April 9, 2012, was a historic day for the Log Cabin Democrat, Faulkner County and the City of Conway.
The Log Cabin Democrat was printed in the City of Conway for the last time; future editions will be printed in Russellville. Those who read the print version last Monday were actually holding a piece of history in their hands.
The Log Cabin Democrat will continue publication with no loss of service. However, reaching such a landmark does give one an opportunity to look back at how important this paper has been to its readers.
For decades the Log Cabin Democrat was the only connection many Faulkner County residents had to the rest of the world. It came about at a time when there was no radio, television, internet, telephones or cellular phones. It may be difficult for many contemporary readers to believe, but at one point in our history all of our news (except word of mouth) came via one source, print journalism.
The Log Cabin Democrat has had a long, colorful history in Conway and had an interesting beginning. A brief history is published on the newspaper’s website (thecabin.net) under resources. While not every part of its history will be discussed in this article, it is necessary to provide some background information so readers can grasp the basic beginnings of the newspaper of record of Faulkner County.
Though owned by the Robins family for most of its existence, the Log Cabin Democrat is now solely owned by Morris Communications of Augusta, Ga.
According to "Arkansas Newspapers" by Shirley J. Brendel, there have been at least 15 newspapers published in Faulkner County. This figure does not include the student-produced newspapers of Central Baptist College, Hendrix College or the University of Central Arkansas. The largest number of newspapers published in Faulkner County at any one time was between 1920 and 1924 when five newspapers were published either daily or weekly. Besides the daily and weekly editions of the Log Cabin Democrat, the other three newspapers were the Conway News, Conway Weekly Times and Faulkner County Times.
The Log Cabin Democrat is a combination of two newspapers, the Conway Log Cabin and the Democrat. The Conway Log Cabin came under the ownership of the J.W. Robins family in 1894. Mr. Robins died about six months after acquiring the paper, leaving the newspaper to his wife, Minnie Freeman Robins; the couple had a 13-year old son, Frank.
The other ancestor newspaper was the Democrat. The Democrat began as the Conway Democrat in 1881 and later changed its name to the Ledger Democrat in 1884, and was destroyed by a fire in 1885. According to the Log Cabin Democrat website, the Democrat was revived by three men about 10 years later and in 1896 was acquired by J.W. Underhill. In 1899, J.W. Underhill and Mrs. Minnie Freeman Robins married and the two newspapers were then published in the same location.
In 1901, the Conway Log Cabin and the Democrat merged and the single paper was known as the Log Cabin Democrat. According to the Log Cabin Democrat website, "When Underhill died in 1906, Robins became editor and purchased his stepfather’s interest. Two years later, Sept. 14, 1908, there was a drastic change in the newspaper. Frank Robins decided to begin a daily edition of the Log Cabin Democrat to coincide with the opening of Arkansas Normal School (now the University of Central Arkansas).
The paper’s publisher, Frank Robins (grandfather of Frank Robins III, the last Robins to own the paper) had promised to make the Log Cabin Democrat a daily newspaper when the Arkansas State Normal School (now the University of Central Arkansas) opened in Conway. There was an editorial on the front page of the September 14, 1908 issue that stated, "This is the first issue of the Daily edition of The Log Cabin Democrat. If our intentions are carried out, it will be the poorest issue because we expect each succeeding issue to be better than the one which preceded it."
"The encouragement which the Daily has already received is very gratifying to us. We have set our mark for 500 subscribers, and we are agreeably surprised to be able to send the first edition to considerably more than one-half that number of actual subscribers. One copy of today’s paper will be sent to every home, in order that those who have not subscribed may have an opportunity of seeing the Daily Edition. We shall be glad to receive subscriptions from every person in the city who feels that he can afford to pay ten cents a week for the paper delivered and everyone else who feels that the Daily will be worth 25 cents a month when sent by mail."
The weekly edition of the newspaper continued to be published after the daily edition began to be published in 1908. According to the Log Cabin Democrat website, the weekly edition continued publication until Aug. 26, 1982.
When it became a daily newspaper, it was a two-page newspaper. It carried local, state and national news stories as well as local sports information. Also, there were many advertisements in the two-page daily.
As the newspaper of record for Faulkner County, the Log Cabin Democrat has been a good source for historical information. One can read the Log Cabin Democrat (on microfilm and hard copy) and get a good idea about the economy of Faulkner County at any point in time and see how people lived; how they were entertained and how they made their living.
