KEOWEE COURIER Walhalla, SC 150TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION MAY 12, 1999
BY: ASHTON HESTER, Editor
RE-TYPED BY: Vivian Carroll Parkman, Beech Island, SC on Dec-2000
The Keowee Courier, which today is Oconee County's oldest business establishment, began publishing in 1849 in the community of Pickens Court House-also known as Old Pickens-on the Keowee River. This was the location of the courthouse for the Pickens District, which included the present-day Oconee and Pickens counties.
The first issue of the Courier was printed on Friday, May 18, 1849. A copy of the front page of that issue is published inside this special edition.
The dateline listed "Pickens Court House" as the place of publication. Also on the front page banner was the same Shakespearean quotation that is still there today: "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can'st not then be false to any man."
The banner also listed W.H. Trimmier as the publisher, and J.W. Norris, Jr. and E.M. Keith as editors. Another printed account of the Courier's founding also lists Col. James E. Hagood as a founder.
In 1853 (Col.) Robert Anderson Thompson purchased the Courier from a Mr. Ross and became its editor. Associated with him was Elliott M. Keith (undoubtedly the same E.M. Keith who was one of the two original editors).
Col. Thompson was born on June 13, 1828 in the Pickens District, and had previously worked with the Pendleton Messenger and Laurens Herald.
In 1860 Col. Thompson was among 160 delegates of Secession from the Union. His signature was the 81st. He then organized an infantry company for the Confederate Army and served as an officer until 1863 when illness forced him to retire from active service. Upon his return from service, he was admitted to the bar, and began practicing law as well as continuing his association with the Courier.
In 1868 the Pickens District was divided into Oconee and Pickens counties, and the courthouse at Old Pickens was abolished. Many enterprises moved to one of the two new county seats, and Col. Thompson decided to move the Keowee Courier to Walhalla. When that mover was made, Col. William Calhoun (W.C.) Keith became associated with Col. Thompson as joint editor and publisher.
On June 21, 1887, the Courier building, which also served as Col. Thompson's law office, was destroyed by fire. That building was reportedly located on Short Street, a little closer to Tugaloo Street than the present Courier building, and on the opposite side of the street.
The Courier was printed at the Anderson Intelligencer newspaper until being re-established on August 11, 1887 in a former private school building on the corner of South Broad and Church streets, at the edge of the St. John's Lutheran Church Cemetery.
The date when the Courier moved to the present building on Short Street is unknown. An 1890 map of Walhalla showed it still located in the former private school building, but an article in a 1959 Courier quoted Dresden A. Smith, Jr., whose father was a long-time associate of the Courier, as saying the present Courier building was constructed "several years" prior to 1895-when the old Department of Public Welfare building next door was constructed. That would indicate that the courier moved into its present building in the early 1890's.
In 1889, Col. W.C. Keith, who had apparently assumed most of the editorial duties of the Courier for the past decade or so, died. His one-third interest in the Courier was purchased by Col. R.T. Jaynes (who was named "Robert Thompson" Jaynes, after Col. Thompson). Col Jaynes subsequently became one of the state's most prominent attorneys, and in 1950, at the age of 88, and still a practicing attorney, he wrote a history of Walhalla for the town's Centennial celebration.
Col. Thompson continued his association with the Courier, along with his law practice and holding various public offices, until April 1, 1898, when he sold his interest to J.W. Shelor. Thus, Col. Thompson was associated with the Courier for 45 years-from 1853 until 1898. His public offices included representing Oconee County in the state legislature.
In his latter years Col. Thompson was regarded as "Oconee's grand old man." He died at his home near Walhalla on August 6, 1914 at the age of 86. He was the last survivor among the 160 men who signed South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession.
On the same day, April 1, 1898, that Col. Thompson sold his interest in the Courier, 22-year-old J.A. (Dick) Steck also purchased an interest in the paper. Born in Ohio on November 3, 1875, the son of Lutheran minister, Dick Steck had moved to Walhalla with his family at the age of 10, and had served his printing apprenticeship with the Keowee Courier from 1889 to 1893. He then worked on the Charleston News and Courier, the State in Columbia, and the Savannah News before returning to Walhalla in 1896 to establish a job printing office.
Upon joining the Courier in 1898, he took charge of the Courier's job printing department, as well as serving as editor. He remained the Courier's editor for the next 36 years, until his death on April 30, 1934.
Mr. Steck is still remembered today by older residents for his writing skills and dedication to the Courier, and that feeling is borne out in an editorial written by Wade C. Hughs, a co-owner of the Courier, the week Mr. Steck's death was reported. The editorial read, in part:
"He came to (the Courier) thirty years ago and more, as a young man full of vigor, vision and hope, and with Dresden A. Smith, Sr., Fred Schroder (*) and their faithful assistants, determined to maintain a standard worthy of their able predecessors.
