and Things From The Southern Democrat, 1894 - 1907
381 pages; 8.5 x 11, softcover hard spine, full name index. For pricing, write firstname.lastname@example.org
Part of my on going research on Blount County Confederates has been to review early Blount County newspapers for articles involving the old soldiers. The Southern Democrat began publishing about 1894. An obituary index of some of the earlier issues of the papers is located on this site; however, it was has been found to be incomplete and sometimes unreliable. The index starts with 1894.
the book's introduction: When
people think of Blount County newspapers these days, if the Blount Countian
is not mentioned, the second choice, invariably is The Southern Democrat;
after all, it was published in Blount County for most of 100 years.
Forney Gilmore Stephens, son of Isaac T. and Martha M. Robinett Stephens, was 22-years-old and living in Blountsville when he published the first issue of The Southern Democrat on 18 Oct 1894. The Blount County News-Dispatch had operated for a dozen years in Blountsville until the county seat and the county newspaper moved to Oneonta in 1889. For a few years, both Blountsville and Oneonta each had their own weekly newspapers. However, Stephens soon followed the path of Mathews in January of 1897 and moved the Democrat to Oneonta.
Stephens move to Oneonta coincided with the death of Mathews. Mathews died in December 1896. It is not known if the death of Mathews had anything to do with the timing of the Democrat's move, but the very next month, the Democrat was publishing out of the new town of Oneonta in direct competition with the News-Dispatch.
Without Mathews' strong leadership and keep powers of observations put to paper, the Blount County News-Dispatch was soon on the wane while the fledgling Democrat under the editorial management of the youthful Stephens was in the ideal position to follow as the pre-eminent newspaper for Blount County.
Stephens married Octie Eugenia Howard in 1899:
The Southern Democrat, 1 Jun 1899
Thanks Brother. F.G. Stephens, editor of the Southern Democrat, Oneonta, Ala., who mysteriously disappeared a few days ago, returned last evening with a bride, the sister of Hon. M.W. Howard, of Fort Payne.
We clip the above from the Age-Herald of Friday, which will serve as an agreeable surprise to the brides many friends in Cullman. We doff our hat and congratulate you Bro. Stephens, upon having won the heart and hand of so rare a jewel, but her judgment must surely have been confined to love and sympathy, as evidenced by the section of a poor weather beaten country editor. The Good Book teaches, however, that "ye workers in my vineyard shall wear a crown." Bro. Stephens has reaped his reward, but Lord, where is ours?Cullman Tribune.
A daughter was born in 1900:
The Southern Democrat, 12 Jul 1900
Born, in Oneonta July 11th, to F.G. Stephens and wifea daughter.
The Southern Democrat, 27 Mar 1902
Mildred, the little daughter of F.G. Stephens and wife, fell into the fire and was very painfully burned Tuesday morning.
The News-Dispatch ceased publication and put up its office space for rent in July 1904. For many years, Ketchum, known as the "phat local," edited the local department of the News-Dispatch. About a year after the News-Dispatch folded, in September of 1905, James H. Ketchum, took over the reins of the Democrats local department. He functioned in that capacity for a while until Mrs. Stephens, wife of the editor, took it over. Mrs. Stephens experienced a series of health problems throughout her life and she and the "phat local" took turn about editing the local pieces.
The paper doubled in size from four pages to eight pages in April 1906, expanding the coverage of state and national news, adding more double column advertisements, and including more correspondants from various location around the county.
The Southern Democrat, 7 Mar 1907
Mrs. F.G. Stephens, who has been conducting the Local Department of The Democrat for the past six months, has been on the sick list for the past two weeks and J.H. Ketchum has been looking after that department in her absence.
F.G. Stephens, too, had health problems over the years. Part of his problems was contracting measles in 1896 which settled in his eyes and plagued him for the rest of his life.
Mrs. Stephens succumbed to her illness and died 8 Jun 1916; Forney Gilmore Stephens followed her in death many years later on 14 Feb 1939. However the masthead of The Southern Democrat Stephens started in Blountsville in 1894 survived him by many decades until it ceased publication in December of 1989 and was replaced by The Blount Countain in 1990.