Present day readers need to remember that Faulkner County residents received their news via print media in 1908 and the Log Cabin Democrat was the only source of news for many residents. Even radio was still in its infancy and did not come to Arkansas until 1922. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Harvey Couch Sr., founder of Entergy Corporation (formerly Arkansas Power & Light), established the first radio station in Arkansas in February 1922.
A look back in time showed that the newspaper was serious about keeping its readers informed about local, state and national news. Currently, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic is making headlines. But, approximately 100 years ago, the Log Cabin Democrat published the story of the actual disaster and the sinking of the ship that many thought was unsinkable.
The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, and the Log Cabin Democrat carried the headline in its April 17th edition, which claimed that 1,312 people perished in the tragedy. The April 19th edition of the Log Cabin Democrat carried another article of the sinking and put the total at 1,595 killed, which was closer to the actual number. Today the most published figure for those who died in the sinking is 1,514.
Soon after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Log Cabin Democrat published a story about a famous visitor to the City of Conway, Col. Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the United States, who spoke to local residents from the back of a train car while in Conway.
According to the April 22, 1912 edition of the Log Cabin Democrat, "At the stop here Col. Roosevelt was introduced by John Bruce Cox of Little Rock, a native Conway young man who is one of the leaders of the Roosevelt movement in this state…
After greeting the crowd he said; ‘In this campaign we stand for decent politics, decent citizenship, decent Americanism.’ The young lady students of Central College, who stood in line on the cotton platform, attracted the attention of the former president, who referred to them with a wave of his hat in his greetings as ‘pretty girls.’"
According to the paper about 2,000 people were in attendance to hear Roosevelt.
During World War I, the Log Cabin Democrat kept Faulkner County residents informed about the war and about local news as well. When the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918 and the fighting stopped, the headline in the paper was huge. The headline stated, "ARMISTICE IS SIGNED! Washington, Nov. 11 — The armistice between the Allies and Germany has been signed, it was officially announced by the state department at 2:46 o’clock this morning. The armistice was signed at 5 a.m., Paris time. Hostilities will cease at 11 a.m. this morning. The terms have not been made known."
The Log Cabin Democrat also kept readers up-to-date on the news regarding the next world war.
During World War II the Log Cabin Democrat was usually a four to six-page paper, but it was loaded with news, keeping residents well informed. The front page of the paper during that time carried as many as 28 news stories, fairly well balanced between local, state and national news.
In the June 5, 1942 edition, there is an article about the Conway Memorial Hospital sandwiched between an article on Japanese midget submarines and another article about Japan using poison gas on the Chinese.
Throughout World War II, the Log Cabin Democrat kept up with the Allies prosecution of the war and faithfully reported the events to its readers. An interesting front-page article in the June 10, 1942 edition showed a German propaganda card that German citizens were supposed to attach to their radios. The card stated, "Think this over – Listening in on foreign broadcasts is a crime against the national security of our people. By order of the fuehrer it will be punishable by a long prison term."
An event that is indelibly burned in this author’s (and thousands of Log Cabin Democrat readers’) memory were the events of Nov. 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on that day and the news sent shock waves around the world.
The Log Cabin Democrat was an afternoon paper at the time and was able to run the story that very day. In big bold letters the headline stated, "President Kennedy Assassinated, Shot Down by Sniper On Street in Dallas; Gov. Connally Wounded." An article under the headline stated in part, "President John F. Kennedy, thirty-sixth president of the United States, was shot to death today by a hidden assassin armed with a high-powered rifle. Kennedy, 46, lived about an hour after a sniper cut him down as his limousine left downtown Dallas. Automatically, the mantle of the presidency fell to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, a native Texan who had been riding two cars behind the chief executive."
The Log Cabin Democrat did not just report the big national news events along with the state news, but also seemingly small unimportant news stories about everyday life in rural Faulkner County, and to a lesser degree in Conway, Cleburne, Lonoke, Van Buren and White Counties.
In fact, according to Faulkner County Its Land and People, the Log Cabin Democrat boasted the largest group of rural correspondents in the world, with 114 active correspondents in 1938. The information provided by the rural correspondents might seem simplistic and insignificant to some people; however, the reports by the rural correspondents was important to those who had an interest in those communities.
The rural Log Cabin Democrat correspondent for Greenbrier reported the following in the October 8, 1908 edition:
•Mrs. S.A. Terrel who has been visiting relatives and friends at Little Rock for the past three weeks, returned home Saturday.
•J.B. Higgins of Conway passed through here Monday en route to Quitman.
•The work on the public school building at this place is moving on rapidly. They are almost ready to begin roofing. It is a two story building and will be one of the best school houses in the county. J.L. Tyler is superintending the work.
•Lucian Long, who moved to Oklahoma last November, returned and said Arkansas is good enough for him.
