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The free press. : (Poplarville, Miss.) 1890-19??
Place of publication:
Poplarville, Miss.
Geographic coverage:
  • Poplarville, Pearl River, Mississippi  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1890.
  • English
  • Mississippi--Poplarville.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01219915
  • Poplarville (Miss.)--Newspapers.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Vol. 6, no. 13 (Jan. 30, 1896).
sn 87065567
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The free press. December 24, 1891 , Image 1


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The Free Press

In 1890, sparsely populated, predominately white, Pearl River County was created mostly from northern Hancock, a coastal county. Named after the Pearl River, which divides Mississippi from Louisiana below the thirty-first parallel, the county is located in the yellow pine forest of Southern Mississippi. In addition to lumber-related businesses, the county had strong cattle, sheep, and dairy industries.

Established the same year as the county, the Free Press may have originated in Purvis, Mississippi. By February 1891, founder Colonel A. G. Russell was printing the paper in the Pearl River seat of government, Poplarville. Possibly initiated as a Farmer's Alliance journal, by December 1891 there was a regular column that featured the agrarian organization's news from all over the country. By 1894, George P. Rowell and Company's American Newspaper Directory listed the Press as a Democratic newspaper, and by this time, it routinely printed the Proceedings of the County Board of Supervisors meetings. In the August 26, 1897 issue, Russell assured his readers in his farewell address that the Free Press would be "… in experienced hands and will continue to labor for the special upbuilding of Poplarville, Pearl River County and the State of Mississippi." The new owner, John Rhodes Oliphant, was the longest serving publisher, running the newspaper for at least 16 years. In October 1919, owner G. S. Harmon absorbed the short-lived Pearl River Watchman, which had begun publication in June the previous year. The normally four-page weekly Free Press was published on Thursdays, except from 1919-21, when it was issued on Fridays. The last known issue of the Press was published July 28, 1938.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Free Press carried the normal mix of news, informative articles, and fictional stories; however, it remained true to Russell's mission and focused on local, county, and state news, announcements, legal notices, and advertisements. For instance, the newspaper followed the rise and fall of the yellow pine timber boom in southern Mississippi. Starting with the Rosa lumber mill in 1916, Lucius Olen Crosby, Sr. and his business partners at one point owned 35 mills in the area. Crosby's personal and business dealings were often covered in the Press. Some articles promoted alternative economic opportunities such as one in the November 28, 1901 issue that enumerated fruits and vegetables that could be successfully raised in truck farms on cut-over timber land. In 1922, the legislature allowed agricultural boarding schools to offer the first two years of college courses. The first school to do so became the Pearl River Agricultural High School and Junior College. The August 23, 1923 issue gave an extensive description of the grounds in addition to listing faculty and the classes they taught.

The Free Press often devoted space for political candidates to explain their positions and appeal to voters. Most notably, the Press followed the political successes and failures of native son Theodore Gilmore Bilbo, who served as State Senator (1908-12), Lieutenant Governor (1912-16), Governor (1916-20; 1928-32), and United States Senator (1935-47). Flamboyant and aggressive, Bilbo was an advocate for poor white farmers, but as a die-hard segregationist and white supremacist, created an oppressive climate for African-American citizens of Mississippi.

Provided by: Mississippi Department of Archives and History