July 14, 2010

A newspaper's centennial

The Redmond Spokesman began life as a reincarnation of the Laidlaw Chronicle. The burgeoning community of Redmond already had a newspaper when H.H. and C.L. Palmer packed up their presses and moved from Laidlaw (now Tumalo) in the summer of 1910. W.C. Walker had started The Oregon Hub in Redmond in September 1909.

Henry H. Palmer hailed originally from Michigan; his wife, Clara L. Palmer, from Ohio. Before coming to Central Oregon, the Palmers had worked at the Lewis County Advocate in Chehalis, Wash., where the editor called Mrs. Palmer “an able newspaperwoman.”

According to an “obituary” in The Bulletin of July 6, 1910, the Laidlaw Chronicle died July 3. The article said Henry Palmer had taken charge of the Chronicle 10 months earlier and improved the newspaper’s appearance. However, there was friction between editor and townsfolk from the start.

In addition to owning the newspaper, Palmer was the town band instructor. After he was dismissed (in a tiff apparently over depriving one Neil Ray of his position as tuba player while he was absent from town) Palmer sued the band boys for wages (“8 simoleons,” or $1). Their parents paid rather than go to court, but were not happy.

Palmer apparently blasted the town in the last issues of the Chronicle. Finally, The Bulletin reported, “Editor Palmer of the defunct Chronicle walked out of town escorted by a delegation of Laidlaw citizens armed with cowbells, tin cans, etc.”

Only days later, the Palmers turned up in Redmond, where they published their first issue of The Redmond Spokesman on July 14, 1910, from an office in a wooden building on the east side of Sixth Street, mid-block between E (Evergreen) and F (Forest).

The lead editorial in the first issue said the time was ripe for a second newspaper in Redmond: “We looked ahead to the future of the city and were satisfied that Redmond was destined to become one of the most important cities in Central Oregon. … A newspaper is a mirror or the character, progress and energy of the town in which it is published, and The Redmond Spokesman will aim to show the outside world that Redmond is the best hustling and most prosperous little city in Central Oregon.”

The Palmers jumped into Redmond life. Henry joined the Redmond Commercial Club and several of its committees. Clara joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and in later years entered layer cakes in the Potato Show and Fair.

The paper must have been successful, because in September 1911, the Palmers announced the installation of “a new job press of the best make, and a standard paper cutter.” A typesetting machine was due to arrive as soon as the recently-completed railroad into town began accepting freight shipments.

By January 1912, the new Linotype machine had arrived and was put into service. The “almost human” mechanical wonder could do the work of three people. The 1,200-pound Junior Linotype occupied a floor space approximately five feet square and required one-quarter horsepower to operate .

The Palmers noted with pride that “Last week The Spokesman office turned out as fine a piece of printing as could be done at any high class printing office anywhere. It was a letterhead for the Redmond Concert Band. A half tone cut of the band in uniform was printed in black at the top of the letterhead, and the balance of the printing, including a sample program down the side of the sheet, was done in rose geranium red. The Spokesman makes a specialty of high class job printing.”

Things seemed to be going well.

Then, on the night of Monday, Feb. 26, 1912, disaster struck. About 10 p.m., three doors away in Maher’s hardware, a lamp exploded, igniting a fire that destroyed the businesses on the east side of the street: Maher’s Hardware, Hobbs Cash Grocery and Bakery, Wright & Delmore furniture and secondhand goods and The Redmond Spokesman.

The Thursday “fire edition” was printed at The Bulletin, with the press work done at The Hub. The Spokesman estimated the loss at more than $4,000 above the insurance. But “The Spokesman will arise from the ashes better and brighter and ready to continue the good work of telling the advantages of Redmond to the outside world.”

And it did.

As the Oregonian noted in a Feb. 29 editorial: “The Redmond Spokesman, one of the new order of linotype country papers, suffered great loss by fire Monday night but showed its spirit by ordering a new outfit the next day. That is the kind of enterprise that is making Central Oregon a great region.”

After a couple of months in a building formerly occupied by Theo. Herkner’s harness shop, the paper moved into a new building August Anderson constructed of native stone on the site of the old, complete with new equipment, including a new Linotype machine(“the fastest model made”).

The paper seemed to be growing, adding more equipment to the mechanical department to meet customers’ demands : “We can print everything but money,” a news item noted.

A new sign went up atop the stone building — “the best-made and most conspicuous sign in the city. The sign is 24 feet long, three feet wide and carries the words 'The Redmond Spokesman ’ in lettering the facsimile of the 'head ’ of the paper. The letters are gold with a black-sanded background and can be seen for a long distance.”

However, The Spokesman and its editor, Henry Palmer, also became entangled in local politics, and the moral wrangling that grew out of the drinking, gambling and prostitution that accompanied the railroad construction in 1910 and 1911. In 1912, the fiery Rev. J.M. Crenshaw took over as pastor of the local Methodist-Episcopal church and inflamed passions. The brouhaha led to the resignation of the mayor and city marshal, name-calling and fisticuffs in the streets and accusations of libel.

