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The Plaindealer
[LCCN: sn84022679]
Roseburg, Douglas County, Oregon
1870-1905

 

The Roseburg Plaindealer [LCCN: sn84022679] was founded as a Democratic political paper in March, 1870 by William Thompson. After coming to Oregon in 1852 from Polk County, Missouri, he attended Columbia College in Eugene for a term, and with his experience at two local newspapers – the Eugene City Review [LCCN: sn2002060528] and the Eugene Guard [LCCN: sn93051613] – he was prepared to start the Plaindealer.

The new paper faced fierce competition from the Roseburg Ensign [LCCN: sn93051627] at first, and according to Thompson, the Plaindealer’s success “‘was not attained without gaining the enmity and bitter hatred of my would-be rivals in business’” (quoted in Turnbull 1939, 234). Brothers Henry and Thomas Gale of the Ensign had lost market share to the Plaindealer and sought to regain it “by indulging in abuse of the coarsest character” (Turnbull 1939, 234-235). A shootout occurred one evening as Thompson and his friend, Virgil Conn, were leaving the Plaindealer office. Thomas Gale died of injuries from the fight, and Thompson, who was seriously “wounded in the neck . . . hit with a cane and shot several other times,” sold the paper to Lafayette F. Mosher and John W. Kelly on February 1, 1872 (Turnbull 1939, 235). Henry Gale later became the editor for Canyon City’s The Grant County Times [LCCN: sn96088261].

Rich agricultural land and abundant forests had attracted early settlers to the South Umpqua River valley as early as 1840, and the town of Deer Creek, later to be named Roseburg, was established in 1851, quickly becoming the Douglas County seat and a bustling commerce center. Roseburg acquired a new railroad terminus – an important shipping point for annual wool and agricultural products – shortly after the Plaindealer was established, and served as a strong impetus for the city’s growth. As noted in the April 25, 1873 edition, the railroad’s “advantages of location are unsurpassed. It is not only the present terminus of the Oregon and California Railroad, but it is the center of a large county trade. At this place in the roads . . . all unite. In addition, the whole trade of the Southern part of the county comes here.” The county’s population grew 58% in the decade following the arrival of the railroad.

Under publisher William H. Byars, the Plaindealer asserted Republican views and became a powerful political paper in the 1880s. In 1879, the first daily edition of the paper was published and ran from February to April before returning to weekly publication. Beginning on Monday, August 5, 1895, the Plaindealer became – and stayed for the next decade – a semi-weekly paper. The Plaindealer picked up a set of ears (i.e., text on either side of a newspaper’s nameplate) for the rest of its printing run, starting with its Monday, February 1, 1897 edition.  On the left of the name plate was written, “If you don’t need the Plaindealer, you don’t get the news,” and on the right, “If you see it in the Plaindealer, it is so.”

The paper’slast issue was released on November 30, 1905. Under new ownership by a group of local Republicans, the newspaper’s name was changed to Umpqua Valley News [LCCN: unknown] in 1906. The mechanical director of the News, B.W. Bates, took sole control of the paper in 1907 and started the Roseburg Evening News [LCCN: 2003260223] in 1908 as the owner, editor, and publisher.

Prepared with reference to:

Abdill, George. “History of Roseburg, Oregon.” Community Resources: History. City of Roseburg, Oregon.  Accessed Aug. 24, 2011.  http://www.ci.roseburg.or.us/commResources/commResoHistory.php

Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.

- Written by Sheila Rabun