The following is information from the Log Cabin Democrat, Oct. 8, 1908 edition under County Correspondence for the Barney area:
•Rev. H.P. Glover filled his regular appointment here Saturday and Sunday for his last time as pastor of this church. He has been preaching for us two years.
•A.L. Chambers visited relatives at Marcus Hill Sunday.
•G.R. Brown is talking about selling his farm.
•A.L. Powell and son, Willie, are selling out to leave old Arkansas, to try to find a place where money grows on trees and troubles are no more.
The following are comments from the rural correspondent at Cato in Faulkner County:
•We are having some nice cool weather.
•There is very little sickness in this community at present.
•Mattey Wilson is not doing so well. They had Dr. Brown of Conway with him again yesterday.
•Mrs. Proctor is suffering very much with tonsillitis.
•Mrs. Joe Price visited relatives across the hill yesterday.
•Mr. Chrissonberry was in our midst one day last week.
The Log Cabin Democrat published advertisements for local businesses, giving us some indication about the economy in Conway, entertainment and the cost of some household goods.
By reading the Log Cabin Democrat of 1908, it’s evident that movie theaters were a prime form of entertainment in Conway. Actually, the movies, as we call them today, were called moving picture shows in 1908. An advertisement in the September 15, 1908, Log Cabin Democrat daily stated, "Get The Habit Of Going To The MOVING PICTURE SHOW. It’s A Good Habit And Inexpensive. You get more for your money at a first-class moving picture show than at any other kind of amusement. A refined entertainment for refined people."
The program for Sept. 15, 1908, had four features, "Peculiar People," "Grand-Father’s Pills," "Weird Symphony — Lady Barrister," and an illustrated song, "Don’t Worry." The admission was 10 cents.
Another advertisement was posted for Owen’s Electric Theatre and its program included, "The Arabian Dagger," "A Family of Cats," "The Man Hunt," and a song — "Rambling Rose." The Owen’s Electric Theatre also boasted of music too, and the advertisement stated, "Good piano music throughout the entire program. Come and hear it."
Guns were also advertised in the 1908 Daily Edition of the Log Cabin Democrat. An advertisement for Grummer Hardware put the price of a single barrel 12-guage shotgun at $4. Grummer’s most expensive shotgun was the L.C. Smith double-barrel hammer shotgun that sold for $18.50. Their least expensive double-barrel shotgun was the Waverly hammerless that sold for $14.50.
Frauenthal and Schwarz was a big advertiser in the 1908 Log Cabin Democrat and in one of their advertisements priced five pieces of furniture for less than $100. The bedroom furniture advertised was a bed, dresser, wash stand, chiffonier (a high narrow chest of drawers), and a mattress for $95.00.
Frauenthal and Schwarz billed themselves as "Conway’s Greatest Store."
In addition to hardware items they also sold food products. Nine pounds of coffee cost $1 as did 20 pounds of sugar. A two-pound can of baked beans sold for 10 cents per can and a three-pound can of peaches went for nine cents per can. Wheat flour sold for $4.65 per barrel. A barrel held 196 pounds of flour which came to about 2.4 cents per pound.
Real estate was also advertised in the 1908 Log Cabin Democrat.
In the Oct. 8, 1908 Daily Edition of the Log Cabin Democrat, a tract of land within the city of Conway (not too far from Hendrix College) contained a five-room house, eight acres, a barn, an orchard, shade trees and excellent well water, was advertised for $1,300 and had recently been reduced in price from $2,000.
One of the most interesting news articles in the 1908 Log Cabin Democrat that has an inescapable present-day connection, was when natural gas was discovered just north of Conway at Plumerville.
According to the Log Cabin Democrat, "At one level the drillers struck a crevice which gave forth a strong flow of natural gas, the pressure measuring 312 pounds. This is stronger than the pressure of the Fort Smith wells, which measure from 60 to 259 pounds. The drillers are now in a strata of shale which is heavily gas bearing and it is certain that below this strata they will strike the flow of gas."
The Log Cabin Democrat has been not only important to Faulkner County and the City of Conway, but also vital. It continues to provide news, sports, pictures and advertising to local readers. Also, it serves to preserve the history and culture of Faulkner County.
Author’s Note: Sources for this article include the Log Cabin Democrat, the Log Cabin Democrat website-thecabin.net, Mrs. Frank Robins III, "Faulkner County Its Land and People" published by the Faulkner County Historical Society in 1986, "Arkansas Newspapers: A Directory of Arkansas Newspapers Available in Arkansas Libraries," by Shirley Brendel.