The first newspaper published in Athens, was The Athens Mirror and Literary Register, commenced in 1825, by A. G. Brown. The Mirror was political and literary in its character, printed once a week on paper of super-royal size (sixteen pages about nine by five inches to each number), and continued through five years. It was printed on a wooden press with a stone bed, and required four pulls to each sheet.
Several copies of the old Mirror, running from January to May, 1829, are before us, and furnish some interesting bits of local history. Each number contains the advertisements of Joseph B. Miles, Ebenezer Currier, and Thomas Brice, offering their -complete and extensive assortments of goods for sale low for cash, or in exchange for wheat, rye, corn, pork, butter, feathers, rags, calf and deer skins, fur skins, buck horns, ginseng, bees wax, etc.”
In February, 1829, the publisher announces that “all who wish to see a fifth volume of the Mirror published, are desired to send in their names before the 1st day of May, next; ” and earnestly solicits increased patronage. In the issue of February 21, 1829, the editor apologizes for being delayed beyond the usual time for publication, by stating that “a young man in our employ unluckily received a severe hurt while skating on the ice.” Probably that young man was John Brough, afterwards governor of Ohio, etc., who was then employed in the office.
About this time the temperance question was considerably discussed in the town. A sermon delivered on the subject, January 22, 1829, by the Rev. Robt. G. Wilson, is published in full in the Mirror. A society was formed, of which Dr. Wilson was president, the Rev. John Spaulding vice president, and Professor Joseph Dana secretary, and a pledge was kept at the Mirror office for signatures. The constitution of the society, printed in the Mirror, is accompanied by the following note: “It is understood that merchants and others having contracts or quantities of spirits now on hand, shall have reasonable time to close and dispose of the same on becoming members.” The movement was pushed with great earnestness and success by the good men who inaugurated it, and doubtless there was sufficient need of reform. Some of the seed sown fell on good ground in Ames township, and blossomed forth into the following unique advertisement, which appeared in the Mirror of April 25, 1829:
“ATTENTION GROG DRINKERS!!
“SAMUEL L. MOHLER, of Ames township, having been for sixteen years in the constant habit of drinking, and getting drunk on an average, as often as once a month, has resolved to refrain entirely from the practice in future; and as a test of his sincerity, he offers to pledge the new wood work to a good wagon, against any property of equal value, that he will refrain from drinking ardent spirits longer than any other man who has been in the habit, an equal, or half the length of time; provided both live to make the trial. Any person disposed to take him up can give notice to that effect. “April 10, 1829.”
We are not able to state whether this interesting challenge was ever accepted or not; perhaps Mr. Mohler’s virtuous resolve went toward improving that nameless place which is said to be “paved with good intentions; ” we can not tell.
A committee consisting of Thomas Brice, John Gilmore, Amos Crippen, and Norman Root, appointed to settle the accounts of the town of Athens for the year ending February 18, 1829, publish an itemized report, showing the total receipts to have been one hundred and seventy-three dollars and twenty-three cents, and total expenditures one hundred and twelve dollars and ninety-four cents.
The Mirror was succeeded in 1830 by The Western Spectator, edited and published by Isaac Maxon, who came from Marietta in 1825, bringing young John Brough as a type-setter. The paper continued under Mr. Maxon’s management for six years. In 1836 it was bought by Mr. Abram Van Vorhes, who changed the name to the Hocking Valley Gazette and Athens Messenger. Under this name Mr. Van Vorhes edited and published the paper for several years, enlarging it to imperial size, printing it with new press and type, and otherwise greatly improving it.
In January, 1844, the Gazette was succeeded by the Athens Messenger, edited and published for a time by Mr. Nelson H. Van Vorhes, and afterward by him and his brother, Mr. A. J. Van Vorhes. In the spring of 1854, N. H. Van Vorhes retired from the paper, which continued in the hands of his brother until October 1, 1855, when the establishment was purchased by the late Mr. George Walsh, who only retained control one year, when it was once more sold to N. H. Van Vorhes.
Mr. Van Vorhes edited and published the paper till January, 1861; Mr. T. F. Wildes, from January, 1861, till September, 186,2; Mr. Jesse Van Law, from September, 1862, till November, 1865; Mr. J. W. Stinchcomb, from November, 1865, till November, 1866; Mr. J. R. S. Bond, from November, 1866, till March, 1868, and Mr. C. E. M. Jennings, from that till the present time.
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