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The Adair County News (Columbia, Kentucky)
The Adair County News covered south-central Kentucky's eastern Pennyrile region, but its appeal extended beyond the small county seat of Columbia. In 1909, subscriptions included advertisements for businesses in Columbia and nearby towns, including Lebanon, Russell Springs, Greensburg, and Jamestown. Charles S. Harris established the Adair County News in 1887 as a Democratic counter to Alvin A. Strange's Republican Columbia Spectator, with hopes, according to the first issue, that it would be a true Democratic paper, come to advocate honest convictions and defend noble principles.
Turn-of-the-century Columbia was an isolated community. In 1910, local farmers and businessmen still traveled almost 20 miles to Campbellsville, Kentucky to receive goods or ship their products on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Unsurprisingly, the prospect of a railroad connection to Columbia was newsworthy, although it was a prospect that never materialized. The Adair County News included reports of Columbia and Louisville agricultural markets, social news, and correspondence from nearby towns. (A Gradyville, Kentucky, correspondent declared in the paper's first issue: The election excitement has quieted and everybody has gone to business.) Adair County News also chronicled pivotal events in Columbia's history, including the founding of the Lindsey Wilson Training School in 1903, later to become Lindsey Wilson College. In 1919, Judge Rollin T. Hurt, writing under the pseudonym John Avroe Steel, began a lengthy series of columns on Adair County's early history.
While Charles Harris handled the paper's finances, John Edward Murrell (1849-1926) was its voice for many years. Murrell had worked for several weekly community newspapers, including the Columbia Spectator, before joining Harris to found the News. Murrell proudly presented original content, providing editorial and news notes for each issue during his tenure at the paper. Murrell also frequently commented on national events, and he was a caustic critic of President Theodore Roosevelt's appointment of African Americans to federal positions in the South or of any other challenge to the prevailing racial order.
In 1917, Harris sold the Adair County News to Barksdale Hamlett, who had served as Kentucky's superintendent of public instruction from 1912 to 1916. Daisy Hamlett would become publisher after her husband's death in 1919. In 1926, her son, Edward, succeeded Murrell as the paper's editor. Mary L. Smith, known affectionately as Mamie, who had begun her career with the paper in 1909, worked alongside Edward Hamlett as compositor, bookkeeper, and office manager until her death in 1954. Mamie Smith also contributed to the paper's personal notes and local coverage. The Adair County News, the county's most durable newspaper, continued until 1987, when in the span of four successive years it was replaced by a number of other weeklies, including the Columbia-Adair County News-Statesman, the Adair County News-Statesman, the Columbia Newsweek, and the Columbia News.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY