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The Marietta Times: Pioneer City’s oldest business

March 29, 2014
By Sam Shawver ( , The Marietta Times

The Marietta Times, the Pioneer City's oldest continuous business, was born during a turbulent era in U.S. history.

The Civil War was still raging in 1864, and across the Ohio River the new state of West Virginia was celebrating its first birthday when Somerset native W.C. Hood set up his newspaper shop above a shoe store at Front and Ohio streets.

Hood had come to Marietta from the Ironton and Portsmouth areas where he had been publisher of The Ironton Spirit of the Times and later founded The Portsmouth Times.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Marietta College Special Collections
The Marietta Times printing office, at left, was once located on Front Street in this photo taken during the centennial celebration of Marietta’s founding in April 1888.

The Marietta Times followed a series of smaller local publications that had come and gone since the 1820s. But Hood's newspaper thrived.

The Marietta Times was initially published weekly on Saturdays, and front pages were generally given to national news gleaned from other publications. Subscriptions were $2 a year, payable in advance.

The front page of the first edition of the Times, Sept. 24, 1864, included the Democratic Party platform as adopted at the national convention in Chicago that year. The campaign was not surprisingly centered on the ongoing war between the states.

Fact Box

At a glance

The Marietta Times

Owner: Ogden Newspapers, Inc.

Location: 700 Channel Lane, Marietta.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Phone: 373-2121.

1864-W.C. Hood begins publishing The Marietta Times as a weekly community newspaper.

1871-Hood sells the newspaper to S.M. McMillen.

1890-B.J. McKinney and sons, Frank and Will, purchase the Times from McMillen.

1898-The McKinneys initiates daily publication of The Marietta Times.

1908-Frank and Will McKinney buy out their father's interest in the newspaper.

1909-Newspaper becomes The Marietta Daily Times.

1962-Frank McKinney sells his interest to Will's children.

1969-The Times moves from Putnam Street to the current location at 700 Channel Lane.

Early 1970s-Name changes to The Daily Times.

Mid 1970s-The newspaper once again becomes The Marietta Times.

1974-Gannett Co. Inc. acquires The Marietta Times.

1979-Bill McKinney retires as publisher.

2001-Current owner Ogden Newspapers purchases The Marietta Times.

"Resolved, That this Convention does explicitly declare as the sense of the American people, that, after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which under the pretense of a military necessity or war power other than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every point, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down..."

One of the biggest stories of the century, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, came on April 15, 1865, just months after Hood published his first edition of The Marietta Times.

But the president's death wasn't to be found on the Times front page, according to Art Smith, online manager for The Marietta Times and Parkersburg News and Sentinel, who has researched the Times history.

"The content was apparently not as organized back in those days," Smith said. "While doing research on some of the paper's front pages, I found the story that Lincoln had been shot was published on an inside page."

Hood eventually sold the business to S.M. McMillen, who was owner-publisher until Aug. 1, 1890, when he sold the newspaper to B.J. McKinney and his two sons, Frank and Will.

By 1898 the McKinneys had expanded the The Marietta Times into a daily publication that carried much more local content on the front page.

One front page article in the Nov. 2, 1898 edition criticized some Halloween antics by local high schoolers.

"...The Freshmen class have been trying to fly their colors over the school house and of course the Sophomores are making strenuous efforts to prevent any thing of the kind. Encounters have been of momentary occurrence since Tuesday morning. Generally nobody is hurt but yesterday morning Gilbert Patterson, a small boy, from Williamstown, was badly bruised about the face and suffered a broken arm..."

Local "roundup" stories from correspondents throughout the region were also on the same front page that included a wedding announcement from the village of Lowell and notices that some Elba residents had fallen ill.

Frank and Will McKinney purchased the company from their father on Sept. 10, 1908 and continued to run the business for more than 50 years.

During that time, it was known as The Marietta Daily Times.

In 1962 Frank sold his interest in the paper to Will's children, and the family continued to operate the Times until 1974 when it was acquired by the Gannett Company, Inc.

William E. McKinney stayed on as publisher until August, 1979.

The Times news offices were moved from downtown Marietta to the present location at 700 Channel Lane in 1969. The printing presses, which had been located in a building on Putnam Street, adjacent to the Marietta College campus, were replaced when the newspaper moved to Channel Lane.

"Before the move to Channel Lane the paper was printed in a building owned by the McKinneys on the college campus," Smith said. "Many Marietta College communications students today don't realize that the McKinney Mass Media Center was once the Times press room."

Janet Gossett began her 37-year career with The Marietta Times in 1972.

"I started in the teletype department and also worked in the proofreading department," she said. "We had four ladies who typed up stories as they came in over the teletype machine."

Getting the paper to press was a pretty labor-intensive process at that time, and accurate typing was extremely important as errors would require re-typing of entire lines.

When the teletype department was discontinued, Gossett was moved into the newsroom where she typed up letters to the editor, wedding and engagement announcements, church news, obituaries, and other articles of community interest.

"There was a lot more personal contact then," she said. "People would bring their announcements, letters, and obits into the newsroom. You met a lot of people every day. Now the majority of that news is submitted electronically, so there's not as much personal contact. But I still meet people on the street who I got to know back then."

In addition to her other duties, Gossett wrote a column called People of the Times.

"It was basically a personals column that included baby showers, birthdays, and other items," she said.

Gossett said for many years the Times had correspondents who lived in various locations around the region and would file regular reports on what was going on in their communities.

"It's important to keep people informed," she said. "People always want to know what's happening in their local communities. I enjoyed working for the newspaper, and made a lot of friends. I miss them all."

Smith began his newspaper career while still in high school as a part-time photographer for the Times in 1977. He served as a full-time photographer for the paper from 1984 to 2000, later moving on to the online manager position.

"I learned to type on the newspaper's first computer," he recalled. "When I first started we were still using typewriters. But the paper switched to a computer that took up about 25 feet of the newsroom and had about 4 megabytes of memory."

He noted cell phones contain more than 100 times that amount of memory now.

"As technology has improved, so has our ability to get the news out to people who can now read it digitally through our new All Access system," Smith said. "They can receive the newspaper on their doorstep, but also on computer, tablets or smart phones."

Jim Spanner served five-and-a-half years as publisher of The Marietta Times before moving to his current post as publisher of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

"I came to the Times from September 2002 through April 2008," he said. "It was a great opportunity. The Times has always played a major role in the history of Marietta. My wife and I still live there and enjoy being part of that community. And it's been a great place to raise our family."

Smith noted The Marietta Times has served the local community longer than many similar publications.

"Families dating all the way back to the 1860s have used The Marietta Times to find out what's going on in their world," he said. "And we still see that today. There's no better place to learn what's happening in the local community."

Jennifer Houtman has worked at the Times for nearly two decades as a reporter, editor, and now as the paper's publisher.

"On behalf of the staff of The Marietta Times, past and present, I want to say what a joy and an honor it is to work at this newspaper and to serve the greater Marietta and Washington County community," she said. "None of us take this opportunity lightly. We take very seriously the role of a community newspaper and the individual parts we play-whether it's writing stories, selling advertising or delivering the newspaper-and we want to thank our readers and our advertisers for their continued support over these many years. Thanks to you, The Marietta Times will continue to be the top source for local news and advertising for many years to come, in print and online.

"We know the people and businesses of Marietta and Washington County consider The Marietta Times their newspaper, and we wouldn't have it any other way."



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