The Benton Democrat
Corvallis, Benton County, Or.
First published in 1871, the Benton Democrat of Corvallis, Oregon, was established in a difficult newspaper market. Originating in the seat of Benton County, the paper was in direct competition with the Corvallis Gazette [LCCN: sn84022650], an outspoken Republican organ. Tension between papers of opposing political affiliation surfaced in many editorials, with publishers often resorting to the worst vitriol in the post-Civil War period. The Democrat hardly escaped this trend, noting in an early issue that “Radical” newspapers in the state were “fretful and petulant” that a Democratic paper was established in Corvallis. Democrat editor Gilbert Quivey even remarked, “one would almost think they [Republicans] claimed this county exclusively as a place in which to disseminate their dangerous loathsome political dogmas.”
Quivey would later leave the Democrat in exchange for the River Side [LCCN: sn85042446] in nearby Independence, Oregon. Indicative of the financial difficulties the Corvallis paper would face, his valedictory announced, “we ask no praise; all we ask is pay and that is justly ours.” Later proprietors made similar statements regarding the difficulty of collecting dues from subscribers. One editor expressed a degree of frustration, writing, “Now we propose to quit working for nothing.” Evidently the newspaper market of Corvallis was over-saturated at the time, the Democrat ceasing publication in 1878.
The paper remained a proponent of the Democratic Party throughout its history, opposing most Republicans during the Reconstruction Era. However, in 1872, the Democrat aligned with Liberal Republicans, a party that only existed during the election cycle of that year, to support Horace Greeley’s bid for President. According to the paper, Greeley was “An original Republican…who, when he saw the party which he had helped create…raised his voice in opposition to its usurpations of power, its outrages and corruptions, and planted himself firmly on the side of honesty and reform.”
The Democrat left ample space for local news. One article considered developments on the Siletz Indian Reservation. Many Native Americans were leaving the reserve to pursue work elsewhere, unable to otherwise subsist. According to the paper, “This Reservation comprises within its limits some of the most valuable and productive land in the county and in the hands of the whites would tend greatly to enhance the wealth and population of our county.” The editor of the Democrat suggested the existing residents were unproductive, concluding, “It is an immutable law that the two races cannot live together, and that when they come in contact the weaker must yield…the Indians should be placed as far as possible from the white settlements.”
A “Student’s Column” in the Benton Democrat provided a medium for ideas related to education. One article outlined the fundamental principles of being a student at Corvallis College. Making a brief foray into philosophical discourse, the author maintained a commitment to “first causes” and an unbending conception of truth. The newspaper’s content varied, covering anything from less important local developments to nostalgic considerations of childhood. Advertisements included blacksmiths, wagon-makers, stables, and saloons, illustrating many of the elements that defined Oregon pioneer life.
Prepared with reference to:
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
— Written by Daniel Rinn