Independent

1895 - 1899

When the Independent first appeared on August 20, 1891, the town of Springville, which lies nestled between the steep Wasatch Mountains and the low-lying waters of Utah Lake, was home to just over 2,800 people. Some four decades earlier, Mormon “colonists” from Salt Lake City, 50 miles north, had settled along a meager creek that twisted down from the mountains. Despite the numerous freshwater springs, which gave Springville its name, the lack of water made farming all but impossible, so most of the residents began raising sheep and cattle. By the time the Independent debuted, Springville boasted its own rail line, a growing population, a small but strong business community, and one of the most important stockyards in Utah Valley. The newspaper was established as a weekly by publisher Newman A. Mix and editor George Sanders. Within a year or so, the Independent's circulation had grown to an estimated six hundred, and the paper had captured the interest of residents with its lively coverage of local news, along with a mix of stories borrowed from a variety of other "country papers" around Utah. The masthead of the Independent carried the motto: "Constitution and Statehood." Over the next few years, a number of different editors and publishers came and went. In 1892, the Independent took on a skipper by the name of D.C. Johnson, who purchased the Independent Publishing Company and expanded the paper to four pages while continuing its focus on local news. Johnson attracted a number of neighborhood businesses to advertise in the Independent but struggled to turn a profit. In April 1895, Johnson sold the Independent to a new editor and publisher, local journalist and businessman D.P. Felt, who began publishing the weekly every Friday. At the time, a yearly subscription to the paper cost $2. In Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wielded influence over nearly every facet of life, most newspapers during the late 19th century had a strong sense of identity as either pro-Mormon or anti-Mormon publications. But the Independent seems to have negotiated a middle ground, managing to walk the thin line between being a Mormon-booster or a Mormon-basher. In 1896, local authorities of the Mormon Church disciplined Felt for publishing an article in the Independent that questioned ecclesiastical policies. Nevertheless, one year later Felt left his post as editor to serve a three-year mission for the Mormon Church.


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