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Celebrating 200 years: 1859

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By summer 1859, the title once again read Arkansas State Gazette. Editor Christopher Columbus Danley explained he had dropped “and Democrat” not because his principles had changed but because the Democratic party had: While Southern Democrats were “true in feeling, and honest in devotion” to the South, they co-operated with the Northern National Democracy, who were “rotten to the core with abolitionism.”

The paper also got a “new dress” in Brevier and Minion fonts. The new fonts, though still minuscule, gave the pages a cleaner, crisper look that was a bit easier to read. Danley himself struggled with what he called “rheumatism of the eyes.” Historian Margaret Ross writes that he frequently took time off due to his eyes — until the condition was “completely and permanently cured” that summer by a bottle of Gabriel McCowen’s “eye water.”

Nevertheless, Danley took September off in Hot Springs, sending weekly letters headlined “Editorial Correspondence” in place of his usual lengthy editorials.

When he returned to the Gazette office at the southeast corner of Scott and Cherry streets (where the Historic Arkansas Museum sits today), residents were experiencing a typical October — temperatures from the upper 40s to the low 80s with 2 feet of water in the Arkansas River.

The big news was abolition-related: John Brown’s Rebellion, also known as the Raid on Harpers Ferry and the Harpers Ferry Insurrection.

A band of 22 men led by the abolitionist John Brown seized the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W.Va.), in an attempt to start an armed slave revolt. The insurgents included five black men and three of Brown’s sons. The raid began Oct. 16 and ended three days later when U.S. Army Col. Robert E. Lee arrived with 90 Marines who stormed the guardhouse where the insurgents were barricaded.

The news of the “Great Excitement at Harper’s Ferry” came in a series of dispatches that began Oct. 22 and culminated in a single paragraph from The Baltimore Sun that Brown had been hanged “at quarter after eleven” Dec. 2, and “there was no unusual excitement.”

On this Page 2 from Oct. 29, the Honorable Dr. Solon Borland makes an appearance once again, this time with news that he is recovering from “a severe attack of sickness” at his home at Princeton in Dallas County. Borland planned to resume his duties as editor of the Memphis Enquirer, the Gazette reports. And he did, until 1861 when he sold his Memphis newspaper and returned to Arkansas.

— Kelly Brant

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