The mostly female proprietors of the current Burns Times-Herald [LCCN: sn96088259] pride themselves on the fact that their “founding mother” was a gutsy pioneer who continued working through her ninth decade. Nellie R. Grace helped her husband, David Louis Grace in starting up one of the Times-Herald’s predecessors, the East Oregon Herald [LCCN: sn96088250], in 1887 -- and then, acting on her own initiative, launched another, the Burns News [LCCN: sn96088245], in 1894. But the Times-Herald’s full history is even more complicated, borne out of the consolidation of about half a dozen papers over a number of decades.
The paper’s oldest ancestor, the Harney Valley Items [LCCN: sn96088256], was the first journal in the region, established in September of 1885. A paper bearing the title Times-Herald [LCCN: sn96088246] first appeared in Burns in 1896. Brothers Julian and Charles A. Byrd had in 1891 purchased the East Oregon Herald from Mr. and Mrs. Grace, and they now merged that title with a couple bought-out competitors, the Harney Times [LCCN: n/a] and the Burns Tribune [LCCN: n/a], to launch the Times-Herald. Meanwhile, the Burns News had absorbed the old Harney Valley Items. The News and the Times-Herald remained competitors until 1930, when they consolidated under the title Times-Herald.
All these papers covered Harney County in southeastern Oregon. This wide-open, high desert country has long produced a people proud of their Old West heritage and geographic isolation. For many decades, the motto in the Times-Herald masthead has been: "Covers Harney County Like the Sagebrush."
In its early days under the direction of the Graces, the Herald was a seven-column, four-page paper featuring two pages of ready print per issue, and two pages hand-composed by Nellie Grace and printed at the local office. It catered to an agricultural readership. Headlines were ripped from nearby Oregon and Idaho papers and featured land barons, the Japanese need for 10,000 horses and a strange disease that killed cattle. There appeared the usual medicinal advertisements that routinely supported rural newspapers, but also featured were ads for hens that would lay eggs in winter and cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of horse thieves. It wouldn’t be until the early 1910’s that the paper began printing local news outside the husbandry niche.
Through 1923, the paper’s owners were central figures in the civic life of the town. Nellie Grace was a librarian; her husband was a teacher and then school superintendent. Julian Byrd, the paper’s manager for 40 years, put pressure on the railroad companies to build tracks into the county. He was also credited with bringing motion pictures, the telephone and electricity to Burns.
After the 1930 consolidation of the Burns News and the Times-Herald, ownership of the paper changed hands quite frequently. By 2006, members of the editorial and business staffs had grown tired of being volleyed between publishing companies and out-of-town owners, and so they decided to purchase and manage the paper themselves. Theirs marked the first staff buyout of a newspaper in Oregon.
-- Written by Isolde Raftery