Willimantic's First Newspaper
by Tom Beardsley
(By Tom Beardsley) In 1848, John Evans, a passionate advocate of the growing borough of Willimantic, installed a printing press in Main Street's Franklin Hall and published a weekly broadsheet. Only six issues of the Willimantic Public Medium are known to survive. The most striking feature of  Willimantic’s first newspaper is its picturesque title. The  woodcut features a printer at his press. To the left is an early scene of Main Street, looking northwesterly, featuring the old Baptist church and wood-framed houses, with Prospect Hill in the background. To the right is a southwesterly view from Main Street showing the rear of the Smithville Cotton Mills.  Publisher John Evans was depicted weekly in a woodcut featured at the head of the Medium‘s leading column. There were no street numbers in Willimantic in 1848, so advertisers gave geographical  locations of their businesses.  William Weaver, a dealer in stationery, was in the Franklin book, "a few rods east of the  congregational church." Traveling photographer Mr. W.R. Small, located on the  building’s third floor, was preparing daguerreotypes for  Christmas. Small’s "perfect  likenesses" were produced in  Willimantic from $1 to $6, with  portrait lockets costing from $3  to $15.  Dr. G. C. Vaughn’s:  “Vegetable Lithontriptic  Mixture" cured dropsy (retention of fluid), gravel (a urinary  dysfunction), fever, piles, and  purified the blood. Vaughn’s magic medication was manufactured in Buffalo, N.Y., and  cost $2 for a 30-ounce bottle,  and $1 for a 12-ounce bottle. It  was stocked locally by pharmacists George Lathrop in Willimantic, D.M. Buel’s at South  Coventry, R. Button in Andover, and A.H. Hawkins in  Tolland.  Vaughn recommended that  one should stay away from  "Old Dr. Jacob Townsend’s  Sarsaparillas“ as they were  "good for nothingl"  Dr.  Townsend’s ads claimed that  his sarsaparillas cured dyspepsia, rheumatism, pimples and  all female complaints. Vaughn denounced Townsend: “This  Townsend is no doctor and  never was; but was formerly a  worker on railroads and canals. Such willful, wicked misrepresentation."  Health matters were to the fore in 1849 because of a cholera outbreak in New York City.  Between May 29 and June 5,  the city reported 129 cases and  50 deaths. A Dr. Bird of Chicago claimed that cholera could  be prevented by his magic formula, which consisted of four  parts powder charcoal and one  part sulfur. It supposedly neutralized the ozone, a chemical  in the atmosphere, which it  was thought caused cholera  when breathed in.  In November 1849, the railroad arrived in Willimantic The first service was to New  London and back. Several cosmopolitan New Londoners, visiting Willimantic for the first  time, were rather rude about  rustic Willimantic. They  laughed at the town’s tiny fire  engine which "doused miniature fires" and complained about the lack of sidewalks.  Publisher Evans agreed about the fire engine. Regarding the  sidewalks he added that the  New Londoners, "may thank  their stars they came in dry weather."  By 1855, the fancy woodcuts at the head of the leading page had gone, and beneath the title it stated "An Independent, local, family newspaper.“ This issue’s editorial noted the increasing prosperity of Willimantic since the railroad had  come to town six years earlier. The local mills were fed by cotton arriving ‘directly by train from the southern states’, and  local consumers had the benefit of sugar, molasses and salt shipped to New London from  the West Indies and quickly  brought to Willimantic by rail.  The paper also announced the formation of the Bolton Reservoir and Water Power  Co. The leading shareholders  were the Windham and Smithville 'Manufacturing Companies on Bridge Street, the Hop River Warp Co. in Columbia  and the recently formed Willimantic Linen Co. All aimed to  improve the water power on  the Willimantic and Hop rivers, to drive their mills more efficiently.  The Public Medium changed  its name to the Willimantic Journal the following year when William Weaver, purchased it. He died in1866, and  W.J. Barber published the Journal until 1871. Henry Hall then took the reins until 1886, The Hall and Bill Publishing Co. had taken over in 1884,  and continued publication until 1911, when the weekly Journal was no longer able to  compete with the expanding Willimantic Daily Chronicle.   

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