The History of Banks County Newspapers
By Mike Buffington
Mainstreet Newspapers
2012
 

Much information has been lost over the decades about the history of local small town newspapers. Many were published only for a brief time and no copies exist today. Only when a newspaper was a county legal organ are there some records in county courthouses, but even that is incomplete.

In Banks County (Ga.), the first reference to a printing person was in the census of 1860 (Banks was created in 1859.) In that census, Robert Cuthburt, 22, born in Ireland was listed as “printer.” He was shown in the home of William Turk, 65 in Homer. Cuthburt was probably a boarder as two other single men were also listed in the home, one a lawyer the other a doctor. It’s doubtful that he was running a local print shop at that time. He disappears from the record after that date.

Many small towns in the South started newspapers in the post-war period of 1870-1900. In 1869, there were 59 newspapers; by 1890 there were 225. This was in part due to the growth in the South at the time, especially when trains came through a town, but it was also apparently driven by political forces. Anti-Republican sentiment was high, as was a backlash against blacks who gained power during Reconstruction. And newspapers of the era were seen as engines of growth and promoters of their communities. Any “real” town had a newspaper. (A lot of new towns were being incorporated in this era as well, partly from the expansion of the railroads.) 

The first newspaper in Banks County was “The North Georgian” started in 1878 which was published in Bellton (the Banks County side of Lula — the towns later merged into Lula.) In October 1883, the paper moved to Homer and was published there until March, 1884 when it moved to Maysville. It apparently went out of business in 1885. The paper was the legal organ for Banks County while it was published.

In the History of Banks County, Mize says that there was a Banks County newspaper called “The Boss” in 1890-92 which was the smallest newspaper in the state at 5” X 7.5”

After the North Georgian went out of business, the legal organ status went to the Athens Banner-Watchman newspaper.

LEGAL ORGANS

While no copies of those earlier newspapers are known to exist today, we do have a rather complete record of the county’s legal organ newspapers after 1888. Before that date, legal notices for Banks County were published in an Athens Banner-Watchman newspaper. 

Many small towns in the South started newspapers in the post-war period of 1870-1900. In 1869, there were 59 newspapers; by 1890 there were 225. This was in part due to the growth in the South at the time, especially when trains came through a town, but it was also apparently driven by political forces. Anti-Republican sentiment was high, as was a backlash against blacks who gained power during Reconstruction. And newspapers of the era were seen as engines of growth and promoters of their communities. Any “real” town had a newspaper. (A lot of new towns were being incorporated in this era as well, partly from the expansion of the railroads.)

bankscountyobserver1888—First name of Barton’s three flags. This was the first in-county legal organ in Banks.

In late April 1888, Joseph Barton started the “Banks County Observer” in Homer. It was the first local legal organ in Banks County that we can establish for the record. The first issue we have a copy of is #4, dated May 23, 1888. We believe the paper was published from the same location as the Journal office is today, but in an earlier building. Barton owned the property (Lot 51) and sold it in 1890 to J. D. Hill for $75.

On April 30, 1888, the Athens newspaper ran a legal notice notifying the public that the Observer would become the new legal organ for Banks County.

It was with the Observer that we have a first reference to a printing press in Homer:

“Mr. J. W. Sumpter’s work has only to be seen to pronounce him a natural genius. He is one of the best workman in northeast Georgia. If good judges want to see a specimen of his workmanship call at this office and look at the Observer’s press, which he has overhauled. Cincinnati, St. Louis or New York press foundries can’t eclipse it.” -- May 30, 1888.

On Jan. 23, 1889, Barton changed the name of the Observer to “Farmer’s Journal.”

FarmerJournal  1888—Second name.

He said in that issue: “The Banks County Observer passes out, the Farmer’s Journal takes its place.”

A few months later, Sept. 12, 1889, Barton again changed the newspaper’s name, this time to the “Weekly Journal.” He also began to promote job printing with ads in the paper.

In April 1890, Barton took a job with the railroad. The April 10, 1890 issue listed Rev. T.O. Rorie as editor. The last issue of the “Weekly Journal” was dated May 1, 1890.

An article in the Atlanta Constitution dated April 29, 1890 said this:

“The Weekly Journal has taken its flight. No longer will it record the news of Banks as the official legal organ. Editor Barton sighed for the railroad. The magic sound of the whistle on the Northeastern lured him away from his first love, and Maysville captured him. A good energetic man has left us.

