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Welchley Speaks to Historical Research Group
(about local newspapers)
Of the Valley Tribune
May 24, 1986
Courtesy of Little Beaver Historical Society

What better way to find out what's going on around town than the local newspaper, or if you want to go further, from other out-of-town editions?

Yet how often do we think of newspapers as history in the making or a way to look back into the past and see what life was like years ago.

According to Mark Welchley of Aliquippa, an educator and historian, we have a priceless legacy in our old newspapers. In fact, Welchley relates that the old newsprint may be a valuable means of tracing events and family heritage that were never recorded elsewhere.

Recording births, marriages, education, legal actions and the like wasn't done, or not done well by our ancestors. Events weren't stored or preserved as they are today, and that's where old news publications can help fill in the missing links to the past.

Welchley has made a career of studying old news accounts and it's not only enabled him to learn much about local history, but to do some publications to help others trace their past.

Welchley was the speaker at the 14th annual dinner meeting for the Beaver County Historical Research and. Landmarks Foundation. He's also the chairman for the foundation's project, "20th Century History of Beaver County" edition to be published over the next two to three years.

It will include the years 1900 through 1985 and be done by local writers researching the area's past and impact on history.

Welchley incorporated slide illustrations with his captivating and revealing delve into the world of a bygone era. He focused on our own locale and some of the publications that were part of the time when Beaver County was growing up.

Welchley said that the first English newspaper was published in 1622 and the Boston Newsletter was published in 1704.

Closer to home, the Pennsylvania -the forerunner of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette - was founded in 1786. The Post Gazette is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, Welchley said.

Beaver County news first surfaced in 1807. In the Pittsburgh library, there's a lone copy of the "Beaver Minerva" surviving. The Beaver Argus came on the scene in 1818 and there's but one la3o copy of it in local historical files.

The Argus became the Western Argus when it merged with the Beaver Radical in 1870 and it was the old Argus descendants that became the Times. it's now the Beaver County Times.

Even little old Fallston had a news publication that lasted one year and ran under the title "The Beaver Falls Union."

There was a Beaver Falls Chronicle of 1840 and a Beaver County Palladium along with several other publications, some lasting a few months and others, a few decades.

The Western Argus is one Of the county's oldest papers. A June 11, 1830, edition has been saved. Welchley admits that the Argus was a favorite in his research.

The weekly publication for Beaver Countians cost $2 per year and one half of the cost could be paid in grain.

Newspapers didn't start out with pictures, headlines, comics, sports, political cartoons like today's offerings. There were no bylines, only references to where printed material was derived from.

Layouts weren't a prime concern and it was anything goes on front page. Bank note exchanges, ads and even some hometown interest stories or features did make their way to the front.

Personals and lost animal ads were popular and it was the paper that provided the early readers with knowledge about genealogy, happenings around town and in other locales, marriages, and some general chitchat that soon became the basis of the society sections of today.

The opening of a new store was the first ad for the Beaver County news. Ads often came with humorous, descriptive topics - even one relating to a wife leaving and the husband absolving himself of her debts.

Poetry appeared in the telling of a horse thief escaping from jail. The author of the poem was Nathan Williams, Greensburg jailer.

The worst winter in Beaver County was in 1807, according to the news, when temperatures went to 40 below, endangering livestock.

Political news was popular and it was very strongly put. Today's mud slinging would be mild compared to the past endeavors. The press took political opinionating very seriously.

The death of Andrew Jackson's wife was attributed to the harsh press coverage he received.

Accidents were news, but they involved steamboats, trains, horses and even some muggings.

Some interesting trivia included the first photo studio in 1839, the first boat trip from Beaver to Warren, Ohio, in 1839. The prisoners were set free from the Beaver County Jail in 1834 because of a fire.

Would you believe a Beaver County budget in 1830 of $333.66? The county was founded in 1800, and its budget preparation was definitely much simpler than today's times.

Early readers were told about the drilling of Anthony Wayne's Army at Legionville and the trial of Capt. Samuel Brady for shooting Indians in Beaver County. Brady angered local folks for shooting the wrong Indians. It was a big trial, but Brady was acquitted much to local residents' dismay.

Welchley told of two young black 'lads from Fallston who were kidnapped, and taken to Kentucky for slave use. The Fallston residents took up a collection, hired a lawyer and sent him after the boys. They were returned.

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln visited Rochester on his way to his inauguration?

Letters to the editor were a form of expression and they were often quite flowery and elaborate, according to Welchley.

The news became more involved with the addition of the telegraph in the 1850's and from there it's gone on to teletype, television and computers.

Fox hunts were taken very seriously and Hopewell and Ohio Townships were often in the sporting news because of it.

In 1854, came the first Beaver County farm show and a driving contest for women.

The lottery isn't a new item of today. It appeared in old newspapers, also.

Some criminal records left incomplete in police files have been solved and filled in by accounts in papers.

Those listening to Welchley's expertise on these treasured relics will be more mindful of where to look for that missing link in research.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recorded some past criminal events including a hanging in Beaver County. The reporter noted that there were no details on the event in the records searched. Welchley recalled the Western Argus was in print then and dug up all the data to fill in the gaps -

Clyde Piquet, special events chairman for the historical society, was commended on his choice of Welchley as speaker after his interesting talk.

Karen HeIbling, Milestones editor, gave the invocation and Bernard Catalucci, foundation secretary, gave the benediction.

Vivian C. McLaughlin, president, welcomed the guests and introduced some of the noted attendees. Beaver County Commissioner Joseph Widmer commented on the importance of a group dedicated to preserving history.

Hilda Rex of Rochester won the floral arrangement.