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Optic-Herald History

History of the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald

The oldest business in Franklin County is the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald. It began in 1874 when W. J. Johnson of Mount Pleasant established the Franklin Herald at Mount Vernon about a year before the Texas Legislature cut Franklin County off of Titus County.

Mr. Johnson served as editor until Jan. 1, 1879, when Rev. R. W. Billups was employed as editor. Later Mr. Billups purchased the paper and sold it to J. H. (Cyclone) Davis, a stormy and fiery individualist who added zest to several generations of Texas politics.

During the ownership of Judge Davis, Charles R. Devall learned the printers trade under the tutelage of Brice Collins, a famous newspaper character.

The Herald was owned for several years by the firm of Holbrook and Dupree, composed of R. W. Holbrook and C. C. Dupree. During this time, W. T. Grass served as editor.

In 1893, at the age of 18, Charles R. Devall bought the paper from Holbrook and Dupree and became the editor. His partner was W. H. Bruce.

Immediately following the bitter political campaign of 1896, in which Republicans and Populists were accused of ‘fusing’ their strength against the Democrats, the Herald office was destroyed by fire. It was located on the north side of the square where the Stansell's Cleaners is now located.

Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 1, 1897, Mr. Devall purchased the interest of J. E. Mattinson in the Mount Vernon Optic, which was established on Oct. 12, 1894, by Robert L. Rountree where Coe & Company is now located. Mr. Rountree was the husband of Mrs. Eva Rountree. Shortly afterward they moved to a wooden building just south of the present location of the Optic-Herald on Kaufman Street.

During the 12 year partnership of Rountree and Devall as publishers of the Optic, the Franklin Herald was reestablished as the Mount Vernon Herald on Jan. 12, 1899 by J. M. Fanning and his son, R. W., who operated the Herald in competition with the Optic. On May 5, 1906, when the Fannings sold out to Mr. Rountree and Mr. Devall, the two papers merged to form the Optic-Herald. The Herald, while owned by the Fannings, was a daily published in a building just east of Coe & Company on the southeast corner of the square.

The Fannings later moved to Sulphur Springs and published the Gazette there.

In about 1907, J. E. Mattinson and Jake Jones began publishing the Franklin County Record in the same building the Fannings used. Grayford Jones, a son of Jake Jones, worked at the Optic, then became the publisher of the Winnsboro News and owned Jones Press from about 1947 until 1985.

The Optic-Herald was published by Mr. Rountree and Mr. Devall until June 1, 1909 when Mr. Rountree sold his interest to Mr. Devall. Mr. Devall bought out the Franklin County Record on August 1, 1909 and moved to a building east of Coe & Company on U. S. Highway 67. The Optic-Herald was published in that building until it moved to its present location on Kaufman Street on March 1, 1963.

In 1914-1915 A. D. Goswick, father of Mrs. Eva Rountree of Mount Vernon, published the Mount Vernon Investigator in a sheet iron building on Scott Street just west of the alley that goes north from Scott.

In January 1931, Charles Devall, Jr., joined his father as a junior partner.

Mr. Devall, Jr., continued as owner, editor and manager of the paper following his father’s death on Oct. 24, 1931. On Oct. 1, 1950, C.K. Devall sold the Optic-Herald to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smylie of Carrizo Springs. Mrs. Smylie, the former Helen Fay Passmore, had been an Optic-Herald staffer before her marriage.

Mr. Smylie sold to C. E. Palmer and Paul T. Morgan of Texarkana less than a year later. Mr. Palmer and Mr. Morgan owned the Texarkana Gazette and several other Arkansas papers and operated under Arkansas Newspaper, Inc. Palmer and Mr. Morgan leased to J. E. Lany of New Boston immediately.

James and Tish Bass purchased the Optic-Herald on May 1, 1952. Mr. Bass recalled his years in the newpaper business leading up to the Optic-Herald purchase.

"I began my newspaper career on the Jefferson Jimplecute in 1927 at the age of 12. In 1933, I went to work for the Longview News and Journal. Tish and I were married in March 1937, while I was working for Charles K. Devall in Kilgore. Shortly after our marriage, we moved to Beverly Hills, California, where I worked for Will Rogers, Jr., who published the Beverly Hills Citizen and several other newspapers for the Los Angeles area."

"We returned to Longview in October of 1937 and worked for the News and Journal where we remained until July 1, 1951, when we both went to work for the Gladewater Daily Mirror. Tish began her newpaper career on the Forney Messenger in 1935, but did not go to work full time in the newspaper business until 1948 when she was employed by the News and Journal.

Mr. Bass continued, "We have been trying for several years to buy a newspaper, but every time we would get a deal lined up, something would happen to block it."

"We came to Mount Vernon on May 1, 1952 and weathered, with the help of our three daughters, several rough years financially. Our oldest daughter, Dewitta Campbell, was active on the staff of the Optic-Herald for a number of years. The Optic-Herald was located at that point in a building behind Rutherford Drug [now Coe & Company]. This building has been demolished."

"The paper was "set up" by hand in its early years on what was known as ‘George Washington Hand Press.’"

The Optic-Herald moved to its current location in 1963. A major step was taken in November 1971 when the Optic-Herald printing was converted to the offset method with Compugraphic typesetting equipment added.

Another event, noted with publication on Nov. 22, 1973 was the return of Bob and Pat Wright to the Optic-Herald family. Pat Wright is the youngest daughter of the Basses.

The combined Bass-Wright group purchased the Deport Times, Bogata News and the Talco Times, and began printing the first edition of the papers under new ownership by offset. This also marked the beginning of the Four Corners Publishing Company.

The Blossom Times was established on Oct. 28, 1976, completing the small chain of newspapers.

In April, 1980, the Wrights bought the Bass’ interest in the company, and moved from Deport to Mount Vernon to manage the Mount Vernon newspaper. Nanalee Nichols became the editor of the other four newspapers, and then purchased them from the Wrights in Jan. 1983.

The Mount Vernon newspaper office, was expanded in 1981 with the addition of a second floor to the south section, above the existing printing plant. The Wrights added a screen printing department, trophies and plaques and internet services.

Typesetting is now totally done by computer as is the bookkeeping and the circulation.

Pat Wright became publisher, upon the death of her husband, Bob, in April of 1997. Pat Wright became Publisher Emeritus in April 2005 when the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald was purchased by her niece Susan Reeves. Susan and her husband, John Reeves, are the third generation of the Bass family to own and operate the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald.

Susan Reeves became the publisher as of April 1, 2005. Staff includes Editor Lillie Bush-Reves, Office Manager Terri Cruit, Advertising Manager Bonnie McAllister and  Photographer / Internet Manager John H. Reeves III.