I’ve got to imagine that William F. Hutchen was working like crazy 170 years ago today.
Because, while technology has changed immensely, it still takes a lot of work to produce a local newspaper.
He would have been sweating it, I’m sure, as a one-man show, producing the very first edition of the then-weekly Democratic Clarion, from offices on the north side of the Princeton square for Thursday, Aug. 13, 1846.
It was a hot day, as Hutchen labored with the hand press to produce the four-page edition.
Newspaperman Gil Stormont’s 1914 History of Gibson County reports the August sun was “beating down on the thin rows of frame buildings about the public square with a vigor such as few of the old residents could remember.
“Horses about the hitch-rack around the court house (not today’s showpiece, which was built nearly 40 years later) clanked their trace chains in an effort to rid themselves of the pesky flies and at the same time get a mouthful of the short, wiry grass that fringed the yard.
“Two yoke of oxen hitched to a log wagon driven by a middle-aged man, sun-tanned and dusty, swung slowly up to the town pump along the old state road.
“Groups of men lounged carelessly in the shade of the trees that skirted the court house yard and discoursed lazily on politics and the Mexican situation.”
The “Mexican situation” was the Mexican-American War, declared earlier that year.
The year of The Clarion’s birth was eventful. The American flag was raised for the first time in Los Angeles. The Liberty Bell had cracked that February while tolling to mark the birthday of George Washington.
The Smithsonian opened for the first time three days before The Clarion hit print.
Connecticut native Elias Howe got a patent for the sewing machine that year, too.
The local newspaper wasn’t the first in the county. An earlier effort, The Princeton Chronicle launched in 1845, failed after six months.
Community newspapering was a tough business then, too.
The nearest newspapers were the Vincennes paper, oldest in the state, launched 42 years earlier.
The Evansville Courier’s first edition hit the streets a year earlier than ours.
Mount Carmel’s Republican Register was launched seven years prior to Princeton’s Democratic Clarion.
Gibson County Auditor William Kurtz took the reins of The Clarion in 1847, and over the years, a number of news men and women have consistently covered the news of Gibson County.
In my own short 22 years in Gibson County, I’ve personally written thousands of stories about government, people, places and issues.
Multiply that by 148 more years, and you’ll see an intricate newsprint quilt detailing events in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over many generations.
I thought about that earlier this year, flipping through my husband’s family’s scrapbooks. Pasted on pages, and tucked inside Bibles, were newspaper clippings from past editions of The Clarion.
I read about my father-in-law’s boyhood baseball exploits.
I read about my son’s great-great-grandfather’s death when he was hit by a train a little north of the fairgrounds, just west of Old 41, while he was inspecting his farm field.
The Daily Clarion isn’t the oldest institution in the county. A few local churches, and Princeton and county government, have been in operation longer.
Still, 170 years is a long, long, time to consistently bring the news of the day. We consider it a treasured responsibility.
We’re very grateful for the chance to continue the tradition.