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The Mount Sterling Advocate
The Mount Sterling Advocate has served the seat of Montgomery County and the surrounding area since 1890. Founded by businessmen John H. Mason and Dr. C.W. Harris, the weekly was an immediate success despite many other well-established county papers. By its second year, the Advocate was printing an impressive eight pages of copy. By 1920, it was published as a 12-page semi-weekly. The paper continued to grow and eventually expanded to its current 24 pages.
Montgomery County was a “gateway” county, connecting the Eastern Mountain and Bluegrass regions of Kentucky. A single road, later designated as U.S. 460, led out of the mountains into downtown Mount Sterling. The first city of substantial size in the flatlands along the thoroughfare, Mount Sterling was a natural hub for commerce and social gatherings. Not surprisingly, much of the Advocate's content focused on the area’s heavy agricultural trade. One of the largest cash crops in both regions was Burley tobacco. The Burley Tobacco Society, an organization for tobacco farmers in Kentucky, featured prominently in the paper, along with other aspects of the tobacco market. The horse industry, of particular import to the Bluegrass Region, merited its own column--"Horse and Track," which was dedicated to racing news and the sale of horses.
In keeping with the Commonwealth’s reputation for lively political rivalries, politics was a key aspect of the Advocate’s coverage. As a Democratic paper, the Advocate kept the county’s Democratic voters--who, by 1911, outnumbered Republicans by nearly two to one--abreast of party matters. There were regular endorsements for local and national candidates, including Kentucky Governor, John C. W. Beckham, who believed that temperance was the solution to the violence that plagued the state at the turn of the century. By the end of his gubernatorial tenure in 1907, nearly 100 of Kentucky’s then 119 counties were dry. Montgomery County followed suit in 1914, and Beckham was elected to the Senate that same year.
The Advocate was often enmeshed in political controversy. In 1893, Walter Banks, an African American, was elected to the city council in Mount Sterling, where African Americans constituted nearly 30 percent of the population. Together with other county newspapers, the Advocate challenged Bank’s election. As a consequence, when the council met to finalize the results, Banks was dismissed from his position, because literacy tests and poll taxes had supposedly disqualified him from voting or serving as an elected official.
Since its founding, the Advocate has frequently changed hands. In 1892, John H. Mason sold his share in the paper to J.W. Hedden. Four years later, Bruce W. Trimble and Hedden edited the paper together until 1910, when Trimble was replaced by Gemil B. Senff. For the next nine years, Senff and Hedden ran the Advocate. Following Senff’s departure, Hedden edited the paper with his son. After nearly 120 years, and more than 15 editors, the Mount Sterling Advocate is still in print today (http://www.mtsterlingadvocate.com/).
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY