The Stark County Democrat was established in 1833 using equipment acquired from a failed newspaper in Paris, Ohio. A man named Leonard purchased the printing equipment and supplies and founded the Democrat in nearby Canton. Within six months, Leonard died of cholera, and ownership of the paper was transferred to the editor, William Dunbar. Leonard’s death marked the first of the many managerial changes in the long history of the Democrat.
Never shying away from its pointed commentary, the Democrat at first concentrated on local events, before shifting toward national headlines at the turn of the century. Yet from the outset, the paper also focused on larger issues. In fact, the Democrat was launched as a mouthpiece for those opposing the Bank of the United States and paper currency. During the Civil War, the Democrat aroused considerable opposition through its criticism of the national administration and the conduct of military operations. Local demonstrators nearly destroyed the plant in 1861, and the paper’s senior editor at the time, Archibald McGregor, was confined to Camp Mansfield, a military installation, for a month in 1862. McGregor was eventually discharged by Governor David Tod and took an oath of loyalty.
The publication also documents the legal and political career of President William McKinley who moved to Canton in 1867 and served as the Stark County prosecuting attorney, United States Congressman, and Ohio governor before being elected as President of the United States in 1896. As a Democratic paper, it was not always supportive of McKinley’s Republican politics, such as the controversial McKinley Tariff of 1890 that caused him to lose his seat in Congress, but its reports did indicate that McKinley was, overall, well-liked by his fellow Cantonians and considered to be a man with “no stain” on his character.
Beginning in 1888, the Democrat benefitted from the steady guidance of Civil War General and former Ohio Secretary of State and Representative Isaac R. Sherwood, who owned the Democratic Publishing Company. By that point, the paper was operating a cylinder press (established in 1866, the first in Stark County) and had cultivated a circulation of over 7,500. After General Sherwood retired, the Democrat changed hands several more times before it finally ceased publication in 1912.
Researched and written by Eric W. Schnittke & Jenni Salamon