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 editorial topics.

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 electrified.

Harold Whittemore, present owner-editor, purchased the Sentinel when Lawrence retired in 1947. Mr. Whittemore has continued the system of controlled circulation.

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.

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Created 7/9/00
Copyright © 2000 Paul McLaughlin/ Judy Breedlove/ Martha S. Magill
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