The Jasper News

This letter was found in some old files in the Jasper News office. As it contains a number of references to various people and the way newspaper life was, I thought it would be beneficial to transcribe the entire letter for reading. Unfortunately, there is no date, so it is impossible to know exactly when the letter was written. It would have been during the time period of 1996.

Ramblings with Jeri Brooke

The Jasper News’ 125th anniversary celebration, given for a thankful community, was greatly enjoyed by the large crowd attending. Every one attests to that!

Several people have asked me to write a more personal account of the years the paper was in the Caldwell family. During high school daddy Ben gave me permission to write to “Society Column” – provided there were no “I’s” or “family activities” mentioned, as he said the paper was for the people of the community. This article will be breaking his rule but he won’t mind, I’m sure, under the circumstances.

Irene (?) Tuten was my journalism teacher for three years, which was preparation for the duties daddy gave me. From 1st grade through high school, every afternoon I was in the shop after school until daddy closed the office to go home.

When school buses were introduced in the county, bringing the county children to town for school I still waited and went with him as did my brothers and sisters. It was playtime at first but work as we grew older.

Our lives were kindled with excitement, being around the humming of the presses, the tinkling of the linotype, all the activity, especially press night on Thursday when had to get that paper to the post office! Our friends helped us insert and fold, and wrap and glue on addresses for out of towners.

There were no modern means of getting a paper our in those days as everything was done mostly by hand and it was very time consuming.

We had many good linotype operators over the years, the most memorable was a Mr. Haulk (?), a northerner who rented rooms from Mr. Black, whose house faced the old Sandlin house and abutted with the News’ lot in the rear. There were many chickens in Mr. Blacks’ back yard which alerted him when we sneaked in to eat his grapes.

Mrs. Haulk (?) had many registered Persian cats in cages in her rooms which drew visitors from around town. This fine old house burned, as many have in Jasper thruout the years, probably due to the flammable wood used to build them. Pine and cypress.

Most of daddy’s children worked on the paper; also grandchildren. Annie Ruth and Marcile (?) Perkins, among others. Annie Ruth was quite adept at the job presses. Any friend willing to deal with printers’ ink on their hands were welcome, and many did.

Our time always came around, as our ages dictated. Ruth Caldwell Vann was an excellent bill collector of past due bills, one of her jobs. Daddy wouldn’t allow the girls to get other jobs but she persuaded him to allow her to work with Dr. Burns, which launched her into her lifes’ ambition, to be a nurse. After her boys were in school, she returned to study nursing. She retired from Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville after 26 years, never missing a day.

My time came, sandwiched between Brothers Ben and J. Stafford, who along with Lean McDonald taught me what I didn’t know as running the small job press (was fun), getting the store circulars printed and delivered, collecting past due bills, always a challenge as most people were short on money. Melting lead in a big black pot in the back yard of the office, pouring it into molds to “feed” the linotype.

A fine old black man called Preacher Odum, my friend, worked with us as far back as I can remember. He let me pour the lead in the molds as my hands were steadier, being younger. He called me “Dolly” and was always bringing me a pear, peach, plum or something. Daddy always cautioned “Stand upwind of the lead pot” as I stirred it, as lead vapor was dangerous.

Brothers Ben, Stafford and I would crawl into one of the big old counters we used to fold papers on, and read the comics from papers stored there from other Florida weeklies sent in exchange for our. We could do this only after we’d sprinkled the floors to settle the dust so we could sweep them, clean and straighten the office and finish all other chores.

“Bad Eye” Gill and Leon McDonald (later state representative from Live Oak) were permanent helpers.

This time period, for me, was when the High Hotel situated where the B.P. Gas Station now stands – the Oceola Hotel was where Hamm’s Hardware now stands – the Jasper High School (1st grade thru 12) stood on the corner where the Barnett Bank is now. No streets were paved except Hateley and Main and almost everyone in town had chickens in their yards. The Faye Theatre, Harrisons (later Johnsons) grocery & Tutens’ Hardware were on the spot where the Family Dollar now stands.

Grandaddy John M Caldwell published the paper with help from his sons, Ben Sr., Willie, and nephew Walter Brannen, son of John M.’s beloved sister. John reared Walter as his own as his mother died at his birth.

With so many people depending on support from the paper, it couldn’t handle the expense, so granddaddy left the publishing of the paper to the boys, while he served as Clerk of Circuit Court and as a Baptist minister to supplement their income.