"In his own time, the Keeper of the Great Record deemed it wise to take from him his noble associates, so that for the last fifteen years, he has literally given his life for The Courier.
His personality so filled it until the reading public was accustomed to speak of it as 'Mr. Steck's' paper, which in truth it was.
"It should be an inspiration to others that, with his health failing and business at a low ebb, 'Dick' resolutely set his face to the front, determined that The Courier must carry on at all odds."
(*-Dresden A. Smith joined the Courier in 1875 and was foreman of the mechanical department. Fred Schroder, a boyhood friend and long-time associate of Dick Steck, died during the great influenza epidemic of 1918.)
Mr. Steck's obituary stated, "At a recent meeting of the Southern Convention of Graphic Arts and Newspaper Workers, held in Savannah, Ga., a signal honor was accorded him as editor of a weekly newspaper which had never missed an issue for eighty-five years."
An interesting bit of information about Mr. Steck was contained in an editorial by Gus Gossett, editor of the Tugaloo Tribune located in Westminster, who stated, " Mr. Steck set everything he composed right at the linotype or intertype keyboard. That is a gift very few newspaper men possess." (This was a skill Mr. Steck developed after Fred Schroder's death.)
Dick Steck and his wife Ethel had only one child-a son who died at the age of 2 years old.
A story attesting to Mr. Steck's dedication to the Courier was told by the late R.C. (Russ) Carter. According to Mr. Carter, on the day after Mr. Steck became fatally ill, the Courier staff went to visit him in the hospital. It was a Tuesday, and Mr. Steck gently reprimanded them by saying, "Boys, you shouldn't be here? You should be back getting the paper ready."
After Dick Steck's death, his wife Ethel continued on as a partner in the Courier with Mr. Hughs and Mr. Shelor. In the January 30, 1935 Courier, the name of "Hughs" was replaced by "Phillips," but no explanation of the change was reported. This continued until 1936 when Jack H. Brewster became the editor. Mrs. Steck left the Courier and moved to Louisiana, where she had relatives. She would occasionally return to Walhalla for a visit.
On January 1, 1940, Lewis F. Brabham, who had become the editor of the Seneca Journal the previous year, purchased the Courier.
In 1946, Mr. Brabham sold the Courier to Mr. And Mrs. J.A. Gallimore, who also owned the Seneca Journal. Mr. Gallimore became the Courier's publisher. Roy Powell became the editor.
At the outset of 1949, Mr. Powell left the Courier to join the Anderson newspapers, and he was replaced as editor by Charlie Collins who had been serving as editor of the Seneca Journal. Mr. Collins had previously been editor of the Courier in 1947.
The relationship of Mr. Gallimore as publisher and Mr. Collins as editor continued until the outset of 1953, when Mr. Collins purchased the paper and became its publisher as well as editor. Mr. Gallimore continued serving as publisher of the Seneca Journal, which he and his wife also owned.
In 1969 Charlie Collins sold the Courier to Jack L. Hunt, who also owned the Westminster News. Mr. Collins stayed on as editor.
The Courier building was extensively renovated and the switch was made to the modern offset method of printing in October 1969.
Charlie Collins died suddenly in late 1972, having continuously served as editor nearly 24 years. He was replaced by Morris Seigler who left at the end of the summer of 1973 to return to teaching school.
Ashton Hester joined the staff on August 17, 1973 as reporter/photographer/news editor, and remains in that capacity today. During that time, there have also been three other editors-Abner Hall in 1975-76, Wayne Morton in 1990-91, and Robin Boyle in 1993.
In April 1990, Mr. Hunt sold the Keowee Courier and Westminster News to Bob Tribble, owner of a chain of newspapers headquartered in Manchester, Ga. Mr. Tribble became publisher, and his son, Mitch, became general manager of the Courier and News. The Courier's newspaper press was moved to Landrum immediately after the transaction, and the Courier and News have been printed there ever since. Wendell Tidwell replaced Mitch Tribble as general manager of the Courier and News in July of 1996, and remains in that position today.
Although this account has been primarily about the editorial aspects of the Courier, one of the most prominent figures in its history was long-time composing room foreman George Elliott Rhodes, Sr.
Mr. Rhodes joined the Courier staff in 1911 and continued his employment for 41 years, until his death on November 10, 1952 at the age of 64. He died during the night, after having worked a full day. His 41 years of full-time employment is believed to be the longest of any Courier employee. (Col. Robert A. Thompson was associated with the Courier for 45 years, but also had his law practice and served in the state legislature.)
The Story in the Courier reporting Mr. Rhodes' death stated, "Known as one of the most outstanding printers in the Piedmont Carolinas, Mr. Rhodes joined the Courier staff back in 1911 and had been with the paper here for 41 years of devoted service. He was known and loved throughout Walhalla and Oconee County to young and old alike."
He is, of course, symbolic of the countless behind-the-scenes support personnel who have kept the Keowee Courier operating for over 150 years.
KEOWEE COURIER 150TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION MAY 12, 1999
ANOTHER HISTORY OF THE KEOWEE COURIER WRITTEN FOR WALHALLA'S SEMI-CENTENNIAL
Following is a history of the Keowee Courier written nearly 100 years ago. It was printed in a special edition of the Courier, commemorating Walhalla's Semi-Centennial (50th year) on August 24, 1900:
The Keowee Courier was established at Old Pickens in 1849 by Col. J.E. Hagood, now of Charleston, and the late Col. J.W. Norris, of Anderson.
In 1853 Col. R.A. Thompson became the proprietor and editor. He owned and edited the paper until it was removed to Walhalla in 1868, when the late Col. W.C. Keith became associated with him as joint editor and proprietor. D.A. Smith became associated with them September 1st, 1875, when he bought a one-third interest, and is now rounding up twenty-five years as publisher and manager.
The paper was published by Keith, Smith & Thompson until April 1st, 1889, when R.T. Jaynes bought the one-third interest belonging to the estate of W.C. Keith. They continued as partners until April 1st, 1898, when R.A. Thompson sold his one-third to J.W. Shelor. On that day, Jaynes, Smith and Shelor sold a one-fourth interest to J.A. Steck, and the partnership of Jaynes, Shelor, Smith and Steck was formed and an increase made in the capital stock.
Personal mention has been made elsewhere of Jaynes and Shelor. We propose here to make a brief inference to the two later.
D.A. Smith has seen a continuous service of forty-three years in a newspaper office. He began his apprenticeship on the True Carolinian, published at Anderson, S.C., in 1857. He continued with this paper, which was removed to Pendleton, S.C., and its name changed to Pendleton Messenger in 1858. The paper was next moved to Hartwell, Ga., and name changed to Hartwell Messenger in 1859.
In the fall of 1860, he began work as a journeyman on the Anderson Gazette, which was owned and edited by Jas. L. Orr, J.W. Harrison and A.O. Norris. In 1861, he went to Elberton, Ga., and worked on "The Star of the South." He went to Augusta, Ga., and worked on the Daily Constitutionalist from 1862 to 1865. He then returned to his home near Pendleton, S.C., and taught school for two years.
In 1868 he went to Abbeville and worked for Hugh Wilson on the Abbeville Press and Lutheran Visitor. In 1869 he went to Columbia, S.C., and worked on the Daily Phoenix until 1875, when he came to Walhalla. Of his work on the KEOWEE COURIER it is unnecessary that we should speak. The neat appearance of the paper from week to week for twenty-five years attests his capacity as publisher and foreman of the mechanical department. His financial management is excellent.
In 1898 he was elected Judge of Probate for Oconee County without any opposition.
J.A. Steck, the junior member of the firm, served his apprenticeship in the KEOWEE COURIER office from 1889 to 1893. He then worked on daily papers in Charleston and Columbia until 1896, when he established a job printing office in Walhalla. On April 1, 1898, he bought an interest in the KEOWEE COURIER and consolidated the job printing business. He is an excellent printer and has charge of a well-equipped job department in connection with his work on the paper.
The compositors now in the employ of the COURIER are Messrs. F.A.H. Schroder, R.R. Doyle and Marvin J. Smith.
Mr. Schroder served his apprenticeship in this office from 1891 to 1895. He was then employed for two years as foreman of the Hampton Guardian, published at Hampton, S.C., by Governor M.B. McSweeney. He returned to Walhalla and began work again on the COURIER in 1898. "Fred" is a valuable man in a printing office, and is worth his weight (278 pounds) in gold.
Messrs. R.R. Doyle and Marvin Smith are serving the fourth year of their apprenticeship. They manifest excellent talent.
The record made by the KEOWEE COURIER for the past fifty years is one in which we feel a pardonable pride. For a half century it has gone into the homes of the people each week, carrying the news of the county, State and nation.
It could not have lived and prospered without the hearty support of the people, and for this it has had many occasions to be thankful.
Its equipment now is better than ever for publication of a first-class weekly journal. We go forward from day to day determined to maintain the high standard of excellence achieved in the past, and, so far as in us lies, to keep pace with the march of progress of the new century now so rapidly approaching.