The Jeffersonian Democrat was established at Chardon, the seat of Geauga County, as the Free Democrat in 1849. Edited by O.P Brown and Milton C. Canfield, the Free Democrat advocated the political viewpoint of the Free Soil Party. Joel F. Asper, future lieutenant colonel of the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, purchased the paper in 1850. It then became known as the Chardon Democrat until 1852 when Asper sold it to J.S. Wright, a devoted abolitionist. After purchasing the paper, Wright changed its name to the Free Democrat and enlarged the publication to a seven-column folio. In 1854, Wright changed its name to the Jeffersonian Democrat. Julius Orrin Converse became proprietor of the Jeffersonian Democrat in 1859 and maintained ownership of the paper and its successors until 1902.
The Jeffersonian Democrat was published every Friday morning and served the entire county. Under Converse’s leadership, the paper was “devoted to the dissemination of Republican principles, education, temperance, literature, agriculture, and the news of the day.” The content of the Jeffersonian Democrat varied, and though it did contain some items of local interest, such as a business directory, advertisements, probate court news, and household and farming tips, its main focus was on national and foreign political news. During the Civil War, the Jeffersonian Democrat regularly printed war correspondence and reports from the battlefield. Converse asserted that because he was not easily influenced by “popular passion or prejudice,” the paper advocated for what he believed to be the common good. Converse was a strong supporter of Ohio-born James A. Garfield who was elected as president of the United States in 1880.
In 1866, the paper’s name was changed to the Geauga Democrat to reflect more accurately the local character of the paper. In 1872, the name changed once again to become the Geauga Republican. This name was maintained until 1921 when the paper merged with the Geauga County Record to form the Geauga Republican-Record. After several more mergers, the paper dropped the “Republican” title and, in 1963, became known as the Geauga Times-Leader, which is still published today.
Researched and written by Jenni Salamon