Roxton's Newspaper History
The Roxton Progress: The second phase of Roxton newspaper history
Who we are and from where we came
While the Roxton Progress in print form has existed since 1976, the newspaper became a corporation two years later. Over the years, ownership, editors, contributors, content, and processes have changed with the times. And when current owners and editors Kris and Karen Rutherford took over the paper in late 2014, they expanded on the original mailed black and white print business model to include an online presence.
While Kris and Karen Rutherford have major ownership of the Progress as a "closely-held" family business, Peggy Harrison, a daughter of an original owner, maintains a minority interest in the paper. In 2017, Terrell Perry purchased another minority interest in the corporation.
The Roxton Progress Inc. Facebook page debuted in early 2015 and has quietly built a following of nearly 1,200 social media users with an equal number "liking" the page. A website appeared shortly thereafter, followed by the first "digital" edition of the Progress — an emailed full-color "pdf" edition of the paper.
In 2020, the Roxton Progress again expanded its business model to include a fully functional website where all subscribers can now view a full-color online edition. But true to its roots, the Progress' original mailed black and white print edition remains, and it is the preference of most subscribers.
Today, the print edition of the paper is mailed to subscribers in xx Texas communities and those living in xx states. In addition, the online edition is growing in popularity with subscribers living both within Roxton and Texas, as well as out-of-state.
A Nationwide Effort
The news remains primarily local or regional to Roxton, but the production process of the Progress has spread; in fact, it is not an exaggeration to state that the bi-weekly print and online Roxton Progress is a nationwide effort. Content is contributed by people across the country, edited in Arkansas, and design and layout are completed in Illinois. The website is hosted and managed in Missouri.
Despite various aspects of the newspaper's businesses being spread throughout the U.S., the Progress' content remains local. Printing is completed within Lamar County. The newspaper's business operations are conducted largely in Roxton, with Roxton's bank holding the Progress' accounts. As it has since the beginning, the Progress is mailed only from the Roxton post office. Distribution and circulation efforts remain local, providing supplemental income to Roxton residents and businesses. Likewise, the Progress advertising and subscription services are largely a local operation, providing income to those expressing interest in selling ads and subscriptions.
The Progress supports numerous local organizations and events. In recent years, a substantial percentage of Christmas edition advertising proceeds have been provided to Roxton High School's senior classes, the Roxton Food Pantry, and the fund for City Projects. Volunteers supporting each of these organizations have assisted in selling ads to those wishing to send "Christmas Cards" to Progress readers. The newspaper also donates funding and advertising space to several local efforts, most recently the Honey Grove Street mural restoration, various festivals and events, Restland Cemetery tree planting, the "Triangle" rock garden, the Paris Home School Association Athletic Program, the Roxton Veteran's Memorial, and both the Chaparral and the City Drug Store Museums. And when fundraisers are held for people in need, the Progress frequently donates funds and subscriptions as auction items. Likewise, the Progress publishes news from all of the events it supports from inception to completion.
Roxton Progress History
The Progress has been a “hometown” paper since its inception. Potential readers could get national news from The Dallas Morning News and television. If they wanted county news, they could read The Paris News. Although the Progress masthead touted the paper for many years as "Serving Lamar, Fannin, and Delta Counties," the Progress did and still concentrates on Roxton news and history. But, of course, the world is a lot smaller than it was in 1976 and continues to grow even smaller. So today, the Roxton Progress bills itself as "The Bridge to News and Heritage of the North Sulphur River Basin."
From the beginning, people have submitted stories of what Roxton was like in the early to mid 20th century and recounted detailed histories of the businesses, houses, and people who inhabited the town. Yet, the history of Roxton includes nearly a half-century of news, events, and influential people than when the paper was founded. So, while the original history of Roxton and the surrounding area is not ignored, the paper is beginning to focus on more recent news and historical events — a "reminiscence," if you will.
In October 1976, Wes Sanders, an ex-Baptist minister running an ad tabloid in Paris, established the Roxton Progress. The newspaper was founded and published in Kenneth and Wanda Bush’s garage on Sunset Street.
Sanders did not head the paper for long. In June of 1977, he sold it to Loraine Jackson. Shortly thereafter, the paper became a family business and was incorporated into the paper. Several people purchased shares — Jackson, Pauline Whatley, Josh Springer, Kenneth Springer, and Jack Mason, who eventually controlled interest. Before Mason sold out to Jon Gammon in 2012, Sandra Jackson Johnson and Peggy Whatley Turner voted their mothers’ shares. Late 20th and 21st-century editors of the Progress have included Ruby Whitten, Helen Frazier, Paul Bailey, and Lisa Lipstraw.
