For 160 years, the (York/Clover) Enquirer-Herald and its predecessors, the Yorkville Enquirer and The Clover Herald, have been lettering readers know what’s going on in western York County.
Beyond the standard newspaper fare of death notices, wedding announcements, crime and local government news, the newspapers during the years told a larger story.
There were scraps of poetry, colorful fiction, tidbits about the local census, social news about neighbors visiting each other, church news, birth announcements, historical musings and even a bit of local gossip.
Nancy Sambets, an archivist with the Historical Center of York County, where early editions of both newspapers are kept or stored on microfilm, said the papers provide a unique snapshot of their communities over time.
“Being able to look back at these older newspapers, you get a sense of the community that you are not going to find anywhere else,” Sambets said.
The Yorkville Enquirer was established in 1855, a granddaddy compared to its younger sister paper, The Clover Herald, which began 74 years later, in 1929. The two papers merged in March 2007 to become the Enquirer-Herald.
The York paper has the distinction of being published longer than any other nondaily newspaper in South Carolina, according to the 1998 “Palmetto Press: A History of South Carolina Newspapers,” published by the S.C. Press Association.
But earlier this month, it was announced that the Enquirer-Herald, now owned by McClatchy Co., would cease publication after Dec. 24. This issue will be its last.
Chronicle of change
York Mayor Eddie Lee, a Winthrop University history professor, said the Yorkville Enquirer has served as a chronicle of people and change in its community.
“People read it from cover to cover for 150 years, because it let us know what our neighbors were doing,” he said. “It was the newspaper of record in the Upstate, not just in this community, from the very beginning, the mid-1850s.”
Both newspaper have changed with the times. Early editions of the Yorkville Enquirer, for example, featured more fiction, commentary and biographical sketches on the front page than news.
“It almost feels like a magazine,” Sambets said, referring to the early editions. Photos and other visual elements were scarce and headlines were much smaller than today.
Over time, the content began to evolve.
“From hotly debated political issues in the early editions, the Enquirer gradually became more focused on social, agricultural and business news,” according to Palmetto Press.
The Enquirer carried the original name of the community of Yorkville, which was settled in the 1750s and formed as a town in 1896, according to Palmetto Post. It was not shortened to York until 1915.
Jerry West, a member of the Broad River Basin Historical Society, said he relied heavily on the Yorkville Enquirer for historical research. “I never tired of it, because you would always find something so interesting,” he said.
West, who wrote a publication called the Broad River Notebook for the historical society for more than a dozen years, beginning in the early 1990s, recalls a gold mine of information in the Enquirer. He said most of the fodder for the notebook came from the newspaper.
In one Enquirer column, West said, an editor and reporter would drive around every week in a green Chevrolet and write about whatever they happened to find. “Just people, places that you no longer heard of, and what was happening in the communities over here,” West said.
Early editions of the newspaper listed bits of news about individual property taxes and nuggets from the census, including agricultural information from local farms, he said.
“They would cover how many bushels of corn you would have, and how many cows, how many pigs,” West said. “They covered everything.”
Reminisces of York by Dr. Maurice Moore, a column published in the Enquirer during the late 1800s, cataloged how the community changed. The column was later compiled into a book.
“A good many years elapsed after the location and settlement of our county seat before it came to the dignity of having a store among its public enterprises,” Moore wrote in the column in April 1860.
Both newspapers have changed hands numerous times, until they were purchased by McClatchy in 1990. But they also benefited from longtime residents of both towns on their staff.
Jim Owen, the 90-year-old retired editor and publisher of The Clover Herald, oversaw that newspaper for nearly 40 years, until he retired in 1990.
Owen, who still lives in Clover, said he bought the Clover newspaper in 1953 for $3,600, when it had a circulation of 500 copies.
Owen, a Georgia native who had recently graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, said he was the first journalism graduate to lead the paper.
“I was wanting to make a move,” said Owen, who had been working for a newspaper chain in North Carolina when he saw that the Clover newspaper was being advertised for sale. He and his wife moved to Clover and settled.
Owen said he wrote news articles and editorials and promoted community events. He tried to help local business, urging people to shop in their own town.
“That helped the advertising,” Owen said, referring to the shop local campaign. “Most of the people were not used to advertising. I had to sell them on the idea.”
Owen said he was the newspaper’s only staff member for years. “I wrote all the news, sold the ads, took it to York to get printed and mailed it. I did everything.”
Before he retired, he said, the circulation grew to 2,300.
“I think it helped the community,” Owen said. “I pushed all kinds of civic affairs, the chamber of commerce, that type of organization, to help the community become unified.”
Owen believes the newspaper brought value to the community.
“Any community needs a newspaper, to let the people know the good news of the community,” he said. “It’s a sounding board for what each community needed.”
Gene Graham, the 72-year-old retired editor of and writer for the Yorkville Enquirer, said his association with the newspaper spans more than five decades.
His family moved to York from Atlanta when Graham was in the seventh grade. He started delivering copies of the paper on his bicycle.
When Graham was in the ninth grade, he approached then-owner Ned Burgess to complain that the newspaper didn’t cover high school sports.
Burgess said he didn’t have enough staff to cover sports, and recruited Graham for the job.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you cover tonight’s game?’” Graham recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t even type.’And he said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you just write it down on a notepad and bring it to me and we’ll take it from there.’”
When Graham brought his copy to Burgess the following Monday, he earned the nickname “Scoop” Graham. “He liked what he read,” Graham said. “And he set me up to cover the games at 10 cents a column inch.”
Graham thus began his long career of covering sports in York, and later Clover. Graham’s sports writing continued after he retired from the newspaper as editor in 2003, when he became a freelance writer.
Graham said he loved his connection to York, and later Clover, when the papers merged. He was passionate about promoting young people in his sports coverage.
“I like promoting today’s young people,” he said. “They deserve that coverage. Today’s young people are sensational.”
Graham said the newspaper has been deeply entrenched in the community, especially among people who were born and raised in Western York County.
“They liked having that hometown paper,” he said. “They take pride in that. They felt it was special to them.
“They could read about their kids. They could read about their churches,” Graham said. “People who lived here reached out and read the paper, and they felt like they were a part of it.”