Lone Star State
Julia Lee Sinks
The first newspaper established in Fayette County was called "The La Grange Intelligencer," published by James P. Longley, and edited by Wm. P. Bradburn, a gentleman of Nashville, Tenn., who had lived sometime in Mexico.
Through the influence of James K. Polk, a friend of the family, he received the appointment of midshipman in the United States Navy, on board the old "Constitution." His uncle, General Bradburn, who figured in the early history of Texas, having no children of his own, persuaded him to resign his commission and accept his adoption as son and heir. Sudden death overtook the uncle before his affairs were legally adjusted in favor of the nephew, and the property passed into other hands. So Mr. Bradburn came to Texas, like many others, to seek fortune, and "The La Grange Intelligencer" was established by James P. Longley, in part to give him business, and in part to support General Burleson for the Presidency.
The paper did not come up to their expectations, and Mr. Bradburn removed to Louisiana, and settled in New Orleans, where he officiated at times as assistant editor of the New Orleans Tropic, Picayune, and Bulletin, so I am informed by his relatives.
In 1848, when political strife was running high, he was solicited by prominent men of Iberville Parish to edit the Southern Sentinel, which, under his guidance, became a great favorite. He still owned and edited that paper when he died, leaving an estate valued at $50,000.
The next person who edited the La Grange paper was a legal gentleman, Fields, who had very little editorial acumen. In fact, this editor of ours had hardly found his place in life. It was told of him that in the San Saba fight under Colonel Moore he stood behind a tree to shoot, and the tree was too small for the man, or the man was too large for the tree. In turning to load his gun, an unlucky shot hit him in the back. Enraged at this irony of fate, he lost all fear, and in stamping and cursing he ended this day of martial achievement. As an editor, extracts from other papers were the tree he hid behind to load his gun, his own ammunition falling short often. As to his legal attainments, his knowledge of courts must have been very small, for upon one occasion, when a judgment was rendered against him, he indignantly turned to the sheriff, and pointing to the judge, said, "Sheriff, arrest that man!" This circumstance was told the writer by Judge Devine, who was opposing counsel. After that, he went to the Congress of the Republic when it met in the town of Washington in 1843. So, you see, in those days we bestowed honors freely.
It will be seen that our editor was a brave but unfortunate warrior, the fates being against him; an editor whose chair of office, like the tree, could not screen him; a lawyer whose feats as a legal knight might rival Don Quixote in assumption, and whose wisdom as a legislator the archives of the Republic alone can tell.
The county paper passed into other hands, and the heading was changed to "The Far West," exact date unknown, for I have been unable to find a single copy of that paper. It was under the leadership of Mr. Wm. G. Webb, who informs me that all the files in his possession were consumed in the fire which destroyed a large portion of the southern side of the public square in La Grange.
Mr. Wm. G. Webb, editor of "The Far West," settled in La Grange from Georgia as a young lawyer. A man of cautious, persistent cast of mind, whose success as an editor must have been satisfactory. He became one of the leading attorneys at the La Grange bar, more from his thorough determination than from brilliancy, being not unlike one of Dr. Warren's characters, described as literally crawling over his cases until he mastered every point.
The next record of the newspapers of La Grange attainable was the "Texas Monument," which made its appearance July 20, 1850. It was published by a committee, incorporated by the Legislature of Texas, the proceeds, after the expenses were paid, to be appropriated to erecting a monument to the decimated Mier prisoners and the Dawson men, on the bluff opposite La Grange. The bill of incorporation was approved January 19, and the paper commenced in July, with the late Colonel Dancy as editor, and Mr. Launcelot Abbott as publisher. It was an ably conducted paper; would stand fair, very fair, as a county paper among the present journals of the State. There was the record of much patriotism and very little crime, that great deformity of the issues of the present day. Under the supervision of Colonel Dancy, who filled the editorial chair for a year, it was in all respects a success. Having to incur a debt of $1400 for press and material, at the close of the first year it was almost liquidated, according to an editorial written by himself before resigning, and the aim was then to devote the proceeds, beyond the expenses, to the building of the monument. It was greatly to be regretted that the paper lost the energy and enthusiasm of Colonel Dancy, for in the hands of his successor, Mr. J. H. Kuykendall, who was quite as capable, but in bad health, the paper began to decline. He had been, in 1840, a representative from one of the lower counties in the Congress of Texas, and was hailed as a successor to Colonel Dancy, but from ill health he soon wearied of it and resigned.
The next person who took charge of the paper was Dr. Wm. P. Smith, traveling agent and correspondent for the paper an old citizen of the county. I am unable to find files of that paper to give exact dates, but tradition places him in the editorial chair, not long perhaps, for near this time (1853) it was ably edited by Mr. Albert Posey, a young gentleman from Alabama, of fine cast of mind and cultivation, who left a strong impression on the minds of those who knew him. He died young.
Dr. Smith took an active part in consolidating the three charters spoken of elsewhere which formed the foundation of the Rutersville Military School.
October 24, 1854, Mr. A. E. Gates became proprietor and editor of the paper, still called "The Monument." He was a native, I believe, of Alabama; had not long been in the country; was an educated, well read, but rather silent man.
In 1855, "The Monument" merged into "The La Grange Paper," edited by Mr. Wm. B. McClellan, who in an editorial in his first issue said the monumental committee had long since abandoned the idea of sustaining the press for the noble purpose for which it was originally procured. Alas!
As "The La Grange Paper," it lasted but a short time, though the editor, Mr. McClellan, had a bright style of handling ordinary subjects, a happy faculty for county newspapers. He was a good man, and was loved best by those who knew him best.
October 6, 1855, the "True Issue" made its appearance; Mr. B. Shropshire and E. M. Tevis as editors and proprietors. They had purchased the printing press and material of the La Grange Paper.
February 2, 1856, Mr. Shropshire and Mr. Gossler had charge of the "True Issue." Mr. B. Shropshire, editor of the "True Issue," was long a resident of La Grange, practiced law at that bar, was of fine appearance, popular manners, and a progressive cast of mind. He was district judge when he died, in 1867. With him at first was Mr. Tevis, who, I believe, still practices law in Galveston. Mr. Gossler was for a long time connected with the newspaper of La Grange.
In 1861, the old Monument press was sold by Mr. Gossler, who had become sole proprietor, to Mr. J. V. Drake, who issued a paper from the old press called "The Observer."
Source: The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume I, July 1897 to April 1898, Published by the Association, 1898.