Lincoln County Leader
Toledo, Lincoln County, Or.
John F. Stewart first published the Lincoln County Leader in the coastal town of Toledo, Oregon, in 1893. Stewart had moved to Toledo from nearby Woodburn, hoping to start a newspaper that would be free of competition. Although it lacked the population and infrastructure of other cities such as Newport, home to a growing tourist industry, Toledo was an ideal location because it was recently named county seat and was without any competing papers at the time. The newspaper’s original plant was small, containing an old “army” press, which sat on a dry goods box. The press was slow, printing one page at a time and requiring handset type on a "kid" typesetter.
While not deeply political, Stewart’s paper did support the Democratic Party and offered a few passing observations on local politics. A June 1896 article, “The Indian Vote,” covered a county election in which inhabitants of the Siletz reservation first cast votes. The Leader disabused a rumor that tribal members did not have the right to vote. Stewart, who had suggested in an earlier issue that “Indians as a rule voted intelligently,” offered a lengthy excerpt from a court document establishing the legality of their participation, thus reaffirming his support for the new members of the electorate.
Stewart retired from the newspaper business when he accepted a position as county judge in 1898, selling the Leader to Wesley L. Davis. Shortly after Davis’ arrival, a Corvallis paper, the Oregon Union [LCCN: sn85042402], remarked that the Leader was evolving “from the grub of populism – or silver democracy – to the bright and lively butterfly of gold standard republicanism,” highlighting the paper’s changing political identity under Davis’ tutelage.
The Leader was sold within a year to Robert E. Collins, who maintained ownership for a few months before selling to Charles and Ada Soule. The Soules supported the Republican platform and often ran pieces that criticized William Jennings Bryan. However, they were not resistant to the idea of critiquing members of the Republican Party as well. The Soules ran an article in 1903 on Senator Thomas Platt of New York, a noted womanizer who was embroiled in romantic problems at the time and whom the paper characterized as “one of the smoothest politicians of the age… a heart-smasher, a gay deceiver.”
The Leader returned to the management of Robert E. Collins in 1907. He worked on the publication with his partner, Fern Hayden, until 1922 when they sold the Leader to the Hall brothers, with Willoughby Hall taking over as editor. Frequent advertisements included Ayer’s Hair Vigor, Prince Albert Tobacco, Y. B. Merchandise Company, and Castoria to list a few. Issues also contained fictional stories such as “Out on the Pampas” by George Alfred Henty, which ran as a series for several weeks.
A few years after Collins departed the Leader, he established a competing paper, the Lincoln County Herald [LCCN: sn2011260123]. In 1927, a stock company purchased both the Leader and the Herald, consolidating them under the original title, Lincoln County Leader, which remained in operation until 1987.
Prepared with reference to:
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
-- Written by Daniel Rinn