A hundred and forty years ago, writers for small town newspapers were not taught the rules of journalism or political correctness. Consider a few examples from their pages.
“People living the immediate vicinity of the X Baptist Church are complaining very bitterly of the conduct of the congregation. Services are held nearly every evening of the week, commencing about 8 o’clock and lasting sometimes until midnight. The demonstrations made by the worshippers are of the noisiest character. It is impossible, so our informant states, to enjoy rest or quiet during the progress of the meetings.
“An Irishman [nationality changed] was arrested for stealing from Y, an Indian from the Nation, a pair of saddlebags containing sugar, coffee, whisky, etc. The property was taken from Wolf’s Saloon, and two Indians saw the thing walking off with it across an alley. He has been apprehended and will have his examination soon.
“A petition is circulating on our streets endorsing the action of the City Council in retaining Prof. Somerville as principal of the public school for another term. It is hardly necessary to state that it is receiving numerous signatures of the representative citizens of the city. We understand another petition has been started by a few malcontents asking for a change.
“Councilmen Gilmer and Alsop have requested the News to state that they were the only one voting against the retention of Prof. Somerville. We presume that the fact was generally known before to the public.
“Capt. Jack Martin of the Sherman Register had decided to pull up stakes and move his paper to Gainesville. It has been proved by sorry experience that the county seat will not support two papers.
“It is rumored that a certain saloon keeper will keep open house in defiance of the Sunday law. This, we opine, will be an expensive undertaking.
“Let the city officials look out for loose women in localities where they ought not to be. Property holders would do well to see to this; for their rents in such cases will grow beautifully less, until they are whittled down to the little point of nothing.
For a change of subject, another paper of that era gives this description of a nearby prairie fire and efforts to fight it: “The men drove like wild to meet the fire and fought the flames, sometimes fifteen feet high where the grass was rank, for hours; until they were perfectly black from the smoke and cinders.
“On one occasion we saw the fire coming, and there was a family camped in Jones’s hay meadow in the path of the fire. Their little tent-house was entirely surrounded by heavy grassland. When warned, they hardly had time to hitch the team to their hack and load up the wife and children, including a new baby, for a wild ride to safety.”
Compared to these stories and opinions, the local news and columns we read today are blander, and so are our daily lives.
Jerry Lincecum is a retired English professor who now teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories. He welcomes your reminiscences on any subject: email@example.com