Thursday, February 2, 2012

The People's Alliance : Hartford's 'Other' Newspaper

Those with roots in Hartford, Michigan, may have used the Hartford Day Spring newspaper in their research, a wonderful hometown treasure published for just over 100 years.  Just this last year, the digital archives of that paper was launched online by the Hartford Public Library, as announced in our June 24 blog posting.

As with most long-running newspapers, there are gaps of days, months or years in the microfilmed collection.  This could be because no paper was published for those dates, or that the issues did not survive long enough for filming.  The Day Spring is fairly complete, but there is one large gap which includes 1895 thru June 1898, a disappointment for anyone searching for an obituary of an ancestor during those missing years.

Enter The People's Alliance, another competing newspaper that was published in Hartford from 1891 through 1905.  This publication has been unknown to most historians and until now microfilm have been housed only at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, and the Library of Michigan.  This week, the Van Buren District Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of this newspaper to its Southwest Michigan microfilm collection in the form of five reels.

Van Buren County, Michigan : a pictorial history
The Alliance was founded in 1891 by Sullivan Cook as an organ for the People's Party.  Cook's daughter, May (Cook) Deane, inherited the business from her father upon his death.  She and her husband, Frank, continued operation until his death in 1901.  May hung on to the business for six more years alone at which time she sold the business to Louis Volk who moved the equipment to Eau Claire.  [Van Buren County : a pictorial history, published by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society, page 39]

Issues typically are four pages in length and include most of the things typical of hometown papers of the era.  The microfilm collection begins with Volume 2 Number 3, so apparently not all of the earliest issues have survived.  The front page has the local news and correspondence from surrounding communities some of which were Bangor, Corwin, Watervliet, Decatur, Benton Harbor and Paw Paw.  Included on the front page of the June 23, 1893 issue are typical death notices and one very large marriage announcement for Lottie Northrup & Dennie Armstrong.  The other three pages are mostly state, national & political news, with local advertisements sprinkled throughout.

The very first thing I did when we received the Alliance microfilm, is go fishing for an obituary for my ancestor, John Marvin Clark, who died in the Hartford area February 8, 1895.  I had been one of those disappointed souls who fell victim to the "missing issue" problem with the Day Spring.  If my readers can extract jubilation from the written word, you'll know that there was in fact an obituary for my Mr. Clark in The Alliance.  Also in the Locals column, there was mention of John's brother coming from Lake Odessa for the funeral.

Upon reading this brother item, imagine my hand slapping to my mouth and the utterance of "Oh my..."  Prior to this little item in the paper, I had no clue about John's siblings or his parents.  You can bet that by the weekend work will begin on tracking down that brother who may lead me to their parents.  You can imagine how exciting this is, especially since the last time I found a one-liner in the newspaper about a sibling, it led not only to parents' names but to a trip for my parents to our English homeland.

This is not the only instance in Van Buren County of more than one newspaper being published in one town at a time.  It has also occurred with South Haven and Paw Paw.  So, keep in mind that there may be an alternative to your "missing issue" problem... 

The People's Alliance may be viewed in the Local History Collection anytime during regular business hours.  Contact the library with any questions.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown first name Van Hise (left) and unknown woman
Photographer - McCollum & Cunningham, Dowagiac
original photograph owned by Judith (Brown) Grime

Can you identify the two women in this carte-de-visite?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.