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Lincoln County

From the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, January 28, 1988

"1988’s the centennial year for Sentinel-Republican"

The Lincoln Sentinel-Republican has, with the dawning of the year 1988, reached the grand old age of 100 years.
Actually, its roots go back even further: Through consolidation, change of names and ownership of older, early-day publications, The Sentinel-Republican can be traced back another 13 or 14 years to 1874-75.
The Sentinel-Republican dates its beginning on July 28, 1887, with the founding of the Sylvan Grove Sentinel’s first edition published by Wallace Harry Pilcher. An Englishman, Pilcher was a Democrat.
The newspaper was moved to Lincoln by Ira Troup some seven years later, and Sherrick and Abel became its publishers.
At Lincoln, the Sentinel changed hands many times between 1904 and 1911 when Winslow Cipra arrived in town and became its editor and publisher. It was Cipra who bought out his competition – the Lincoln Republican – in November of 1925, and the newspaper has since continued under the name of the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican.
Today’s publishers are Ray and Pat Rasmussen.
For much of the background information of this 100th-year article, a Sentinel reporter delved into several sources – microfilmed copies of the newspaper on file at the local library, the late Dorothe Tarrence Homan’s book "Lincoln–That County in Kansas," and a history of county newspapers written as a term paper by Ben Marshall when he attended the University of Kansas Wm. Allen White School of Journalism. The paper was published July 16, 1962.
Publisher Cipra, a native of Bohemia, grew up on an Ellsworth County farm and entered the newspaper business at Holyrood after teaching school and clerking. For the first 14 years at Lincoln, he operated The Sentinel as a "mouthpiece" for the Democrat Party.
His readers were stunned when, in 1925, he purchased the Lincoln Republican and, in an about-face, wrote that the county did not need a paper connected with either the Democrat or Republican party anymore than it needed a Democrat or Republican bank.
Under his leadership, the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican flourished as the official newspaper for both the city and county. It remained in the Cipra family for 40 years with a 20-month exception. In 1932-33, the editor suffered health problems and sold out to H.L. Covert. Before two years had passed, Editor Cipra was back at his desk. His daughter, Alice Choate, and her husband, Henry Choate, took charge of the news and business departments, respectively, and Cipra continued in management until he died in 1939.
At that time, the Choates took over, running the newspaper until Jan. 1, 1965, when Lafe Rees and Ray Rasmussen became co-publishers. Lafe and Margaret Rees sold their interest to Ray and Pat Rasmussen on Jan. 1, 1979.
In his history of county newspapers, Marshall wrote, "The foundation for today’s Sentinel-Republican was laid …. following a 12-year trial-and-error period when the Lincoln Republican appeared on the scene under the auspicies of editors and publishers Daughters and Smith."
The Republican was plagued by birth pangs from the beginning. It had originally been published in 1874 as the Western Democrat, the sole organ of the Democrat party in Lincoln County. But it was soon found that any publication must have advertisers and a large subscription list in order to be a successful financial venture, and the party allegiance of the Western Democrat did not aid its editors and publishers in either of these departments, Marshall noted.
G.W. Wellman, an area leader in the Republican Party, took over the paper and changed its name and political leanings. The new Saline Valley Register soon became the official county paper and the voice of the Republicans, said Marshall.
The Register became the Lincoln Banner in 1884 when Geo. W. Anderson sold to A. Hobbs & Sons. The Banner was renamed the Lincoln Republican under Daughters and Smith, and again became the official county paper and the principal organ of the Republican Party until its consolidation with Cipra’s Sentinel in 1925.
Wrote Marshall, "It is ironic that the only ultimate success in Lincoln newspaper ventures, The Sentinel, was established as an organ of the Democrats."
Competition between the three Lincoln newspapers, The Sentinel, The Republican and The Beacon, the latter published by Walter and Anna Wait, was fierce, and in those years prior to Cipra’s arrival in 1911, Sentinel editors and publishers "came and went with alacrity," Marshall pointed out.
According to Mrs. Homan, when Pilcher’s Sentinel was moved to Lincoln it was renamed the Lincoln County Sentinel. Sherrick and Abel owned it together, but within a few weeks Sherrick bought Abel out. Sherrick sold to W.G. Hoffer (1896-1900). Hoffer sold to Geo. S. Annabil, Annabil to Smith and McCanles, who sold to Eli (R.E.) and Edgar (E.W.) Baker. Willard E. Lyon was publisher from 1903-05, then Edgar Baker resumed control. He sold to C.C. Stover. Stover turned it over to Geo. R. Stoner and, in 1909, Stoner sold to John F. Jennings.
In 1911, Cipra arrived in town and stability and success were destined for The Sentinel when he took over from Jennings.
Marshall reasons that "part of the instability of early Lincoln County papers stemmed from the fact that early Lincoln County was solidly Republican. There was little room for opposing ‘Copperheads’ (Democrats who had sided with the South during the Civil War), or progressive attitudes." Marshall viewed the early day publishers’ problems as the kind that "newspapers as political organs had little to sink their teeth into – the public could not be stirred."
In 1880, the Lincoln Beacon, published by the Hon. W.S. Wait, his wife Anna and their son Al, "swept across the county like a whirlwind shortly after it was established," wrote Marshall.
He said that the Waits claimed that the Beacon was independent in politics, was not controlled by any clique, faction or party, but was guided strictly by principle. "The local citizens acknowledged that the Beacon was a ‘hell raiser,’ but they still read it avidly."
This brash, outspoken publication was perhaps one of the finest weekly newspapers in the state at the turn of the century, Marshall said. It met a fiery death when it burned on the night of Feb. 19, 1901. Arson was suspected but never proven.
The demise of the Beacon figures in the history of the Sentinel, since, because the Waits could not afford to replace their equipment, they sold to the Sentinel during the winter of 1901.
Regardless of the Beacon’s success as a progressive newspaper, Lincoln remained a Republican party stronghold and the Sentinel met strong political opposition until staunch Democrat Cipra took over its reins (in 1911), Marshall noted.
Cipra’s Sentinel did eventually become financially successful; however, Marshall quoted Cipra’s daughter, Mrs. Alice Choate, with the following comment about the early, lean years: "… he would have starved if some of the town’s leading merchants had not been Democrats too. There were, for instance, A.L. Shire, general merchandise, J.W. Grubb & Son, general merchandise; and A.R. Hall, furniture and undertaking, all of whom were leading advertisers. These merchants patronized the Sentinel handsomely and regularly, and the Halls, in particular, were rewarded weekly by having one of their ads, featuring their ‘best’ hearse, spotted on the front page."
By the mid-1920s, both the Republican and the Sentinel were in financial trouble as they competed for advertising and subscribers. It was during the summer of 1925 that O.A. Brice agreed to sell to Cipra, Marshall told. On Nov. 20 the two papers merged to become the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, the town’s only newspaper. It was then that Cipra informed his readers that the publication would be politically independent, "wearing no man’s collar."
Seven years later, The Lincoln County News was in business at Lincoln; it failed in 1944 and its subscription list was sold to the Sentinel-Republican.
In the mid-1930s, the Sentinel-Republican, having been published continuously for 50 years, was selected as a member of the then American Press half Century Club. Membership at that time included some 186 Kansas weeklies and 24 Kansas dailies.
Commenting on the number of Kansas newpspaers in the half Century Club at that time, the American Press stated that those numbers were convincing proof of the axiom that nothing is harder to kill than a good newspaper.
The Lincoln Sentinel-Republican has "hit the streets" every week for a second half-century since then. That makes this year the proper time to repeat it.

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Bill and Diana Sowers, Lincoln County Coordinators
Tracee Hamilton, Lincoln County Coordinator

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