Tennessee Records Repository

Decatur Co. TN

Decatur County News Papers

Chapter IX

From Lillye Younger, The History of Decatur County Past and Present (Southhaven, MS: Carter Printing Company, 1978).
Special thanks to Constance Collett for permission to make these web pages.

In Memory of Lillye Washburn Younger 1912-1998.

Thanks to www.tnyesterday.com for contributing this transcription.

One of the great freedoms of our country is "Freedom of Press." The idea of the free press is essential to our Democratic form of government to keep the people informed of what is going on. It has become a part of daily life.[1]

The American press has developed over the last two hundred (200) years an unmatched tradition of professionalism. It is no longer possible for a man to consider himself educated without reading newspaper regularly. In a Democracy, the role of the press is of particular importance, for without an informed, sophisticated, and critical public, the necessary transmission of ideas and opinions between the people and their elected representatives would not take place. Newspapers help keep the government.[2] It has been said that newspapers make a big difference in people's lives. Today's publications and the American people are partners in freedom.

The first newspaper published in Decatur County was the Decatur County Beacon. it was edited by D. Barry and the first copy came out on September 10, 1880.[3] Unfortunately, Mr. Barry passed away in November, 1881.

On the 14th day of April, 1881, Charlie, Frank and W. V. Barry arrived in Decaturville, The men traveled by steamboat to Perryville where they spent the night at the Old Wall Hotel. On the morning, a wagon loaded with passengers alighted for the trip to Decaturville. Judge T. P. Bateman was one of the passengers. At Decaturville the Barry Brothers put up at the Old Frayser Hotel, run by Curry P. Dennison.

It was here that W. V. Barry launched his newspaper career. He ran the Decatur County Beacon paper without any help except that of the late Rev. Tom P. Ramsey, Pastor of the Southern Methodist Church. Rev. Ramsey was a boyhood friend of W. V. Barry's father, Dr. Dan Barry. He manipulated the hand rollers to distribute the ink on the forms while the editor pulled the lever of the Washington hand press.

The late George W. Partin was the first man in Decatur County who had the nerve to pay $5.00 for an advertisement in the Decatur County Beacon.[4]

 The Decatur County Beacon was published weekly and the Weekly Courier Journal (a representative newspaper of the southern democrats, for only $2). The county paper alone was only $1.00 a year.

In a copy of the Decatur County Beacon dated July 12, 1883, the editor printed the following special offer, "To Getters Up of Clubs." "We will send the Beacon free for six months to anyone who will send us three names in the county accompanied by $3 in cash. To anyone sending us five names, accompanied by $5.00 in cash, we will give a free year's subscription and to anyone who brings us 50 names with $50.00 we will give $5.00 in cash." "A chance for someone" concludes the offer.

In 1892 Henry Barry joined his Uncle in the newspaper field in Decaturville. The name of the paper was changed to the Decatur County Herald and the newspaper remained in the Barry family for sixty one (61) years.

W. V. Barry branched out and established a Lexington Newspaper after his nephew joined him. The early Barry family were all identified in the newspaper field.

Miss Mittie Rainey of Decaturville worked for the Decatur County Herald for thirty-two (32) years. At that time, all type had to be set by hand. The last two years she worked, the editor purchased a linotype machine yet at times the type had to set by hand.

Others who worked at the newspaper office were Mrs. Hettie Rogers Barry, Earl Wylie and Elco Kelley ran the paper for a while. J. W. Yarbro, son-in-law of Mrs. Hettie Barry, operated it also.[5]

The last publishers of the Barry Clan were Mrs. Iris King of Decaturville and her late husband, Lonnie King. They published the newspaper until 1961 when it was sold to Bill Craddock and Jarvis Williams of Savannah.

The Decatur County Herald was purchased by the Parsons Printing Corporation. a snort time later and today the Decatur County Herald and the Parsons New Leader form one county newspaper.

Citizens of Decaturville were without a newspaper in their town until 1965 when Everett Baker of Adamsville settled here and published the Decatur County News-Graphic. Six young ladies distributed the first 700 copies to Parsons citizens. They were Pam Lancaster, Beverly Elliott, Pam Boggan, Vicky Reed, Cathy Mitchell and Janice Collett, assisted by David Haney of Decaturville.

The second publisher was Bill Akers. The paper was sold to George M. Hamilton at Selmer who continued the publication under the name of the Decatur County Independent. Bill Crossnoe served as editor in 1967. He was succeeded by Mrs. Lerah Washam who served as editor until the paper was discontinued in September, 1967. Decaturville is once again without a newspaper.

The second county newspaper was known as the Parsons Pioneer, published by G. S. (Sterling) Barry and D. D. Deason. It was mailed at Partinville as second class mail. The price was $1.00 yearly, invariably in advance.

After the Tennessee Midland Railroad was chartered December 29, 1886, to extend from Memphis easterly to the Virginia State Line, and completed in this section, Partinville was moved to Parsons due to the fact that it was not on the railroad.[6]

The newspaper continued to operate peacefully until August 18, 1893 when the editors dissolved partnership.[7] Here is an account of the transaction. "On Monday morning last the Pioneer taken its departure for Greenfield, Tenn. in the hands of G. W. Walters, where he expects to run a newspaper. We were sorry to see it leave for it was a newsy little sheet and highly respected by its readers. We are not willing to do without a paper, it would seem like a member of the family had forever left us, so we are going to supply its place with 'The Messenger'."[8]

In explaining the workmanship of the first copy of the Messenger, Mr. Barry writes, "We have no press this week but our job press, but we will make it serve for the time being and though the sheet be small, we promise our readers as much or more home reading matter than the Pioneer."

The editorial of the first copy of the Messenger, reads "How do you like us? We are here to stay. We succeeded the Pioneer. The Pioneer passed out of existence without a murmur. We are small in size but we'll get there just the same. Don't laugh at us this week, we are crawling now but wait until next week and we'll come a running. Subscribe for the Messenger and make home happy."

He also stated his policy by saying "We wish to state in the beginning that the Messenger is for the whole people and not for any certain person. We intend to treat all alike and hope all will do their duty and we are sure to do our part. Our intention is to purchase a large press but being financially embarrassed at present, we are forced to send out a small sheet for a few weeks."[9]

 Quite unlike today, doctors advertised in the 1893 edition of the Messenger. An early account reads the Doctor E. R. Deason at the Messenger office, will practice in Partinville and vicinity. The charges are reasonable.

Citizens of the yesteryears were very energetic. Not only did they hold down one job but two or more. Dr. Deason also sold "The Cross Organ" as advertised in the Pioneer Paper, and B. F. Parlow was a lawyer, merchant and newspaper man. He too advertised in the Messenger.

His grocer advertisement read "B. F. Parlow, dealer in Family Groceries, carries a complete stock of canned goods and confectioneries and will sell for cash. Give me a call and be convinced." He also advertised his law practice with the following ad, "B. F. Parlow, Attorney at Law, Parsons, Tennessee, will practice in all county, state and federal courts. Special attentions given to collections. Call or address me at Partonville, Tennessee, Route 1." He also worked on the Pioneer Paper in Parsons later.[10]

In 1900 the little newspaper changed its name once again from the "Parsons Messenger" to the "Parsons Journal."[11] From 1901 until 1905 Parsons had two newspapers, "The Tennessee River Wave," which was published only a short time by a Mr. Petus and the "Parsons Journal."

"The Parsons Journal" changed hands a number of times. For several years Parsons was without a paper but in 1925, J. C. Partin started what is now known as the "Parsons News Leader." He bought the equipment from Mr. Barry, which he used in printing the "Parsons Journal." Later Mr. Partin's son, Jim took over the paper and ran it until 1952 when Edwin Townsend purchased it and continued publication with Max Townsend as editor. In 1963 it became the Parsons Printing Corporation, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Max Townsend.