Ben Sr. purchased Willie’s holdings after John M passed on and ran the office with the help of his sons, as they grew to manhood and Ann Caldwell who was ¼ owner and did the accounting.

Altho daddy Ben and mother Tobitha owned a 160 acre farm that supplied much of our needs money was scarce so Daddy took a position with the State Hotel Commission to supplement his income for his large family.

World War II called Ben Jr. who fought in the European campaign under Gen George Patten and when the war ended there he was on his ship heading to the Pacific when peace was declared due to Harry Trumans’ decision to explode the Atom Bomb over Japan. His ship continued on to the Pacific anyway.

World War II called Stafford to the European conflict. He was with the 9th Air Force Service supporting our ground forces across Europe. Before he left for overseas, I was filled with joy to have him appear at my front door in Richmond Indiana! He said “Daddy sent me to take you home. He doesn’t want you up here alone with 2 babies and Al gone.” My husband was a Captain with the 9th Weather Squadron in the South Atlantic Wing. Our perceptive daddy could read his children and anticipate their needs, so he sent for me.

Harold Carlton was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. Peace was declared before he was sent into active service.

During the war while the boys were gone, the paper was published by Joe and Ann Caldwell Malpas. “Lula Bell” as Joe called the linotype, broke down constantly. Help was scarce too. So many men from Jasper in the war and not all of them returning!

Being 6 years after my time, it was the youngest daughter, Martha’s time. Joe taught her how to run the linotype, “Lulu,” and whatever else that needed to be done. Somehow, even with limited help, and a sick linotype, the paper was out on time every week, but it was a struggle.

After the war, in 1946, Joe Malpas, Ben Caldwell Jr and J. Stafford Caldwell ran the paper until 1947 when Ben went into the dairy business with John Q Vann, husband of Ruth Caldwell Vann. He left that after awhile, traveled the United States and ended in Ft Wayne Ind. He lived with Jeri Brooke and had a position with the Fort Wayne News Sentinel until John Q Vann was gored by a bull at his dairy, and Ben returned to Jasper to help him until he was well.

James Stafford Caldwell and Joe Malpas published the paper until Ben’s return and Ann Malpas sold her interest to the three Caldwell brothers.

Ben Jr and Stafford ran the business until H. Carlton returned from service. The three brothers continued together until 1950 when Ben Jr sold his interest to Stafford and Carlton.

Ben and wife Bettye (Kirk) moved to Wakulla where Ben worked with Joe and Ann C Malpas who had purchased the Wakulla County paper.

When Joe passed on, Ben joined the newspaper force of the Tallahassee Democrat, staying with it until his retirement.

Stafford and Carlton published the paper until 1952 when H. Carlton reentered military service. He and his wife Ann Overstreet had many lengthy tours in several countries, all the while working in the airforce news – printing service until retirement. Under Civil Service he was rehired to the same position until his retirement from that department.

At this time the Jasper News was incorporated with Henry Stafford Caldwell (son of John M) and James Stafford Caldwell (son of Ben Sr.) They being the main share holders.

The two Staffords published the paper until they sold it to Mr and Mrs Robert Ehlert, a fine couple from up north, who found what they were looking for; a good, friendly, small southern town and a weekly newspaper. They and their children have been an asset to the community. But Mrs. Ehlert is sorely missed.

James Stafford Caldwell moved to Gainesville, feeling that a larger town would benefit his growing family; and the college near enough to keep their five daughters at home, while continuing their education. His devoted wife Nora Evelyn (Scaff) has always been there for him and their family. She is from one of the older families in Hamilton County. Her mother and father’s marriage ceremony was performed by John M Caldwell! Their roots are in Jasper but they are with their children in Gainesville.

Stafford recently retired from the Gainesville Sun. While with them he met the present owner of the Jasper News, Tom Ricketon who was Staff Foreman of the composing room and classified director. Stafford stated that he’s very happy that Tom and his lovely wife Lynette have prospered so well. The newspaper has progressed far from the olden days, when we sold subscriptions, for life, for one dollar and accepted “goods” for debts.

It was James Stafford who was the backbone after the Inc,(?) as Henry Stafford Caldwell didn’t have enough printers ink in his blood to understand the trials and tribulations of running a newspaper. He was a lawyer and a politician and very adept in those fields, but not as a newspaper man.

The Caldwell men are a breed unto their own. In war, since the Revolutionary, they served. John M was a Confederate soldier fighting in five campaigns. All of the men had endearing ways with their children and grandchildren.

