Palestine Magazine Spring Edition 2021 - Page 15

After 172 years , Palestine Herald-Press still going strong Story by Lisa Tang with contributed photos

Over its 172-year history , the Palestine Herald-Press continues to prove its worth to the community . The paper has survived the coming of the railroads , world wars , depressions , changes in ownership , and competition from radio , television and the internet .

The paper ’ s long standing tradition , drawn from the tradition of more than a dozen other newspapers that once circulated in Anderson County , still endures for many reasons . The Herald-Press serves the community as a historical record , a reliable source of information , and a vital part of the town ’ s economy and community .
People inside and outside the organization have always been key to the paper ’ s success . Readers , subscribers , and advertisers remain just as important as employees who report , write , and design pages , sell and design ads , print and distribute papers , and manage the office .
The story of the Herald-Press begins with the founding of the Trinity Advocate in 1849 by Joseph Anderson Clark . The name reflects the importance of river navigation at the time .
“ It always surprises me talking to folks in the community to find out just how many people have worked here over the years , and the many others who have been affected by the newspaper ,” said current Publisher Jake Mienk . “ Many threw paper routes as youngsters , or worked in the pressroom or mailroom or have seen their faces in the paper . The Herald-Press has also seen many journalists start their careers here and move onto larger newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune , New York Times and the Miami Herald .”
Publication of the Trinity Advocate established Palestine as the state ’ s fifth-oldest publishing tradition . Earlier papers include Galveston ( 1842 ), Bay City ( 1845 ), Victoria ( 1846 ), and Jefferson ( 1848 ),
Though the paper soon changed hands and was renamed the Palestine Advocate , it was the first of many weekly papers in town and ran continuously until 1899 , except for three years during the Civil War .
Other newspapers that went in and out of circulation in the latter 19th century include : The Palestine Journal ( 1870 ), The Palestine New Era ( 1874 ), The Eastern Texas News ( 1882 ), The Times ( 1889 ), The Palestine Daily Press ( 1897 ), and The Palestine Daily Visitor ( 1898 ).
In 1902 or 1903 the Hamilton family merged the Advocate and two other papers , the Palestine Press and the Palestine Daily Visitor , publishing them as the Palestine Daily Herald from a building on Avenue A that now belongs to the First Presbyterian Church .
W . M . and H . V . Hamilton , Jr ., were the Daily Herald ’ s publishers . The brothers referred to themselves as “ The Hamilton Boys , You Know ,” in the paper ’ s masthead . In 1903 the paper sold for 10 cents a week or $ 5 per year .
Former Palestine Mayor Jack Selden remembers the Hamiltons as gentlemen . “ They were very nice people ,” he said . “ They were highly respected within the community .”
During the Hamiltons ’ early years , the front page provided national , state , and regional news , but with small headlines that cowered in relation to large ads with illustrations placed randomly around them . No photos appeared with the news stories to illustrate the editorial copy .
The plentiful advertisements indicate businesses relied on the Herald to reach a large local audience , and were key to the newspaper ’ s financial success .
Inside the paper , the pages appeared mostly gray , with bolded headlines atop rows of columns . Large block advertisements drew the reader ’ s attention with illustrations and plenty of white space .
After H . V . Hamilton , Jr .’ s retirement in 1935 , the sons of William Hamilton continued publishing the paper until 1949 .
The Daily Herald was far from the only paper in town in the first half of the 20th century , however . According to the Texas State Historical Association , in 1914 , when Palestine ’ s population was roughly 11,000 , it had two other dailies and five weeklies .
Half a dozen competitors publishing newspapers during the first half of the 20th century include : The Observer ( 1900 ), The Anderson County Weekly Herald ( 1902 ), The Palestine Plaindealer , ( 1903 ), The Record ( 1912 ), The Advance ( 1920 ), The Palestine Daily Press ( 1926 ), The Palestine News ( 1935 ), The Anderson County Times ( 1935 ), and The Palestine Times-News ( 1935 ).
Newspapers continued sharing information and spreading the word about ideas and events for people and organizations in the community . The Dogwood Trails Festival began in 1938 when two businessmen , Charles W . Wooldridge and Eugene Fish discussed the idea of drawing tourists to visit the area ’ s dogwood trees in early spring .
“ An article was carried in a few Texas newspapers and brought over 20,000 visitors that first year ,” states the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce website . “ The attendance doubled the second year , and the premier East Texas event had taken off .”
Celebrating its 86th year in 2021 , the Dogwood Trails Festival continues — with stories , photos , and advertisements in the Herald-Press .
The Patrick family purchased the paper in 1966 , adding the name Press and publishing it as the Palestine Herald-Press .
During that time , Wayne Sellers left a remarkable footprint on the community of Palestine as the paper ’ s editor and publisher from 1966 to 1980 .
“ Sellers was the epitome of what I thought a newspaper man should be ,” said Jack Selden , local historian and former Palestine Mayor . “ He believed in locally-written articles by local people . He was always up front in the battle against censorship .”
Selden left town to join the US Airforce at age 22 but returned in the 1970s — when he began reading the Herald-Press on a regular basis — and became friends with publisher Wayne Sellers , an advocate for the paper and the town .