Wilhelm: One of earliest local newspapers supported Whig politics

One of the earliest newspapers in what is now Fremont was the Lower Sandusky Whig, launched by Clark Waggoner who purchased the Lower Sandusky Times and changed the name to Whig with the first edition apparently published on May 4, 1839.

It was born as the national political Whig Party was going through its infancy.  According to Wikipedia, the Whig Party was established during Andrew Jackson’s second term in office as president — about 1835.

I can’t say if Waggoner was a Whig himself, but he apparently supported their positions because the newspaper was an ardent supporter of William Henry Harrison for the presidency in 1840.  The Whig base of support was centered among entrepreneurs, professionals, planters, social reformers, devout Protestants, and the emerging urban middle class. It had much less backing from poor farmers and unskilled workers.

Harrison, who is known here for his military accomplishments, was one of several Whig Party nominees for president in the 1836 election, but he was defeated by Democrat Martin Van Buren.

In the 1840 election, he successfully teamed with John Tyler, forming the political team of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” using Harrison’s military victory over Tecumseh’s confederacy to political advantage.

Portrait of William Henry Harrison (1773 - 1841), the ninth President of the United States (1841).
Portrait of William Henry Harrison (1773 - 1841), the ninth President of the United States (1841).

Just weeks after his election, Harrison fell ill and died. The Whig party itself did not last much longer as it collapsed during the presidency of Franklin Pierce in the 1850s

Waggoner’s newspaper didn’t last that long. And it struggled even at that.

Years later, speaking to the Sandusky County Pioneer and Historical Society, he talked about his equipment, especially his press which was called a “ramage” and which Basil Meek’s “History of Sandusky County” said “was similar in construction to the old Ben Franklin press now (1909) so carefully preserved as a historic relic.”

Waggoner had this to say: “The condition of my old ‘ramage’ was such, that before using it, I found it necessary to brace it from the floor to hold it up, and to brace it from the ceiling to hold it down.  Only one page of the paper was printed at an impression and that was found to be sufficient to take the muscular resources of the average pressman, as the weekly show of blisters on my hands abundantly testified.”

To provide a little perspective, I can recall The News-Messenger press printing many thousands of papers of multiple pages in the years before I retired.

Speaking of the occasion when he was able to obtain a replacement press, Waggoner said, “I had seen no happier day than was that on which this addition was made to my office, and the old press was inconsiderately stowed away in the back yard."

Despite replacing his ‘ramage’, Waggoner took off for Milan, Ohio.

Interestingly, Waggoner’s first apprentice was I. M. Keeler, who later became a community leader in Lower Sandusky and Fremont and operated the Fremont Journal successfully for years. Keeler’s daughter Lucy was among the Journal’s employees, writing a regular column titled “Pot-pourri.”  She, of course, became an interesting and valuable historian for the community.

Roy Wilhelm started a 40-year career at The News-Messenger in 1965 as a reporter. Now retired, he writes a column for both The News-Messenger and News Herald.

This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: One of the earliest local newspapers supported Whig politics