(COLUMBUS, OHIO)— Civil War re-enactors, researchers and enthusiasts have cause to celebrate: the hours spent poring over pages of Ohio’s historical newspapers in search of news from the warfront and soldiers’ letters back home is now reduced to minutes thanks to the Ohio Historical Society. Two St. Clairsville newspapers, the Belmont Chronicle, and Farmers, Mechanics and Manufacturers Advocate and the Belmont Chronicle, are among the first Civil War-era Ohio newspapers to be digitized and uploaded to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website at www.chroniclingamerica.org. At this site, a researcher can use a term such as someone’s name, hometown or military regiment in the “search” function to instantly find occurrences of that word in the newspapers.
The National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio, a part of the National Digital Newspaper Program developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, will enable the Ohio Historical Society to digitize 100,000 additional Ohio newspaper pages published from 1845 to 1894. These pages will join the 14 papers—over 100,000 Ohio newspaper pages published between 1880 and 1922—that are already available on Chronicling America through the project’s first phase. This is welcome news to blurry-eyed researchers and genealogists who scour old microfilm in search of clues to history’s mysteries and family histories.
“The Belmont Chronicle was a Republican newspaper in a pivotal county with a Quaker influence and abolitionist sentiment, located directly across the Ohio River from Wheeling, a large city in a slave state that became the founding capital of a free state,” said Ernest Thode, Manager of the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Washington County Public Library. “Geography and politics make it an important historic resource for Civil War research as well as the weekly news that now becomes accessible to all through the National Digital Newspaper Program and Chronicling America.”
About the Belmont Chronicle and Farmers, Mechanics and Manufacturers Advocate and the Belmont Chronicle
St. Clairsville, the seat of Belmont County, Ohio, was once home to the long running weekly newspaper, the Belmont Chronicle. Located directly across the Ohio River from the large city of Wheeling, West Virginia, Belmont County’s proximity to the slaveholding state and its large population of strongly abolitionist Quakers allowed for intense political rivalries. Newspapers exercised great authority by influencing public opinion, and in St. Clairsville, the Republican Chronicle was firmly opposed by the St. Clairsville Gazette which promoted Jeffersonian Democracy and Democratic principles.
The early history and origin of the Belmont Chronicle remains uncertain. While some believe the Chronicle originated as the Ohio Federalist, founded by Charles Hammond in 1813, others believe that the Federalist was a predecessor of the Chronicle’s adversary, the Gazette. It is clear, however, that the National Historian, and St. Clairsville Advertiser, founded in 1827 by Horton J. Howard, was a definite forerunner to the Chronicle. The National Historian continued with some variations of the name until July 20, 1833, when it was published under the title of the Belmont Journal. The name was changed again to the Belmont Chronicle on July 21, 1836. In 1848, the paper became known as the Belmont Chronicle, and Farmers, Mechanics, and Manufacturers Advocate until 1855, when the title reverted back to the Belmont Chronicle.
The Chronicle was an advocate of Whig values through 1853, and beginning in 1854, of Republican principles. From 1848 to 1857, Benjamin Rush Cowen, who would later serve as Ohio’s adjutant-general under Governor John Brough and editor of the Daily Ohio State Journal in Columbus, edited and published the paper. In February 1861, abolitionist Christian L. Poorman, a graduate of the Cincinnati Law School, purchased the Chronicle from D. Thoburn. In his first issue, Poorman declared that he was “unconditionally in favor of the Union” and that he would “endeavor to make the Chronicle the best family paper published in the county, paying especial attention to its Congressional, Legislative, General News, Agricultural and Local News departments.” From 1870 to 1872, C. Wilkinson, who had served in the 98th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and attended Ohio Wesleyan University, edited the paper. The Chronicle focused on national politics with local announcements and a dose of poetry in every issue, along with readers’ opinions similar to letters to the editor.
The Chronicle survived with few changes until 1973 when it merged with the Gazette to form the St. Clairsville Gazette-Chronicle. In July 1983, the paper was absorbed by the Martin’s Ferry Times-Leader, which is still published today.
