Morgan County, Ohio, is a primarily rural county in southeast Ohio. In 1817, the county was created and named in honor of Virginia congressman and Revolutionary War general Daniel Morgan. The county has always been primarily rural, with heavy emphasis on agriculture and the extraction of natural resources.
In 1871, the county organ of the democratic party, the Conservative, adopted a temperance perspective that left the democrats of Morgan County wanting for a local newspaper to cover their interests. Francis A. Davis, a local steamboatman who was ill from exposure in the Civil War, took up the mantle and purchased type and equipment in Cincinnati to start his own democratic paper, the Democrat, which was met with much excitement. Its inaugural issue on July 15, 1871, was published as an eight-column folio and was distributed to 57 subscribers; by the end of the year, that number rose to around 500. By 1886, it had 1,400-1,800 subscribers and was produced as a six-column quarto. That same year, Davis changed the paper’s name to the Morgan County Democrat, reflecting its dedication to the local community. In 1919, the Morgan County Democrat, still based in the county seat, McConnelsville, reached a circulation of 2,875. Even as the towns and villages grew, the county continued its primarily rural focus. The Morgan County Democrat’s weekly Thursday circulation consistently exceeded the population of McConnelsville, suggesting a significant portion of its readership comprised rural households. The Morgan County Democrat merged in 1943 with the McConnelsville Herald to form the Morgan County Herald which still publishes today as a local paper.
The Morgan County Democrat, like its predecessors and successors, was primarily concerned with local news. Courthouse news, church news, high school notes, agricultural news notes, obituaries, and society news formed the bulk of the content. Advertisements took up less than half of the page space and were rarely featured on the front page. Raymond Durbin, the paper’s editor and publisher until he sold it in 1943 to the McConnelsville Herald office, evidently preferred including many short notices rather than filling space with large headlines.
Researched and written by Jen Cabiya