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Early American Baptist Newspapers
A History of the Baptists, 1890
By Thomas Armitage

      The oldest Baptist weekly in America is 'THE WATCHMAN', of Boston, established in 1819, with the title, the 'Christian Watchman,' and edited by Deacon James Loring. The question of slavery becoming a subject of warm discussion, the 'Christian Reflector' was begun at Worcester, Mass., edited by Rev. Cyrus P. Grosvenor. This paper was removed to Boston in 1844, under the editorship of Rev. H. A. Graves, where it obtained a large circulation; but, Mr. Graves's health failing, Rev. J. W. Olmstead became its editor, March, 1846, and in 1848 the two papers were united, under the name, 'The Watchman and Reflector,' Dr. Olmstead remaining as editor. The 'Christian Era' was commenced in Lowell in 1852, but was removed to Boston after severed years, and conducted by Dr. Amos Webster, and was merged into 'THE Watchman and Reflector' in 1875, when the name of the united papers became 'THE Watchman.' Dr. Olmstead resided in New York for a short time, but returned as editor-in-chief of 'THE Watchman' in 1883 and now ranks as the senior Baptist editor in the country, having conducted this paper, with a brief interval, for more than forty years. The influence of this journal is very healthful and deservedly wide-spread in New England.

      The Connecticut Baptist Missionary Society started the 'CHRISTIAN SECRETARY' in 1822, with Elisha Cushman as editor. A succession of editors conducted it until 1858, when Elisha Cushman, Jr., assumed charge, continuing it till his death in 1876. Then S. D. Phelps, D. D. who had filled the pastorate of the First Baptist Church at New Haven, under the shadow of Yale College, for thirty years, became its editor, and has done a most forceful work in making it an indispensable exponent of the principles and progress of the Connecticut Baptists.

     The 'CHRISTIAN INDEX', now published at Atlanta, Ga., had its origin in the 'Columbian Star,' a weekly folio sheet, originated at Washington, D. C., about the year 1822, by Luther Rice, assisted by Dr. Staughton and O. B. Brown; it was devoted principally to the advocacy of foreign missions and education through the Columbian College. It appears to have been first edited by John S. Meehan, assisted by


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the gentlemen already named, Mr. Brown editing in the same office a monthly called the 'Latter-Day Luminary.' Afterwards, the celebrated Professor J. D. Knowles, then a student in Washington, became its editor, and was succeeded by Baron Stow, then a student also. About the years 1826-28 it was removed to Phhiladelphia, put under the management of Dr. W. T. Brantly, and issued as a quarto, under the name of 'The Columbian Star and Christian index.' Late in 1832 or early in 1833 it became the property of Jesse Mercer, who removed it to Georgia and edited it till 1840, when he presented it to the Baptist Convention of that State. William H. Stokes, who had assisted him, became editor-in-chief and remained in the chair till 1843, when he was followed by Dr. G. S. Baker till 1849. He had several successors, and Rev. Joseph Walker took charge in 1857. Under his careful toil it rose from about 1,000 paying subscribers to nearly 6,000, and yielded $1,000 annually above its expenses. In 1831 it was sold to Rev. S. Boykin, and Dr. Shaver conducted it from 1867 to 1874. Then Rev. Dr. E. Butler became its editor, serving until 1878, when Dr. Tucker, its present learned chief, took the editorial chair. As a Baptist organ, it has always been unflinching in its maintenance of Baptist doctrine and practice. It retains the flavor imparted to it by Knowles, Brantly and Mercer, and is conducted with as much ability as it has commanded at any tithe in its hoary history of four-and-sixty years.

