[p. 111]

The Newspaper Comes

Pearl and Bowie
(Beaumont Enterprise building)
(click here for larger image)

YEARS in the life of a newspaper are years in the life of the people it serves, for every day the newspaper goes through the experience of listening to the shouting, the weeping, the cheering, the rejoicing, the misery, and the bitterness of its world.

A vivid picture of the early days of Beaumont when the little saw-mill village was served by no other means of communication than a hand-car which brought in the mails three time a week, is told in the story of the first issues of The Enterprise, Beaumont's first regular newspaper, that has survived the years, which was started in 1880.

Beaumont was isolated from the outside world at that time by lack of transportation. The old bridge across the Neches was destroyed during the Civil War. No trains ran on the Texas and New Orleans railroad. There was a rusty track over which a hand-car brought in the mails from Liberty three times a week.

For general news in that day Beaumont citizens depended on the Galveston News, a semi-weekly edition of which came to about 15 subscribers, who would wait around Herring's store and the postoffice until the hand-car arrived, usually late. Besides the Galveston News, there were several Houston Telegraphs, a few copies of the New York Democrat, the New Orleans Picayune, and a few religious papers.

Such was the condition when John W. Leonard, the first publisher of The Enterprise, arrived in Beaumont in 1869 from Galveston. Mr. Leonard had journeyed to Galveston from his New York home, and although a very young man, he had al ready traveled extensively, and had done newspaper work in Melbourne, Australia, Paris, London and New York. Naturally interested in the newspaper game, he inquired as to whether there was one to serve the community, and upon finding there was none, his ambition to start a newspaper in this town was born. But Mr. Leonard's health failed him, and he moved away from the county, going west, and not until 1879 did he return,

The first issue of The Enterprise, of which Mr. Leonard was editor, owner and publisher, was ground off on an old hand press on Sunday, November 7, 1880, a day late on account of mechanical troubles. In an apology for the delay, the editor announced that the paper "will be issued every Saturday morning in the future." This first paper was put together entirely by Mr. Leonard and one printer, and a printer's devil. Mr. Leonard wrote everything in the paper, and also set type. That first issue and succeeding issues of the little weekly were filled with interesting news, not only of a local nature but of state and national as well. His paper ever showed a devotion to home interests and proclaimed his unyielding faith in the future of the little town.

In 1882 Mr. Leonard was again forced to leave Beaumont on account of ill-health, and when he left he gave The Enterprise to his brother-in-law, T. A. Lamb, with the understanding that he assume certain debts to a printer's concern in Houston.

Mr. Lamb conducted the weekly from 1882 to about 1895, when he sold it to a Mr. Higginbotham, who later sold it to Mort L. Bixler. About 1896 the growth of the town and the increased circulation justified the issuing of a daily, an d The Enterprise became the morning daily paper.

In 1901 the "Enterprise Publishing Company" was incorporated and in 1907 "The Enterprise Company" was formed, with Messrs. W. J. Crawford, P. A. Heisig, B. Deutser, R. A. Greer, A. L. Williams, as original incorporators.

In June, 1907, Governor W. P. Hobby bought controlling interest in The Enterprise, with the original incorporators as associates.

In 1918 J. L. Mapes became associated with Governor Hobby as joint owner and publisher.

Prior to the publication of The Enterprise two papers were started, but neither survived for many years. The Beaumont Banner, owned and edited before the war by a Mr. Vaughan, was published for one year, and The Neches Valley News was published in 1871 by W. L. Smiley, but it too was discontinued after a few years.

In 1889 the weekly journal was started in the interest of the lumbermen of this district by R. E. Kelley, who was then secretary of the Texas-Louisiana Lumber manufacturing association.

In 1894 Mr. Kelley engaged S. H. McGary to run the weekly, which was subsequently conducted with great success. In 1898 the paper was turned into a daily afternoon paper, and was run for one year by Mr. Kelley, at the end of which time Mr. McGary purchased the paper, and it passed successively through the ownership of the McGary-Welker company, Mrs. S. H. McGary, M. E. Foster, C. L. Shless, Fentress and Marsh, and in 1920 was purchased by The Enterprise company.

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