“A new paper will be started here in a few weeks. It will be published on a splendid power press with a company of ample means to back it. It will be the official organ of the county, the organ of the Farmers’ Alliance, and the representative of progress in northeast Georgia. It will be a six column folio and its politics will be democratic to the core.” 

WeeklyJournal1889 - Third name of Barton's newspaper.  

THE GAZETTE

Within two weeks of the demise of the “Weekly Journal,” its successor was born. A stock company had been formed with 40 stockholders named Banks County Publishing Company. It was located where the old Journal building stands today. That property was purchased by J. D. Hill in April 1890 from Barton.

A May 16, 1890 article in the Atlanta Constitution said:

“The Banks County Gazette is its name, and it has just made its appearance at Homer. It is a neat paper, and Messrs. T.O. Rorie and K.D Lockhart are the publishers.”

The first issue we have a copy of is dated Oct. 1, 1890 and was labeled issue #24. The owners of the Gazette saw it as the successor of the “Weekly Journal” because issue #24 takes issue back into April, not May. (It was April when the “Observer” was started in 1888, thus the Gazette was seen at the time as a continuation of the Barton newspapers.)

 gazette-front
1890—The forerunner of the Banks County Journal.   

The key link between the papers in this transition was T. O. Rorie who moved from the defunct “Weekly Journal” to the Gazette as publisher.

Rorie left the Journal Jan. 14, 1891 after a year of serving as editor/publisher. He said in a farewell letter that he would remain a member of the stock company, but wouldn’t be doing weekly publishing. His move in 1891 to Toccoa was apparently the reason he left Homer. (By 1894, Rorie was publishing in Social Circle.)

According to an 1899 article, the Gazette went through a lot of people in its seven years. That article, along with looking through the old issues, paints this picture:

After Rorie left in 1891, the Gazette was leased to Joe S. Hames, “the printer.” For the first year, Ira K. Hill is also listed on the masthead, but his role is unclear.

In a review of the paper after its first year, Hames writes in May 1891 that the owning stock company has “good businessmen.” Hames also said that under his watch, the Gazette would “battle for the causes of the farmer and laboring class.” But he also says politics would be a secondary consideration and he apparently refused to align the paper with the Democratic party and tended to favor the “Alliance” movement of that era.

Throughout 1891, Hames writes long editorials, many of which are anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco.

gazette-ad1890—Promotion ad  

in January 1892, Hill leaves the paper and Hames takes over. The paper takes on an even stronger religious tone. In February 1892, the Atlanta Constitution rips the Gazette over its anti-tobacco stand and Hames responds to the Constitution in the Gazette, calling the promotion of tobacco “murder.”

In May 1892, Hames writes that there is an advertising boycott against the paper over its Alliance politics. In fact, Hames and one of the newspapers’ stockholders, Dr. V. D. Lockhart, the local druggist, engage in a public written dual in the paper over Hames’ political leanings.

Lockhart had this to say in 1892:

“I do say that if the gentlemen (stockholders) who gave their money to this enterprise had known that you intended to prostitute our county paper and almost ruin it, as you have done, you would have never had control of it.”

Lockhart goes on to say:

“The merchants have stopped advertising in your paper and the Gazette is not today worth one-half as much as an advertising medium that it was when the paper was edited by Mr. Rorie. You have allowed the paper to dwindle down from a staunch business enterprise to a “nothing patch,” run mostly by the Reform Press Association.”

Hames responded to Lockhart with this:

“The doctor says the citizens started a county paper and made a mistake in leasing to me. If the leading citizens (stockholders) were so exacting in the policy they wished the paper to maintain why did they not run it as their property…”

Hames must have been struggling and even an Athens newspaper blasts him over his politics:

“The Banks County Gazette claims a short paper on account of having to look after the election. The editor’s party will come up about as short as his paper after the returns come in.”

By Dec. 6, 1892, Hames is gone and Henry Brewster takes over. (Ownership of the paper was apparently apart from ownership of the building and property where it was located.)

Brewster was a young, but experienced newspaperman. Before coming to Homer, Brewster had published a paper in Cherokee County, AL with his father (Piedmont Post.) He then had started or bought the “Campbell County News” in Fairburn, Ga.

When Brewster takes over in late 1892, he immediately aligns the paper with the Democratic Party. In April 1893, V. D. Lockhart is shown to be assistant editor with Brewster still on the masthead as Editor.

