Corbin H. Crable
[email protected]
The Spring Hill New Era, Johnson County’s oldest continuing newspaper, will cease publication with the Wed., Aug. 25, 2010, edition.
Like other newspapers of varying sizes across the country, declining readership and economic hardship has led to the decision to end The New Era’s 127-year run this week.
Those who keep up with Spring Hill news will still be able to get it in The Gardner News each week – an inside page in The Gardner News will be devoted to coverage of Spring Hill, its people and its organizations, including the Spring Hill City Council and USD 230. Those readers who currently subscribe to The New Era now will receive The Gardner News instead. Otherwise, no refunds will be given to subscribers.
Chester Alan Arthur was president when the first issue of The Spring Hill New Era rolled off the printing presses on Nov. 15, 1883 – the same year when Life magazine and The Ladies Home Journal began publication. The first year The Spring Hill New Era hit newsstands also saw the world’s first rodeo take place in February in Texas; New York’s Brooklyn Bridge opened three months later.
Founded by editors J.W. Sowers and W.F. Wilkerson, The Spring Hill New Era was praised as a voice for all in Spring Hill and the county; politically, the newspaper identified itself as “independent.” Area historian Ed Blair, in his 1915 book “The History of Johnson County,” said of the newspaper and its owners in those early days:
“Mr. Wilkerson is a practical and thorough newspaper man and his untiring work and straight business methods are appreciated by the business men of the town in a substantial way. The “New Era” articles written by Mr. Wilkerson are widely copied by the press. The worth of the average town as a place of residence is measured often by the progressive features of its newspaper. Spring Hill owes much of its advancement in the past ten years to the aggressive fight of the “New Era” for better things and the wide-awake citizens of this thriving little city have begun to appreciate this fact.”
Many newspapers had come before it, according to the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, including The Enterprise, which published from 1871 to 1877; the Spring Hill Progress, which published from 1870 to 1874; the Western Progress, which published between 1873 and 1880; and the Weekly Review, which survived only for a year, from 1881 to 1882.
The Spring Hill New Era began operations on Main Street in Spring Hill and was witness to the birth of Spring Hill’s downtown area during the turn of the century. According to the Johnson County Museum, a total of 17 buildings made up the downtown business district, which enjoyed plenty of business until the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The Spring Hill New Era continued to chronicle the people and organizations in its town as businesses opened and closed, and as Spring Hill’s men and women lent their hands and talents to the war effort overseas during World War II. The New Era’s writers and editors continued to create more intensely local content throughout the 1950s, including a tornado that devastated the area in 1957.
As neighboring communities began to grow around it, and as The Gardner News itself continued to grow in readership, The Spring Hill New Era moved to Gardner in August 1970.
The New Era continued to enjoy high readership and circulation numbers throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, but the advent of the Digital Age in the mid-1990s meant the role of newspapers had to change with the times. The Spring Hill New Era and The Gardner News eventually shared a website, www.gardnernews.com, which was updated last summer.
The newspaper’s declining readership, however, meant a change in operations, and the early 2000s saw publication drop down to only twice a week. A few years ago, The New Era began publishing only every Wednesday.
Readers with subscription questions or comments can call (913) 856-7615 or e-mail [email protected]