VILLAGE OF ILION
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y.
The following is taken from "Ilion 1852-1952." We thank the Mayor and other officials of Ilion for
granting us permission to provide this information to our visitors.
George W. Bungay was the editor and publisher of the first local newspaper
in Ilion, "The Independent" in 1855. The short life of the four-page weekly
is a reflection of the life and personality of its instigator. At this
time, slavery, abolition, temperance and politics were controversial
issues. Its motto, "Independent in all things, Neutral in Nothing" was most
appropriate considering Mr. Bungay's radical proclivities and sentiments.
Starting with a single subscription, he scoured the county for subscribers
and the best writers available. At the end of three years, he had little to
show except a list of 1400 subscribers, a debt of $300, an army of devoted
friends and some "Bitter, unscrupulous, and unreasonable enemies." "The
plucky little sheet" had, as its principal aim, the waging of war against
intemperance. Local news was often colored by Bungay's appraisal of the
items, with most of the space of the paper allocated to literary and
The Ilion Independent was consolidated with the Utica Teetotaler in 1858,
forming the Central Independent. The Ilion Plant continued as a job
printing and publishing office. Two years later it was sold to the Utica
Herald, at which time George Bungay lent his talents to Horace Greely in
New York and a subsequent life of increasing reknown as poet, lecturer and
man of letters.
There is no locally published paper between 1858 and 1864, but that year
the Remingtons founded the Loyal Citizen, S. B. Loomis, editor. Like the
Independent it carried the banner of Republicanism, Temperance and Reform.
At this time the offices were located in the Armory from whence they moved
to the bank building. Through the early years of the Citizen the editors
were frequently Methodists, ministers and laymen. Evidence that the Citizen
offices were advanced in equipment is found throughout its history. In 1884
during George Weaver's editorship the Ilion Citizen was printed by
electricity, the first newspaper so printed. A temporary stoppage of steam
power from the Armory, from whence power was obtained for the paper,
resulted in an experiment by George Lee, inventor. Two electric wires were
run, from a Parker dynamo machine used for electric lighting in the Armory,
over buildings and alleys to the Citizen where a Remington electric motor
awaited. Mr. Lee adjusted one wire to the motor, the other to the three
cylinder presses and, as by a miracle, printing began!
It was not only run by "harnessed lighting" but the same year the body
matter of the paper was composed by a type setting machine, developed by J.
L. McMillan, cousin of Editor Weaver. The McMillan machine was widely used
throughout the country before it was supplanted by the linotype.
In 1885, Weaver formed a partnership with C. S. Munger, the paper being
published twice a week, as the Herkimer Citizen on Tuesday; the Ilion
Citizen on Fridays, an eight-page Republican journal. Four years later the
partnership ended, and a publishing concern was formed composed of Munger,
A. T. Smith and F. E. Easton, the latter becoming the editor and manager of
the Ilion offices. In 1889, the pressman Clarence White left the company
and started The Ilion News, a Democratic publication, in opposition to the
Republican Citizen. C. D. Monsel purchased The News the following year when
White was forced to retire because of poor health. The office was moved
from its first location on Union Street to the old Baker building on First
Street (where the Ilion Fish Market is now). The citizen, then twelve
pages, moved in 1889 from the bank building to the Opera House on First
Street, and then in 1894 into the former News building.
In 1901, W. O. Jenks replaced Easton as Ilion editor and as member of the
firm, but only for one year after which Rufus King assumed the duties of
editor and manager, the firm now being known as Munger, Smith and King.
King wielded a mighty sword, and sometimes bludgeon, over his subjects, the
readers of the Citizen. A strong advocate of the right, as he saw it, his
editorials, during his long reign, were playfully called "Uncle Rufus,"
"Uncle Wrinklewood" and "Man About Town." Nonetheless King, a former
Methodist minister, reflected a strong influence through his columns in The
Citizen on the religious, social, moral, and political life of the
"Citizens" of Ilion.
Theodore Schmidt bought the firm in 1921, the publishing concern becoming a
stockholders company. Continuing publication bi-weekly, the name was
changed from Ilion Citizen to the Citizen. That year a Goss-Comet newspaper
press was purchased which increased the speed of printing 400%, and two
Miller power-fed job presses were added, also two intertype machines. The
same year, old quarters on Union St. were outgrown and an addition on the
south side was built. "The Daily Citizen" appeared in 1922 less than a
year, the venture proving too bold an undertaking with the Utica dailies in
competition. Schmidt and other stockholders sustained financial loss but
reverted to a small weekly called "The Community Review." This paper had
difficulty maintaining a paid circulation large enough to compete in the
advertising field so Schmidt was forced to distribute the publication
without charge, with the resulting advertising space providing the expense.
Charles Lawrence purchased the business in 1933, naming it The Ilion
Sentinel, published weekly with paid subscriptions. In those days of
depression, Lawrence encountered difficulties in maintaining circulation so
he inaugurated a guaranteed complete distribution, in the face of existing
competition, to every house in Frankfort, Ilion and Mohawk and it became a
compromise between a shoppers guide of advertisement and a newspaper, 70%
advertising, 30% news. The plant was moved in 1934 to the present site on
First Street. Two years later the old machinery was replaced and completely
Harold Whittemore, present owner-editor, purchased the Sentinel when
Lawrence retired in 1947. Mr. Whittemore has continued the system of
As the history of Ilion journalism has proved, Ilionites have always felt
the need of a paper devoted exclusively to their own village affairs but
perhaps have not always fully appreciated its true worth. The trumpet call
of George Bungay echoes but faintly now down the long corridor of history
but today's Ilion Sentinel, and future Ilion newspapers, will always be
heard and heeded by the Village.