Today Decatur County has one newspaper. Parsons New Leader and Decatur County Herald combination. It has grown from a six page newspaper in 1958 to a 16 page and oft times 25 page publication. The price per copy is still 10 cents until recently, however the yearly rate has advanced from $2.50 country-wide, $3.50 outside county to $4.50 country-wide and $5.50 outside.

Among communities submitting news columns to date are Bear Creek, by Laura Mae Houston and Lorene Crawford, Cub Creek Hall by Mrs. Nealie Greenway, Jeanette by Mrs. Mary Alice Gibson, Iron Hill by Mr. G. F. Gurley, Franks Chapel by Mrs. Edd Tubbs, Pineview by Mrs.Dorothy Wilsdorf, Bible Hill by Mrs. J. A. McMurrary, Scotts Hill by Mrs. Leona Miller, Presley Ridge and Liberty by Mrs. Naomi McBride, Fox Ridge by Ora Bawcum, Perryville by Mrs. Jean Keeton, Beacon by Dorctny Rogers, Decaturville by Mrs. E. L. Wylie and a Social Column by Mrs. Lillye Younger. The paper is filled with sports, society, features of variety, political reports from State Legislature, classified ads. legal matters and advertisements that tell the price of groceries as well as clothing, etc.

Two other Decatur County publications were "Salant Shirts, Pants," Parsons plant paper distributed bi-monthly in the plant and edited by Mrs. Wynema Myracle and the Decaturville Sportswear Echo, which was started by Mrs. Lerah Washam and later Mrs. Rebecca Adams. Both papers are out of print.

Decatur County has had few citizens who nave reached the top echelon in the field of writing.

In 1938 the Eighth Grade Class of Decaturville High School compiled a 11 page booklet of Decatur County History. Henry Evans, teacher, assisted the class as a guide and Miss Reba Broyles Elementary Supervisor of the County.

Serving on the Editorial Committee were James Earl Mays, Chairman, Fred Scott and Frank Shipmen. Joe Blount and Walbert Kennedy assisted this committee as copyists.[12]

Class member who authored the study compiled were Alma Arrington, Claudi Blakeman, Bill Blackstock. Joe Blount, Colean Brigance. Mabel Brigance, Velma Curry. Oeda Jones, Walbert Kennedy, Riley Kindle. Louise Leisure. Marjorie Blount. James Earl Mays, Pauline McClure, Virginia Montgomery, Iris Morgan, Edwin Myracle, Fred Scott, Frank Shipman, Ernest Smith, John W. Smith, Barbara Thompson, Dwayne Tucker, Rushing Tolley, Marie White and Marlene Yarbro.

Lewis Sanders is known as the county's poet and has written numerous poems. Some have been printed in publications in various states, England and other foreign countries. He has compiled a number of books.

Lillye Younger compiled a booklet entitled "People of Action" which features stories of Decatur County personalities taken from features she had published in the Jackson Sun and Grit Publishing Company.

 A Bicentennial Committee Booklet entitled "A History of Decatur County Tennessee 1845-1976 U.S. America 1776-1976" was compiled by Noel and Lucy Nunnery in 1976.

  1. Roy Garrett, former Parsons Mayor
  2. Joseph S. Clark, former Pennsylvania Senator
  3. W. V. Barry article published 9/2/26 in a Lexington newspaper submitted by Dick Barry
  4. Ibid
  5. Mitt Rainey
  6. Railroad history compiled by J. J. Readey and Nina Striegel
  7. Copy of the newspaper of that date Archives n Nashville
  8. Editor G. S. Barry from The Messenger's first copy, Archives
  9. Ibid
  10. Copies of Newspaper secured at Archives Bldg. in Nashville
  11. Moss Arnold, Decatur County's first Historian
  12. Page IV preface of Publication