The Batesville Daily Guard has been published continuously since 1877, the only Batesville (Independence County) newspaper that has survived from about two dozen that were started in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Originally a weekly publication, it later became an award-winning daily newspaper.
The founder of the Guard, Confederate Civil War veteran Franklin Desha Denton, was born in Batesville in 1841. In 1868, Frank Denton married Martha Adelia “Mattie” Lewis. According to the Goodspeed history of the area, Denton was attending Center College at Danville, Kentucky, when the Civil War broke out, and he came home to enlist in the Confederate army. He was twice wounded, captured by the Union army, and exchanged to fight again. After the war, he tried his hand at farming, was elected county sheriff, and, according to Goodspeed, was unsuccessful as a merchant before engaging in the newspaper business. In 1876, Denton began assembly of type and equipment to publish a newspaper; the first issue of the Batesville Guard was published on January 11, 1877.
The Batesville News, usually acknowledged as the first newspaper in town, was established by William Byers and E. W. Jordan in 1838 and published until 1843, but many consider the first important Batesville newspaper to have been the Batesville Eagle, which was published by 1840. The Whig Party–supporting Eagle was edited by Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Nolan under the pseudonym of Peter Whetstone. Following the short-lived North Arkansas and the Commercial Standard founded by John C. Claiborne in 1853, the Independent Balance began in 1856; owned by Urban E. Fort and edited by M. Shelby Kennard, it supported the American or “Know-Nothing” Party. It was published until the Federal army occupied Batesville in 1862. The Democratic Arkansas was run by W. H. H. Russell as a rival paper.
The first Batesville newspaper to appear after the Civil War was the North Arkansas Times founded by Charles and H. K. Maxfield in March 1866. It ceased publication in 1876. The Batesville Republican appeared in 1867. Begun by James Siler and Michael McAnanny, it eventually became the official newspaper for the county. It ceased publication with the adoption of the Constitution of 1874 and the diminishment of Republican Party power in the state. The cessation of the Times and the Republican opened the door for the Batesville Guard.
After a few successful years with a circulation reaching 1,000 subscribers, the Guard experienced a devastating fire that destroyed the building housing it on February 20, 1880. The fire burned the north side of Main Street between Central and State, destroying five stores and one dwelling, including the Masonic Institute. The Guard was located in two rooms on the second floor of the Adler Building. The blaze killed one person and injured several. Arson was suspected but never proved.
The Guard’s rival paper at the time of the fire was the North Arkansas Pilot edited by Robert W. Leigh. With no insurance and having lost most of its records in the fire, the Guard persevered, and new offices were opened on Spring Street (which later became Central Avenue). A new press and printing supplies were brought in from New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Pilot assisted the Guard with its recovery. On April 1, 1880, the Guard resumed operations, having missed only five weekly issues. Editor Denton worked diligently to bring the paper back to life and received 300 new subscriptions.
Denton, who also published the Batesville Bee for a time, sold the Guard and moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee; he is listed as an insurance agent there on the 1900 census. George Harris Trevathan, the new editor of the Guard, became one of the leading newspapermen in the state. He was also active in state politics, being elected secretary of the Arkansas Senate three consecutive times from 1907 to 1911 while he was manager of the Guard. When he died on May 6, 1917, his son Joseph Allen Trevathan assumed the leadership of the paper. After his sudden death in October 1918, his brother Jared W. Trevathan took over, with his mother Nellie Hunt Trevathan as acting editor.
The Guard came under new ownership in 1932 during the Great Depression. In 1929, Oscar Eve (O. E.) Jones and his wife, Josephine Phillips Carroll Jones, of Newport (Jackson County) bought the Batesville Weekly Record, a rival to the Guard. The Weekly Record had been established around 1911 by H. D. Routzong and his son. The paper changed hands a few times before being taken over by W. M. Shelby in 1919. Three years after purchasing the Batesville Weekly Record, Jones and his wife bought the Guard, which became the Guard Record, from the Trevathan family. (Following the sale, Jared Trevathan published the Batesville News Review from 1933 until 1958.) O. E. Jones thought the paper needed a new home and moved into the Wade building on Main Street. Jones had a degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and became one of the most successful journalists in the state. He was also active in politics and served as state senator from Independence County.
Following Jones’s sudden death in 1949 at age forty-four, his family continued ownership. His widow, Josephine, became president of the corporation, and their eldest son, James, took over as publisher. Wilson Powell, a bookkeeper, became business manager, serving in this capacity until just before his death in 2003.
Disabled World War II veteran Paul Buchanan became managing editor of the Guard with Jones’s death in 1949. He was a feature writer for the paper with a popular column called “Two Cents Worth,” which included county tidbits, humorous commentary on the times, and running items such as funny names. Buchanan also featured “News of Other Days,” a look back at Batesville and the county from the files of the Guard.
On January 3, 1981, another fire destroyed the Guard building, located at the time on the west side of 4th Street. The two teen culprits were apprehended and prosecuted for arson. Again, the newspaper bounced back and moved to 258 West Main Street.
Several editors followed Buchanan, who died in 1992. In 1975, a highly skilled newspaperman, Roy Ockert, holding a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, became editor of what was by then called the Batesville Daily Guard and served for thirteen years, building a computerized newsroom for the paper. He returned to teaching, this time at Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville in 1988. He became editor of the Jonesboro Sun in 2001.
Craig Ogilvie, a commercial artist and writer, served as editor of the Guard for a time. Jimmy Hughes was the pressman for several years and became production manager until retirement. Larry Stroud, a brick mason with a degree in English and journalism, became associate editor in 1980 until he stepped down for health reasons in 2015. The Jones family continued to own the Batesville Daily Guard, which advertised itself as the only family-owned daily newspaper in Arkansas, until 2018, when it was purchased by the Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Kentucky.
For additional information:
Allsopp, Fred W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Pub. Co., 1922.
———. “Independence County Newspapers.” Independence County Chronicle 2 (January 1961): 5–12.
Batesville Daily Guard. http://guardonline.com/ (accessed February 16, 2018).
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
McGinnis, A. C. “A History of Independence County, Ark.” Special issue. Independence County Chronicle 17 (April 1976).
Up from the River: The Story of Batesville’s Historic Main Street. Batesville, AR: Main Street Batesville, 2016.
Van Buren, Arkansas