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The Morristown gazette. [volume] : (Morristown, Tenn.) 1867-1920
Place of publication:
Morristown, Tenn.
Geographic coverage:
  • Morristown, Hamblen, Tennessee  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
L.P. & G.E. Speck, -1920.
Dates of publication:
  • -54th year, no. 39 (May 27, 1920).
  • Began in 1867.
  • English
  • Hamblen County (Tenn.)--Newspapers.
  • Morristown (Tenn.)--Newspapers.
  • Tennessee--Hamblen County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01224614
  • Tennessee--Morristown.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01224325
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Vol. 1, no. 43 (Jan. 30, 1868).
  • Merged with: Morristown republican (Morristown, Tenn. : 1893), to form: Morristown gazette and Morristown republican.
  • Publishers: Lawrence P. & George E. Speck, <1868>-1873; John E. Helms, 1873-1884; Gazette Print. Co., 1884-1894; John E. & John E. Helms, Jr., 1894-1897; L.P Speck & J.E. Helms, Jr., 1897; J.E. Helms, Jr., 1897-<1914>; Harris W. Helms, <1915-1916>
sn 85033681
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The Morristown gazette. [volume] January 30, 1868 , Image 1


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The Morristown Gazette

The history of the Morristown [Tennessee] Gazette is dominated by one family: the Helms. Four generations of the Helms family published and edited the newspaper for over a century, from 1873 to 1975.

W. Neal founded the Morristown Gazette soon after the end of the Civil War, in either 1866 or 1867. In October 1867, the Gazette was sold to brothers Lawrence P. and George E. Speck, who owned the paper until September 1873, when John E. Helms (b. 1827) became the publisher. No stranger to newspapering, Helms was just 12 years old when he began his apprenticeship at the Knoxville Argus and Commercial Herald. In 1847, Helms and his brother William T. became publishers of the Knoxville Standard and together later founded the Knoxville Plebeian, Knoxville’s first daily.

In its early years, the Morristown Gazette--a four-page Democratic newspaper--was published weekly on Wednesdays. The paper circulated throughout Hamblen, Hawkins, Cocke, Jefferson, Grainger, and Claiborne counties, making it “the best advertising medium to Upper East Tennessee.” The advertisements for the paper promoted businesses from this part of Tennessee and farther west into Knoxville. By 1878, the newspaper had an estimated circulation of 450 (Morristown’s total population was around 1,200). In addition to national and local news and politics, the Gazette covered the railroad industry extensively, often publishing plans for railroad lines, and occasionally the meeting minutes from the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad Company. Poems and short stories provided light-hearted material for the reader, and usually incorporated a moral lesson.  

The Gazette boasted a former president amongst its subscribers. In 1874, Helms wrote to his old friend, Andrew Johnson, informing him of his most recent newspaper venture. Johnson’s reply was enthusiastic and stated, “Enclosed find $10, which you will please enter in my credit as subscription to your paper.” In 1884, Helms’ sons, John E. Helms (b. 1857) and Arthur C. Helms, published the paper under the auspices of the Gazette Print Company. In 1890, they established the Morristown Daily Gazette, but it was not a success and was abandoned after only a couple of months.  Between 1894 and 1918, several members of the Helms family ran the paper, and there was a very brief partnership with L.P. Speck early in 1897.  

The younger John E. Helms served as postmaster for Morristown during the Woodrow Wilson administration. During his eight-year leave of absence, the Gazette was managed by his two sons, Harris Whiteside Helms and John E. Helms (b. 1895). In 1918, the paper was leased to Constance O’Keefe who had gained newspapering experience at the Greeneville Democrat published by her elder sister, Edith O’Keefe Susong. Upon his return from the navy, John E. Helms (b. 1895) joined O’Keefe, and together they revitalized the weekly. The partnership proved to be a great success, and the two married a few years later.

The Gazette absorbed the Morristown Republican in 1920 to form the Morristown Gazette and Morristown Republican, and two years later absorbed the Evening Mail to form the Daily Gazette and Mail. Following World War II, proprietors John and Constance O. Helms were joined by their sons John E. Helms (b. 1926) and William O’Keefe Helms, who served as editor and business manager, respectively.

In the issue of September 30, 1975, co-publisher and editor John E. Helms announced that the Morristown Gazette Mail would cease publication, effective immediately. Lack of advertising support from the major chain firms in Morristown was cited as a principal factor in the newspaper’s demise. This final issue brought the paper’s 109-year existence to an end. It had been in the Helms family for 102 years.

Provided by: University of Tennessee