The Chronicle-Independent hit a major milestone in May. We decided not to make a big deal out of it, especially since we’re far more concerned about covering the stories of Kershaw County than being a story ourselves.
Still, being around for 125 years is a definite milestone. Some of you may be thinking that the C-I is only about 30 years old ... and you’d be right. It was 33 years ago that The Chronicle and Independent merged. A lot of old-timers likely remember the old paper; some of them may even know that it dates back more than a century, especially thanks to a special 1989 100th anniversary edition.
There’s a lot of history involved, and I couldn’t possibly do it justice. So, I’ll turn to someone else to do it for me: Ron Allman, who helped put together “The Palmetto Press: The History of South Carolina’s Newspapers and the Press Association” in 1998. What follows is an excerpt of what he wrote about the C-I….
The Chronicle-Independent traces its roots to The Camden Chronicle, which was founded in 1889 by William L. McDowell. Born in 1861, McDowell was the youngest of four sons and one of 11 children raised on his father’s farm near Westville. In 1882, McDowell worked as a typesetter for three years for The Palmetto Yeoman, which was established in 1879. When The Yeoman was sold, McDowell took a typesetting job with The Daily Register, which was published by Charles Calvo, who put McDowell on the road as a traveling representative. McDowell didn’t like his new job, so he returned to Camden to work for the Wateree Messenger, which was published from 1884 to 1942. The Messenger was a strong Democratic newspaper established in 1884 by C.W. Birchmore.
When McDowell heard that The Bishopville News, which had been established in 1892 in Lee County but had suspended operations, was for sale, he bought its old Washington hand press and the assortment of type and composing trays and started The Camden Chronicle on May 3, 1889. B.B. Clarke, a Kershaw County lawyer, joined McDowell as editor. A competitor, The Journal, suspended operations in 1890. (Several journals were published in Kershaw County during this time so this date may not be correct.) A Republican newspaper, the Sun, was established in 1896, and when it folded in 1897, McDowell bought its old cylinder press and large selection of type and materials.
W.A. Shrock, editor and publisher, established a Democratic weekly in Camden in 1904, The People, but it folded in 1909 when it was replaced by another Democratic newspaper, the Camden News, which was established by N.T. Adams. McDowell was elected probate judge of Kershaw County in 1908 and sold his interest in the Camden Chronicle to his two oldest sons and to his brother-in-law, J.D. Niles. A few years later, the sons sold their interest to Niles, who became sole owner and publisher. Niles also bought the Camden News in 1913 and folded it.
Niles ran the Camden Chronicle for almost 30 years. DaCosta Brown, a Chesterfield printer, joined The Chronicle in 1940 as a printer and Linotype operator. When John Cannon of Rock Hill tried to buy The Chronicle in 1943, Niles wouldn’t sell, but agreed to lease the paper to Cannon as long as Brown was also involved. Cannon and Brown leased the paper in January 1943 with an option to buy it three years later. Cannon left town because of personal problems in 1943, and Brown bought Cannon’s half of the lease. By that time, Brown’s wife, Myrtis, was working for the paper, keeping books and selling ads.
From there, the extract mentions Niles’ death in 1946 and how Brown bought the paper from his widow, running it for a number of years. In 1947, Camden attorney Henry Savage bought an interest in it. Harold Booker Sr. was editor from 1947 to 1956. That’s when the paper was sold to John C. West, who would become governor in 1971; Clarence Ford and Ben P. Davies (publisher of the Barnwell Sentinel). Booker left in 1956 to start The Camden News (with backing from William F. Buckley, no less).
Now, let’s go back to Allman’s account, which jumps to the 1970s.
In 1975, (Fred R.) Sheheen and (Allen) Legare sold their shares to Ford [who] returned to The Chronicle as manager, but West retained his silent partnership.... Banner Publishers and The Camden Chronicle were sold in 1977 to Charles Morris’ company, Morris Newspaper Corporation, which owned a group of newspapers, shoppers, television stations and commercial printing plants.
The Camden Independent was established by Michael Mischner and Glenn Tucker, both former employees of The Chronicle. After competing for three years, The Independent merged with The Chronicle in 1981 to create the Chronicle-Independent.... Morris sold the rest of the newspapers that had belonged to Banner Publishers Inc. In 1983, the Chronicle-Independent also began publishing The Spirit, the Shaw Air Force Base paper, and the paper was moved into a new building in 1988.
Glenn Tucker stepped down as editor and co-publisher in 1997 to live part of each year on the Maine coast, but he continued to write his weekly column and newspaper editorials. Michael Mischner continued as publisher, and Martha Bruce became editor. The same year, the company signed a contract to publish Fort Jackson’s official newspaper, The Leader.
Happy Anniversary, C-I!