      The 'RELIGIOUS HERALD', of Richmond, Va., was established by William Sands, a layman and an expert printer, in 1828. Like most other things that become of any account, it began its life in the day of small things. Mr. Sands lived in Baltimore, and, on the suggestion of William Crane, went to Richmond to establish a Baptist paper, aided by money furnished by Mr. Crane. For several years Mr. Sands was printer and financial manager, with Rev. Henry Keeling for editor, but the struggle to establish the journal was severe. Dr. Shaver put his strong hand to the enterprise in 1857, and the paper soon took that high position amongst religious periodicals which it has sustained ever since. William Sands died in 1868, lamented as a most devout Christian, possessed of the soundest judgment, and beloved by all who knew him for his amiable disposition. The establishment of Sands and Shaver was consumed by fire in 1865, and they sold the 'good will' of the paper to Messrs. Jeter and Dickinson. Dr. Jeter devoted fourteen of the ripest years of his life to its up-building, and not in vain. He has left a hallowed influence about its very name, and, undo its present energetic management, its weekly blessings help to make brigh homes for thousands of Christian families, North and South.

     'ZIONS'S ADVOCATE', published at Portland, Maine., was begun in 1828 with Rev. Adam Wilson as editor, who held this relation to it until 1848, with a short interval. Afterwards it was edited by various men of large capacity, amongst whom were Dr. W. H. Shailer. In 1873 the paper was purchased by Rev. Henry S. Burrage, its present editor, under whose direction its reputation and influence have been greatly enlarged. It has also been changed by him to its present enlarged size, and kept


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abreast of the demands of the times, not only in the advocacy of our denominational principles and practices, but in awakening new enthusiasm in the cause of education amongst our Churches in Maine. The sound judgment and careful scholarship with which it is conducted render it worthy of its high place in our periodical press.

      The JOURNAL AND MESSENGER, published at Cincinnati, O., originated in the 'Baptist Weekly Journal' of the Mississippi Valley, in 1831. In 1834: the 'Cross,' a Baptist paper of Kentucky, was united with it, and seven years later it was removed to Columbus, O., with Messrs. Cole, Randall and Batchelor as editors. The 'Christian Messenger' was united with it in 1850, under the name of the 'Journal and Messenger.' It then changed ownersand editors several times, until it was purchased, in 1876, by G. W. Lasher, D. D., by whom it has been edited since in a vigorous manner; its circulation has become large, and it well cultivates its important field.

      THE WESTERN RECORDER. Various attempts were made to establish a Baptist paper in Kentucky, but failed until the 'Baptist Banner' originated at Shelbyville in 1835. At that time it was a fortnightly; but in 1835 Rev. John N. Waller became its editor, when it was removed to Louisville and issued as a weekly. Soon it was united with the 'Baptist,' which was published at Nashville, Tenn., and with the 'Western Pioneer,' of Illinois, becoming the 'Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer.' In 1841 Mr. Waller ceased to be its editor, and was succeeded by Rev. W. C. Buck; but in 1850 Mr. Waller returned to the paper, aided by Rev. S.H. Ford, and in 1851 its name was changed to the 'Western Recorder.' Dr. Waller died in 1854, and Mr. Ford became its sole editor and proprietor; but, after a time, it passed into other hands until 1858. During a part of the civil war its issue was suspended, but it was resumed in 1863, when it was owned and edited by various persons till about 1872; then A. C. Caperton, D. D., became its sole owner and editor. It had never fully paid its way until that time, but he changed its form from a quarto to an octavo, and enlarged its size about one third. He also employed paid contributors and a field editor, and it steadily grew in power, popularity and financial value, until it is now regarded as one of the leading journals of the South.

      THE TENNESSEE BAPTIST was established under the name 'The Baptist,' at Nashville, Tenn. in the year 1835; two or three years after that it was consolidated with the 'Western Baptist and Pioneer,' and was edited by the late Dr. Howell and others; but its circulation barely crept up to 1,000 copies until, in 1846, it fell into the hands of Dr. J. R. Graves, its present editor. It then assumed its present name, and, under his persevering and energetic management, its circulation increased rapidly and became very large. During the civil war its publication was suspended. At its close the paper was removed to Memphis, the word 'Tennessee' dropped from its name, and its circulation, as a quarto of sixteen pages, has again reached a high figure. Dr. Graves is endowed with marked qualifications for an editor. As a writer and speaker he is remarkably direct and copious, like all men in downright earnest, infusing his spirit and principles into the minds of his constant


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readers and hearers. Restless and aggressive, his pen is ever busy, not only as an editor, leaving his own stamp upon his paper, but as an author his works teem from the press perpetually in the form of books and pamphlets, His life has been devoted with quenchless zeal to the cause of higher education, and the literature of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Union and Publication Society has been built up chiefly under his untiring labors. In the South and South-west the ‘Baptist’is an indisputable power in the advocacy of the most pronounced Baptist principles and practices. After the war its publishing-house was burned, and its assets, to the amount of $100,000, destroyed, yet, without a dollar to begin with, Dr. Graves re-established paper at Memphis. He has been its vigorous editor in an unbroken connection for forty years, and stands at his post, at nearly three-score-and-ten, the unfaltering advocate of the old landmarks of Baptist life, decided and distiller in all its denominational trends and interests.

      THE EXAMINER, a New York Baptist weekly, has probably the largest circulation of any Baptist paper in the world, and has a most interesting history. The 'Baptist Advocate' was commenced in 1839, by the late William H. Wyckoff, LL. D., who remained its editor till 1845 when it changed ownership and name, being called the 'New York Recorder.' In 1850 Dr. M. B. Anderson became its owner and editor, and remained so till 1853. It was consolidated in 1855 with the 'Baptist Register.' a weekly then published at Utica, N.Y. As far back as 1808, Daniel Hascall, John Lawton and John Peck commenced the 'Western Baptist Magazine' in Central New York, as an organ of the Hamilton Missionary Society; this again was merged into the 'Baptist Register,' and, in 1825, Alexander M. Beebee, LL. D., a gentleman of genuine ability, high literary taste and the soundest of judgment, became its editor. Under his wisdom and management it soon attained a large circulation and influence, and he remained editor almost to the time of his death, in 1856. Only in the previous year the 'Register' had been combined with the 'Recorder,' with the further change of name to the 'Examiner,' under the editorship of Edward Bright, D. D., who had for some years been the Corresponding Secretary of the Missionary Union, and for a longer period one of the publishers of the 'Baptist Register.' In 1850 the 'New York Chronicle' was commenced by Messrs. O. B. Judd and Hon. William B. Maclay. It soon attained a wide influence. In 1857 it passed into the hands of Pharcellus Church, D. D., who continued its editor till 1865, when it was united with the 'Examiner' under the name of the 'Examiner and Chronicle;' but recently the older title has been resumed, and it is now known simply as 'The Examiner.' Dr. Bright has edited it for more than a generation with very marked ability and success, and has made it one of the most influential religious origins in our country.

      THE BAPTIST WEEKLY, published in New York, was formerly the organ of the Free Mission Society, which was organized in 1840. It was first known as the 'American Baptist,' and was edited by Rev. Warham Walker. The 'Christian Contributor'


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and the 'Western Christian' were merged into this paper, which was located at Utica until 1857, and after its removal to New York it was edited by the late Dr. Nathan Brown, missionary first to Assam and then to Japan. Dr. A. S. Patton became its owner and editor in 1872, and still manages all its interests. From that time until recently Dr. Middleditch acted as associate editor, but has now retired to found a new journal, a monthly, known as the 'Gospel Age.' The 'Weekly' has a large circulation, and is characterized for its kind spirit and firm maintenance of all that concerns the advancement of true Baptist interests in the world.

      THE MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN HERALD, of Detroit, was established by the Baptist Convention of Michigan, in 1842. At first it was a monthly, then a semi-monthly, but in 1845 it became a weekly. So, the years after, the Convention sold it to Rev. Marvin Allen, when it was edited by Rev. Miles Sanford and others till 1861. Then it fell under the editorial direction of Dr. Olney, who more than maintained its high literary character; but seeing that it was published at a financial loss, it was sold to the proprietors of the 'Christian Times and Witness,' of Illinois, in 1867. The Michigan Baptists, however, so felt the need of a State paper that the present proprietor of the 'Christian Herald,' Rev. L. H. Trowbridge, began its publication in 1870, in the interests of educational work, chiefly through Kalamazoo College. So healthy was its influence that the State Convention adopted it as its official organ, and it has become indispensable to the support of denominational enterprise in the State. It is conducted with great care and ability, and circulates largely amongst the 30,000 Baptists of Michigan.

      THE STANDARD, Of Chicago, Ill., dates from August 31, 1853. It was started as a new paper by a committee of the Fox River Baptist Association, of which Rev. J. C. Burroughs was chairman, under the name of 'The Christian Times,' and was the successor of the 'Watchman of the Prairies.' The following November, Rev. Leroy Church and Rev. Justin B. Smith assumed the control of the paper, and about three years later Edward Goodman, who had been connected with it from its inception, became one of the proprietors. In January, 1875, Dr. J. S. Dickerson purchased the interest of Rev. Leroy Church. When Dr. Dickerson died, in 1876, Mrs. Dickerson, with her son, J. Spencer Dickerson, continued his interest in the paper. The circulation of the 'Standard' is large and its character very high; the rank which it sustains being all the testimonial needed by its managers to their enterprise and the manly maintenance of their religious convictions.

      THE NATIONAL BAPTIST. Toward the close of 1864 our Churches in Philadelphia and its vicinity felt the need of a well-sustained paper to sustain denominational interests, especially in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The sum of $17,000 was presented to the Baptist Publication Society for that purpose, and the first number was issued January 1st, 1865, under the editorial supervision of George W. Anderson, D. D. For three years Dr. Kendall Brooks acted as editor, but, becoming President of Kalamazoo College, Dr. Moss served as its editor until chosen professor


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in Crozer Theological Seminary. Dr. H. L. Wayland, the present editor, took charge of the paper in 1872, and in 1883 it became his property. Its editorial department has always been in able hands, and as a weekly paper it has become a power in the denomination, its present circulation being greatly in excess of that at any previous period in its history. Dr. Wayland leaves the marks of a clear and powerful mind upon its columns, and conducts it in that spirit of open fairness which challenges the admiration of his brethren, who uniformly rejoice in his editorial success.

      The CHRISTIAN REVIEW, a quarterly, was commenced in 1836, with Prof. Knowles as its first editor, but his sudden death in that year transferred his position to Dr. Barnas Sears, who brought it to the close of vol. vi. Dr. S. F. Smith then edited it to the close of vol. xiii, and Rev. E. O. Sears edited vol. xiv. Drs. Cutting, Turnbull, Murdock, Woolsey, Franklin Wilson, G. B. Taylor and E. G. Robinson, carried it to the end of vol. xxviii, in 1863, at which time its publication terminated. In 1867 the Baptist Publication Society began the issue of the 'Baptist Quarterly,' with Dr. L. E. Smith as editor-in-chief, and Drs. Hovey, Robinson, Arnold and Gregory as associates. At the end of vol. ii, Dr. Weston took the editorial chair, and eight volumes were issued, when its publication was discontinued. Dr. Baumes, of Cincinnati, began the publication of the 'Baptist Review' - a quarterly, in 1878, but sold it in 1885, when its name was changed to the 'BAPTIST QUARTERLY,' and it is now under the editorial control of Dr. McArthur and Henry C. Vedder, Esq., New York. Many of the successive editors named performed their duties with remarkable ability, and won for the 'Review' a recognition in the religious literature of the land. The contributors, also were amongst the best scholars and thinkers of America, but our Churches had not reached an appreciation of its learned discussions and withheld their support. The present editors of the 'Quarterly' have somewhat popularized the character of the articles, and it bids fair to maintain its existence. The number of educated and scholarly persons in our Churches is constantly increasing, and the best thought of the finest minds in them is likely to receive generous encouragement in such a desirable enterprise.

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[From Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, Volume 2, 1890; rpt. 1988, pp. 882-887. - jrd]



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