In August 1912, someone broke into the Spokesman office and tampered with the Linotype typesetting machine enough to limit the content of the next issue.

The unpleasantness continued into the fall: “Seven people stopped their subscriptions to The Spokesman since the recent 'league’ agitation in the city. Of course a paper does not like to lose any subscribers, but while those seven were having their names taken off, 27 new names were added, and they all paid in cash, in advance, too, which is more that could be said of the ones who 'stopped’ the paper.”

And in November, “It has come to notice of The Spokesman that some people who do not like the policy of the paper, or the publishers, either borrow, beg or steal a copy of the paper every week in order to see what the news is, and whether the paper has 'slandered’ any one.”

By July 1914, the Crenshaw era was over and the Palmers reflected on the newspaper’s anniversary:

“With this issue, The Redmond Spokesman starts out volume five. Four years ago the publisher of The Spokesman came to Redmond and established the paper here. Since that time various periods of good and bad business for Redmond has been encountered. But during these years that

The Spokesman has been published it has been, first, last and all the time an exponent for the growth and future prosperity of Redmond and this section. During the time of publication of the paper — Feb. 26, 1911 — fire destroyed the plant, entailing a loss of $4,000 to the publisher above the insurance. Notwithstanding this handicap the publisher bought and installed in Redmond the largest newspaper and job plant in Central Oregon at a cost of approximately $12,000.

“In starting out the new year — the fifth year of the existence of The Spokesman — the publisher does so with the best wishes for all the people of this section, and hopes they may enjoy the prosperity that is their due, and most assuredly the due of The Spokesman for the boosting it has done for Redmond and this part of Central Oregon.

“The differences that have existed between certain factions in the city, in which The Spokesman, as a newspaper, has had to take part, we are certain have by this time been healed, and with this first issue of the fifth volume of The Spokesman we wish you all a happy new year and unbounded prosperity and let us all pull off our coats, spit on our hands and work for the future betterment and prosperity of Redmond and this part of Crook County.”

The following week, The Spokesman announced its purchase of the Oregon Hub and the Redmond Enterprise. Noting that there wasn’t room for three papers in an area this size, Palmer wrote, “The Spokesman will always endeavor to give everyone a square deal, and while the publisher may have made mistakes in the past (as we are all liable to do), and made some enemies in Redmond, let us now bury all bygones and pull together and work for a better and greater Redmond.”

In February 1915, Henry Palmer joined the many Redmond-area people caught up in gold fever (gold strikes were reported in the Deschutes River at Cline Falls and Odin Falls, even in Redmond streets). On Feb. 25, The Spokesman reported that 10 quartz mining claims were filed “this week” at Grey Butte, and among the 10: H.H. Palmer, “The Spokesman” mine.

The lure of a fortune in gold may have been hanging in the air, but the reality of business must have led the Palmers to suggest alternatives to cash for their customers:
Sept. 23, 1915 — “Here is a proposition for the farmers who are owing The Spokesman for subscriptions, and one that is intended to help them out in an easy way: Those farmers who so desire can bring in potatoes, pumpkins, or other produce that they raise, and have the market price of same credited on their subscription account, for it will be the same as cash to us.
“We know that ready money just at this time is not laying around loose, so anyone can notice, and we take the above method of getting the back subscriptions paid up and helping the farmer at the same time.
“Farmers desiring to avail themselves of this plan are requested to call at The Spokesman office and ascertain what class of produce we desire before they bring in any.”

The Palmer era ended suddenly when the Feb. 17, 1916, edition of The Spokesman announced that W.M. Pettigrew had taken over as editor and publisher.

A few weeks later, Henry apparently made a sudden exit, Pettigrew noted in the March 9, 1916, edition: “The sudden determination of H.H. Palmer, former owner of the Redmond Spokesman, to leave the town was a surprise to many and it was not until Monday evening that definite knowledge of such step was received. Whatever his faults may have been, he was one of the best mechanical men we have ever known in the business. … The Spokesman is a few hours late this week, owing to the deflection of Mr. Palmer, who left without due notice, which caused us the loss of two days’ time. We will endeavor to avoid the like occurrence, as it is our aim to be as regular as a clock.”

Clara Palmer apparently remained in town, but on March 23, The Spokesman noted “Mrs. C.L. Palmer, having closed up all business here and sold her property, left Sunday morning for the East, where relatives reside.”
The last mention found of the Palmers in The Spokesman comes Sept. 11, 1919 — “While at Portland last week, Billy Wilson received a call from H.H. Palmer, the former publisher of the Spokesman. Mr. Palmer has recently come into possession of a goodly sum of money through the death of an aunt, and is really now on 'Easy Street. ’ He expected to locate in California, but told Mr. Wilson he was not looking for a job, but a place to invest his money. Mrs. Palmer was with him.”

-- by Trish Pinkerton

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