Liberty Falls – Part 3: Starting up an Old West newspaper
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
In The Life and Times of Liberty Falls, Oliver Cummings continues to tell about his move from the Centerville Gazette in Ohio to his new paper in Colorado.
“The Liberty Falls Daily News opened for business on August 4, 1872. Immediately, I had an enviable subscription base: just about everybody in town was hungry for news and excited by the novelty of their own local paper ‘edited and published by a seasoned journalist from Ohio.’ News was slow at first: an occasional new store opening, some rowdiness among cowboys riding through, listings of railroad passengers, and the occasional domestic dispute.
“I was glad I’d had plenty of training on the obituary desk back in Centerville — and I’d even spent time writing society items. Lucky for me, because it was the stories of dear, departed townsfolk and features about weddings, engagements, anniversaries and family parties that filled most of the paper in those early days.
“Most recently, the news has been popping fast and furious: what with the mine disaster and re-building to cover, the antics of Snake Eye Jake and that cattle rustler Jimmy Olson, the development of an elected School Board and the ever-widening authority of the Town Council.
“Yes, things are working out quite well for me here — I’m even courting a pretty little lady who arrived here from Illinois with her family a few years back!
“And when news is slow, I can always take a walk down Main Street and chat with my neighbors in the nearby businesses: Tully’s General Store, Greller’s Pharmacy, and Ross Brothers Clothiers. There’s so much traffic in and out of their establishments that I can’t fail to pick up a tip for the front page — or at the very least, a social note or two!
“Tully’s is a ‘general store’ indeed — why, it has at least one of everything a Liberty Falls resident might need or want, all under one roof. As Mother puts it, ‘you can buy your Sunday Best dress and pick up flour and sugar for baking, all at the same time. And that Mrs. Tully is such a treat to talk to! She always has a new recipe or a choice piece of gossip to share!’ I was quicker to notice the complete set of tools offered at Tully’s: everything from nails and steel-headed hammers to drawer pulls — and of course, plenty of miners’ equipment.
“After all, Mr. and Mrs. Tully have been here in Liberty Falls ever since the miners arrived: they tell me that their first store was a tiny log cabin they built to show off the supplies they’d brought with them on their original trip West.
“In those early days, just about any kind of supplies or food sold out fast. I love to hear them talk about the times when miners were loaded down with cash — but there was very little for them to spend it on! Liberty Falls was a boom town, and food and supplies were precious, scarce commodities. The Tully’s tell me that the lowest price tag in the store back then was $1.00!
“‘I’ll never forget one gent that arrived in town all bedraggled and hungry,’ Mrs. Tully told me once, getting a dreamy look in her eye. ‘He told me he’d pay most any price for a square meal cooked by a woman. I asked him what he wanted for breakfast, and he said, ‘three eggs, a steak, and two onions.’ I told my husband to watch the store and I hurried into the back room to prepare the meal — even brewed him some fresh coffee that was just in from New York. Charged that man six dollars for his breakfast, and he paid it without batting an eye! Those were the days,’ Mrs. Tully signed.
“Mr. Tully has records of the price he charged for every item he ever sold, all noted in the big red leather book he keeps on his wooden counter. ‘Yes, Oliver,’ he added when his wife had finished her story, ‘back then we could get a pretty penny from the miners and fortune hunters, but today folks hereabouts are a lot more cautious with a dollar. Take a look for yourself!’
“The storekeeper turned his record book around and showed me a typical page from the late 1870s.”
Next week, we’ll look at those sales and expenses.