HISTORY OF THE SI: A look back on the newspaper

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SALYERSVILLE – The Salyersville Independent took another historic step this week, moving back to downtown under new ownership. 

Effective January 1, 2018, the newspaper is now owned by Ritt Mortimer, who also owns and operates Your News Today, a local TV news program that has been on the air for almost 20 years. With the new ownership, the newspaper office is now located across from the courthouse, at 15 East Maple Street. 

Several years back, the Independent reached out to the Magoffin County Historical Society regarding the newspaper’s history, which has had many owners and locations throughout the years.

According to the historical society’s records, Magoffin went through a few attempts at starting a newspaper before it finally stuck.

The first newspaper on record, The Kentucky Mountaineer, started in January 1912 and printed through January 1914, with Shelby Smith Elam, from Morgan County, as the editor in the beginning, then Emin Elam becoming editor and publisher in July 1913, with his wife being named associate editor by August that same year. The slogan of the paper was “Rights of the Mountain People of Kentucky, not their wrongs.” Technically, that paper ran through January 22, 1914, and by the next week, the January 29, 1914 issue was renamed the Salyersville Mountaineer, which continued to the next month. In the last issue of the publication, dated February 6, 1914, Emin Elam had an editorial in which he stated he was selling the paper to “the man from whom they purchased,” Professor S.S. Elam, “and with whom it lies whether Magoffin County has a newspaper.” 

The Salyersville Herald began the next year in June 1915, with D. Glenn Sublett as the editor, but the paper only published until July 1, 1915. 

The Salyersville Independent, which is the current publication, actually began on May 6, 1921, with Elam ad Fyffe listed as publishers, B.J. Elam (brother of S.S. Elam and a lawyer) as editor and J.R. Fyffe as manager and foreman. After a few weeks, according to the historical society’s records, only B.J. Elam was listed.

On January 12, 1923, Lacy Fannin was listed as business manager, and on January 26 the same year, a statement was issued in the paper noting that the paper had changed hands and R.M. Salyer was editor and publisher with W.A. Salyer as business manager. 

The next year, in 1924, the newspaper sold to Independent Publishing Company in May 1924, a company consisting of Carl Cooper, Earl Cooper, George Moore and Albert K. Moore.  Albert K. Moore served as editor. The newspaper was located in the Odd Fellows building opposite the post office.
Earl R. Cooper serving as editor for a period of time from 1925 through 1927. The masthead shifted to “THE INDEPENDENT” in 1927, but went back to “The Salyersville Independent” that same year. The slogan was “Independent in Thought and Politics.”

In 1962, the Independent was sold by Albert K. Moore to Earl C. “Bob” Prater. Prater sold the paper in 1967 to the Sandy Valley Press owned by Allen Perry, D. H. Howard and Scotty B. Patrick, and Tim Bostic became the editor at that time. In 1971 Bostic bought the paper and continued printing it until he sold it to David Prater, the grandson of the former owner, Earl C. “Bob” Prater, who has owned the paper for the past 17 years prior to the current sale to Ritt Mortimer. 

As a personal tie-in to the history of the business, Albert Moore’s wife, Anna, was a half-sister to Ritt Mortimer’s great-grandfather.

While not all the locations are known, the Independent has had offices at least four different locations on Maple Street, downtown Salyersville, as well as on Dixie Avenue (most recently) and Parkway Drive. The paper is printed in Pikeville by Appalachian News-Express, but for many years was printed locally. 

Interesting to note, two other competing papers to the Independent were also printed in Magoffin, with Magoffin County News (located in the old Salyersville Bank building) beginning in June 1979 and closing in 1980. The Magoffin County Times began in September 1987 and printed for approximately two years. 

The information in this article was gathered by the Magoffin County Historical Society and printed in their publication “Life Along the Licking River,” Volume 3, as well as some tidbits from local historian Jimmie Allen.   

 

Independent Photo || DOUG MORTIMER
SALYERSVILLE INDEPENDENT TODAY:  Above is the staff of the newspaper today, right to left, Heather Oney (editor), Jo Harvey (office manager), Ritt Mortimer (owner/publisher), Vanessa Castle (sales), Erin Conley (composer), and Tim Stamper (billing/delivery).