In reviewing the history of early newspapers in Monticello, one finds an account that, at best, could be described as sketchy and murky.
The account is found in the 1883 History of White and Pulaski County. The newspaper in question was called the Monticello Republican. The publisher was Thomas Thornton Scott. The newspaper was published in the Commercial Block, which today would be in the west side and north end of the 100 block of North Main Street.
Scott was born in Kentucky and grew up in Crawfordsville.
The May 9, 1855, issue of the Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel had this to say about the Monticello Republican:
“The Monticello Republican is the title of a newspaper, independent in politics, lately started at the capital town of White County, the first number of which is now before us. Its mechanical execution is good. The editor is T.T. Scott, the productions of whose pen are marked by decided ability.
“Publisher Scott states: ‘We shall aim to drink deeply from the pure fountains of republicanism and infuse into our columns the true spirit of patriotism. The Union, now and forever — one and inseparable — have nailed to our mast! Towards this our eyes shall ever be turned, as sentinels, to watch the first desecrating hand, and parry the blow aimed to disenthrall the liberties of our glorious Union.’”
I find it humorous that the Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel states that Scott’s newspaper was independent. The above quote sounds like a campaign page from Abraham Lincoln’s political handbook.
Regardless, this was a historical moment in White County. This was the beginning for a Republican voice for the county.
The Republican Party at this time was still in the embryo stages and had not secured a win in Indiana. The name of the paper indicated that the sentiment was in the air and that White County was entering the battle from afar.
The following year, Republican John C. Frémont only lacked 43 votes of carrying the county. Four years later, Lincoln carried the county by a plurality of 182 votes.
The Republican was a six-column newspaper. It was printed on a better quality of paper than newspapers today. This was a matter of necessity rather than choice.
In 1855, the cheaper wood-pulp paper had not been invented. As a consequence, these early newspapers have retained their whiteness much better than old newspapers of a later date and are not as fragile yet today. To offset the high cost of rag paper they used thin printing stock.
The advertisements in the Monticello Republican reflected the condition of the community. Many of the ads placed in the newspaper were remedies for ague, a condition that was rampant during the 1840s and 50s in White County. This affliction was a form of malaria or other like illness involving fever and shivering.
The “shakes,” as it was known, included chills, fever and sweating that recurred at regular intervals. In the only surviving issue of the Republican, an article notes the following:
“The delay of our paper this week can be accounted for by those who know our family to be all sick and not able to work. We are not in the habit of offering apologies, but it is totally impossible to get out our paper when editor, printers, rats and devils are all chattering with ague.”
The Delphi Dollar Journal stated that the Republican is very neat in appearance, ably edited and appears to be on the “right track.”
The Monticello Republican lasted but one year. Until today in this column, the general consensus for the last 163 years was that T T. Scott died from malaria shortly before the newspaper went out of business. I am grateful that Scott didn’t die or this would be a short column.
The venerable Scott would live to see another day. Scott would leave Monticello and publish a newspaper in Frankfort. The new newspaper would be called the Clinton County Republican. The spirit of the newly formed Republican Party was reflected in this new venture.
To quote Mr. Scott, “Our motto follows the immortal sentiment of Henry Clay: ‘I repeat that I never can and never will vote and no earthly power ever will make me vote to spread slavery over territories where it does not exist.’”
The Clinton County Republican would publish 19 issues of the newspaper. The first issue hit the streets Sept. 4, 1856. A fire destroyed the building and all of the printing machinery on Jan. 17, 1857.
Scott and his editor, Tyler, re-established the paper on April 30, 1857. The paper was sold in late summer 1858.
Scott had earlier returned to Crawfordsville due to ill health. The May 13, 1858, edition of the Crawfordsville Weekly Journal states: “Our young friend, T.T. Scott of the Clinton County Republican is in our city for the purpose of recruiting his health. We have no Artesian well here, but it is thought we have the most healthful water in the state.”
Scott previously owned the Crawfordsville Locomotive and would purchase the paper again in January 1861. Seven months later, Scott was torn away from the Locomotive to accept a lucrative appointed political position in Washington, D.C. The position was messenger of the U.S. Senate.
Scott was rumored to be one among a number of government employees captured by the rebels after the Battle of Bull Run. In reality, he was not captured but rather was on a list of the most wanted by the Confederates. He eluded capture and would return to Crawfordsville in late September 1862 to visit friends. The Locomotive would fold its tent during his absence.
During the war, Scott occasionally wrote back to the Crawfordsville Journal. In July 1863, Scott wrote to the paper stating that the greatest slaughter of the rebels at Gettysburg was on the left center, in front of Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s corps. A rebel lieutenant who was wounded there and seen by Scott in the hospital was asked: “After your men reached General Hancock’s forces, what did the men do then?” The rebel lieutenant sat for a moment, and then remarked: “They faded away!”
Today we know this encounter between Confederate and Union troops at Gettysburg as Pickett’s Charge.
Scott stayed in Washington, D.C., after the war and continued to serve the U.S. Senate. About 1870, he would return to Crawfordsville where he owned the gentlemanly Crawfordsville Hunting and Fishing Club.
Scott would die in Crawfordsville in December 1875 at the young age of 42. He is buried alongside his wife, Mary, in Oak Hill Cemetery just north of downtown Crawfordsville.