The Rohnerville Herald Newspaper

And Then There Were Two


Rohnerville Herald advertisement from the Humboldt County Business Directory of 1890-91.

It is difficult to imagine Rohnerville as a bustling community which could support a newspaper, but it has had two, a short-lived tabloid of the late 1870's and another which lasted for almost sixteen years. The Eel River Echo was published in Rohnerville by W. H. Runnels between 1878 and 1880. There are no available copies; in fact, it's not listed in the Union List of Newspapers. The second paper, the Rohnerville Herald, was published from November 2, 1881 to May, 1897. Microfilm holdings at the Bancroft Library are incomplete - October 19 and November 2, 1886 and all of1888, 1889, 1890 and 1891. Humboldt State University Library has the March 5, 1884 issue among a microfilm collection of miscellaneous California newspapers. Rohnerville residents were asked about copies of the Herald, but only one badly-torn copy, dated May 16, 1869, was found.

Charles Everett Gordon established the Herald when he was nineteen after learning the trade from his editor-publisher father, David E. Gordon. The elder Gordon, a native of the New York State, was one of Northern California's distinguished pioneer journalists, starting the Trinity Journal at Weaverville in 1856 and the West Coast Signal at Eureka in 1871. Charles was a native Californian, born in Weaverville in 1863 while his father was publisher of the Journal. Coming to Eureka with his family in 1870, he served his apprenticeship in the offices of the Signal. Upon its demise in 1880, young Gordon moved to Rohnerville and established the Herald, which earned the respect of the county's newspaper fraternity.

Elliott's History of Humboldt County, California (1882) contains this paragraph on the Herald:
"...The people of Rohnerville demanded a newspaper, and the present publisher took advantage of the opportunity, and has found the venture a successful one. The subscription list had reached nearly 450 on the first day of March and the paper shows a very liberal advertising patronage. It is the official organ for publication of land notices in eastern and southern Humboldt and is published at $1.50 a year. The publisher declares his paper to be Independent-Republican. It is a creditable paper, and does honor to the people of Rohnerville and vicinity who are determined to have a paper of their own in which to set forth the advantages of that prosperous village."

Charles Gordon was an able writer, concerned with quality journalism. The March 5, 1884 issue carried a short publisher's notice to advertisers that "the disgusting announcements of quack doctors, large cuts and electrotyped advertisements will in every instance be rejected from the columns of this paper." The format of the four-page weekly made it far more readable than Humboldt County's major paper, the Humboldt Times. During the late 1880's a supplement containing syndicated articles and stories was published with each issue. Herald readers were entertained with such exciting stories as Jennie Davis Burton's "Under a Cloud or Clearing Himself - the Thrilling and Absorbing Story of a Great Crime" which appeared in serial form complete with pictures; "A Pretty Romance - How a Modest Young Man was Shown the Error of his Ways" from the New York Press; and "An Unwelcome Caller - A woman Opens the Door of her House and Finds a Leopard There" from the Chicago Tribune (Rohnerville Herald, January 2, 1889).

The Herald's pages were generously supported by Eureka advertisers, but, much to Gordon's dismay, only a few Rohnerville businesses purchased space. Social activities, musicals, traveling theatrical companies, politics and the annual fair were well publicized in the Herald, along with "local brevities," marriages, births, and deaths. Publisher Gordon expounded on such diverse subjects as the merits of the jury system and the suitability of local soils for raising sugar beets. He was Rohnerville's champion, eagerly extolling her advantages and successes on every occasion. Community improvements - a new school, or a freshly-painted hotel, or the Odd Fellows' celebration - were all noted with pride. A farm and orchard column offered advice and information on increasing yields, controlling pests, and livestock care. Track records and pedigrees of Rohnerville's fast horses were favorite topics, especially as fair time rolled around each fall.

Following Gordon's death in 1893, the paper was published by Archie Look, whose advertisement in the 1895-6 Business Directory of Humboldt County called the Herald "a progressive and live journal devoted to Humboldt County" and "one of the best advertising mediums in the county." Rohnerville's declining commercial activity prompted the removal of the paper to Swauger (Loleta) in 1897, but during its sixteen years the Herald was, in Gordon's words, "a faithful exponent of the interests of Rohnerville and that portion of the county which it more particularly represented" . . .(Rohnerville Herald, Nov. 6, 1889).

NEXT: Aerial View of Rohnerville, 1975



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-- Rohnerville-Herald, January 4, 1888 --
". . . Can't something be done to create a revival in the vicinity of Rohnerville? That there are opportunities for lucrative investments here is as well known to those who have capital to invest as need be. While the county should have a woolen mill, and this portion of the valley offers a most available location for such a manufactory, we have about abandoned hope of seeing our people move in this matter ... The beet sugar industry is attracting attention in much less favored localities in the State than Humboldt. Heaven knows there is no soil in California that is more productive than that which Eel River valley boasts - - - Anything to create an awakening. What sense in living in this slow-going manner, with all the aids to prosperity so close at hand?"

-- Rohnerville Herald, June 12, 1889 --
"For a week the lot on which the new public school building is to be erected has been undergoing a decided change ... plowed, graded and rolled. The old school building will be sold or removed, and on (or near) its site will be reared an educational landmark which the people of Rohnerville can look upon with pride."

-- Rohnerville Herald, December 9, 1891 --
"Work of the Fire Fiend - Eight buildings now in ashes - Sunday morning ... the inhabitants of Rohnerville were awakened by the shrill blast of the mill whistle, it having been discovered that the rear of Lamb Brothers' wagon shed adjoining their market was on fire ... Fire spread, burning Lamb Brothers' store, the blacksmith and carriage shop of C.H. Brewer, Waite's Harness Shop, Wallace's boot and shoe shop, and the Herald offices ... One thing was demonstrated and that is that the people of Rohnerville must take steps toward providing means for quenching fire."

-- Western Watchman, May 1, 1897 --
"It is rumored, says the Enterprise that the Rohnerville Herald is to be purchased and moved to Swauger after May 1st, and that James Boyce is to associate himself with M.A. Simpson in the publication of the Swauger Record."