By May 1895, Lockhart’s name is gone and while Brewster is still listed as editor, S.L. Cox is listed as “local editor.” Also in May, M.C. Sanders, who would later be involved with the Journal, is shown to be selling subscriptions and advertising for the paper. Brewster had apparently moved on, but retained control of the paper.

In August 1895, Brewster writes an article saying he wants to sell the Gazette. In that article, he says the paper has a Washington hand press, plenty of type and a small job press. If the Washington hand press was in place in 1895, then the large Campbell press must have come later. Tax records indicate the newspaper building was built in 1900; it was obviously built to hold the large Campbell press, so perhaps that is when the larger press came to Homer.

January 6, 1896, Brewster officially leaves and S.L. Cox is the only name on the masthead as Editor & Publisher. Brewster left Homer for the “Cherokee Advance” in Canton. He later left newspapers altogether and opened a store, but died young in 1901.

On Sept. 9, 1896 Cox is joined on the masthead with Charles O. Toney as one of the editors and publishers. Toney doesn’t stay long and on Jan. 14, 1896, Cox is back on the masthead alone.

The Gazette had chewed up a lot of editors in its short history. Change was bound to happen.

BANKS COUNTY JOURNAL

On Feb. 15, 1897, Cox who apparently by then controlled the Gazette, announces that the Gazette would be merging with the Harmony Grove Echo and that all information should be sent to Harmony Grove. That was the last issue of the Gazette. Cox (or perhaps the shareholders) sold the Gazette to Dr. W. B. Hardman (Hardman-Shankle company) in Harmony Grove (Commerce.)

Hardman combined the Gazette with his Harmony Grove newspaper, The Echo. The result was the Harmony Grove Echo-Gazette.

But that change didn’t sit well with Homer residents since there was no longer a newspaper being published inside Banks County. Hardman had bought the Gazette to get the legal notice publishing for Banks County, but a paper in Baldwin, which had been announced in the Nov. 12, 1896 Gazette, moved into Banks County and threatened to take the legal notices away.

That prompted Hardman to move quickly and on April 1, 1897 he brought the Gazette back to Homer, but under a new name, “Banks County Journal.” It was a Saturday paper; the first copy we have is issue #4 dated May 1, 1897.

Why the Gazette name was changed to the Journal is unclear. An 1899 article about the paper said Hardman had “sent the Gazette home” when he moved it back to Homer, “but unfortunately it lost its name.” The article goes on to say that: “Not knowing what else to call it, it was named Banks County Journal.”

The unnamed writer of that 1899 article was apparently miffed at the name change: “The paper ought to be called by its original name The Gazette, but we are content to call it The Journal.”

 bcjournal1
1897—The first flag was an elegant typeface.  

The paper had Henry W. Dyer listed as printer and M.C. Sanders as editor. But Sanders’ tenure was brief. After issue #4, he was apparently fired. (But he went on to a successful career in business and politics. He was Mayor of Maysville in 1926; the president of the Maysville board of education; the first president of the Maysville Chamber of Commerce and was state representative in 1939. He worked at a bank in Maysville and was said to be involved in insurance, farming and at one time was a teacher. He married twice and died in 1956 and is buried at the Presbyterian Church in Homer.)

By issue #5, Hardman had leased the Journal to Wallace L. Harden for one year with an option to buy the paper at the end of that time. Harden was the brother of Homer Mayor O.N. Harden.

Harden wrote that he had given up a good job at Metcalf Lounge Company in Atlanta to come to Homer and run the Journal and that the Journal was now a stable paper. He wrote a lot over the months of his tenure about the need for community support, subscribers and advertisers.

July 1, 1897, Harden changed the publication day to Thursdays and blamed slow postal delivery for the change. He was running an 8-page paper in 7 columns at that time and his promotions said: “Everybody who is anybody takes the Banks County Journal.” He also writes that the paper is ½ “home print,” the meaning of which is unclear. It appears as if 4 of the 8 pages were syndicated type, so he may have meant that there were 4 local pages he was publishing.

 In any event, the printing quality of the Journal was poor. Harden was obviously struggling and wrote this:

“Truly the ways of the Editor and his printer and devils are hard and few there be that can overcome the difficulties.”

On Sept. 2, 1897, Harden apologizes for sending the paper out late over the previous weeks. He also calls for more advertising and promotes job printing.

