Local resident Barry Johnson has found a piece of Southern Standard history that’s almost 100 years old.
Tucked away in a trunk with other belongings and forgotten for decades in a barn, it’s a Standard receipt for an annual subscription to the newspaper. The date was March 27, 1918 and the subscription was $1.50. At that time, the editor and publisher was Radford M. Reams.
“I’ve been in my grandfather’s barn several times and I never saw the trunk,” said Johnson. “It was up on the top rafter and hidden from view. When I opened it, the first thing I saw was this receipt for a subscription to the Standard from 1918. The barn was constructed in the mid-1960s so the trunk was placed after that sometime.”
In 1925, a fire in the old Southern Standard building destroyed the plant, editorial offices, and files. The newspaper, which has been in operation since 1879, persevered and is now in its 137th year. Reams was owner for more than 40 years, from 1882 to 1924.
The receipt did not belong to Johnson’s grandfather, Eunice.
“My grandpa wasn’t born until 1928 so it couldn’t have been his,” said Johnson. “He used to work at First National Bank, from 1960 to 1993, when he retired. He was also a farmer. He served in the Korean War. He passed away in 2009.”
Other items in the trunk point to the possible identity of the subscriber and the original owner of the trunk. There were numerous letters, a receipt book, paperwork and banners from Royal Arca-num. Dates on the items range from 1895 to 1931. The letters from Royal Arcanum were sent to J.P. Bostick in McMinnville.
“I think the subscription belonged to J.P. Bostick,” said Johnson. “I’m not sure how my grandpa got the trunk, unless he got it from the couple he worked for. He would do odd jobs for people. He did like to collect stuff.”
Researching Royal Arcanum and the address on the letters, the Royal Arcanum was founded in 1877 and is the only surviving founding member of the American Fraternal Alliance (formerly the National Fraternal Congress of America), an organization representing 70 fraternal benefit societies and millions of fraternalists. It was founded in Boston.
While Johnson digs into the past, the trunk has a new future.
“It’s sitting in my living room,” said Johnson. “It’s a very old trunk and it’s not in very good con-dition, but I like it. If nothing else, it’s interesting and something to talk about when people come over. The trunk itself doesn’t have any markings or dates on it, but I bet it’s just as old as the items in it.”
A Slice of Standard history
According to the online Library of Congress Chronicling Historic American Newspapers:
The Southern Standard was established by Rufus P. Baker in McMinnville in October 1879. The paper appeared each Saturday and had an annual subscription fee of $1.
Baker hired Dr. John R. Paine as editor, but the arrangement was short-lived, and after only a few months both men had left the paper.
In early 1880, professor Alfred Moore Burney, a retired president of Cumberland Female College, became the Standard's new owner and editor. Colleagues at the neighboring Manchester Guardian approved of the appointment and welcomed Burney "to the journalistic ranks, knowing that he will honor the profession."
To affirm the Standard's political stance, Burney introduced the following motto to the paper's masthead: "Democratic in Politics: Pure in Literature and Progress in Southern Interest."
Burney remained at the Southern Standard for only a couple of years. In January 1882, printing was suspended briefly after Burney announced he was leaving the newspaper business. In February, Dr. James Brown Ritchey and Mr. William Carroll Womack purchased the paper, and Frank Spurlock became editor. The new owners chose to emphasize farming concerns, adopting a new motto, "Devoted to agriculture interests of Warren and adjoining counties."
In September 1882, Radford M. Reams and Horace P. Newton purchased equal interest in the Standard with Dr. Ritchey and formed the Standard Publishing Company. Ritchey and Reams were co-editors until 1885 when Reams became the sole owner. He served as editor of the Standard for 41 years.
Under Reams' editorship, the Southern Standard prominently spotlighted rural economic issues and farming techniques. The newspaper provided vital information about ongoing efforts to bring new technologies to the area, such as the expansion of telephone lines. For example, in April 1884, a front-page article informed readers that since telephone lines were being added in nearby counties, if McMinnville could find a dozen subscribers it too would also receive telephone service.
In 1885, the Southern Standard began publishing a section on its front page entitled "Town and County," which highlighted the activities and interests of the community. This section provided details about visits from out-of-town relatives and social activities. The paper also published short stories, poems, and political news.
Despite its Democratic leanings, the Southern Standard was, for its time, relatively objective in its views. But political bias was not completely absent from its pages. During the 1884 presidential election, the newspaper published a scathing editorial (Nov. 1) in which it called for financial reform in political campaigns because, “parties and party leaders are becoming so corrupt and unfair in conducting political campaigns that it is becoming alarming and dangerous to American institutes and American liberties.”
Reams was also known for his colorful editorials in strong support of Prohibition and was recognized “more than any other man in having saloons voted out of McMinnville.”
When Reams ceased publishing the paper in 1924, Tom C. Price bought the publishing company. In 1925, a fire in the Southern Standard building destroyed the plant, editorial offices and files.
Price moved operations and continued publication. The paper continues to this day and prints three newspapers a week at 105 College Street.