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Breathitt County News
The Breathitt County News served its namesake county's seat in the midst of an economic boom that had lasting consequence for eastern Kentucky. For much of the 19th century, Breathitt and other eastern Kentucky counties remained small, predominantly agricultural communities. By the 1890s, however, the extension of railroad lines, the insatiable demands of industrial America, and a mix of indigenous entrepreneurs and outside capital lead to the extensive development of timber, coal, and other natural resources. In Breathitt County, rapid growth followed the extension of a Louisville and Nashville line in 1888, and during the first decade of the 20th century, the county's population grew dramatically.
Founded in Jackson, Kentucky in 1901, the Breathitt County News quickly became known for its reporting on the violent feuds that earned the county a widespread reputation as "Bloody Breathitt." The publisher of the Breathitt County News, J. Wise Hagins (1861-1933), however, responded vigorously to the sensational depiction of Breathitt County as a place overrun by violent troublemakers. Hagins always insisted that the conflicts were political in nature, and not the result of any supposed culture of vendetta. Indeed, the county's feuds were closely connected to local politics. The parties involved were often prominent citizens, including lawyers and elected officials who were themselves supposedly responsible for keeping the peace.
Born in Breathitt County, J. Wise Hagins was, at various times, the county's clerk, judge, and attorney. Although a Democrat, the publisher repeatedly joined with Republicans to endorse sundry "fusion" tickets opposing the county's Democratic machine. His four-page newspaper naturally reflected his eclectic political views. In addition to local politics, the News covered international, national, and state affairs, with the last often distilled into brief front-page summaries. A substantial section of correspondence from other county towns also appeared, much of it decidedly more concerned with local political affairs than social events. Subscribers also got Jackson town news along with local notices, advertising, and serialized fiction. Although the date is uncertain, the Breathitt County News had ceased publication by 1911. Hagins later moved to Virginia, where he dabbled in horticulture and beekeeping; he died in 1933.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY