|Chapter IV, A Brief History of Newspapers in East Liverpool, Ohio, by the late Glenn H. Waight, former editor of The Evening Review.|
`Crisis' Enters The Fray
George P. Ikirt was among the most colorful figures in East Liverpool's history, combining a medical and political career with involvement in newspapers. He was born in 1852 near West Beaver Church in the West Point area, the son of a physician and the grandson of a soldier in the War of 1812.
George attended local schools and Lisbon High School, and at 17 began to teach school and read law under Atty. Jonathan Wallace, later a Congressman.
Poor health forced him to give up both careers for a while. He then went to Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery from which he was graduated in 1877. He began practicing at East Palestine, then moved to East Liverpool a year later. In 1881-82, the young physician attended Bellevue Medical College in New York City, returning to the city to resume his practice.
In 1873 he had married Mary Hasson who died three years later. In 1880 he wed Mary E. Holmes of Blackhawk, Pa., who bore him seven children -- three sons and four daughters -- and the doctor became very active in civic and social affairs.
IKIRT'S INTEREST in politics started when he was a young man, working hard for the Democrat party. He helped in the nomination of his mentor, Wallace, for Congress, and directed his campaign. Popular with area Democrats, the doctor himself was chosen in 1888 to run for Congress against the noted Republican, William McKinley.
Democrat Ikirt waged a strong campaign in a GOP stronghold, but was defeated. He tried again in 1892, and after a rough contest was elected to the House of Representatives in the 43rd Congress -- the first and only city man to sit in that august assembly. The physician served but one term, declining another.
During the bitter 1884 Cleveland-Blaine presidential campaign, local Democrats, without a newspaper supporting their cause, raised $500 which they offered to anyone starting a paper in support of the party. When no one seemed interested, the money was used to buy the mortgage of David Martin's Gazette, a strong backer of Republican hopeful James Blaine.
Martin was confronted in mid-September by a delegation of Democrats who explained they now controlled the paper. He could not very well quit in protest, since The Gazette was his livelihood.
A surprising front page editorial appeared in the Sept. 18 edition under a picture of Grover Cleveland and his runningmate, Thomas A. Hendricks:
Strike the shackles from the limbs of labor, let the oppressed go free,it began. And it concluded,
Therefore, being a laboring man, we are just where we ought to be. Perhaps we are the prodigal who has only returned home. But be that as it may, we now are on the deck of the Democratic ship. The Potters Gazette is here to stay.
Democrats hailed the change. The editor of the Wellsville Sun commented, "No little amusement prevails in East Liverpool over the fact that D. B. Martin, editor of the Potters Gazette, has flopped and would hereafter issue the 'Gazette' in the interest of `Democracy.' We are glad to receive Dave on our side."
Republicans were angry and vengeful. A house-to-house canvass was undertaken, and campaign funds reassigned. Two weeks before the November election, sufficient money was obtained to buy back the mortgage and return Martin to the GOP fold.
`The Daily Crisis'
The Democrat Central Committee then invested in its own newspaper, and launched The Weekly Crisis with Dr. Ikirt as editor and James C. Deidrick, committee secretary, as business manager. The offices and press were in a building at the southwest corner of Third and Broadway.
In its first issue Oct. 4, 1884, the Crisis consisted of four pages, seven columns wide. Under its nameplate was the declaration "Democratic In All Things -- Neutral In Nothing." Beneath that was "This Government Belongs To The People And By Them Must Its Purity Be Preserved."
Black capital letters on the first page twice asked, "Have You Read The Mulligan Papers?" (This was correspondence linking Congressman Blaine with a railroad land purchase scheme in Arkansas which drew an investigation.) On the same page the Republican and Democrat platforms were compared almost line for line.
The opening editorial stated:
In religion this sheet will be non-sectarian. Its political complexion will be such that it will not be necessary to peruse its columns with a microscope to ascertain its creed.
Believing Democracy to be the Hercules among parties, therefore, to the advocacy of the principles as taught by the immortal Jefferson we dedicate our pen.
We deem it also our duty to contribute our influence to the assistance of that great class of American citizens to which under the blessings of Providence we owe our national prosperity -- the toiling millions.
Elsewhere in the paper were other strongly pro-Democrat articles, including a speech by Sen. Daniel Vorhees of Indiana and another by Benjamin Bristow, U.S. Treasury secretary under Republican President U.S. Grant, entitled, "I Shall Vote Cleveland."
The new weekly attracted considerable support -- and earned a profit. Dr. Ikirt retired as editor, succeeded by Deidrick, at 21 said to be the youngest news executive in Ohio.
`THE CRISIS' BEGAN daily publication on March 28, 1887, two years after The
Review, and cost a penny a copy. The weekly Crisis was continued. Deidrick wrote:
We have taken the course with deliberation, believing the public wishes a bold and fearless advocacy of their rights of pure government. We propose to fill that want.
Politically we will be Democratic and that to the core; but we shall not be blindly partisan. We shall favor progress; we shall make every effort to further the interests of East Liverpool, and shall lend our efforts to the 'boom.'
We have the money; we have the brains, and we have come to stay.
With daily publication, The Crisis also launched a Sunday edition, but it lasted only six months. Although aggressive in its coverage, the new daily did not clear much profit for more than ten years. Nevertheless, it helped place The Review at a disadvantage, requiring McCord to seek financial assistance in 1889.
Competition between the two papers was often bitter. And controversy occasionally swirled around the Democrat paper itself. In 1893, Deidrick, then publisher, and Capt. A. R. Bell, editor, were penalized for printing an article determined to be libelous.
The story referred to a Maude Weaver, 15, of Wellsville as being involved with some East Liverpool youths. Deidrick claimed he didn't know the item was in the paper. Bell said he did not believe the report was erroneous. After a commentary on the verdict was published, both were also charged with contempt of court.
Bell was fined $100 and costs. Deidrick was fined the same, and sentenced to 30 days in jail. The latter declared the court action was politically inspired. On March 20, 1893, the Crisis reprinted a long, unsigned article in a Pittsburgh newspaper, indicating he was the victim of a Republican plot.
The article said Dr. Ikirt had filed a libel action against some GOP leaders for materials circulated in "darkness of night," but a grand jury had ignored it. The grand jury, it said, did not get the Deidrick case; it went directly to trial.
The Crisis indicated a $1,000 fund had been set up by the GOP to convict him, adding that the Republicans had not needed to fear that Deidrick wanted the city Postmaster job; he would not take it.
To welcome the jailed Deidrick back to freedom, his friends held a large banquet May 5, 1893, at the National House hotel. Congressman Ikirt was the main speaker at the celebration that lasted past midnight. An account of the event filled two columns of The Crisis' first page (all the news space) and three columns (some in small type) on page five.
EDITOR BELL EARNED a cell in the city jail three months later when he shot and wounded a neighbor as the climax of a dispute between the two families.
Hard feelings had developed between the Bells and the William Robinsons, starting with the children, and Mrs. Robinson had complained to a local Squire and Mayor George Morley. The Robinsons lived over the White Swan saloon near Walnut and Robinson (now E. Fourth St.), and the Bells had a brick house nearby.
On the evening of Aug. 5 Robinson was headed to the Mayor's office to file another complaint, and apparently said something to Mrs. Bell outside. According to Robinson, she called into the house saying, "Now's your chance," while Bell later declared Robinson had yelled profanity at his wife.
Bell had been lying in bed upstairs, partially unclothed and dozing, when he heard the noise, ran outside and -- later saying Robinson had aimed a gun at him -- fired twice, one bullet hitting Robinson in the right side.
A doctor was summoned for the wounded man, and a crowd gathered, a few threatening Bell who had returned to his house, asking his wife to help him finish dressing, since he had a wound on his right hand.
Some political aspects were involved. The Republican News-Review commented that Bell was not a popular person, and from the excited crowd were heard calls for lynching and condemnation. Afterward, Bell was bailed out of jail by a cadre of local Democrat leaders.
Police arrived, and entered the front door with others. Bell, apparently thinking some of Robinson's friends were about to assault him, grabbed his pistol and began to struggle. He reportedly pulled the trigger, when an officer prevented the hammer from hitting the cartridge. Bell, realizing he was held by a law officer, quieted down.
He was subsequently found guilty of the shooting and jailed. In a photo collection in the Museum of Ceramics is a view of the site, including the tree "against which saloonkeeper Robinson was leaning when shot and wounded by Capt. Bell of The Crisis from the second floor of an adjacent house."
In 1897 The Crisis became the first daily in the county to receive telegraph news service.
Deidrick continued to manage the newspaper until May 1899 when he went to Canton to operate The Daily News. He retired from the business around 1915, and moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where he died in January 1925, at the age of 60.
Richard G. Collier, who had been labor editor for the Pittsburgh Dispatch and a political writer for the Columbus Dispatch and Ohio State Journal, succeeded Deidrick as editor. Collier left here around 1903 to become a political writer for the Cleveland Leader for ten years. He then was editor of a couple of building trade publications, and died at Cleveland in 1948 at the age of 71.
AN ANNUAL PAMPHLET was published by the Crisis listing the daily headlines of the previous year. A reflection of the skirmishes between newspapers and political parties is found in "The Chronological Record of 1892":
Jan. 9 -- Strike by printers at the "Review" over change of pay day.
Jan. 23 -- Arrest of D. F. Young, proprietor of "The Review' for criminal libel.
Jan. 26 -- D. F. Young waived hearing on libel, bound to Grand Jury on $300.
Jan. 27 -- Theresa Gross enters suit against "Crisis" for libel.
Feb. 4 -- Indictment of D. F. Young by Grand Jury for libel.
Feb. 25 -- Postponement of celebrated case of Deidrick vs. East Liverpool in Common Pleas Court.
March 1 -- The Brunt-Mears scandalous episode.
March 5 -- Publication of Mrs. Mears story of the scandalous escapade. Death of Dudley Young, publisher of "The Review."
March 8 -- Burning of small, unoccupied dwelling near Calcutta Rd. owned by J. L. Deidrick.
March 29 -- Publication of noted "Goodwin Letter" by "Crisis"
April 2 -- W. H. Thompson enters $20,000 damage suit against Henry Goodwin based on famous "Goodwin Letter."
April 5 -- J. H. Burgess enters $10,000 damage suit against H. Goodwin for "Goodwin Letter."
April 26 -- Sale of "Review" to J. E. McDonald.
May 23 -- Gasoline explosion at address of J. L. Deidrick.
June 5 -- Typographical Union formally declares "Crisis" a "rat." office.
June 9 -- Consolidation of "Review" and "News"
Aug. 25 -- Capt. Harry Palmer, late of Beaver jail, and Thomas W. Morris of McKeesport purchased controlling interest in "News-Review."
Oct. 16 -- Cowardly assault on J. C. Deidrick of the "Crisis" by Billy Blake, burly pottery bosses pimp in the Diamond Club Building.
Oct. 18 -- The manager of the "News-Review" proven a deliberate liar, a poltroon, a coward and an infamous jail bird.
Oct. 29 -- Dr. George Ikirt filed libel suit against J. E. McDonald, Harry Palmer and T. W. Morris of "News-Tribune."
Nov. 1 -- Labor record of "Joey" Betz, the "pet pug of The Review," shows up in "The Crisis."
Nov. 5 -- Dr. Ikirt causes the arrest of J. E. McDonald, Harry Palmer and Thomas Morris, composing room of the "News Review, on a charge of criminal libel.
Nov. 14 -- Case of State vs. McDonald, Palmer, Morris called before Squire Travis, case dismissed for lack of prosecution. New affidavit filed, defendants re-arrested. McDonald waived examination, gave bond for court appearance; other cases postponed for future hearings.
Nov. 21 -- Hearing held for Palmer and Morris for libel; sensational scenes, defendants bound over.
Nov. 23 -- Marriage of Mrs. Kittie, widow of late D. F. Young, proprietor of "Review."
Dec. 2 -- Fire Chief Adam bodily bounced Reporter Wynn.
AFTER PALMER and Morris bought into the News-Review in 1892, William McCord sold his holdings and became editor of The Crisis, daily and weekly. He held the post until April 1901 when he went to Salem as editor of the News there.
In April 1904 The Crisis merged with the News-Review which then became The News-Review & Crisis. In January 1905 the name reverted to News-Review, and the vigorous voice of the Democrats was stilled after 20 years.
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One of the men on The Crisis staff who moved over from The Gazettewas David Todd Burchard. He was born in 1837 at Steubenville where he learned the printing trade, and worked for a while at the Fairview (now New Manchester) Courier/em>.
He served in the Civil War "with credit," and in the early 1870s joined David B. Martin who had begun publishing The Weekly Gazette in East Liverpool.
A source later reported Burchard had worked on East Liverpool's "first newspaper, the Local." However the first paper was The Mercury of 1861-62, while the Local was published for just two months in 1869.
David T. Burchard went on to work on the Crisis until he became ill with a liver ailment in 1892, and died in May 1893 at his mother's home in Steubenville. He was 56.
His obituary in The Crisis referred to him as "for years connected with the editorial department of this paper, and probably one of the best known newspapermen in the city. . . with a wide knowledge of the world and a friend of everyone."
In proof of these accolades, more than 100 East Liverpool residents traveled aboard the riverboat "Olivette" to Steubenville for his funeral. They included representatives of the city's GAR (Civil War veterans), Odd Fellows Lodge and Mystic Circle to which he had belonged along with the Crisis owner Deidrick and Editor Bell.
David Burchard was another in that great tradition of printer/reporters who produced the informative, interesting, sometimes brash, often partisan, always forceful journals of yesteryear America.