When times were bad, or there was a depression, we didn’t know about it, as daddy never let us know. He taught us to live today and tomorrow will be provided for.

We lost our dear brother Ben but his family is still in Tallahassee except a son in Cincinnati.

H. Carlton and Ann (a native of Hamilton Co.) live in Panama city near their large family.

The love of printing for the Caldwell men carries on today, as so many descendents are still in the business. It is said “Once printers ink is in the blood, its there for life.” Pounds of Lava soap has removed it from our hands, but not from our hearts.

We are thankful and grateful for the capable staff of the Jasper News for keeping it alive for our community!

Attached to the letter was this note:

Dear Gail
Hopefully you can use this and soon, as it pertains to the 125 years.

Can you please use the pictures of the old shop in conjunction with the article? The writing on the picture was written by John M Caldwell’s youngest child Pearl, thus
“daddy” – was John M
“Ben” – was Ben Sr (son)
“Willie” – was another (son)
“Walter” – was Johns’ nephew

Pearl Caldwell Warren died at(?) 91

The article seems long, but it is only on one side of paper, and when typeset it won’t seem so long! I cut a lot out of it to scale it down, as I thought you might not use it if I didn’t!

Thanks so much – Jeri B.

These are some cut lines that were included with the letter and some articles pertaining to the newspaper. Unfortunately, the pictures themselves were not available. However, the cut lines provide some useful information, so I have opted to include them.

John M. Caldwell; Ben M. Caldwell (son of John); Ben, Jr., Stafford and Carlton Caldwell (sons of Ben, Sr., grandsons of John)

Children of Ben M. and Tobitha Caldwell at the 1993 Caldwell family reunion, left to right, seated: Juanita Hughes, Ollie Mae Perkins, Ann Malpas, Ruth Vann; standing: Ben Caldwell, Jr., Jeri Brooke, Stafford Caldwell, Carlton Caldwell

Jasper News after it burnt down during the 1920’s in the location which is now Harrell Insurance Agency, corner of Hatley and N.W. Central Avenue. The press stood along in the middle of the rubble. Only one item was not devoured by the fire; a Webster’s Dictionary.

The following is a draft of an article for the Jasper News, found in some old files in the office. It is dated March 2, 1995.

“Three generations of the Caldwell family”
By Kay Connell
Jasper News Staff Writer

For 65 years and three generations, the Caldwell family has been in the newspaper business.

The Jasper News was given its present name by John M. Caldwell, who purchased “The Times” from James H. Ancrum in 1890. It was owned and operated by the Caldwells off-and-on until it was sold to Robert Ehlert in 1955.

Caldwell was bron in Madison Coutny on November 21, 1846. He was the son of Rev. William H. Caldwell and Lamanda Strickland Tarpley Caldwell.

He was an attorney and Baptist preacher, who was a highly respected and influential leader in the Jasper community at the turn of the century.

During the Civil War he was a member of the Company “H” 9th Florida Regiment.

On August 25, 1867, he married Mary Jane Goolsby (Jennie). They had 12 children of their own and adopted five others.

In 1876 he was ordained a minister in the Missionary Baptist Church and spent several years as a missionary in north Florida.

From 1876-1884 and 1895-1896, Caldwell was Clerk of the Circuit Court of Hamilton County.

After his death on February 26, 1923, his son, Bennie (Ben) Mosley Caldwell took over the reigns of the Jasper News. When Ben retired in 1937, his daughter and son in law, Ann and Joseph Malpas, operated the business until her brothers returned from the service in 1948. Ben’s sons, Ben, Jr., Stafford and Carlton, along with daughters, Ann Malpas and Martha Mitchell, have all played a part in the operation of the family business.

During WWII all servicemen from Hamilton County received a free copy of The Jasper News, compliments of the Caldwell family.

Some of the Caldwell family origins go back to the 1825 arrival of Daniel Bell in Hamilton County. Tradition tells us that he was perhaps the first real pioneer settler. His granddaughter, Margaret Bell, is the great-grandmother of John Caldwell’s grandchildren: Ann Malpas (see article on her) and her brothers and sisters.

The following is a draft of an article for the Jasper News, found in some old files in the office. It is dated January 3, 1994.

“First lady of News, Ann Malpas”
By Kay Connell
Jasper News Staff Writer

Fourth generation Hamilton Countian Ann Malpas, 85, who’s family owned the Jasper News, off and on from 1890 to 1955, started working at the newspaper when she was 14; a time when “women” didn’t do that kind of work.