On Dec. 2, 1897, Harden is shown as the manager of the “Ten Cent Cotton Company” in Homer in addition to his newspaper position. He uses the pages of the Journal to promote the company.

In January of 1898, he is still apologizing for late papers.

The most telling article about Harden came on April 14, 1898, Vol. 2 issue #1 with these words:

 

For sale or lease the Banks County Journal.

Apply to W. B. Hardman, Harmony Grove at once.”

 

After one year, Harden was gone. An 1899 article about his tenure at the Journal said he had “adverse circumstances. No experience, no subscription list, no advertisers.”

By April 28, 1898, Hardman had leased the paper for 20 months to J.N. Hill and Henry W. Dyar. Hill was the son of the Ordinary and Dyar the son of the postmaster. They promised the paper would be “neat and well printed.”

On Jan. 19, 1899 C.A. Meeks joins the Journal as editor and Dyar leaves the paper.

printadPrinting Promotion

THE MEEKS ERA

On Jan. 4, 1900, the paper is being published by the “Journal Publishing Company,” but it isn’t clear who that is. Whether Dr. Hardman still owned the Journal isn’t known.

In March 1900, J. N. Hill retires from the paper, although there is some speculation he may have been the owner of Journal Publishing Company. His father owned the Journal building and property; he purchased the property from his father in 1902. But for the next 13 years, C.A. Meeks is the only name directly associated with the Journal. His amount of ownership is unknown, but in 1906, he acquired the property where the Journal is located (Lot 51.)

Meeks takes the Journal into a golden era. The quality of the paper improves and during some boom years, it explodes with advertising and lots of pages.

Columbus A. Meeks was born in 1865 and had a long newspaper career. He first shows up as a student who passed a spelling test in the Forest News (Jackson Herald) in 1875. He and friend H. B. Morris went to Texas in January 1888, but he shows up in 1889 as having come back to Homer to be a schoolteacher.

He married Alice Mason from Maysville in 1891. An Atlanta Constitution story in 1892 says he fell in a stable and had a serious injury from being kicked in the forehead by a mule.

A few months after he became editor of the Journal in 1900, he made a run for Clerk of Court in Banks County, but was disqualified over some paperwork. (He had tried to run for the seat as far back as 1896.) He runs again in 1902 and is elected and would go on to serve in that position until 1913; he was defeated for re-election in 1912.

Meeks shows up in some Georgia Press articles over the years, being listed with other editors from around the state as attending various events. He is listed in a national press directory as both publisher and editor in 1907.

On Aug. 10, 1911, Meeks changes the Journal masthead to a bolder typeface and writes a page 1 article discussing change and growth of the paper. The page count is now 8-12 pages per week as the local economy is booming. New banks are opening and the paper is full of large ads.

 

 meeksbcj
 1911—Meeks goes to a bolder type for the flag in 1911.

Also in 1911, Meeks’ son, Ralph, is said to have graduated from Mercer law school and was helping his father at the Journal for a time.

In July 1912, Meeks is defeated for re-election to the clerk’s position. (That he only won by only 6 votes in 1908 might have been a hint at his political weakness.) The next week, he has a frontpage article congratulating his opponent. By November that year, he’s running an ad promoting the fact that he and his son, who now lives in Carrollton, are making farm loans.

By 1913, the Journal’s circulation was said to be 1,648.

Although there was no article explaining why, Meeks leaves the Journal at the end of 1913 and moved to Carrolton where buys and becomes editor of the Carroll Free Press.” A great-nephew, Bobby Blackwell, said Meeks wanted to send all his children to college and he couldn’t make enough money at the Journal to do that, so he moved to Carrollton. A 1916 listing shows him and his son “editor and publisher” of the Free Press.

From 1919-1921, his son moves to Calhoun in the newspaper business and in 1928, C.A. Meeks’ wife died. But Meeks stays on at the Free Press for many years and he and his son have a minority ownership in Carroll Publishing Company. He reportedly operated the paper until 1941.

 

In Oct. 1921, Meeks sells A.J. Hilton the printing office and the lot next door.

 

In 1945, the Meeks fight a move to sell and merge the Free Press with the Carroll County Times. They lose that fight and in 1948, the two papers merge. (Meeks did visit his old paper in Homer in 1930.)

