The Winchester Advertiser and its successors

Published 11:58 am Friday, October 7, 2016

By Harry Enoch, Contributing Columnist

On Monday, The Winchester Sun named Mike Caldwell the new publisher of the newspaper. We wish him every success here. Long live the Sun!

It seems an appropriate time to talk about our town’s first newspaper. The Winchester Advertiser started in 1814, with William W. Martin and Nathaniel Patten Jr. jointly serving as the publishers and editors.

William W. Martin (1781-1850) was born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and, according to his biography, in the spring of 1794, his parents sought a home “in the wilds of Kentucky.”

They settled in Paris, where Martin joined the Presbyterian Church. He married Susan Depew of Paris in 1810 and studied for the ministry there under the Rev. Samuel Rannels.

In 1813, he moved to Winchester, was ordained that fall then assumed the pastorate of Sugar Ridge Presbyterian Church.

To augment his salary he formed a business partnership with Nathaniel Patten.

Nathaniel Patten Jr. (1793-1837), was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where his family had been prominent for several generations.

In 1808, the family moved west and settled in Mount Sterling. Patten cast his lot with Martin in Winchester to begin the town’s first newspaper.

Several documents preserved at the Wisconsin Historical Society attest to the paper’s beginning. In June 1814, George Gibson Taylor of Winchester wrote to Lexington businessman and fellow Presbyterian James Maccoun, soliciting his influence to procure subscribers to the new paper and adding, “I woud not be wrong in saying that Mr. Martin will be the Most able Editor in the State.”

Taylor enclosed a broadside announcing “To the Public, William W. Martin & Co. propose publishing a weekly newspaper in the town of Winchester, Clarke County, Kentucky, as soon as a sufficient number of subscribers shall be obtained to justify such a measure. The paper is to be entitled The Winchester Advertiser, and its character to be decidedly republican. It shall contain intelligence cujusque veri, foreign and domestic, poetry, & printed on a super-royal sheet and a new and elegant type. All possible means shall be used to please and inform the public.”

The Winchester Advertiser commenced publication on Friday, Aug. 5, 1814.

Copies of the paper can be viewed today on microfilm at the University of Kentucky’s William T. Young Library.

While the first issue is missing, they have the next 18 issues.

A subscription website, GenealogyBank.com, has many issues (1814-1819) including the first.

The University of Chicago houses the Robert T. Durrett (founder of the Filson Club) Collection, which includes a large number of original Advertisers.

The annual cost of the paper was $2.50 if paid at the end of three months, $3 if paid at the end of the year.  (This pay-later policy was a constant sorrow for the firm.)

Advertisements cost 50 cents per “square” (presumably, the height and width of one column) the first time and 25 cents thereafter.

Letters to the editor were required to be post-paid.

The newspaper consisted of four pages that were five columns wide and 13 x 21 inches in size.  The content was almost entirely national and international news.

Events of statewide interest received attention (e.g., Kentucky’s role in the War of 1812 was reported on extensively), but local events were rarely mentioned.

Reading these papers today, ones finds the advertisements and legal notices provide most of the local content — more on this later.

In the first issue, the editors included a notice for apprentices:  “Wanted immediately, at the Office of the Winchester Advertiser, two or three Boys, who can come well recommended, as apprentices to the printing business.”

They also hired a young printer from Virginia, Thomas T. Dillard. In addition to his printing duties, Dillard was responsible for delivering the paper to city and county residents, a duty he carried out on horseback.

The firm wanted other printing business in the community and announced in the paper:  “Handbills, Cards, and all kinds of job printing done at the shortest notice and on the most reasonable terms.”

The Advertiser received its national and foreign news from Eastern newspapers and had to await their delivery to Winchester.

That news, by the time it was printed, might seem quite stale to us, but back then it was relished as “the latest.”

Additional delays were frequent. The editors complained on August 26, “We have not received any papers containing official accounts [of the war] this week. Our readers will attribute the barrenness of this week’s paper to negligence, if not perfidy, of those engaged in forwarding the Marietta mail.”

In the same issue they announced, “The office of the Winchester Advertiser is removed to the brick building nearly opposite the Post Office.”  This was followed by an ad:  “For rent, small building lately occupied by the Winchester Advertiser.”

In July 1815, the original publishing firm was succeeded by Patten and Finnell, after the Rev. Martin left to devote more time to his ministry.

He moved to Indiana in 1818 in order to escape from “the shadow of slavery.”

He pastored a number of churches there on his way to becoming one of the most noted “pioneer ministers” in the northwest. Martin established a famous school near his home, long known as “the Log College.”

Three of his sons became ministers and five of his daughters married ministers.

Nimrod L. Finnell (1799-1850) came to Winchester from Orange County, Virginia, where he learned the printer’s art. Patten and Finnell changed the name of the paper to the Kentucky Advertiser and put out their first issue in July 1815.

Finnell married Elizabeth Rielly that August.

He left the paper in August 1816, and Patten carried on alone until July 1817, when he removed to Missouri and settled in a region known as the “Boon’s Lick Country.”

There he published the first newspaper west of St. Louis or north of the Missouri River, the Missouri Intelligencer established in 1819, which he published for 17 years. After suffering many years of bad health, Patten died at age 44.

Finnell returned to Winchester and took over the Advertiser in 1817, which he published until July 1819, when James Armstrong purchased the paper and changed the name to Kentucky Advertiser and Farmer’s Magazine.

It is uncertain how long Armstrong’s newspaper continued.

We know that Finnell was publishing the Republican Sentinel in Winchester in 1821, but no issues have yet been found. There is some evidence that the Republican Sentinel was succeeded by the Winchester Republican in 1830.

Finnell continued his publishing career in Lexington in 1832, when he joined Edwin Bryant to purchase the Lexington Reporter. Finnell later published the city’s first daily paper, the Lexington Intelligencer.

Next week we will examine tidbits of early Winchester history taken from advertisements and notices in the newspaper.