Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Owingsville Inquirer's Perilous Beginnings

Ahh, the modern age of communication.  At the stroke of a keyboard or scroll of a mouse or screen on a portable electronic device, we can have the latest news and weather.  Traditional ways of publishing news has nearly fell by the wayside; the large block printer presses and typesetting machines are almost archaic by today's standards.  Simply setting up a newspaper business was a task in those early days.  For Bath County's first news publication, the Owingsville Inquirer, just getting the equipment to begin publishing was a perilous task.
According to John Richards' An Illustrated History of Bath County, The Owingsville Inquirer's debut edition hit the stands on February 2, 1869.  Louisville publishers S.K. Bangs and W.H. Boblits purchased a Franklin Press and other materials necessary for printing the weekly paper, opening the business on the second floor of the old Honaker building, which was located on present day North Court Street.  The first edition consisted of four pages with seven columns.  In that first edition was a colorful account of how the Owingsville Inquirer came to be, with a harrowing journey from Lexington to Owingsville via horse and buggy.  The following is quoted from the February 2, 1869 edition, which was reprinted in the Richards book.

"Arriving at Lexington we found our type boxes broken and
the type scattered in every direction. After much trouble and annoyance,
occasioned not only by the condition of the material, but
by the loss of an indispensable article in our business, we succeeded
in packing the whole G.d. lot into a wagon that would convey it
to Owingsville. We found it necessary to follow after the wagon
on foot to see that none of the loose type played truant by the
roadside. Leaving Lexington at an early hour on the morning of
January the 15th, a damp, drizzling, disagreeable day, we jogged
along at a funeral march, our 'composing stone' keeping time,
'In a sort of Runic rhyme' against the side of the overloaded wagon.
Unexpected demands on our pocketbook had divested it of our
last nickel, and, on reaching the first toll-gate, we resorted to an
innocent little stratagem on the credulous Irish lady who came
to the door — 'Pay you on return this evening'.
"Hardly had we reached the first milestone when a crash occurred,
and down came the wagon on a broken wheel. Nothing
daunted, we scoured the neighborhod in the quest of a wheel that
was a wheel. Failing in this, we returned to the scene of the disaster,
carried the hub and broken spokes to a blacksmith shop
some distance away, and had the thing repaired. Blacksmiths are
proverbially good-hearted men; but it was no Joe Gargery we had
to deal with in this case. However, earnestly protesting that we
would not fail to settle the matter on reaching our destination, Vulcan
grumblingly consented to let the 'veel go'. In the intermediate
time, between riding to and from the wagon, through sleet and
rain, we had become drenched to the skin, and resumed our journey,
in the expressive language of Mr. Santalina, a 'demned, damp,
moist body'.
"At a late hour we reached Winchester. Through the kind
and generous aid of our whole-souled friend, Commodore Parris of
the Clark Democrat, our wants were provided for. With light
hearts we took up our line of march on the following day for Mt.
Sterling, which we reached about 2 o'clock, still pushing on with
the intention of reaching Owingsville by nightfall. Man proposes
but outrageous fate disposes. Wearily we climbed hill after hill,
and anon the shades of evening gathered around us. Just before
reaching the second toll gate, and when within six miles of our objective
point, another wheel was smashed and a portion of our
material dumped into the road.
"Fortunately the accident occurred near the farm of our worthy
representative, Hon. George Hamilton, whose amiable, accomplished
and excellent wife extended to us every courtesy and the
hospitalities of her home. We shall ever remember with deep and
sincere gratitude the kind welcome and assistance so cheerfully
given us by Mrs. H.
"With a new wagon and a pair of mules and horses we were
confident of completing our journey without further mishaps. Our
route lay over a dirt road, in many places axle deep in mud, rendered
so from recent rains and melting snow. It is a good enough
road in summer they tell us, and that's a sound argument against
pikes. This apathy of our good people in this regard to a matter
of such vital importance as good turnpikes, is very like the fellow
in the dialogue of the 'Arkansas Traveler'. In bad weather it was
impossible to cover his house; in dry he had no use for it.
"But we digress. Of course our wagon stuck fast ere we had
proceeded two miles. Coaxing the horses and breaking numberless
rails over the backs of the mules proved to no avail. Unloading a
portion of the materials we again essayed to pull out, but the horses
understood the situation and the mules coincided. It was 'No go'.
"On applying to Mrs. J. A. Marks for an ox team to extricate
us from the difficulty, she kindly consented to loan them. Her
servants were away from home and it devolved upon us, agreeable
to instructions, to hitch the whitest ox on this side and the other
on the t'other. As we could distinguish little or no difference
between the browsing, bullheaded twain we gave it up. In the
meantime our wagon with half of its load had pulled out of the
mud and mire. As luck would have it further down the road we
met our clever countryman, Robt. Clarke, who loaned us his oxen
and wagon to bring up the debris in the rear. Oxen seldom give
vent to their feelings even under the most trying circumstances,
but on this occasion it was too much for brute nature. The 'off ox'
under the terrible strain and distention of muscle and hide, bellowed
lustily. It was only by the wildest and most threatening demon-
strations of a young country gentleman who attacked the oxen
with the apparent intention of 'busting' something, that the wagon
moved off, amid the yelling of the boy and the bellowing of the
brutes. At last we reached the pike and our troubles in a measure
ended. On our arrival at Owingsville we found our type in a mess
of 'pi' and ourselves in a sad plight, which has occasioned a delay
in the appearance of the paper." 

The subscription price for the Owingsville Inquirer was $2.50, and according to some, was a fine newspaper.  Most of the early businesses advertised with the weekly publication, but only a year later, the Inquirer closed down. S.K. Bangs went onto become a successful publisher and head of the Frankfort Democrat paper, and employee David Williamson went onto to work for several newspaper publishers in Bath County over the years.  
There have been many newspapers published in Bath County since 1869, but it's unlikely any of those had such a story of origin.

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