Charles Carroll

The last passenger train prepares to leave Calistoga on Sept. 2, 1929. The man in front of the train to the left and holding his hat is Charles Carroll, owner, editor and publisher of The Weekly Calistogan from 1895 to 1943.

(Editor’s note: The Weekly Calistogan celebrated its 140th birthday last week.

The first issue, published under the name “Independent Calistogian,” was released on Dec. 26, 1877. The paper’s longest-tenured editor was Charles Afton Carroll, who started publishing the paper in 1895 and ran it for for more than four decades with the help of his wife, Mertie. Their daughter and son-in-law, Lois and Scoop Winston, kept the paper in the family until the 1970s.

In honor of the latest milestone, we are republishing this article written by the Calistogan’s editorial board in 2012 in recognition of the paper’s 135th birthday.)

Consider this:

When this newspaper was founded, Crazy Horse and his Lakota warriors were fighting the U.S. Cavalry on the plains.

Federal troops still occupied the rebellious South.

The first rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles was a novelty, open only a few months.

The 38 states of the United States were waiting to learn the result of the disputed election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden, an election so close that it pushed the nation to the brink of a major constitutional crisis.

The Weekly Calistogan began its 135th year a few weeks ago. We did so without fanfare; after all, the number 135 doesn’t have the satisfying roundness of 100 or 150.

But it is worth remembering how many years that represents, the sweep of history it covers.

Our first readers had never seen a telephone, never used an internal combustion engine. They could scarcely imagine a radio signal or a moving picture. They probably believed that man would never fly under his own power, much less reach into space.

Those first readers, on Dec. 26, 1877, were treated to a curious front page, including essays on the style of preaching in America, the venomous snakes of India, and the reasoning power of sparrows, based on observations from a friend who resided in New York.

Inside, however, was local news of all sorts: owing to more than 3 inches of rain in December “the roads are very muddy, making travel very disagreeable and laborious.”

“Several Calistogans,” the paper reported, “have become very pugnacious lately, and black eyes, bruised noses, and other marks visible on their countenances, plainly indicate that the conflict was severe in some cases.”

The paper noted that Mr. J.H. Biggs and his family would return from Iowa shortly; that Skippy Mathews had received a “no doubt fatal” gunshot wound at the hands of A. Davis in Middletown; and that little Minnie Bettinger had topped the second grade with a 99 in her latest marks, despite the fact that “the crowded condition of the school is a constant source of embarrassment” to the town.

There have been ups and downs for this town and this newspaper in the intervening years, but in many respects things have not changed.

Mostly, what has not changed is that we’re still proud to be here covering the news of Calistoga. The events may not be so grand as to find their way onto any list of crucial world events, but they have been important to you, and your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents before them.

The troubles in the newspaper business have called into question the existence of all traditional publications, including this one. We can assure you, however, that this company, and this staff, is committed to continuing to bring you local news for as long as you will have us.

What The Weekly Calistogan will look like when we mark our 150th or 200th years, we have no way of knowing. What new technologies or business models our grandchildren may take for granted, we cannot imagine.

What we can imagine, though, is that we will still be here serving you as we serve you today.

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