As the Roxton Progress moves forward, Kris and Karen Rutherford have vowed to maintain the paper as a public service despite the worldwide crisis related to the newspaper industry. In fact, it intends to build the Progress into a widely distributed source of information for those interested in the past, present, and future of the Roxton area.
Often, what is old becomes new again. When newspapers regain their footing, the Roxton Progress will proudly proclaim that while North Texas newspapers closed their doors, the business model Kris and Karen Rutherford continue to refine allowed production of the Progress to continue — a necessary source of information bridging the news gap of the North Sulphur River Basin.
Roxton Newspaper History: Phase I
The recent evolution of the Roxton Progress business model did not happen overnight; in fact, it didn't happen only after Kris and Karen Rutherford's 2014 acquisition of the newspaper. Many people have contributed to the Progress' success since 1976 — too many to mention here. And, of course, the paper would never have survived its first year without the interests of countless subscribers and advertisers who continue to support the hometown newspaper today.
As the Roxton Progress approaches its 50th anniversary, the story of the publication cannot be told without a look back at the history of various newspaper efforts in Roxton beginning in the 19th century. That history was compiled by Phillip R. Rutherford and published in his book, Near Paradise: The History of Roxton, Texas. The following overview of this history is an abridged version of his history as included in the book.
Every up-and-coming town needs a newspaper. In the early 1900s, small-town newspapers proliferated in North Texas. Petty had the Enterprise for several years, and Blossom had the Bee. Even little Harmon had a paper. Just as today, newspapers served two purposes: to disseminate news and to advertise. Roxton had numerous competing businesses that needed to let customers knowing what they sold, where they were located, and their superiority of the wares compared to competitors. Roxton, at the turn of the 20th century, was ripe for a newspaper.
Christopher Columbus Phillips, a Methodist Protestant minister, came to Texas from Mississippi. He quickly left preaching and got into the newspaper business after first settling in Fairlie, Texas. He came to Roxton, and in 1900 began publishing the Roxton Wide Awake, a weekly paper he ran for fourteen years. His earliest press was not run by electricity but by hand and foot power.
Phillips’ printing presses were located in at least two places: one, upstairs over either Will Clark’s Confectionery or Jones Mercantile in the Walter Bywaters Block and the other in the back of the Wight building. In 1909, The Paris Morning News reported that Phillips had just bought hundreds of pounds of new type and a new cylinder press. The writer added, “He says he is not running a newspaper because it is a picnic or a gold mine, but because he likes the work and wants to do everything he can to boost Roxton.”
The Wide Awake and its reporter must have had some little admiration statewide, as C.C’s editorials were frequently quoted in the Galveston News.
It appears that Phillips might have established an evening paper in 1902, the Roxton Evening Wide Awake, as volume one, number 281, of such a paper has been located. But this likely was only a temporary name change for the Wide Awake.
In 1911, The Paris News reported that Mr. Finney, who published a paper in Klondike in Delta County, had bought an interest in the Wide Awake. In 1914, Phillips (Finney is never mentioned again.) sold out to Mrs. Humphries and Cordie Webb Ingram.
At some point, the name changed. By 1918, the paper was known as the Roxton News and Wide Awake. Mrs. Humphries had evidently sold out her interest to J.W. Neville, editor, with Cordie Ingram as associate editor and reporter. Cordie Webb Ingram was a professional, published writer, with Southern Symphonies, a book of poetry, and a novel, Child of the Sun, to her credit.
In the 1920s or '30s, Tom L. Beauchamp became editor of the Wide Awake for a time. Beauchamp, a previous editor of the Petty Enterprise, later became the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge, where he served from 1939 to 1953.
Mrs. Ingram must have taken over full ownership at some point. Before 1933, she or they had either sold the paper or hired S. Clark Fulks as editor of the Roxton News. His masthead carried the following:
“A weekly publication devoted to the growth and development of Roxton and Southwest Lamar County. In the Heart of Texas Richest Agricultural Section.”
The plant was located in the back of the two-story Wight Building. By 1934, Cordie Webb Ingram was again editor. For a short while in the 1930s, Roxton had two newspapers. A copy of a Roxton Newspaper. The Roxton Times-Democrat, Vol.1, No. 13, dated December 13, 1934, exists. It is unknown who published this tabloid-size paper or how long it lasted.
Ending Phase I
In 1939, Troy Griffin published the Roxton News. By 1943, the paper had changed hands once more, the owner now being John Kean and the editor George Kean. It is unclear when — but by the end of World War II — the Roxton News had published its last issue. Roxton was now without a newspaper after a run of over forty years. In 1976, the Roxton Progress filled the gap.
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