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The northern star. [volume] : (Snohomish City, W.T. [Wash.]) 1876-1879
Place of publication:
Snohomish City, W.T. [Wash.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Snohomish, Snohomish, Washington  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (January 15, 1876)-v. 4, whole no. 159 (May 3, 1879).
  • English
  • Snohomish (Wash.)--Newspapers.
  • Washington (State)--Snohomish.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01226207
  • Also issued on microfilm from Bell & Howell, Micro Photo Div; Washington State Library.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Suspended with Dec. 22, 1877 issue; resumed with Jan. 23, 1878 issue. Suspended with Dec. 21, 1878 issue; resumed with Jan. 25, 1879 issue.
sn 84022795
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The northern star. [volume] January 15, 1876 , Image 1


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The northern star

Eldridge Morse took up a homestead with his wife near Snohomish in 1872. He had served with the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War, taught in Iowa, and earned a law degree in Michigan before moving west. Despite being the county seat, Snohomish did not have a newspaper. Morse attempted to interest several publishers in establishing a paper in Snohomish, but none liked the prospects, so he decided to start a paper himself. He bought the plant of the defunct Olympia's The North-Western Farmer and enlisted Dr. Albert Chase Folsom as associate editor. Morse was the first lawyer in Snohomish, and Folsom was the only practicing physician at the time. Both were influential in Snohomish cultural circles, especially the founding of the Athenaeum Society. First organized in 1873 to provide social and educational opportunities in the community and a library pooled from members' personal collections, the Society also erected a building in 1877 to house its growing collections and serve as a community gathering place.

The first issue of the Northern Star appeared on January 15, 1876. The paper was eight pages, published weekly on Saturdays. In addition to promises of support for the Snohomish community, the latest telegraphic news, and all home-written content, Morse's salutatory expressed his hope that the Northern Star would become "the record of the Literary and Scientific development of the North West Coast." Folsom did much of the editing in early issues while Morse travelled to collect content. In under a year, the Northern Star had reached a circulation of 700, and Morse had travelled approximately fifteen thousand miles. The paper was praised as "the representative paper of scientific thought and progress" in Washington Territory. Folsom left the paper in July 1876, explaining that his role as assistant editor had always been temporary to help get the paper off the ground and that he felt confident in the Star's continued success.

Unfortunately, his confidence was misplaced. Even before Folsom's departure, Morse and the Star suffered several setbacks. On January 25, 1876, Horace C. Low and Arthur F. Batt, both 16 year-old assistants in the newspaper office, broke through thin ice while skating on a local lake and drowned. With their labor force cut down to one, Morse and Folsom could only publish a half sheet that week. In March, Morse's wife Martha (Mollie) died after an extended illness. Morse married Fannie Oliver on January 7, 1877, but the two divorced in 1879. Fannie appeared as assistant editor from April 1877 to February 1878. Folsom also returned to the paper from April to October 1877.

In 1877, the lumber market, the principal economic driver in Snohomish, crashed. Subscriptions for the Star slipped to 600. Morse's problems were compounded by a falling out with the county commissioners, after which the commissioners sent printing to Seattle or posted notices in town rather than having them printed in Morse's paper. Rocky relationships with several other prominent citizens of the territory were evidenced in the pages of the Star. Morse accused Reverend Daniel Bagley of Seattle of plotting to keep the Star from being distributed through the mail and Beriah Brown of the Seattle Puget Sound Dispatch of assisting Bagley. He also exchanged barbs with Reverend Bagley's son Clarence Booth Bagley, editor of the Olympia Puget Sound Weekly Courier. Despite these hardships, Morse kept the Star afloat until May 1879. In his valedictory, published May 3, 1879, Morse blamed the financial difficulties caused by his frequent travel, the slow economic recovery after 1877, and the malicious actions of personal enemies for the failure of the Star.

Provided by: Washington State Library; Olympia, WA