The early newspapers and the men who made them

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The earliest mention of a newspaper in Cass County appeared in the January 1, 1849 minutes of the commissioner’s court meeting. The name of the paper was “The Spirit of the Age.” It’s also mentioned on Page 157 of the county deed book, and that’s all we know about it.

Soon after the tracks were complete in Atlanta and commerce was established, a gentleman named Crockett Boone started the first newspaper in 1874, a sister to The Crescent” a Queen City newspaper that he opened around the same time. While Crockett Boone’s time in Atlanta was only a few short years, he was quite the character and made his mark on the town.

The Cass County Sun was formed in Linden by C.A. Kessler on January 1, 1876. The Citizens Journal, which first operated in Linden, moved to Atlanta and opened on March 27, 1879 by John Monroe Fletcher.

Other newspapers were: The Linden Times, 1860, by Henry F. O’Neal of Linden; The Alliance Standard/Linden Standard/Linden Alliance Standard, 1891-1894, J.W. Erwin; East Texas Rambler, 1887, James J. Williams in Queen City; Queen City Courier, 1891, William H. Matthews, Sr.; Atlanta Herald, 1891; Atlanta News, 1905-1912, R.A. Greene; Atlanta Democrat, 1896, Mr. Scott Wright; The Voice, 1949, Brian Murphy; Atlanta Union, 1901, Rev. George; Bloomburg Times, 1911-1912, George R. Fant; Bloomburg Enterprise, 1917-1920, Mr. and Mrs. R.P. West; Long Handle Shovel, 1936-1939, Linden, William C. Hornsey; Atlanta Times, 1975-2000, Dr. Jesse and Virginia Brooks.

While there were many other newspapers in the county over the years, only the Sun and the Journal survived through the entire 20th Century. In 2020 the papers, both owned by Moser Publishing, merged to become the Cass County Citizens Journal-Sun, published in Atlanta.

DAVID CROCKETT BOONE

The first newspaper publisher in Atlanta was one of the most colorful characters to ever live here. Crockett Boone was born March 29, 1846 in Davies County, Kentucky, to Dr. George Washington and Persis Karns Boone. In 1851 they moved to Ozark, Arkansas, along with his older brother Squire and sister Persis. Crockett was not only named after Davy Crockett, he was his great-nephew.

When Dr. Boone died in 1855, Squire, a prominent Ozark attorney and newspaper publisher, was appointed guardian of Crockett. It was there, at the offices of The Southwestern Newspaper, that young Crockett first got printer’s ink in his blood and decided to make a career of it.

On July 8, 1861 – at the age of 15 – Crockett enlisted in Captain Stuart’s 15th Arkansas (Northwest) Infantry at Bentonville, Arkansas, along with his brother Squire. He rose to the rank of assistant quartermaster sergeant and fought for the Confederacy at Wilson’s Creek, Elkhorn Tavern (where he was wounded), Iuka, Port Gibson, Hatchie Bridge, Champion Hill and Corinth and was taken prisoner at Vicksburg. He was paroled on July 8, 1863. After being paroled he was sent to a prisoner exchange camp near Washington, Arkansas, and afterwards took part in The Camden Expedition (March 23–May 2, 1864).

In his own handwritten account of his Civil War service, listed on the descriptive list of Robert E. Lee Camp 158, United Confederate Veterans, Fort Worth, Texas, dated May 4, 1907, Sgt. Boone said, “After I was exchanged, I took the field again. Mt. Elba was our first fight after the exchange, followed by Prairie de Anne, Mark’s Mill, Poison Springs and a number of skirmishes. We disbanded at Marshall, Texas on May 26, 1865.”

According to his obituary, “after the start of the Confederacy had set at Appomattox, Crockett Boone went to Mexico and offered his services to Prince Maximilian.” After the Shelby Expedition to Mexico, on Oct. 16, 1865, he was granted a parole certificate in San Antonio, Texas by the Headquarters of the Military Division of the Gulf. Following his parole, he remained in Texas and became “one of the most successful and prominent newspaper editors and publishers of his era.”

On July 8, 1873 he married Molly (Mary) Cooley in Marshall, Texas. She died on July 1, 1887 in Greenville, Texas. There were no children from this union, and Crockett never re-married.

He owned at least a dozen newspapers and was editor of several others. He was associated with newspapers in Dallas, San Angelo, Jefferson, Greenville, Santa Anna, Coleman, Van Horn, Teague, Clarendon, Corsicana, Royse City, Rockwall, Farmersville, Atlanta, Queen City and Pittsburg.

Crockett moved to Van Horn in late 1910 and was editor of the Van Horn Chronicle. He contracted pneumonia and died there on Jan. 5, 1911. His last request was to be buried in Santa Anna Cemetery.

JOHN MONROE FLETCHER

John Fletcher, who created The Citizens Journal, was an early resident of Atlanta, a Confederate soldier and founding member of the town’s Masonic Lodge #463. He was born October 18, 1840, in LaGrange, Georgia, the oldest of nine children, to Richard and Margaret Fletcher.

Following is an excerpt from a 1929 article in the Journal: ”He came to Cass County with his parents in 1853, settling in the big woods on a farm. He attended the summer schools after the crops were planted. He enlisted in the Confederate Army 1st Texas Battalion of Calvary at Jefferson. Following the Battle of Elkhorn he was dismounted and sent to Corinth, Mississippi, but in June 1862 he joined the 32nd Texas Regiment and was wounded in the battle of Murfreesborough, Tenn.

”After the war he came home and attended boarding school for three years, working his way through. He then taught school for 10 years and took an active part in reconstruction. In June 1876 he made a speech in the courthouse at Linden in reply to the president of the Peter Cooper Club, which was opposing the election of Tilden. This was said to be the first speech made in Texas against the third party movement.”

John was elected treasurer of Cass County in 1878 and served four years. He served as adjutant of Stonewall Jackson Camp No. 91, Atlanta, Texas, from its founding until his death in July 1916.

In January 1879 he organized a stock company to publish a democratic paper in Cass County and was elected business manager and editor. The paper was named the Citizens Journal, and after being published at Linden for four years the plant was moved to Atlanta, where it has been published since.

He married Sarah Jane “Lush” Leftwich on December 22, 1873, in Marion, Texas. Research finds several different accounts regarding the number of children they had. Possibly some died in infancy, including a set of twins that only lived to the age of four; or some could be children of John’s siblings, attributed to the wrong parent. The 1900 Census records these children in the John M. Fletcher household: Daisy, age 19, Louise, age 11, J. Morgan, age 8, and Charles C., age 4.

John received injuries in a railroad accident in 1912 while attending a Confederate Reunion, from which he never fully recovered. His youngest son, Charles C. Fletcher, assisted in the management of the Journal from 1912 until September 1914, when he sold to J.W. Harrell. He died on June 29, 1916, in Atlanta, Texas, having lived a long life of 75 years, and is buried in Pine Crest Cemetery.