Burying The Hatchet (and other News-Times tales)
- Jessica Cornwell
- Forest Grove News-Times - News
A century ago, newspapers came and went with only the strong surviving
The history of the News-Times is long and, at times, meandering, with many names stamped across it.
Fixing an exact date for any newspaper's birthday can be tricky, because as communities grew, new papers popped up as older ones were bought out by existing publications.
Washington County has a particularly rich history in print journalism. The first issue of a newspaper published in Oregon appeared on June 7, 1848.
The base of operations for the newspaper, which looked more like a magazine, was centered at the home of the Rev. J.S. Griffin, a Congregational minister who in 1842 settled in West Tualatin, near the site of present-day Hillsboro. Just eight 16-page issues were produced before his printer, Charles F. Putnam, left the area. There is some speculation that Griffin's competitors and opponents bribed Putnam to leave, though it's more likely the printer succumbed to 'gold fever.' At any rate, he left for California in October of that year.
The county's first edition of a more traditional newspaper, The Oregonian, rolled off the press in Dec. 4, 1850. (At the time Multnomah County had yet to be carved from Washington County land.)
Among oldest papers
According to the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, the News-Times is the 20th-oldest newspaper currently published in Oregon, tracing its roots to 1886.
The real seed that flowered into the present-day News-Times was planted on March 22, 1873, when the first issue of the Forest Grove Independent was published. The purpose of this paper was expressed in the third issue, dated Saturday, April 5, 1873: 'Our Aim, the Development of the Resources, Agricultural, Commercial, and Educational, of Washington County.' (The Independent, published out of Hillsboro, changed hands several times between 1873 and 1932, when it was sold and absorbed into the Hillsboro Argus).
Around the same time, many small newspapers in this area got their start. Two of them, the Washington County Democrat and the Forest Grove Times, rose above the others.
The Times was a general interest paper, carrying news from overseas, the East Coast, Portland and Washington County. The front page of its Oct. 30, 1891 issue included the following newsworthy facts:
• In Vienna, the Prefect of Police has ordered and investigation of whether the long, sweeping skirts of ladies, tend to spread contagious diseases.
• The Oregon Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias voted that hereafter no saloonmen shall be admitted to membership in the subordinate lodges of the order in the State.
• A Justice of New York has just decided you need not pay for a meal at a restaurant unless you eat it.
• Reports from the gold regions of the Upper Yukon are very promising. Sixteen men reached Juneau before the Topeka's departure with a large quantity of gold dust and nuggets from the Yukon mines.
After publishing the Times for five years, the Forest Grove Publishing Company absorbed the Democrat, and solidified its role as the dominant paper of western Washington County.
But it wasn't the only one.
In 1895, Pacific University student Austin Craig, the son of David Watson Craig, Oregon pioneer printer-editor, established The Washington County Hatchet, which according to one report, seemed primarily focused on writing critically of the school.
After two years, the Hatchet was merged with the Times as the Washington County Hatchet and Times, and Austin Craig was editor. Later, the editors decided the name was too long and shortened it to the Forest Grove Times again.
The Washington County News was established in 1903 and absorbed into the Times in 1909, the fourth newspaper to be swallowed up in this fashion (along with the Forest Grove Press, the Forest Grove Express, and the Hatchet). The name then changed to recognize the partnership in 1911, to the Washington County News-Times.
'The Kid' arrives
Though the paper would continue to change hands, it appears that the News-Times entered an era of relative stability through the 1920s. Then, however, the paper was bought by two young men, one of whom would not only change the face of the newspaper, but of Washington County.
In 1928, Hugh McGilvra, 21 years old and fresh out of Willamette University, and his business partner, C. 'Jeeter' Gillette, a high school principal, bought the News-Times for $17,000. This is the beginning of McGilvra's career as a newspaperman, a legacy which spanned six decades.
McGilvra and Gillette had met at Willamette University, and to the Forest Grove locals, were known as 'Jeeter and The Kid,' that is, until McGilvra turned the newspaper into an award-winning periodical and launched a multi-million dollar enterprise. Then, he become known as 'Mr. Mac.' (See 'Mr. Mac,' page 8)
In 1930, McGilvra created the News-Times Publishing Co., a commercial printing business. A few years later, he combined his publishing company with the Spaulding firm, effectively eliminating his competition. The publishing company's place in Forest Grove was solidified in this move.
In the late 1960s, it was known as Times-Litho Print, then later as simply Times-Litho. At its height, it was one of the largest printing businesses in the state. When the company moved into its own facility on A Street, the Times-Litho plant took up an entire city block.
In 1981, McGilvra sold his publishing interests to the Guard Publishing Company in Eugene, which published the Eugene Register-Guard. The sale included the Washington County News-Times in Forest Grove, the Valley-Times in Beaverton, and the Tigard Times in Tigard. Later that decade, Community Newspapers, Inc. was created in 1988 when Eagle Newspapers Inc., a Salem-based publishing group, and Guard Publishing merged their suburban Portland papers into a joint company that also included the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings.
In 1996, Steve Clark, the chief operating officer of Community Newspapers since 1988, along with his wife, Randalyn, purchased the company's five newspapers. Over the next four years, the Clarks grew the company by adding four newspapers in the area. In 2000, the Clarks sold Community Newspapers to Portland businessman Robert Pamplin Jr.
Now owned by Pamplin Media Group, Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune are Oregon's largest group of privately held newspapers. (It includes The Gresham Outlook, which now prints the News-Times.)
From the tiny seeds of Rev. Griffin's short-lived magazine, to the publication of the weekly newspaper you hold in your hand, the News-Times' 125th birthday represents a remarkable journey.