The Sunbury News has carried news of the community residents, their schools, their businesses and civic programs for over a century. The editors devoted columns to local news making it paper of our own people, for our people and by our people.
In 1873 a small group of Sunbury men formed a stock company for the publication of the first paper. The Enterprise with D. M. Pyle as editor only published nine months. Plye sold the paper to Wayman Perfect who renamed the paper The Spectator. Perfect sold the paper to J. S. Watson in 1876 before selling out completely. in 1879
A few months after The Spectator closed,, G. E. Sharpe published The Sunbury Monitor. One known copy is dated January 21, 1881 and marked Col. VI, Number 43 indicating it had been published for several months prior to the January paper.
I have a copy of The Sunbury News, Volume 2, No. 3. dated May 1, 1890 with A. R. Letts, editor and proprietor. The masthead stated the paper comes out every Thursday morning. Subscriptions are $1.00 per year, 60 cents per half year or 35 cents for three months. The 4 page paper uses boilerplate on pages 1 and 4 and hand set on pages 2 and 3. W. F. Whittier has an ad for his a Free Show in his photo gallery on the south side of the square. In 1893 Letts and Whittier were jointly publishing The Sunbury News.
M. D. Cring bought The Sunbury News in 1894. An issue dated May 1896 shows Cring as editor while Reed Letts and Frank Whittier were printers. Cring sold his interests to Letts and Whittier in 1896. Letts and Whittier published a booklet, Picturesque Sunbury. It is shown The Sunbury News in a frame building, on Cherry Street with the Post Office in the same building. Apparently the News had moved to Granville Street before the 1926 fire which burned the post office then in the Norman Patrick building on the corner of Cherry and Vernon Streets.
The News was located on the south side of the square in the glass block two story building with the dentist, Dr. Wilson upstairs. It is believed Charles Perfect and Frank Whittier had photography studios in this building. In the early 1900's Fred Baker and Don Crawford bought the business from Letts and Whittier.
Meanwhile W. F. Whittier became publisher for Delaware County News-Item. In issue Vol. XI, dated September 28, 1905 the masthead says it is the Official Organ of the Delaware County Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company and is published weekly on Thursdays. A special booklet published by Delaware County News-Item, Vol. VII, No. 7 is dated December 14, 1900. It featured holiday ads for local businesses as well as a poetic tale by Joe Lincoln. Do not know what became of Letts but Whittier became active in local politics.
In April 1, 1906, Oatfield Whitney bought out Baker's interest in the paper. He admitted he knew nothing about running a newspaper when he bought into it. On April 1, 1919, Whitney bought out Crawford and started a family tradition of newspaper men.
Oatfield's oldest son, Bill, loved the newspaper world. He went to Ohio Wesleyan University but because he was crippled he was not allowed to return the following year. Knowing he would never be able to get a college education, he picked and chose schools to build his education. He took a photography course at Kent State and years later taught in Kent's program. He and his brother Hoyt went to the University of Missouri where Bill took journalism classes. Later he was in school at the University of Chicago where he and fellow classmates chased Al Capone around Chicago.
Until that time the local news in the newspaper was printed using individual letters called hand type placed one letter at a time in a rack to complete a line - this was very time consuming. The letters were carved backwards to make them print correctly. Each letter was in a section of the type case drawer and had to be returned there when the paper was torn apart after publishing. Mind your p's and q's came from handsetters accidentally mixing the letters. National and world news came as boiler-plate which was a hard surface with type and photos engraved on it. This was used to fill the bulk of the paper with the local news as filler around it. Small weekly papers would never have been able to meet deadlines without the boiler-plate.
In 1923, Bill told his father he would go into the business if his father would buy a linotype to print the paper. Oatfield agreed and Bill went to school to learn to use the Merganthaler linotype. The newspaper was being published from the Benoy House on Cherry Street facing the town square which in 2015 is an empty lot west of Whitney Insurance.
Bill Whitney at the linotype in the upstairs of The Sunbury News building at W. Cherry Street.
Pearl, Oatfield's wife ran the front office to help her husband who was very interested in politics. He successfully ran for House of Representatives and later for the Ohio Senate.
Bill and Marian 1935
Bill married Marian Duncan, a school teacher in Ostrander, in 1935 and she brought excellent proofreading skills to the News office.
