Dodges Start the Sentinel in Hanford, California in 1886
The world was smaller, interests more defined and concerns far more parochial when The Hanford Sentinel came into existence a century ago.
The pages are filled with one-liners about who had arrived on the train to visit relatives and who was in town on Tuesday to transact business, as well
as short items about who had planted a new crop and how much a farmer had received for his grapes. The full text of a holiday oration, or a visiting
evangelist's sermon and minute details of the schoolhouse dedication, were read with relish.
Deaths of children and women in childbirth were common, as were farm accidents, which were recorded in great detail.
In its way, the newspaper also was a schoolroom and a readily available window on the world, recounting the mystic customs of the Far East, historic
vignettes and moral advisories:
And what made news that first year, when the Dodge Brothers -Frank L. and David - began publishing their weekly paper each Thursday in 1886?
Much of the content consisted of clips from other newspapers all over the United States. There were jokes and stories. There was an astrology column,
bits of historical data, classified advertisements and a front page dominated by "business card" advertisements. A ''Local Intelligence" column was a mix of
personal items and one-line ads.
It was reported that the railroad company "has no direct interest in a $20,000 schoolhouse in Hanford, yet it will pay a large share of the tax. People who
have children to educate should not hesitate to vote the tax as long as it is a reasonable one." (The measure was approved 138 to 15). Eucalyptus School
District was preparing for a tax election to raise $800 needed to finish and furnish its schoolhouse.
The Feb. 25 issue had a story about a jackrabbit hunt southeast of town, with a goal to corral and slaughter 20,000 rabbits and 20 coyotes. A full column
was devoted to a grand masquerade ball in Hanford. Among the prizewinners was Miss L. C. Kinney, who was chosen as the most original lady character for
coming dressed as The Hanford Sentinel.
Then there was a story about unruly students who had locked out the schoolmaster in Grangeville. A story reported that Hanford had five churches
at that time "and every one of them should be filled on Sunday."
The paper was a booster for new settlers and, saying the farms were too large in this country, suggested that 20 to 40-acre family parcels were the ideal.
A Decoration Day committee was formed to decorate the graves of friends, relatives and neighbors slain on May 11, 1880 in the notorious Mussel Slough
Tragedy. The special commemorative observance was marred by a Socialist
There was information for the householder, too. Linoleum, a preparation of cork, was described as "a paragon of perfection for kitchen and dining room
floors, its cost a little above that of oil cloth and the wear much longer."
A Farmers and Dealers Protective Association of Western Tulare County was formed to promote the interests of those who were some distance removed from
the hub of activities in Visalia, which was then the county seat.
A plan was underway for "ensmalling" the huge Tulare Lake.
By the end of April 1886, the newspaper announced it had completed its first quarter in business ''with favorable prospects."
An Anti-Riparian Club was formed that year to protect farmers irrigation rights.
And if wages are an issue today, consider that the average weekly income of working women in New York state was reported to be $2.90, while the average
for men was $6.10. Incidentally, although typewriters were in their infancy, more than 2,000 operators of the machines were reported employed in Chicago.
The people who used them were called "type-writers" and described as "mostly good looking and lively young women age 18 to 20."
That spring, farmer J.C. Ensign cut 24 tons of grain hay from 6¾ acres of ground and sold it for $7 per ton. Land was going cheap, and at the sale in
Visalia several thousand acres were sold at prices ranging from $3 to $6 an acre, some fetching as much as $12.
In Grangeville. postmaster C. W. Sullivan put in a horse trough at the corner of his store so that patrons and the public could water their horses.
Speaking of water, the Hanford Water Co. issued rules governing its use. A whistle sounding at 8 p.m. signaled that the water tank was full and "no water
use after that time assures a safe supply for fire emergencies." A 30-foot well was made at the schoolhouse and the water "will be pure and
inexhaustible," said the report.
The editor had a few words of advice to offer on the perils of stage-robbing as an occupation.
About that time in the national news, 26 clerks in the railway mail service were discharged "because they thought they could organize and dictate to Uncle
Sam ... "It beats all what blockheads the service has got in some cases," the paper commented.
Steps were being taken to organize a bank in Hanford. A charter had been applied for, and $85,000 already had been subscribed in stock.
This material comes from the Hanford Daily Sentinel of Hanford, California which was founded in 1886 by Frank L. and David Dodge.
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