Commentary: Your community newspaper for 155 years

Bruce Yarnall, former Barnesville Enterprise general manager
This 1980s image captures Connie Taylor, advertising manager, Jean Davies, associate editor, and Pam Ressler McCort, business manager, hard at work at the Enterprise.

A few years after assuming the mantle of this paper, Ray Palmer tagged the paper, “Your Community Newspaper.”  During the past century and a half, the Barnesville Enterprise has faithfully served that role for not only Barnesville but also the surrounding communities in three counties.

At the newspaper’s century mark, Palmer featured quotes from previous stewards of this paper.

In his farewell to Enterprise readers, when death was imminent, George McClelland, our founder, wrote “our lifetime work has been done for the benefit of the Enterprise and the community where it circulates.”  

Shortly after McClelland’s death, the new owners, Mr. and Mrs. E.P. Lee, wrote on Oct. 25, 1888:

“Friends and patrons, we ask you in memory of one whose mantle has fallen upon us to stand by us in our efforts as you have stood by him and encouraged by your interest and support, we shall ever strive to make the Enterprise what it has always been, the champion of right and a local paper not surpassed by any other in eastern Ohio.”

When this paper marked its 125th, Bill Davies said this of his in-laws Ray and Margaret Cless Palmer who took over the paper from the Lee family in 1922:

“Putting out the Enterprise each week was a labor of love for the Palmers. Totally dedicated to their profession and to their town, they kept the ship afloat during the Great Depression. They toiled day-after-day, week-after-week, no vacation time, just hard, but totally honest, sincere productive work. They never lost their zest for what they were doing.”

And of his and his wife Jean Palmer Davies’ efforts, the talented couple who followed in the Palmer’s footsteps, Bill said:

“It was upon their sweat and sacrifice that we have been able to build today, a time when the work often seems as long and as hard as in the olden days, but still the hopes and dreams prevail that your work will be worthy, and you will always serve your community and its people in a positive and beneficial manner.”

The Palmer-Davies family did just that. For another third century as part of the Dix Communications family, we who have also filled roles in the Enterprise story continued this important work.

The Barnesville Enterprise supported, even championed, a multitude of civic projects and causes over the years from new schools, Memorial Park, Hutton Memorial Library, Slope Creek Reservoir, Barnesville Hospital, Barnesville-Bradfield Airport, Barnesville Depot and the regionally renowned Barnesville Pumpkin Festival which marks its annual appearance every September.

In May 1966, Ray Palmer proclaimed, “This 100th birthday month of the Enterprise has been marked by more pages of news and advertising printed than in any previous month; more persons employed than ever before, the biggest payroll in the paper’s history and a circulation of more than 5,000 that make it one of the largest weekly newspapers in the state.” 

“As we enter upon our second century of the Barnesville Enterprise, we rededicate ourselves to the service of Barnesville and surrounding community,” Palmer said.

All of that was accomplished in the face of “competition of daily newspapers, radio and television,” he said.

The Enterprise’s arrival at the paper’s century mark came at the time completion of the Interstate Highway system neared and enclosed regional shopping centers began dotting the landscape transforming the way we shop.

Within two more decades, home computers, the Internet and social media further changed our lives.     

In 1991, Bill Davies posed the following question. “For what is a hometown newspaper, other than a source of information, a chronicler of events, a booster and a promoter and an instrument of what is good and right?”     

In 2016, the dedicated local Enterprise staff of Cathryn Stanley, Beth Stephen and Heather Roberts along with former staff members Jean Davies, Pam McCort, Reed Tychonski and yours truly rolled out a four-section, 36-page special edition and an accompanying 48-page commemorative keepsake booklet marking the Enterprise’s 150th anniversary.

Much has changed in the past five years. In addition to the challenges of producing a newspaper in the Internet era and the proliferation of social media, Dix Communications sold the newspaper on February 1, 2017, to Gatehouse Media. That firm merged with media giant Gannett in 2019.

The local office, our home since 1927, was closed and the building sold. The final copies of your beloved Enterprise were not printed and mailed from a local office but produced with no local staff, composed in Texas, and printed in Wooster.

The Enterprise was one of three Barnesville businesses dating to the Civil War-era operating under the same name when we marked the paper’s 125th birthday in 1991. The other two were Watt Car and Wheel and First National Bank. They did not survive into the 21st century. Now, this newspaper, “the last soldier standing” succumbs as well.

Farewell, old friend. Thank you for your lasting service to the greater Barnesville community for 155 years. You will be sorely missed.

Bruce Yarnell is a former Barnesville Enterprise general manager.