Bill had a special column, Around the Community, which used his highwheel bicycle as the logo. Each Sunday, Bill and his family drove around the community looking for things to feature in his column. He noted when houses, barns or fences were painted, when additions were added to property, when efforts were made to make the community a better place to liver. This column gave the flavor of the area for all to see. Bill was often the first person new residents met and he made sure they felt at home.
During World War II, Bill gave all local men and women subscriptions to the newspaper and wrote a column "With Our Boys in Service" to keep the community up to date.
Don Perfect purchased the Kempton building on the northeast corner of Vernon and Granville Streets. He moved the top two floors to the southeast corner of Morning and Cherry Streets, and replaced the lower level with a brick building from which he could sell and service cars. Oatfield Whitney bought the building and replaced the display windows with glass block and moved the News to Vernon Street. "I really was afraid they would drop the linotype when they took it out the upstairs window," commented Bill Whitney.
In 1949, Bill became the sole owner of the News. He and Marian raised five children with the type lice juggling home, school, church, scouts and Marian's piano students. All the children helped out in the office as they became old enough to mind their p's and q's.
Bill's love of photography spilled over into the young men and women of the community. In addition to his own children, he taught the art of photography to Ron Bryant, Jim Breece, and Phil Cring. The dark room was often full of teens printing their photos.
As the community grew, Bill's staff grew. When his health began failing he added others to run his beloved linotype and began delegating news coverage to younger journalists.
When Bill's health completely failed, his youngest son John came home from college in Virginia and worked with his mother and brother-in-law, John Francis (Jack) Brehm. Following Bill's death in 1970, his widow, Marian, continued to operate the News until John and Jack bought the News from her in 1971 and Marian began traveling and sharing the world with the News' readers.
The Whitney and Brehm partnership worked very well. Whitney was the editor and Brehm the publisher and Sports editor. Brehm's wife, Polly, helped make up ads, kept sports statistics, and helped to lay out the paper. Their three children also learned about type lice and worked in the office as they became old enough. Steve Kesler became Jack's side kick and learned to follow and write sports news. John and Jack entered and won coveted weekly newspaper awards
When John Whitney married Theresa Dale, she added her skills to the staff and covered front desk. John continued in his father's footsteps teaching Jim Weber to take and develop photographs.
In May of 1982 Jack suffered a fatal heart attack leaving John the sole owner of the newspaper. Steve Kessler took over the sports section.
John continued to operated the News until he sold it to The Delaware Gazette in October 1994 thus ending 88 years of Whitney editorship. He had been looking for a way out of the paper for sometime and felt this was a good choice as the Thompsons had a good history of journalism in Delaware County.
The Delaware Gazette selected Susan Agler Wright to head the News office. Her father had grown up in Center Village so she was familiar with eastern Delaware County. The News continued to rent office space from John Whitney.
The Delaware Gazette and The Sunbury News were purchased by Brown Publishing Company of Cincinnati. In order to cut back on overhead, they moved the News to Delaware. Gary Henery became the editor of the News. Lenny Lepola became the reporter/photographer.
In 2010 Brown Publishing went bankrupt and Ohio Community Media took over the two Delaware County papers as well others from Ohio and the southeast. These became part of Versa Capital Management who owned 18 daily and 30 weekly papers in 2015. They do business under Civitas Media LLC in Davidson, North Carolina.
The News still carries local news written primarily by Lenny Lepola who is know as "news guy" throughout the community. Cost has risen with the times from $1 a year in 1890 to $40 a year in 2016.
Bit of trivia: Sunbury's founders came from Wilkes-Barre, PA. The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader is owned by the same publisher as the News.
|Delaware County News-Item Holiday Issue 1900
|Sunbury News on Granville Street
|Showing frame house before and after it was turned
|Sunbury News on Cherry Street
Bill and Hoyt
|Oatfield Whitney 1920
|Bill Whitney on way to University of Missouri
on Cherry Street
|Bill Whitney at Kent State Photography Course
|Moving into 44 S. Vernon Street
owner - 1949
|News Staff in 1966
Marilee Warner - desk, Bill and John Whitney, Thelma Hardy - linotypist, Marian Whitney, Billy Haller, O.W. Whitney, Jack Brehm
Jack Brehm with Polaroid
|Last run of the Babcock
John Whitney feeding the press, Duncan Whitney watching
August 27, 1966
|Press being removed
O.W. Whitney Inspecting a Job Printing Press for job printing
with dog Tatia on his shoulders
Editor for Delaware
Editor for Delaware Gazette