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Title:
The people's messenger. : (Okolona, Miss.) 18??-1???
Place of publication:
Okolona, Miss.
Geographic coverage:
  • Okolona, Chickasaw, Mississippi  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Publisher:
Frank Burkitt
Dates of publication:
18??-1???
Frequency:
Weekly
Language:
  • English
Subjects:
  • Mississippi--Okolona--fast--(OCoLC)fst01226855
  • Mississippi.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01207034
  • Okolona (Miss.)--Newspapers.
  • Populism--Mississippi--Newspapers.
  • Populism.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01071658
Notes:
  • "Official organ of the State Alliance."
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Vol. 24, no. 11 (Nov. 20, 1895).
LCCN:
sn 88067092
OCLC:
17375160
ISSN:
2469-9233
Preceding Titles:
Succeeding Titles:
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The people's messenger. November 20, 1895, Image 1

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The Chickasaw Messenger, The People's Messenger and Okolona Messenger

Lawyer and politician Frank Burkitt was the driving force in the early years of the Messenger run, a pro-agrarian paper based in Chickasaw County in north-central Mississippi. Known throughout his long career by fellow editors as proud, honest, and willing to stand by his convictions, Burkitt became editor of the Chickasaw Messenger (1872-76) soon after it was established in Houston, the county seat. In 1873 he became the owner. Three years later, when the operation moved to the county's commercial center, Okolona, the title may have changed; but by 1880 it was once more the Chickasaw Messenger (1880-94?).

First declaring itself a conservative but Democratic newspaper, the Messenger became more political over time. As early as December 1880, its motto "Earnest, Faithful and Courageous, in Defense of the People's Rights" presaged its future Populist sentiments. In 1885, Burkitt was elected to the Mississippi legislature as a Democrat, an office he held until 1896. Around 1888, articles in the Chickasaw Messenger began calling for a new state constitution, and Burkitt was a delegate to the 1890 constitutional convention, which largely restored white Democrats to power. In addition to political news and editorials, the Chickasaw Messenger also carried a horticultural column, news of Grange and Farmer's Alliance chapters, advertisements, and lots of general and community news. It frequently reported on activities of the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Starkville, now known as Mississippi State University. Although it began as a four-page weekly, by 1887 the paper had expanded to eight pages.

By the late 1880s, Burkitt was increasingly critical of Democratic leadership. He switched to the Populist Party, also known as the People's Party, in 1892 and was the party's 1895 gubernatorial candidate. Burkitt changed the paper's title to the People's Messenger (1895-1900) and turned it into a Farmer's Alliance organ and the Populist Party's state-wide newspaper. A November 20, 1895 advertisement declared "The People's Messenger is the people's paper . . . and will make the fight in the interest . . . of the masses, not the classes . . . ." The masthead changed to an elaborate tripartite scene and featured a portrait of Frank Burkitt in the right-hand corner.

As in other states, by 1900 "progressive," pro-farmer Democrats, who also championed the white "common man," reclaimed the majority of voters from the Populist Party. Although Burkitt sold the newspaper in 1900, his exploits, both personal and as a Democratic state legislator (1908-14), continued to be covered in the renamed Okolona Messenger (1900-current).

A Democratic paper varying from four to twelve pages, in the early 20th century the Okolona Messenger was more mainstream than its predecessors and practiced more objective reporting. Besides politics, the paper covered events such as the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic, and of course, "the great war," as World War I (1914-18) was known at the time. State news included devastation of the cotton crop by the boll weevil infestation, particularly after 1913. Although less partisan in its reporting, the Okolona Messenger continued the tradition of abundant community and local social news. William Taylor Quinn, whose family had been in the newspaper business before the Civil War, bought the Messenger in 1911. Quinn’s daughters, Ervie and Jewell, ran the establishment after his death until 1969. In 2015, the Okolona Messenger is still published as a weekly.

Provided by: Mississippi Department of Archives and History