 

C. A. Meeks died in 1956 after a long newspaper career that he began in Homer.

 

A. J. HILTON ERA

After Meeks’ departure from the Journal, A.J. (“Uncle Jack”) Hilton takes over as editor as listed in the Jan. 8, 1914 issue. Hilton had been affiliated with the Journal since 1906.

Andrew Jackson Hilton had arrived in Homer sometime between 1900 and 1906. He was born in New York on Sept. 9, 1870. Exactly when he arrived in Georgia isn’t clear. Homer resident Bobby Blackwell said Hilton had gotten a job selling eyeglasses and biked all around the country peddling glasses. When he came through Homer, his bike broke down and that’s when he got a job at the newspaper office with C.A. Meeks. Hilton later bought some interest in the venture. A group of stockholders was formed when Meeks left Homer, and Hilton apparently bought out that interest over the years.

According to Blackwell, Hilton’s mother had been a housekeeper for a wealthy New York lawyer. She would take A.J. to work with her and he would sit quietly in the library of the house reading books and became very well read.

In a tribute article after his death published in the Anderson Independent, the writer said Hilton was, “no provincial thinker. He had a lasting love for good literature and could quote freely from Shakespeare, Ibsen and other literary greats.”

When Hilton was 39 years old in 1910, he shows up in the Homer census as a boarder in the house of Thomas Hill and was single at the time. He listed his job as “printer at county paper” in the census report.

On June 29, 1910, Hilton married Mary Rachel Mason Ash. She had previously been married to Robert Lee Ash in 1898 and had three children from that first marriage.

Hilton and his new wife had a son together, Patrick Henry Hilton, on Aug. 31, 1911.

A few months after he took over the Journal in 1914, Hilton suffered a personal tragedy when his wife died, leaving a total of 4 small children behind. Hilton wrote a long front-page tribute to her on July 10, 1914 in which he lamented, “This is the saddest day of my life.”

AJ Hilton never remarried. In 1920, he and his son Pat were boarders in the house of Robert J. Dyer in Homer. Pat was 8-years-old and A.J. was 42. He listed his work as “editor newspaper” in the 1920 census.

In 1921, he buys the printing building and lot and a neighboring lot from Meeks. In 1926, he buys out the interest in some other property from his stepchildren.

By 1930, AJ Hilton was 60 years old and living in the home of Joe L. Shubert next door to the print shop in Homer. His son Pat, who was 18 at the time, had married 17-year-old Conrad Lee Barrett and they were also living in the same household. AJ was listed at “manager newspaper” in the census and Pat was listed as “printer at paper.”

On March 7, 1931, Pat and Conrad had a son, Jack Ellis Hilton, who later went to work for IBM in Atlanta.

A.J. HIlton was affiliated with the Journal for over 50 years, covering the span of WWI, the Depression and WWII. Blackwell said he was quite a character; some days, he would toss out pennies for kids to dig around for. He loved watermelon and would cut one on the front porch of the printing office. He would also sit on the porch in an overcoat even in cold weather watching people go by, Blackwell said.

Hilton would also buy a slap of beef and hang it in the back of the print shop where he would cut raw slices out to eat. Hilton also didn’t like electricity, according to Blackwell, and kept the print shop operating off a gas 1-cycle motor even after electricity came to the area in the late 1930s.

We don’t know much about AJ Hilton’s long newspaper tenure. He shows up in two Atlanta Constitution articles in 1919, one on a list of Georgia editors who attended a loan rally in Atlanta. Another 1919 article reprinted comment from the editor of The Commerce News said he would wager a “soft drink” that Hilton “is making more clear money out of The Journal than is being made by any weekly newspaper in the state.”

In Oct. 1921, Meeks sells A.J. Hilton the printing office and the lot next door.

In 1945, the Meeks fight a move to sell and merge the Free Press with the Carroll County Times. They lose that fight and in 1948, the two papers merge. (Meeks did visit his old paper in Homer in 1930.)

C. A. Meeks died in 1956 after a long newspaper career that he began in Homer.

 

A. J. HILTON ERA

After Meeks’ departure from the Journal, A.J. (“Uncle Jack”) Hilton takes over as editor as listed in the Jan. 8, 1914 issue. Hilton had been affiliated with the Journal since 1906.

Andrew Jackson Hilton had arrived in Homer sometime between 1900 and 1906. He was born in New York on Sept. 9, 1870. Exactly when he arrived in Georgia isn’t clear. Homer resident Bobby Blackwell said Hilton had gotten a job selling eyeglasses and biked all around the country peddling glasses. When he came through Homer, his bike broke down and that’s when he got a job at the newspaper office with C.A. Meeks. Hilton later bought some interest in the venture. A group of stockholders was formed when Meeks left Homer, and Hilton apparently bought out that interest over the years.

According to Blackwell, Hilton’s mother had been a housekeeper for a wealthy New York lawyer. She would take A.J. to work with her and he would sit quietly in the library of the house reading books and became very well read.

In a tribute article after his death published in the Anderson Independent, the writer said Hilton was, “no provincial thinker. He had a lasting love for good literature and could quote freely from Shakespeare, Ibsen and other literary greats.”

When Hilton was 39 years old in 1910, he shows up in the Homer census as a boarder in the house of Thomas Hill and was single at the time. He listed his job as “printer at county paper” in the census report.

On June 29, 1910, Hilton married Mary Rachel Mason Ash. She had previously been married to Robert Lee Ash in 1898 and had three children from that first marriage.

Hilton and his new wife had a son together, Patrick Henry Hilton, on Aug. 31, 1911.

A few months after he took over the Journal in 1914, Hilton suffered a personal tragedy when his wife died, leaving a total of 4 small children behind. Hilton wrote a long front-page tribute to her on July 10, 1914 in which he lamented, “This is the saddest day of my life.”

AJ Hilton never remarried. In 1920, he and his son Pat were boarders in the house of Robert J. Dyer in Homer. Pat was 8-years-old and A.J. was 42. He listed his work as “editor newspaper” in the 1920 census.

In 1921, he buys the printing building and lot and a neighboring lot from Meeks. In 1926, he buys out the interest in some other property from his stepchildren.

By 1930, AJ Hilton was 60 years old and living in the home of Joe L. Shubert next door to the print shop in Homer. His son Pat, who was 18 at the time, had married 17-year-old Conrad Lee Barrett and they were also living in the same household. AJ was listed at “manager newspaper” in the census and Pat was listed as “printer at paper.”

On March 7, 1931, Pat and Conrad had a son, Jack Ellis Hilton, who later went to work for IBM in Atlanta.

A.J. Hilton was affiliated with the Journal for over 50 years, covering the span of WWI, the Depression and WWII. Blackwell said he was quite a character; some days, he would toss out pennies for kids to dig around for. He loved watermelon and would cut one on the front porch of the printing office. He would also sit on the porch in an overcoat even in cold weather watching people go by, Blackwell said.

Hilton would also buy a slap of beef and hang it in the back of the print shop where he would cut raw slices out to eat. Hilton also didn’t like electricity, according to Blackwell, and kept the print shop operating off a gas 1-cycle motor even after electricity came to the area in the late 1930s.

We don’t know much about AJ Hilton’s long newspaper tenure. He shows up in two Atlanta Constitution articles in 1919, one on a list of Georgia editors who attended a loan rally in Atlanta. Another 1919 article reprinted comment from the editor of The Commerce News said he would wager a “soft drink” that Hilton “is making more clear money out of The Journal than is being made by any weekly newspaper in the state.”

 

1937BanksCountyJounral
1937—A different typeface was used on the flag by 1937.

A search of the records of the Georgia Press Association indicates that the Banks County Journal wasn’t a member of the association between 1920-1960, so no mention of the Journal is found in those archives.

In addition, Journal papers from 1915 to 1937 are missing. We have a few old documents that indicated Hilton traded advertising for new type fonts in the early 1930s, but little else on which to understand what Hilton was doing at the Journal. 

bcjournal19591959—The flag was changed to an even bolder version sometime after 1937

In the Jan. 5, 1961 Anderson Independent tribute to Hilton following his death, it was said that he had continued to set type by hand “up until the mid-1950s…working from the case as did editors of the old school.” The article said Hilton was “one of the real old-timers.” It also said he would take farm products from farmers during hard times as payment for subscriptions. The article also says he ran a one-man operation, although we know Pat had joined him as early as 1930 and that he had other help at the print shop as well.

Blackwell said that it was many years later when the print shop added a linotype. The Journal’s linotype was made in 1922, but Blackwell said it was into the 1950s before the paper bought it.

Hilton’s stepson, Rob Ash, reportedly helped set type by hand, a job he also would do for the nearby Commerce News. Blackwell said his own mother also set type at the paper before she married.

Eventually, the operation added a linotype, a machine that was operated by a man known as “Sambo.” Blackwell said the machine was always breaking down. Neither A.J. nor Pat Hilton apparently learned to run the linotype.

Blackwell said the operation had around three people working most of the time. A young black boy helped out and eventually learned to feed the main newspaper press.

Some years before A.J. Hilton died, he had turned over most of the paper’s operations to his son, but Pat’s name doesn’t show up in the paper until after his father had died.

A.J Hilton was 90 years old when he died Dec. 23, 1960. He reportedly “fell near his print shop” and died at BJC hospital a short time later.

He was cremated; an unusual thing for Banks County in 1960, and a marker is in the Hilton gravesite in the Presbyterian cemetery in Homer.

 

PAT HILTON

Getting out the paper with its now-antique equipment wasn’t easy even in the 1960s. In May 1962, Pat puts a note in to apologize for getting the paper out late because “the linotype was on the blink for a day and a half.” In October he again apologizes for a late paper because he had “been up all week printing circulars.”

Pat Hilton’s wife was sickly throughout her life, having had 5 major operations. In June 1962, Pat put a terse note in the paper saying someone had stolen the clock from the print shop while he was away tending to his sick wife.

She died in the fall of 1962 and in her obit it says she was “part owner and associate editor” of the Journal, although her name doesn’t appear in the masthead. It lists her membership in the Homer Methodist Church and the Georgia Press Association.

 PatHiltonPat Hilton

 

Pat Hilton died in March 1969 at 57. His estate was sold in August that year to the Garrison family of Homer.

James Parks leased the paper from the Garrisons and attempted to continue publishing the Journal and put out a few issues, but the last one published on the old antique Campbell Country letterpress in Homer was October 16, 1969. For some reason, Parks had added the word “The” to the flag, making the paper “The Banks County Journal.” (The forms of the last issue were still on the press in 2011 when the equipment and building were purchased by the Buffingtons for renovation.)

Buzzy Hardy, publisher of The Commerce News, bought the Journal from Parks and took up publishing it in late 1969, at which point it went to offset printing. He also used “The” in the flag. Dee Dee and Howard Turner ran the Journal for Hardy and they occupied the old Journal building in Homer, although Hardy said he never paid rent for the facility. The Turners occupied the little front room on the building and the old part of the print shop was used as a junk room, and remained unchanged until 2011.

 

BUFFINGTON ERA

By the late 1960s, the Journal was being published on an irregular basis. Herman Buffington of The Jackson Herald in Jefferson said that he had to go to Homer several times to print a few copies of the Journal for legal purposes so the county could hold court.

Because of those problems, The Jackson Herald was named the Banks County legal organ in May 1968.

At the urging of the county Ordinary, Mrs. V.E. “Nanny” Chambers, the Buffington’s started a new Banks County newspaper in December 1968, “The Banks County News.” Chambers would be its editor and it was first located in the “old bank building” in Homer that Chambers owned.

bcnV1N1
Vol. 1 No. 1 of Banks County News 1968.
This was a small 11x17 size on bond paper for the first 25 issues.

The News began as a small size publication, 11”x17” on bond paper, but the people in Banks County didn’t like the smaller size. So after 25 issues, the News was made into a 4-page broadsheet. In 1969, it became a part of The Herald and the front page was rotated for each edition. The Banks County News was page 3 in The Herald and a plate change was made. The two papers were identical except for the flopped front page.

Interestingly, the legal organ status didn’t revert to the Banks County News in 1969; it remained with The Herald and both countys’ legal notices ran in The Herald. But in August 1972, The Jackson lost its legal organ status to The Banks County Journal.

bcnBROADSHEETBroadsheet of the Banks County News. Note the photo of the courthouse in the upper left. The word “The” was added later.

From 1969 to 1987, both The Banks County Journal and The Banks County News were published in Homer. (For some reason, the volume and issue number were changed in The Journal to suggest that it had only begun publishing in 1969 rather than in the 1890s.)

Mrs. V. E. Chambers continued to be editor of The Banks County News until her death in October 1985 after having been struck by a car while crossing the street. Brenda Williams then became news editor and in 1992, Sherry Lewis became news editor and the following year, the paper moved offices to the old barber shop. In 1996, Angela Gary was named editor. Over the next 15 years, The Banks County News won dozens of state and national awards.

