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Hazel Green Herald
Established by Spencer Cooper, the Hazel Green Herald was Wolfe County's first newspaper. A native of Lexington, Cooper came to Hazel Green in 1885 and, within a month, had printed the first issue of the four-page Herald. Below its masthead the paper would read: “The Oldest, Most Popular, Most Widely Circulated and Most Quoted Paper in the Kentucky Mountains.” It is unclear exactly when the Herald ceased publication, but copies of the paper are available only through 1917.
Wolfe County and the town of Hazel Green are located in the Eastern Coal Field Region of Appalachian Kentucky. It is one of the poorest areas of the Commonwealth today, just as it was in Cooper’s time, when the editor offered cash-strapped readers the opportunity to barter meat and produce for subscriptions to the Herald. The county population was just under 6,000 in 1880, barely reaching 7,000 120 years later. It is remarkable that a newspaper of any size or quality could have survived nearly four decades in such a sparsely populated area. But the Hazel Green Herald did survive and did so with exceptional print quality--a great incentive for businesses to advertise their merchandise. The paper also covered state and regional news and all the gossip the county could handle. It was not unusual for Cooper to use archaic terms that locals would understand, like “milch” for milk, making the Herald a very comfortable news source for many of his subscribers.
In 1880, the same year Cooper arrived in Wolfe County, the Hazel Green Academy, also known as the "Mother Mountain School," raised its first building. The Academy was the first, and for many years the only, school in Eastern Kentucky to offer a college preparatory education. By 1908, the Herald reported an annual attendance of nearly 300--a number greater than the population of the county seat of Campton and that of Hazel Green. It was a true love affair between the Hazel Green Academy and the Herald.
Even though Hazel Green enjoyed progress and growth because of the Academy, the Herald also covered the violence that beset the county and the rest of the state at the turn of the 20th century. Reports of incidents were sometimes embellished but always written in a matter-of-fact style. The paper covered one fatal exchange between two farmers. Arguing over a horse, one farmer picked up a rock, crushing the skull of the other, who happened to be his half brother. Blood feuds were common news. One of the most-publicized--between the Hargis and Cockrell families--played out just southeast of Hazel Green in adjacent “Bloody” Breathitt County. An 1899 county election inspired disputes that escalated to duels and assassinations.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY