UNION COUNTY — What are the names of the two countries The Union Times has been published in during the course of its existence?
The United States of America and, from 1861-1865, the Confederate States of America.
That’s one of the many changes this newspaper — and Union County — has experienced since the first edition of this newspaper was published more than a decade before the Civil War.
Today, May 31, 2017, is the 167th anniversary of The Union Times which published its first edition on this date in 1850.
That’s right, The Union Times, the newspaper of record for Union County in not one, not two, but three centuries — the 19th, 20th, and 21st — is 167 years young.
There’s been a lot of changes since that first edition was published, and those changes have been recorded for and reported to the people of Union County by their newspaper of record, The Union Times.
Consider that the following didn’t exist in 1850:
That’s just to name a few of the many things that we now take for granted — and, in some cases, taken for granted for generations — but did not exist when this newspaper published its first edition.
When The Union Times published its first edition in 1850, Union County was an overwhelmingly rural and agrarian society where most of the residents of the community made their living farming. The century in which The Union Times began publishing was the era of “King Cotton,” and that plant would remain the dominant economic, political, and social force in Union County for the rest of that century and even into the 20th century.
Even the construction of the first railroad in Union County — a process and achievement covered by this publication as it occurred — would not change that reality as the main appeal of the railroad was that it was a faster, more efficient, and reliable method of transporting cotton and other crops to market, than doing so by wagon and/or water.
That reality of agrarian dominance was reflected in the masthead of The Union Times, then known as “The Weekly Union Times,” which, below the paper’s name itself, stated that the newspaper was “Devoted to Agriculture, Horticulture, Domestic Economy, Polite Literature, Politics, and the Current News of the Day.”
That was from the masthead of the front page of the April 25, 1879 edition of The Weekly Union Times which hangs on the wall of The Union Times office at 201 North Herndon Street, Union.
It was a front page very different from the front page of today as there were no photos on it and the stories were about events and interests both local and from far away, including:
• “The Just Demands of Woman” — Darlington News.
• “Josh Billings On Hash”
• “Faithful Unto Death” about an execution in Indiana.
• “How To Produce Prolific Corn” by W. Porcher Miles
• “Proper Security For Advances” by J.R.M. in Camden Journal.
• “Garden Fruits” which begins with a quote from Zoroaster
• “The Insanity Dodge” (About a meet of the bar in Louisville, Kentucky.)
• “A New Secret Order” — Detroit Free Press
• “One’s Mother”
• A story about a “son of Maine who went West.”
• “His Preference” — Detroit Free Press
• “Comin Thro’ The Rye” — San Francisco Call
• “The Suppression Of Crime” — Charlotte Observer
• “Where Murder Begins”
• “Remedy For The Bite Of Mad Dog”
• “The Street Railway” — Columbia Register
• And some brief vignettes.
They sure could cram a lot onto the front page in those days, but then none of those stories has pictures with them, either, another thing that’s changed since the first edition of this paper was published.
The years between May 31, 1850 and April 25, 1879 saw Union County experience the arrival of the railroad and other developments in the 1850s; secession, the Civil War, defeat in that war followed by the end of slavery; Reconstruction and the reaction against it which saw Union County, like the rest of South Carolina and most of the South, become the Solid South which for decades would monolithically give its support to the Democratic Party.
The years and decades that following that 1879 edition would see the arrival of the Industrial Revolution as local entrpreneurs would build textile mills, railroads, and communities for workers that would spur urbanization and industrialization though the county still remained predominantly agrarian and rural. All this and more would be covered and reported on by this newspaper along with the other events that would dominate the headlines as the 19th century gave way to the 20th.
Those included World Wars I and II; the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression; the arrival of the automobile, motion pictures, and radio as well as the gradual dethroning of King Cotton by “King Textile” as the textile mills and the communities — Buffalo, Monarch, Ottaray, Jonesville, Lockhart, Carlisle, and Union — that grew up around them and/or expanded because of them became the dominant factor of local life.
By 1936, this newspaper’s name was “The Union Daily Times,” a name it would retain until just a couple of years ago. The Oct. 7, 1936 edition, which also hangs on the wall of The Union Times office, features the following stories:
• President’s Son Denies Trying To Sell Military Planes To Foreign Government in 1934
• Insurgent Drive Against Madrid Is Moving Forward — Government Defense Weakens
• Troops At Monarch Mill Probably Be Withdrawn Within The Next 24 Hours
• Fisher Sees Attempt To Control Crop
• Swedish Flier Believed Near Goal
• American In Spain Wounded
• Loose Teeth Delay Justice (Hastings, Nebraska)
• Cotton Futures (New York)
• Young Republicans Organize In S.C. (Sumter)
• Baby Can Take It, But Hard On Mother’s Nerves (Omaha, Nebraska)
And many more stories, all of them from overseas, other states or other parts of South Carolina. The page also featured two photos, one of C.W.A. Scott who won an air speed race from England to South Africa, and one of Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York, a Democrat who was announcing his support for the presidential candidacy of Republican Alfred M. Landon.
The decades that following that 1936 edition would see World War II; the Cold War with the Soviet Union and shooting wars with its communist allies in Korea and Vietnam; the arrival of television; the Civil Rights movement and the end of segregation; the Space Race and America putting the first man on the moon; the full flowering of the King Textile and the Mill Villages which made up his kingdom followed by decline and the closing of mills right and left towards the end of the century; the technological and digital revolutions which took computers from sciene fiction to every day fact of life and the mainstay of the modern economy; the emergence of a more diversified local economy with the arrival of manufacturers like Gestamp and Gonvauto and regional distribution facilities operated by Belk and Dollar General; and countless other changes which continue to remake Union County.
All of these things and their continuing impact on Union County as the 20th century gave way to the 21st century would be covered and reported on by The Union Times which remains the newspaper of record for this county. We have covered this county for 167 years through all the changes it has experienced as a community and we have experienced as a newspaper. We remain committed to serving this community to the best of our ability as we have for the past 167 years and we look forward to continuing to do so for the next 167 years.
Thank you, Union County, and may God continue to watch over and bless this community and its citizens.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.