“My dad tried his best to keep me out of there,” said Malpas. “He said, if you’re going to be in this newspaper, you’re going to represent this county in all our undertakings and you’ve got to toe the line.” Malpas stated, “So I toed it.”

In the early 1930’s, her father Bennie (Ben) Mosley Caldwell, started Droughton Business College in Jasper. She was one of its first graduates.

After graduating from business college, Malpas worked as bookkeeper for the newspaper and, as it’s society editor, wrote articles and set type.

Her sister, Martha Mitchell, learned to operate the Linotype, purchased in the late 1920’s for the “exorbitant” price of $5,000. “We almost didn’t get it paid for,” said Malpas.

She and her sister, Martha, were the only girls, of six daughters, who worked at the newspaper along with their three brothers.

Ann met her late husband, Joseph Kenyon Malpas, who lived in Lake City, through a blind date she had reluctantly agreed to, which had been arranged by her girlfriend. Having made a good first impression, Joe and Ann were married in 1934.

Joe was employed by the U.S. Forest Service with the timber survey crew; they traveled all over the southeastern states. When Ann’s father retired in 1937, Joe resigned from the Forest Service, they moved back to Jasper and ran the Jasper News.

In 1948, Ann sold her interest in the newspaper when her brothers returned from the service. The Malpas’ then turned the paper over to them, moving to Live Oak, where both worked for the Suwannee Democrat.

The following year they moved to Wakulla County, south of Tallahassee, and bought the “Wakulla County News.” Following her husband’s death in 1954, Ann sold the “Wakulla County News” in 1955 and returned to Jasper.

“I never took my citizenship from Hamilton County,” said Malpas, who remained a registered voter in Hamilton County all during the time she was away from “home.”

The Caldwell brothers sold the Jasper News in 1955 to Robert Ehlert.

Malpas said that one thing that she was most happy about when she returned to Hamilton County was that “these wonderful people of Hamilton County elected me to the office of Supervisor of Election. She served in this capacity from 1957 until her retirement in 1981, with only one opposition during her 24 year tenure.

Malpas said that her philosophy for life is to “take one day at a time.”

She was a member of the History Committee of the Action “76” Bicentennial Committee of Hamilton County, which presented An Early Histroy of Hamilton County, Florida. She is a member of Eastern Star, Woman’s Club, Treasurer of the Garden Club and belongs to the Presbyterian Church. Her great-grandmother, Margaret Bell, was the first recorded birth of a white child born in Hamilton County.

She has two children. Daughter, Sally Sapp, Supervisor of Elections for Hamilton County; son, Joe, Jr., Flagler Beach and two grand children, Lynn and Gregory Sapp.

The following is a draft of an article for the Jasper News, found in some old files in the office. It is dated February 23, 1995.

“Newsman Robert Ehlert”
By Kay Connell
Jasper News Staff Writer

While traveling south through Hamilton County in August of 1955, Robert Ehlert, wife Bernita “Bee” and family, stopped to eat at the Floridian Restaurant, now Captain Cook’s, on Hatley Street in japer.

After leaving the restaurant, Bee discovered that she had left her pocketbook behind. They (Ehlerts) called the restaurant and were told that he pocketbook was indeed there.

Upon returning to the restaurant, Bruton Manning, proprietor, asked them the purpose of their trip. When they told him (Manning) that they were going down state to buy a newspaper, Manning informed them that there was a paper for sale “right here in Jasper.”

Ehlerts bought the Jasper News from Stafford Caldwell that same month. In December 1956 they purchased the building which housed the newspaper. By establishing their residency in Jasper with the purchase of the Jasper News, the Ehlerts have remained citizens of Hamilton County to this day.

“Stafford told me that the Jasper News was the oldest weekly newspaper in the State of Florida (still in existence),” said Ehlert.

There were two employees at the time he bought the paper: Jim Griffin, who operated the Linotype and was a general printer, and Adina Simpson, who set type, did composition and office work. Ehlert did all proofreading, advertising and at times operated the Linotype.

Ehlert, who is 77 years old, learned the ropes of the newspaper business during his early 20’s while working at the Milford Times in Milford, Mich. He then spent 10 years in Liberty, Ill., where he “put out” two weekly newspapers for farmers; “West Pike News” in Hull, Ill., and “Liberty Bee” in Liberty.

When they first moved to Jasper housing was scarce, so they lived in a vacation cabin for several months before being able to find a house to rent.

