Somerset, located in Perry County, Ohio, may no longer enjoy the title of “County Seat”, but it does have the distinction of being the home to the oldest Catholic church in Ohio, Saint Joseph’s, built in 1843. It was also home to a unique political point of view in the 1870s during a time of rebuilding for the United States.
In 1873, the Somerset Tribune uprooted and moved to New Lexington, the newly established seat of Perry County, leaving Somerset without a paper. Seeing a need to fill, M.G. Maine started the Somerset Press, which initially ran as an Independent paper that showed no partiality to any political party. The pages of the Press were filled with the standard local, national, and international news, but it also printed articles appealing to farmers, on such topics as livestock, market prices, and crop reports.
In the spring of 1877, Maine sold the Somerset Press to W.P. Magruder, who later that year decided to support the interests of the Greenback Party then at the height of its popularity. In this agricultural region, Magruder could count on many who favored a system based on non-gold backed paper money that would boost market prices and allow farmers to pay off their loans faster. Aside from the political news, the Press continued to report on matters both domestic and foreign and printed a regular column titled “Topics of the Day” that covered major news from around the world in a concise, easy-to-read format.
Although the Greenback Party proved short-lived, the Somerset Press continued to thrive in the years that followed and went on to become the longest running newspaper in the town’s history, ultimately ending in 1977.
Researched and written by Kevin Latta