A Brief History of

The Woodville Republican

Mississippi's Oldest Newspaper

Historic Marker| Genealogical Information



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On Thursday, the 11th day of December, 1823, "The Woodville Republican" made it's appearance in the town of Woodville, Mississippi. William A. A. Chisholm was listed as the owner and editor of the new weekly newspaper.

 Owing to the fact that in the course of years about twenty-five issues have been missed for one cause or another, the more recent owners have followed the volume and number as indicated in the weekly issues of the paper and thus actually date the publication from June, 1824, for anniversary purposes.

 As far as we know, no complete file of the "The Republican" is now in existence, the one owned by the newspaper which contained the early volumes having burned many years ago. There are, however, files of most of the first twenty-five years of the paper, 1824-49, located at the library of the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Among these is found the second issue under date of December 18, 1823. The present editor has in his possession a copy of NO. 12, Vol. 1, under date of February 24, 1824. Also located in the office of the newspaper are complete files from 1878 to the present day. Microfilm copies of these files are also located at the Department of Archives and History in Jackson.

 Some brief explanation is doubtless in order as to how the name Republican was chosen for a newspaper located in a section which had for many years been traditionally Democratic until recent times. At the time the newspaper was founded the predominant political party in this section bore the name Republican, while the northern party dominant at that time was the Whigs. Despite the changes in party nomenclature in this section of our nation in subsequent years, none of the owners apparently saw fit to change the paper's name to conform to their own political loyalties.

 The founder, William A. A. Chisholm, continued as editor of The Republican for about 20 years, until late 1842, when we find that the paper was owned and published by William A. Norris and Company. Subsequent editors included John H. Leatherman, Major H. S. Van Eaton, W. D. Bonney, William J. Kellar, John Bryan and J. S. McNeely.

 According to one chronicler of the newspaper's long and honorable career, for a brief period between 1869 and 1876 it was brought into disrepute by falling into the hands of the Republican "Carpet-baggers" and Scallawags". Of that period, Editor Bryan in an account published many years ago, said: "In 1869 The Republican fell into the hands of the Republican party, and for a few years advocated their odious principles".

 Col. J. H. Jones, a former lieutenant governor of Mississippi, was the first editor of "The Republican" after the paper fell from the hands of the Republican owners in the year 1876. J. W. Shattuck and H. F. Simrall followed in the editorial sanctum until on June 7, 1879, when Captain John South Lewis, great grandfather of the present editor, bought the paper. He continued as editor up to the time of his death on September 9, 1900. Following the death of his father, Robert Lewis assumed the duties of editor and publisher and ably continued in that capacity until his death on June 28, 1934. At that time his widow, the late Helen Latane' Lewis, took over the duties of editor and publisher with her son, John South Lewis, serving as associate editor.

 On January 1, 1938, John S. Lewis was elevated to the position of editor and publisher and at the time was the state's youngest editor of Mississippi's oldest newspaper. He, like his father, served a term as president of the Mississippi Press Association during his tenure as editor.

 Forty-three years later, on January 8, 1981, he in turn was replaced as editor by his son, Andrew Jackson Lewis, who thus became the fourth generation of the Lewis family to serve at the helm of Mississippi's oldest newspaper as well as the state's oldest business in continuous operation. He continues in that capacity to the present day.


Marker Honoring The Republican
Historic Marker placed by the State of Mississippi in front of The Woodville Republican
Left is Editor Andrew J. Lewis, at right is Publisher Emeritus John S. Lewis.

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The Mississippi GenWeb Project wishes to thank The Republican and the Wilkinson County Museum for making this historical insight available.

Note to Genealogists
The archives of The Republican are one of the major sources of genealogical information in Wilkinson County. In addition to the archive locations mentioned above, microfilm copies of the Republican archives are available for research at the Woodville Public Library.

Some years of The Republican are archived at Small Town Newspapers (Use Archive Search)