The State Republican
Eugene, Lane County, Oregon
On January 1, 1862, Hilyard Shaw and Benjamin Davis released the first issue ofthe State Republican. Working out of the former plant of the People’s Press [LCCN: 2013260002] in Eugene, Oregon, Shaw wanted to publish an anti-slavery paper to check the influence of Democratic publications in the state. Both founders of the State Republican were established pioneers, Shaw being one of the earliest mill owners who built Eugene’s first millrace.
Appearing during the Civil War, the paper was deeply political; the first issue announced that any treaty with the Confederacy would “forsake our national dignity.” The State Republican often ran articles that criticized other papers, especially those with a Democratic orientation. An article titled “Disgusting” reflected on a report of a Confederate victory written by James O’Meara of the Southern Oregon Gazette [LCCN: unknown], stating, “This must be sport to you, an’t it Jim? To chew a dirty commodity and spit through your teeth at the good people whom you cannot otherwise insult anymore.” According to Shaw and Davis, O’Meara, who edited a series of Democratic papers in Oregon, had printed an erroneous account of a battle near Charleston.
The Civil War proved to be a trying time for Democratic publications. The State Republican supported efforts to stifle Democratic papers in the state, suggesting such publications “justly should be” silenced. Shaw and Davis were comfortable with the denial of mailing privileges to southern sympathizing papers, a phenomenon that was not uncommon in Oregon.
The periodical was also engaged in a controversy within Republican ranks as an ardent supporter of Oregon’s Union Party. Against complaints that the organization of a Union Party would split the Republican vote, an issue published on January 11, 1862 stated, “To all such we would say entertain no jealous fears about your organization, for that is not the object of attack”. According to Shaw and Davis, the founding of the Union Party was the result of “spontaneous” action on the part of Oregonians who championed the continued existence of the Union. Following issues contained announcements concerning Union Party rallies and other related events.
By September of 1862, the paper was transferred to James Newton Gale, with Harrison Kincaid assuming editorial duties. Gale had moved to Oregon years earlier from Indiana and owned a bookstore in Eugene at the time he purchased the State Republican. Kincaid, although only 26 years old, was an experienced newspaperman, having worked on the Eugene People’s Press [LCCN: 2013260002] in the past. Upon taking over as publisher, Gale assured readers he would not change the paper’s tone or political affiliation. True to his word, the periodical remained a reliable voice for the Republican Party. Gale, an abolitionist, faced backlash from secessionists in the area who threatened to hang him and throw his press in the river.
Undeterred, the State Republican continued to take a critical view of the Confederacy and Democratic papers in Oregon. A March 14, 1863 article, “Recruiting in Oregon,” highlighted one of the subtleties of state politics in the Civil War era. As a result of the 1860 Snake River Massacre, in which several settlers traveling along the Oregon Trail were killed by Indians, many Oregonians and government officials wanted to recruit additional cavalry to protect passage to the state. Attempting to console anxious Democrats who feared additional soldiers would unfavorably impact the outcome of the Civil War, Gale and Kincaid made the case that such security would increase immigration to the state, encouraging economic growth and thus benefiting Democrats and Republicans alike.
The State Republican was a short-lived paper. It was consolidated with the Oregon Argus [LCCN: sn83025129] of Salem in May of 1863. Gale followed the paper to Salem and was editor until its consolidation with the Oregon Statesman [LCCN: sn85042470] in October of that year.
Prepared with reference to:
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
–Written by Daniel Rinn and Emily Vance