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Column

Serving the community for 170 years

The Bureau County Republican turns 170 years old today. We take a look back at the beginnings of the newspaper.

Quick! Name something that happened 170 years ago today.

If you’re stumped, or don’t have your smartphone or laptop handy, we’ll give you a hand.

One hundred seventy years ago today, the first issue of the Bureau County Advocate was published.

The date: Dec. 2, 1847.

The location: Bureau County, of course.

The connection to today: The Bureau County Advocate was the predecessor publication to the Bureau County Republican.

So, in other words, the Bureau County Republican is 170 years old today.

We checked “Big Bureau and Bright Prairies, A History of Bureau County, Illinois,” which was published by the Bureau County Board of Supervisors in 1968, for a bit more background.

Bureau County was only 10 years old when the Advocate was first published; Princeton had been incorporated as a village for only nine years.

Ebenezer Higgins published the first edition of the Advocate. (We’re not making that name up, although he sounds like he belongs in a Charles Dickens novel next to Ebenezer Scrooge!)

In order to appeal to people of broad political persuasions, Higgins split his editorial page among the three dominant political parties of the day.

Thus, it contained differing views under the names Whig Advocate, Democratic Advocate, and Liberty Advocate.

Just like some start-up businesses of today, the Bureau County Advocate quickly changed hands. In 1848, B.F. Hammond and T.W. Welsh bought it from Higgins and hired John Howard Bryant as editor. In 1851, Justin Olds and J.M. Wilkinson bought the paper and changed the name to the Princeton Post.

In 1858, proprietors by the name of Rhue and Hewitt bought the Post and changed the moniker to the Bureau County Republican, named after a rising political party of the time. Rhue sold out, then Bryant returned and bought a half interest, then Hewitt died in 1861. Bryant eventually sold the paper to John W. Bailey, who took over in 1863.

That began a 114-year ownership by the Bailey family through three generations – John W. Bailey I, H.U. Bailey, and John W. Bailey III, who died in a fire in 1946 and whose wife, Mary, operated the Republican until selling to its present owner, Shaw Media, in 1977.

Newspapers were an important form of communication in the 1840s. The arrival of a newspaper to a town helped to promote the spreading of news and advertising information, as well as standing up for what’s good for the community.

It’s similar to the three pillars that guide today’s Bureau County Republican: providing relevant information to readers, creating marketing solutions for its customers, and being a community advocate.

Advocate. There’s that word again.

It was part of our name at the beginning, and the concept is still around today — 170 years later.

Whether readers get their news from us in print or online, through text messages or in our special sections and niche magazines, the Bureau County Republican remains committed to serving the community — just as it has since 1847.

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