My Georgia History

The Augusta Chronicle Newspaper

Augusta is full of history.  Like the first ice machine that came to America in 1863.  The Southern Baptist Convention started on Green Street in 1845. Richmond Academy, the oldest chartered school in the south started here in 1783.

Well, our newspaper is old too.  If you look at the top of the front page it says,   “Augusta Chronicle” and right below that it says, “the South’s oldest newspaper established 1785.”  The Augusta Chronicle has had many different men as its editor.   Some of them were very interesting.

The Augusta Chronicle was first printed on August 30, 1785.  It was begun by Greenberg Hughes and was called the “Weekly Augusta Gazette.”  It was first printed in a building at the 300 block of 5th Street.  There is a historical marker at the site.  The newspaper has not missed printing an issue since the yellow fever epidemic, back in 1839.

The second owner and publisher, John Erdmann Smith, was a native of Germany.  He promised to make the paper a place for free and ample discussion of political topics.

The next editor and publisher remained true to the spirit.  Patrick Walsh, a native Irishman was owner and editor from 1880 to 1889.  He also served at various times as Augusta’s Mayor, a City Councilman, a state Representative and a US Senator.  Welch’s statue now stands in Barrett Plaza on Telfair Street.  After the Civil War, the editor of the paper wrote Sherman, asking him why he had not burned Augusta.  Well, Sherman received the letter and sent one right back.  He said, “he didn’t think you would mind, but he could get the boys together and come back and burn the city,  just let me know.”    Nothing else was ever said.

Thomas W. Loyless  owned the newspaper from 1903 to 1919.  In 1911, Loyless became the majority owner of the Augusta Chronicle.  He was part of a group of investors that featured among them Ty Cobb, the baseball legend.  Three years later Loyless moved the newspaper into the city’s first skyscraper.  It was called the Chronicle Building.  Today it’s called the Marian Building.  It stands 10 stories high and was said to be fireproof . Two years later, during the city fire of 1916,  the building was gutted.  The Chronicle moved out of the building, and never returned.  They moved into a building, right beside the Marian Building.

After Loyless was editor, Thomas J. Hamilton filled his seat.  Hamilton published a column called, “Ambition for Augusta.”  In it he wrote of Augusta’s need for a power dam, an airfield, a city planning commission, hotels, a new black grammar school, and a University for Augusta.  Much of his vision became reality before his death in 1937.

The Chronicle’s ownership entered the Morris family in 1945.  William S. Morris Jr. and Henry A. Moore purchased a controlling interest.  In 1955, Mr. Morris and his wife Florence Hill Morris bought Mr. Moore’s share of stock.  During the 1950s and early 1960s, the Chronicle Publishing Co. grew, becoming “The Southeastern Newspaper Corporation.”  In 1966, Morris’ oldest son, William S. Morris III took control.  Under his leadership the company grew even more.  In 1970, “Morris Communication” was formally founded.  Keeping our history alive, and one of the great things for Augusta history buffs, is that the old newspapers can now be seen on the Internet.

Written by Mark  Woodard

Research resources:

  1. The Story of Augusta. Cashin, Edward J. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Company Publishing. (1996)
  2. Augusta, A Pictorial History. Callahan, Helen. Richmond County Historical Society Publisher. (1980)
  3. Confederate City, Augusta Georgia 1860-1865. Corley, Florence Fleming. (1995)
  4. Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia. Jones, Charles C. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Publishers. (1890)
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