 

In 1987, the Buffingtons bought The Commerce News from Hardy and The Journal ceased to exist. The Buffingtons had originally intended to give up the name of The Banks County News and use the traditional name “Journal” in a merged newspaper, but Hardy didn’t own the Journal’s name and so he couldn’t sell it to the Buffingtons.

So the name of the Journal died in 1987 and the News continued to publish. But the News was no longer co-mingled with The Jackson Herald after that time; it was spun off into its own stand-alone newspaper and all the Jackson County news was removed. And The Banks County News was again the legal organ for Banks County starting in 1987. Dee Dee Turner and her husband, Howard continued to be associated with Banks County coverage working part-time for the Banks County News after the Journal stopped publishing.

 

JOURNAL BUILDING AND EQUIPMENT

Meanwhile, after 1969 the old Journal building in Homer fell into disrepair. The small front room that had been a porch was used by The Journal until it folded in 1987, but the rest of the building was only used to store paper copies.

A small room on the north side of the building that held the linotype collapsed in the 1990s. Building owner Mack Garrison removed the linotype and other equipment from the fallen room and stored it in a warehouse. He also patched up the building and he and his wife cleaned up much of the trash and mess that had accumulated in the old print shop. But nothing was thrown out and the building and equipment remained in place.

In 2011, the Buffingtons purchased the old Journal building and equipment from the Garrisons and began a remodel of the building and cleaning of the equipment. The main part of the building was built in ca 1900 for the newspaper press installed around that time.

In the building was a rather complete print shop with 1890-1930 era equipment. Among the main items are:

--1890 Campbell Country Press used to print the newspapers.

--1909 Old Style 10x15 Chandler and Price hand press.

--1927 Chandler and Price 12x18 press with Kluge feeder and motor.

--1922 Model 8 Linotype.

--1907 Mentges Folder (discarded).

--Early 20th Century type cabinets and cases with type.

--ca. 1915 Morrison Perfection Wire Stitcher

--Central belt drive system for the Campbell and 10x15 presses with motor

--Saws, router, trash compactor and other items.

 

WORK

The building required a lot of renovation with 2/3 of the floor replaced and other work. That was done by Mike Rector along with Marty Buffington, Trevor Castellaw and Clark Buffington.

Cleaning of the equipment was done by Marty, Trevor, Clark along with Blair Buffington and Larry Norman. Rick Hawkins provided invaluable help with getting the old presses up and running.

Greg Carpenter set the type for this front page.

Bobby Blackwell of Homer provided a lot of background information for the history of the newspaper.

 

THIS EDITION

This paper is a reprint of the last issue printed off of the old 1890 Campbell letterpress on Oct. 16, 1969. The text on this front page has been changed, but the other three pages were printed off of the original forms left on the press after the last letterpress run. The flag at the top of the front page was left just as it was. The actual date of this special edition run is the spring of 2012.

 

EDITORS

The following is a list of editors who have served at Banks County newspapers over the years:

Joseph Barton 1888-1890

Banks County Observer  1888

Farmer’s Journal             1889

Weekly Journal               1890

The Banks County Gazette     1890-1897

            T.O. Rorie                  1890

            Joe Hames                 1891-1892

            Henry Brewster           1892-1895

            S.L. Cox                     1896

            Charles Toney             1896

Banks County Journal              1897-1987

            M.C. Sanders              1897

            Wallace Harden            1897-1898

            J.N. Hill & Henry Dyar  1898-1899

            C.A. Meeks                 1899-1913

            A.J. Hilton                   1914-1960

            Pat Hilton                    1960-1969

            Dee Dee Turner           1969-1987

Banks County News                 1968-

V. E. Chambers                       1968-1985

Brenda Williams                       1985-1992

Sherry Lewis                            1992-1996

Angela Gary                             1996-

 

PROPERTY OWNERS

Ownership of the property where all the Banks County newspapers were published was not always directly connected to editorship or ownership of the papers themselves in the early days. Various stock companies owned the paper in the early years with the Journal eventually coming into single ownership.
 
The following is a list of property ownership of the location (Homer Lot #51) where the newspapers were published:
 

1888-1890          Joseph Barton

1890-1902          J.D. Hill

1902-1906          J.N. Hill

1906-1921          C.A. Meeks

1921-1960          A.J. Hilton

1960-1969          Pat Hilton

1969-                 Mack Garrison

2011-                 Mainstreet Newspapers (building and equipment)