By Dave Taylor, The Hancock Clarion
On a brisk March Saturday morning exactly 128 years ago, while Grover Cleveland was being inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States, two young men published the first edition of the Hancock Clarion. Grover Cleveland is gone, but the paper those men started is alive and well and continuing the mission of bringing the county’s news to the residents to whom it matters most. Founded by Clarence Sterett and John W. Maston, the first edition was published on Saturday, March 4, offering national and local news. That first edition also included explanations for why the men founded the paper and what they hoped to accomplish with it.
“We establish this paper because the publishers desire to make a living out of it, and because the people of Hancock county (sic), all the way from Faucett’s Gut to Blackford creek (sic), have given us assurance of the need of it, as well as substantial assistance in dollars and cents.”
“The Clarion will be issued every Saturday morning at daylight just as regular as that day arrives,” the men wrote. They had determined that Saturday was the ideal day to print, since it would be delivered in time for farmers to sit down and read it on Sundays.
A year’s subscription was $1
The county had seen other papers come and go, but Sterett and Maston promised the Clarion would do its best to cover all the news in the county and provide a high-quality product.
“The name ‘Hancock’ is most prominent in our paper because it will be a paper for the whole county, and not for the town of Hawesville alone,” the men wrote. “And the question of how long we will live is finally disposed of when our latest improved, expensive machinery is examined.”
The front page of Volume 1 Number 1 talked a lot about the inauguration and other national stories, but inside it told the story of a brutal fight among two families.
“Last Sunday, near Floral, eight miles south of here, John and Birch Parrott and R.C. McDaniel engaged in a general fight, in which pistols, knives, etc. were freely used,” the story said. “All escaped without injury, however, except McDaniel, who received a bullet in his arm from the gun of John Parrott. During the melee McDaniel just missed Buren Parrott’s head with an iron wedge and cut at John with a corn knife.
“The trouble arose,” it said, “over McDaniel whipping his wife, who is a sister of the Parrotts.”
For context of the age of the Clarion, here are other events that took place in 1893: Thomas Edison finished construction of the first motion picture studio; the first recorded college basketball game occurred between Geneva College Covenanters and the New Brighton YMCA; Lizzie Borden was acquitted of murdering her parents; Charles and Frank Duryea drive the first gasoline powered car on public roads; pharmacist Caleb Bradham invents the recipe for Pepsi; and the U.S. Supreme Court legally declares the tomato to be a vegetable.