Sierra Sun Celebrates 100th Anniversary on May 7, 1969
By Doug Barrett
Wednesday, May 7, 1969
Editors note October 18, 2017: Upon the discovery of a framed copy of a 1868 edition of the Truckee Tribune in the storage room at the Sierra Sun, we decided to take a deeper look at our history in the Truckee and Lake Tahoe region. We came across the following column written by Doug Barrett on May 7, 1969. This transcribed version of the article appears as close as possible to the original printed edition. Ben Rogers, the publisher of the Sierra Sun, transcribed the column on October 18, 2017. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors note May 7, 1969: the exact origins of the Sierra Sun are lost in time. No one knows for sure when it began, who published it or under what name. This issue has been declared the centennial edition and it probably represents as fair an estimate of the paper’s age that can possibly be made. The following historical account doesn’t pin down our ancestry but tells the story as far as we know it.
For generations this phrase “Since 1869,” has appeared in the flag of the Truckee Republican and its successor, the Sierra Sun. It has always been taken as the point of beginning for the Truckee Republication and journalism in eastern Nevada County.
The irony is this was the one year at that time in which nothing was doing in the field.
“Authority” exists for the claim. First in Thompson and West’s “History of Nevada County” published in 1880, the statement is made, “in 1869 the Truckee Tribune, a weekly newspaper, was issued by Mr. Ferguson, who continued the publication until his departure in 1870.”
Seeming to back this up but only compounding the error is W.F. Edwards’ “tourist Guide to the Truckee Basin,” with directory, published in 1883. This book published at the Republican print shop by the editor of the paper, stated, “In 1869 the first newspaper in Truckee was started by N.W. Ferguson and called the Tribune.”
Such was the transient nature of newspapers and newspapermen in that era that the paper’s publisher less than a dozen years later got two of his three “facts” wrong. The Truckee Tribune was not founded in 1869 — it was 1868 — and the first editor was E.B. Boust not Ferguson. J.W. Ferguson & Company were the publishers during the short life of the Tribune.
In the Dutch Flat Enquirer of Sept. 8, 1868, as this announcement: “We shale issue the Truckee Tribune on or about the 15th of the present month, and we shall send copies to all present exchanges of the Enquirer, and shall be pleased to meet the familiar faces of all our friends. Address: Tribune, Truckee, Calif.”
No copies of this pioneer paper exist, but copious clippings from it were picked up and printed in the contemporary metropolitan press of San Francisco, the earliest describing mining prospects at Meadow Lake under the date line of September 19, 1868.
But 1870, Truckee, Meadow Lake and the Tribune were in a slump. On March 21, the San Francisco Bulletin noted, “The Truckee Tribune has been sold and the purchasers will publish the paper at some other point in Nevada.”
The March 26 Bulletin reported an organized band of horse thieves making ranches along the Truckee River a principal scene for their rascality and the fact that a large hotel at Meadow Lake — costing $16,000 to build a few years previous — had sold at auction for $7. A qualified judge of prospects in Meadow Lake was quoted as saying it was a bad deal at seven cents.
On April 1, 1870, was the last word on the Tribune. The plant and material had been moved to Fresno where the owners would publish the paper to “protect litigants.”
Actually the Sun was appended to the Truckee Republication title in the mid-1930s by the publisher, Stanley Bavier. First Bavier was aware of the historic precedent of the name; Secondly, he wanted a title more appropriate for a paper covering news of not only Truckee but the Donner Summit, Lake Tahoe and eastern California region in general; thirdly, he was an ardent democrat, a friend of Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York.
The Sun name had its origins in this district and township two years earlier than the Truckee Tribune. The Morning Sun was a daily paper published 14 miles north of Donner Summit in the boom mining city of Meadow Lake. The Sacramento Bee on June 9, 1866 clarioned the founding of the Sun under the ownership of E.B. Boust and W. Lyon.
This City was incorporated in 1866 under the title of Meadow Lake, having been previously known as Summit City. After several months of declining fortunes in the many mines of the district and a couple of really touch winters under 20 feet of snow, the following terse announcement appeared in the Daily Alta in San Francisco on Jan. 28 1868:
“The press and material lately used for printing the Meadow Lake Sun has been removed to Cisco and stored.”
In Edwin F. Bean’s “History and Directory of Nevada County for 1867,” the Meadow Lake Sun had a full page ad, proclaiming its office on the north side of Second Street. Weekly at this point, the Sun published Saturday at the rate of $6 per year. In addition to the newspaper and general job printing, the ad announced, “Briefs and transcripts neatly, promptly and handsomely, in accordance with the new rules of the Supreme Court.”
At that time, there was no Truckee. Coburn’s Station sat near where Truckee now is, but J.D. Pollard’s Lake House at the head of Donner Lake was more the center of things around this specific area.
Before we pass from these early newspapers, consider E.B. Boust. No Lengthy books extol his contributions, but just checking early mountain newspapers, none has been connected with more than E.B. Boust. On July 1857, Griften’s California Mining Town Newspapers 1850 – 1880 starts him as publisher of Yankee Jim’s Placer Courier. This he sold to E.J. Steele.
In 1859 he established the Iowa Hill Weekly Patriot whence he moved — on May 1, 1860 — to found the Dutch Flat Enquirer in 1860 which became the Truckee Tribune in 1868, simply by loading it on a Central Pacific railroad car and moving it over the mountain. Where did go from here? We must leave it to others to delve further.
On Nov. 9, 1871, D.B. Frink and E.W. Hayden issued the first number of the Grass Valley Republican in the west end of the county. This was a four-page, five-column daily, every morning except Sunday. On April 7, 1872, the last issue of the Grass Valley Republican appeared.
The paper was removed to Truckee “to a better field” and became the Truckee Republican. An announcement by the publishers on April 10, 1872 announced the shift and said the Truckee Republican would henceforth be enlarged to a 24 column paper issued tri-weekly.
Among fires, violent deaths and “revolving door” ownerships in the early years, the Republican has survived as direct successor to the Dutch Flat Enquirer, the Truckee Tribune, the Meadow Lake Sun and the grass Valley Republican — the oldest component of the Sierra Sun, Truckee Republican and Tahoe Bonanza. Who can say back at those beginnings when it was? The available evidence indications earlier or later but most certainly not 1869.
The confusion is understandable. The first couple of years of the Republican were fairly stable. Hayden sold his interest to Frink Oct. 8 1874. Frink did not long enjoy his exclusive ownership. He was martyred to the cause of “law and order” on Nov. 23 when he was out with other members of the “601,” local vigilance committee, and was accidentally shot to death.
Past issues of the paper are rare, the volumes in complete. An extensive collection reposes in the California Section of the State Library at Sacramento. This begins when the Republican resumed publication a few days after Frink’s killing. Hayden had resumed ownership only long enough to allow the administrator to sell Frink’s estate.
In December, 1874, the Nevada City Transcript gave the following notice:
“B.T.K. Preston, the new proprietor of the Truckee Republican, left yesterday to assume control of that paper. That’s a good town to publish a newspaper in, as the people take a great pride in making his bill heads or work below because he can save a little on the operation. They believe giving all their work to the local paper and that’s one reason the town is so prosperous.”
Preston soon associated with W.P. Edwards, and the latter by December, 1875, was still on the masthead, along with C.F. McGlashan and T.S. Ford. By January 1877, John Keiser joined Edwards and the other two were out — one temporarily, the other, apparently, permanently. In April that year George Ford bought the Republican and in August, 1878, he sold to McGlashan and D.J. Crowley. In November, 1879, McGlashan bought out his partner and in May the next year sold to “Hon.” B.J. Watson of Nevada City.
“Edwards’s Guide” also lists J.T. Weinsenburger as an editor and publisher during the first dozen years of the Republican.
The original Tahoe Tattler published in the summer of 1881, mentioned a man named A. Porter had taken over the Republican and “judging from its clean looking pages and extra amount of reading matter run in its enlarged columns, we should say he understands his business.”
The tiny Tattler that summer also pin-pointed another source of frustrating confusion in unraveling the early history of newspapers in the area. First August 4, 1881: “The estimated loss of the recent Truckee fire is $350,000. Truckee is indeed unfortunate.” Then, on Aug. 12, “The Truckee Republican comes again for the first time since the fire, its singeing having reduced it to near the size of the Tattler. May it soon grow to its original goodly proportions.”
This Lake Tahoe daily ran four pages, each 6 ½ by 4 ¼ inches. The file at the State Library was donated by Albert Dressler. It begins with volume 1, number 1 on July 9, 1881 and ends with the issue of Sept. 7, 1881. It assumes everyone who the editor and printer was — because now where in the file is the name mentioned as such.
Obviously, the Republican in its earliest years was in shaky shape. To boost circulation McGlashan announced in 1878 that he would serialize a history of the Donner party.
What began as a circulation booster evolved, through legal contention and challenges from others concerned with suppressing portions of the history, into a scholarly, history source book on the pioneer tragedy in the winter of 1846-47 at was then Truckee Lake, since Starvation Lake and now Donner Lake.
Briefly, at least four publishers of the Republican have served in the State Legislature. At least two have been shot to death during their incumbency. In the century plus of its existence (or existence), W.M. Barrett’s over three decades at the helm, represents by far the longest period of consistent, progressive ownership.
This followed the briefer similar ownership of Stanley Baviers (sic). Bavier died as the result of a tragic automobile accident while working as editor and publisher. Mrs. Bavier carried on until she was appointed postmast (sic) of Truckee, selling the newspaper to the Barretts in August, 1936.
During the 30-plus years the Barretts published the Sierra Sun and Truckee Republican, the area has shown consistent development. New schools, a hospital, airport, miles of new streets and highways, the construction of the freeway, the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, the new state part and museum, the Boca, Prosser, Stampede damns and recreation areas, were all build and promoted during those 30 years.
The newspaper took an active lead in all these projects as well as promoting similar developments at Lake Tahoe where the growth has been spectacular in both winter and summer sports activities, home building, business expansion, recreational activities and other advantages.
Only those who were here prior to the 1930s can visualize the progress which has been made both at North Tahoe and the Truckee-Donner area.
This progress can be attributed to the nature of the people who make up the communities. Organizations and individuals have seen the future of the region and, for the most part, are working to achieve the full potential.
The Sierra Sun is now a member of the Scripps League of Newspapers, dedicated newspaper people who look forward with optimism and confidence to a second hundred years.
Editors Note: Since 1975 the Sierra Sun has been owned by Swift Communications for a full timeline of Swift Communication’s history please visit https://www.swiftcom.com/about/.