Old Madison County Newspapers

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Old Madison County Newspapers


Here are some interesting newspaper clippings as well as a review of Madison county newspapers from the 19th century, courtesy of Jasper Castle.

“January 6, 1848 — G.L. Pittman, editor of the Ploughboy at Richmond, [was] mortally wounded by a pistol shot in self-defense from Col. James W. Caperton.

June 15, 1848 — Fatal recontre [French for encounter or meeting] at a public speaking in Foxtown, Madison County, between Captain Cassius Marcellus Clay, on one side, and Cyrus Turner, a representative in the legislature from that county last winter, and others, in which Clay was dangerously stabbed by some unknown party, and Turner, stabbed by Clay, dying in 34 hours.”

Jasper has in his possession an old newspaper advertisement from around 1900 for Ricci’s Restaurant, announcing “fresh oysters” and V. Ricci, proprietor with the interesting and easy to remember telephone number of “telephone 3” — hard to get a wrong number. It was on the corner of Main and Second Street. It later was a Begleys Drug Store with a phone booth in the front right hand corner. By the 1950s, the number would have added some digits. It later was an antique shop and is now a bank building. I wonder if they can still smell the fresh oysters.

In and around 1900, E. and E. Million operated a distillery at Foxtown. Mr. T.C. Adams, editor of the Pantagraph, was appointed book-keeping ganger. A book-keeper-ganger (gauger) is a person in charge of the bookkeeping at a distillery and also keeps accurate records for the state Revenue Department to determine the appropriate tax on distilled spirits.

The Richmond Climax, a weekly newspaper published by the Climax Publishing Company, covered the town of Richmond and Madison County for nearly 30 years. The paper was established by William G. White and French Tipton in 1887 to serve as a vessel for the Democratic Party in Richmond. Despite being in constant competition with Richmond’s other Democratic newspaper, the Kentucky Register, the then four-page Climax was well received and by 1910 was regularly printed with eight pages per issue.

Politics played an important role in the development of the Climax. Founding editor Tipton, a Richmond lawyer and politician, initially was a staunch supporter of the paper’s Democratic mission. However, during the campaign for the 1896 presidential election, Tipton, who disagreed with William Jennings Bryan’s free silver platform, changed political parties and left the paper. He then became editor of Richmond’s Republican newspaper, the Pantagraph [a pantagraph is “a drawing instrument that consists of a set of adjustable interconnected bars forming a parallelogram and is used to copy line drawings or maps to any scale”].

Richmond politician Clarence E. Woods, editor of the Climax at the turn of the century, continued the paper’s tradition of radical leadership. In 1900, the local press was involved in a debate regarding the ownership of the Richmond Water and Light Company (looking north to Lexington over the last few years, I suppose some things never change). Woods, a loyal progressive, argued with both the Kentucky Register and the Pantagraph in favor of local ownership and declared the water company was in violation of its contract with the city.

After months of heated editorial debate, Woods’ commentary became so incendiary that the Climax’s owner, John C. Chenault, asked Woods to resign. A few days later, tensions were still high, causing an altercation between Woods and Pantagraph editor Tipton. After being assaulted on a Richmond street, Woods shot Tipton in self-defense. The founder of the Climax died within a few days. The quarrel between newspapermen did little to stifle Wood’s professional career. After the incident, Woods continued to write for the Climax and in 1905 was elected mayor of Richmond.

Although the Climax and its editors primarily functioned as an organ for the Democratic Party, the paper never failed to provide the citizens of Richmond with a wide range of news items. The Climax carried an assortment of notes from around the state and the nation, as well as agricultural market reports and Madison County happenings. In 1910, the Climax honored Richmond with “A Brief Historical Sketch of the City of Richmond, Kentucky” and a 17-page supplement covering the town’s industrial, social and political history.

Other editors of the Climax included John Cabell Chenault, A.D. Miller, R. Lee Davis, Robert S. Crowe, Louis Landrum, Steve K. Vaught, B.D. Gordon, E.C. Walton, and William P. Walton. Miller was at the helm of the paper when in September 1914, the Richmond Climax was purchased by founding Editor William G. White and consolidated with his newspaper, the Madisonian.

In 1917, another merger resulted in the Richmond Daily Register.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Old Madison County Newspapers,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed August 8, 2022, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/1872.