When the town of Canfield ceded its position as the seat of Mahoning County seat to the rapidly growing industrial city of Youngstown, there was a concern that the rest of the otherwise largely rural county would be forgotten. The Mahoning Dispatch debuted on May 4, 1877, as an answer to this problem. Based in Canfield and published by Henry Manning Fowler, it quickly became the established weekly in the surrounding region. Fowler stated in the initial edition that “The Dispatch will be an independent journal, non-partisan in politics and the organ of no political faction or religious sect.” The Fowler family continued to publish the Mahoning Dispatch as an independent journal until 1968, becoming the longest continuously published family-run newspaper in the county.
The Dispatch maintained a rural and folksy demeanor in sharp contrast to the modern industrial complex in Youngstown a few miles away. By 1900, Youngstown was the world’s largest producer of iron ore and steel, yet on the front page of the Dispatch one would be more likely to read about roller skating in Salem or Reverend Bright of Patmos preaching in Canton. Catering to all the local villages, townships, and crossroads of Mahoning County, the content and format of the Dispatch changed little throughout the 91 years of its existence. A left corner section of the front page dedicated to “Washingtonville Write-Ups” might change authorship from Peter Herold to Clarence Baker, but the short succinct style and humor remained the same throughout.
Although the Mahoning Dispatch was relied upon for its coverage of local developments, the paper also reported on national and world events with local insight and opinion. When Republican William Howard Taft won the presidency in 1908, the Mahoning Dispatch covered the event as well as local Republican victories.. The editorial on the election in Youngstown captured the flavor of the newspaper: “The dead are buried. In short the campaign is over. The wounded are convalescent. Ward heelers are looking for work. Youngstown painted things red while it lasted. There was no bloodshed here during the campaign but there was a mighty lot of booze shed.”
After the paper stopped publishing, the Dispatch office continued on as a printing company until the death of Ralph Fowler in 1991. It is currently maintained as a printing museum by the Canfield Historical Society.
Researched and written by T. Alex Beres