Montgomery County Illinois History

THE Litchfield News-Herald prides itself in being the community's oldest institution, founded in 1856 as the Litchfield Journal. A file of the newspaper is still in the News-Herald's upstairs vault, printed on rag content paper, which, by the way, is whiter than the newsprint we use today in spite of all these years.

The first editor was H. A. Coolidge, who came to Litchfield from Cazenovia, N. Y. Editor Coolidge found after a short time that newspapering didn't pay as well as teaching, and established one of the first schools in his home on West Kirkham Street near what is now the Illinois Central tracks. Litchfield's first newspaper was Democratic in politics and soon ran into competition from the Whigs, who established the Illinois Free Press. The Free Press later folded in a Whig factional dispute over the formation of the Republican party. Its place was taken in later years by the Litchfield News, but not before the Union League's Union Monitor, a widely read Civil War newspaper, had been published here on the same press.

The News eventually became the News-Herald. The Herald was born when H. A. Coolidge was lured back to the editorial chair in the campaign of 1872 by his admiration for Horace Greeley, the Democratic candidate opposing Gen. U. S. Grant. It later became the Democrat, Prairie City Advocate and then went back to Herald under the ownership of Fred C. Beeman.

Mr. Coolidge, in his history of Litchfield written in 1881, said on several occasions the total cash taken in "from Monday morning until Saturday night would not exceed the sum of fifty cents" and he was "downcast, sick and tired of the whole thing" and if it wasn't for feeling that he had a mission of spreading the truth, he would have given up again.

The News was the first daily newspaper in Litchfield, going from semi-weekly to tri-weekly and then finally to daily in January, 1887. The Herald became a daily in 1890. The two were combined as the News-Herald in 1890. The last paper to enter the field was the Daily Union which made its bow to the public on Nov. 4, 1913. It was consolidated with the News-Herald in 1928.

Litchfield has had scores of newspaper editors during the 96 years since the press settled here. One of the greatest, besides Coolidge, was James Stanley, editor of the Monitor. Stanley and Dr. William Barefoot, alderman from the third ward, became embroiled over Dr. Barefoot's ordering the trees in Library Park topped. Dr. Barefoot was peeved about Stanley's criticism and challenged the editor to a duel, "choose your weapons." Stanley editorially chose brickbats at 200 yards and the duel was averted.

The News-Herald travels to every state in the union, three Canadian provinces and to all territories, plus the troops in Korea and Europe. It centers its circulation to 5000 homes within 20 miles of Litchfield, outside of the loyal readers by mail. It has received telegraph news from the UP since 1913. The wire service comes in the office 24 hours per day, every day with the newspaper using the ticker from 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. most days. It has been the "official newspaper" of the State of Illinois for several years. Frank Hanafin has been publisher since 1928.

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