Archived Newspapers Available at Ohio History Center
The Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library at the Ohio History Center in Columbus contains the largest collection of Ohio newspapers in existence. The newspaper holdings contain newspapers published from 1793 to present, 4,500 titles, 20,000 volumes, and over 50,000 rolls of microfilm of Ohio titles.
Much of the microfilm in the Society’s newspaper collection was created in 1971 as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities initiative called the United States Newspaper Program. Since then, the information published in the thousands of deteriorating wood-pulp newspaper volumes in the society’s collections has been transferred to more than 16,000 rolls of master negative microfilm. The National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio builds upon this earlier effort.
Looking to the Future
“Thanks to a $334,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities last year, the Ohio Historical Society has been able to continue its efforts to digitize a select number of historical Ohio newspapers,” said Angela O’Neal, director for Collections Services at the Ohio Historical Society. “We are helping to create a national, online, keyword-searchable resource.”
According to O’Neal, both phases of the project have been limited to a small number of papers selected from 10 regions across the state by an advisory group of 18 librarians, archivists, curators, historians, educators and journalists. “This phase will add 26 more papers to Chronicling America,” O’Neal said. “With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we’ve chosen publications from before, during and after the war to provide greater access to researchers on this important time period in Ohio’s history.”
In addition to issues of the Belmont Chronicle and Farmers, Mechanics and Manufacturers Advocate from 1853 to 1855 and the Belmont Chronicle from 1855 to 1894, the selected publications include: Perrysburg Journal from Perrysburg, (1854-1880); Hancock Jeffersonian from Findlay (1857-1878); Fremont Journal from Fremont (1853-1875); Tiffin Tribune from Tiffin (1856-1879); Cleveland Leader from Cleveland (1858-1866); Western Reserve Chronicle from Warren (1855-1873); Jeffersonian Democrat from Chardon (1859-1865); Ashtabula Telegraph from Ashtabula (1858-1880); Anti-Slavery Bugle from New-Lisbon & Salem (1845-1861); Holmes County Farmer from Millersburg (1860-1866); Holmes County Republican from Millersburg (1856-1862, 1870-1874); Stark County Democrat from Canton (1868-1890); Daily Ohio Statesman from Columbus (1861-1868); Dayton Daily Empire from Dayton (1859-1867); Urbana Union from Urbana (1862-1872); Xenia Sentinel from Xenia (1863-1865); Highland Weekly News from Hillsboro (1857-1886); Cincinnati Daily Press from Cincinnati (1859-1862); Gallipolis Journal from Gallipolis (1850-1880), McArthur Democrat (1855-1865), Vinton Record (1866-1874), Democratic Enquirer (1867-1873) and McArthur Enquirer (1873-1884) from McArthur; and the Conservative and South-eastern Independent from McConnelsville (1866-1871).
"We will continue to apply for NEH funds in upcoming grant cycles until we can complete the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio," O'Neal said. "Eventually, using microfilm for researching newspapers will be a thing of the past."
In addition to the Library of Congress site, researchers also will be able to access the newspapers at www.ohiomemory.org. For more information about the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio, contact Jenni Salamon at 614.297.2579 or email@example.com.
About the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio History Center
Founded in 1885, the non-profit Ohio Historical Society (OHS) provides a wide array of statewide services and programs related to collecting, preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archeology and natural history. The society has about 1.6 million items in its collections throughout its 50+ sites and within its 250,000-square-feet Ohio History Center at 800 E 17th Ave. (Exit 111 off Highway I-71), Columbus, Ohio, 43211. The Archives/Library is on the third floor of the Ohio History Center and is open: wed.-Sat, 10-5p.m. The Society receives a portion of its funding from the state, but relies on admission fees, memberships, grants, donations and other forms of revenue to continue to serve Ohioans in the future. For information regarding the Society, contact Jane M. Mason, Director of Marketing and Communications, Ohio Historical Society: 614.297.2312, firstname.lastname@example.org. . For more information about programs and events, call 614.297.2300/800.686.6124 or go online at www.ohiohistory.org.
NOTE: The Belmont Chronicle and Farmers, Mechanics and Manufacturers Advocate is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84028479/issues/. The Belmont Chronicle is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85026241/issues/