekly Times.
Josiah Doar died in the early 1900s.
In the early years of the Twentieth Century, a variety of other newspapers was started in Georgetown County.
The Outlook began on January 25, 1901 with E.W. Wolfe and J. Walter Doar. The Carolina Field began on May 3, 1905, published by James Henry Rice Jr. Just two years later, the Georgetown Daily Item started on May 1, 1907.
The Progressive Democrat began on November 13, 1913. Editor was federal postmaster Arthur L. King.
The Georgetown Times-Index began on September 1, 1920. Editor E.N. Beard planned it for a twice-weekly paper.
Archie P. Lewis started the Coastal Chronicle on November 23, 1922.
While all of those papers came and went, the Georgetown Times continued along the way.
Ross Davis Sr. and William Doar were associated with the paper. Doar was the first Linotype operator in the county.
During the 1920s and 1930s, editors included Adelbert T. Wendt and Col. Cecil Davis. He sold the paper to The Rev. J.B. Mack, who in turn transferred it under a lease arrangement to Percy LaBruce and Lewis Wallace until 1945.
In that year, Wallace and Jody Hinds purchased the paper. Hinds later became full owner.
When George C. Rogers Jr. published “The History of Georgetown County, South Carolina” in 1970, Thomas P. Davis owned and operated the Georgetown Times, which he bought in 1955.
W.W. Doar Sr. — father of the former state Senator — recalled that the offices of the Georgetown Times moved up and down Front and Screven streets. During the 1920s, the newspaper office was located in the upstairs area of the Town Clock.
The torpedo which sank the USS Harvest Moon in 1865 was assembled on the second floor of the Kaminksi Hardware building next door — now the Rice Museum gift shop.
Larry McConnell and later his former wife Cathy Wilkerson served as publishers of the Georgetown Times, following the 1973 sale by Davis to Evening Post Publishing Co. Wilkerson recently said she drove the fork lift across Front Street from the Times old offices to the current location, in moving some of the press equipment.
Jesse Tullos was editor of the Georgetown Times for 18 years. He was followed by Jason Lesley, who had been managing editor of the paper, then by Bob Piazza and now by Tommy Howard.
Back in 1998, Tullos led the effort to produce a Bicentennial special edition of the Georgetown Times. In the intro he noted that Josiah Doar was connected with the newspaper for almost a half-century. Doar came to Georgetown in 1866 when he was 15 years old, and worked as a printer’s devil or assistant. He bought the paper in 1870, and served Georgetown through the paper and in other aspects of community life until his death on January 9, 1912.
Doar was opinionated and vocal in his opposition to Reconstruction and the carpetbaggers and scalawags.
He was a racist, and when Rainey became that first black Congressman in America, he couldn’t report the news without a racial comment.
And yet, even with his racism he played a large role in local affairs for almost a half-century. He served as sheriff, postmaster and as superintendent of education, and was secretary of the White Supremacy Club.
He and many other editors and publishers of the Georgetown Times and its predecessors have played significant roles in the life of our community.
In reviewing records for his portion of the work on A Walk Down Front Street, Jimmy Elliott said as best he could tell, Howard is the first native-born Georgetonian in about a century to be editor of the paper.
When Chapman gave up in disgust as editor in 1841, it was in part because he didn’t understand the mechanical part of the business.
We no longer use hand-operated presses or hand set type.
We’ve grown from a few hundred copies of our paper to three newspapers.
As of our 215th birthday on May 8, 2013 we publish the Georgetown Times on Wednesdays and Fridays, with about 6,500 copies per issue. The Waccamaw Times and Inlet Outlook come out on Thursdays, with about 7,500 copies each. We also put out a “shopper” on Wednesdays, the County Chronicle, with around 9,000 copies.
Our Web sites for the Georgetown Times and Waccamaw Times reach about 60,000 “unique visitors” a month, and we get around 400,000 page views per month.
Our Facebook page has more than 10,000 “Likes” and we reach thousands more people through Twitter.
Our electronic reach is equal to all the rest of our parent company’s community newspapers combined.
In print and in digital form, we reach more people faster than Burd and Elliott ever dreamed back on May 8, 1798.
In the near future we’ll be changing over some of our production methods and getting new computer systems and software. Those changes will help us extend our reach even further and be even more user-friendly to folks who read us online on computers, tablets and smartphones.
Through all the 215 years of our paper, we have worked hard to bring the news of community events to our readers. We’ll see what happens over the next years and decades.
Keep on reading.
The editor’s thanks go to Jesse Tullos and Ken Hare for the research they did for earlier histories of the Georgetown Times.
And a great big thank you to our community, our subscribers, our advertisers and all of our co-workers who bring our newspapers and digital work to you throughout the years.
By Tommy Howard
Tommy Howard is editor of the Georgetown Times, Waccamaw Times and Inlet Outlook.