The Ehlert’s three children were quite young when they first arrived. However, over the years they have worked at the newspaper in different capacities.

“They all grew up in the newspaper. Nancy and Roger used to sleep on the paper stock behind the Linotype machine. The Linotype was making all kinds of racket and they were sound asleep,” said Ehlert. “We put in a lot of night work in those days.”

While operating the Jasper News, Ehlert opened Ehlert’s Jewelry around 1965, which is still in business today at 104 S.W. First Street.

In 1976, Ehlert sold the newspaper to Jack Taylor, who later moved the business to a location on U.S. 129 North. Ehlert’s son, Roger, opened an office supply and print shop from 1983 to 1989, in the building that had formally housed the Jasper News on S.W. First Street.

Ehlert’s daughter, Marilyn Tompkins, Valdosta, is a postal carrier for the Jasper Post Office; daughter, Nancy Gill, Jasper, works at Lake City High School; son, Roger, is employed by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. Ehlert has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The following is a draft of an article for the Jasper News, found in some old files in the office. There is no date on this paper.

“Two years with the Taylors”
By Kay Connell
Jasper News Staff Writer

Jack R. Taylor bought the Jasper News from Ehlert in 1976, publishing it for about two years before selling it to the current owners, Ricketson Newspapers, Inc.

Through an ad in Editor and Publisher, Taylor learned that the Jasper News had been offered for sale. At that time he was associated with the “Daily News” and “Daily Advance,” morning and evening editions of a newspaper in Lynchburg, Va.

Originally from Quitman, Ga., just west of Valdosta, Taylor was interested in “getting closer to home.”

He operated the Jasper News out of its location on S.W. First Street for about one year after purchasing the business from Ehlert. In 1977. Taylor moved the newspaper to a new building that he built on U.S. 129 North, recently occupied by McLeod Construction Company.

In the new location Taylor also established a commercial printing business from 1977 to 1984, known as Taylor’s Printing and Office Supply.

The Taylors relocated to North Carolina in 1986, after operating the commercial printing business in Live Oak for a couple of years.

Taylor and wife, Kathryn B., have three sons. Their oldest, Jack “Rick Jr., graduated from high school in Lynchburg, Va., prior to their move to Jasper. Keith and Andy are both graduates of Hamilton County High School.

The Taylor children were all involved in the operation of the newspaper. Rich managed the printing facitly, Keith handled outside sales and Andy, who was a student at the time, worked part-time doing a “little of everything.”

“During the time we were there, with the newspaper especially, lots of things were bustling in Japser,” said Taylor. “We had a good growth period with the newspaper the two years I had it. It was an interesting experience.”

Taylor retired in 1992 after 32 years in the “news” business. His newspaper career begin in 1960 with a delivery franchise for the “Atlanta Journal and Constitution” in Quitman, Ga.

The Taylors have three grandchildren. Jamie, 8, and Nikki, 13, are children of Keith and wife Kathy (Teavy). They live in Marietta, Ga., where Keith is stationed with the U.S. Navy.

Clint, 10, is the son of Andy, who is employed with the Columbia county Correctional Institute.

Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law, Rich and Cindy, operate a transportation business in Waynesville, N.C.

The following is a draft of an article for the Jasper News, found in some old files in the office. There is no title or date on this paper.

For over 16 years now Ricketson Newspapers Inc. has carried on the 125 year old tradition of being Hamilton County’s hometown newspaper – The Jasper News.

RNI’s commitment to preserving quality small town newspapers, and interacting with community activities, has been exemplified in the news events and features regularly offered in the Jasper News.

Thomas and Lynette Ricketson, owners of RNI, also operate a network of neighboring community newspapers that include the Suwannee Democrat, the Branford News and the Mayo Free Press.

“Our family of local newspapers are able to interact with each other to provide the best local coverage of all events,” Mrs. Ricketson said.

The Jasper News, with its rich heritage, has become not only the main source of news and events but where Hamilton Countians go to find where to shop for the best local products.

“We are particularly proud to be a part of a community in which the local newspaper has so much respect.”

“It has always been our policy that a deep-rooted newspaper, such as the Jasper News, remain part of the community as it has throughout its long history,” Tom Ricketson said.

As Hamilton County continues to grow so will the Jasper News, Ricketson said.

He said the newspaper will play an important role in the future of Hamilton County through involvement, positive reporting and dedication to progressive growth.

“The Jasper News is part of the people in Hamilton County, and it will respond to their needs,” Mrs. Ricketson said.

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