Princeton Times

Mercer County Memories

January 18, 2013

Mercer County Memories: History of Newspapers part 2

PRINCETON — Resuming our look at the history of Mercer County, courtesy of Kyle McCormick’s “The Story of Mercer County,” (Charleston Publishing Co. 1957) and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, courtesy of Benson J. Lossing’s book”Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” which is a reprint of the 1848 original kindly provided on loan by Dr. O.J. Bailes, we now turn to a history of newspapers in Mercer County.

In 1880, the Greenback Movement, which had the theory that the printing of more paper money was the solution to the country’s ills, emerged as a political party.

Col. Napoleon B. French, previously a member of the Virginia Legislature and a sergeant-at-arms of the West Virginia Legislature, was the principal local advocate for the Greenback Movement and, in 1880, decided to become the movement’s candidate for governor.

With the movement came a party organ in the guise of a newspaper called the Greenback Banner, printed in Princeton by a group of brothers from Athens by the name Massie. It was a red hot sheet, with a series of personal attacks upon the leading lights of Princeton in a manner not done afterwards.

One night, a group of neighborhood men entered the offices of the Banner with force and some shovels of cow manure. They spread the manure in the type cases and the printers were unable to clean the cases for use after that and the “freedom” of the press was destroyed and Col. French defeated.

Turning to the Lossing book, we come to Lyman Hall, born in Connecticut in 1721. His father was able to afford a good education for him and he entered Yale College at the age of 16, graduating in four years. He chose medicine as a profession and completed his necessary studies with great ardor and perseverance.

As soon as he completed his studies and was admitted to practice with the title M.D., he married and moved to South Carolina in 1752, settling first in Dorchester. He soon moved to Sunbury in the district of Medway in Georgia and was accompanied by about 40 families from New England who moved with him from South Carolina. He was successful in his job and by his intelligence, probity and consistency of character, he won the esteem of his fellow citizens.

Hall was one of the first Southerners to raise the call of patriotism in opposition to British oppression and misrule. The community where he lived shared his sentiments, many coming from New England where they inherited from their Puritan ancestors the principles that would not brook attempts to enslave or even to destroy a single prerogative of the colonies. The older residents of Georgia, many of them direct emigrants from Europe, had these traits to a much less degree and therefore St. John Parish, where Hall resided, seemed to be the center of republicanism in Georgia.

Early in 1774, Hall and several others tried by means of public meetings to arouse the people of Georgia to make common cause with the other colonies but the effort seemed almost futile. In July 1774, a general meeting of all those who favored republicanism was called at Savannah, but the measures adopted there were so temporizing and noncommittal that Hall despaired of success in getting delegates to the General Congress called in Philadelphia in September. He returned home with a heavy heart and his constituents resolved to act independently of the rest of the colony and elect Hall as a delegate to Congress.

Despite the unconventional way he was selected, he was admitted to Congress as a delegate in March, 1775, but because of the fact that Georgia had not sent a delegation, he chose not to vote when Congress voted by colonies. The next year, Georgia sent five delegates, including Hall. He rejoined Congress in May, 1776 in time to vote on and sign the Declaration of Independence.

Hall remained in Congress nearly all the while until 1780, when the British invasion of Georgia called him home to see to the safety of his family. He arrived in time to remove them, but his estate suffered the ravages of British fury and consfication.

In 1782, he returned to Georgia just before the British evacuated Savannah. The next year, he was elected Governor and served one year. The next year, his only son died and Hall did not long survive him. He died in 1784 at age 63, greatly mourned.

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