The Union and Eastern Journal and The Union and Journal
Between 1830 and 1880 the Industrial Revolution significantly impacted Southern Maine. Eleven textile mills operated along the banks of the Saco River, harnessing hydropower from its 45-foot waterfalls. Thousands of people relocated to work in the mill towns of Biddeford and Saco in 1840-55, causing enormous growth and prosperity. Multiple newspapers were created to provide news and advertising for the area’s prospering mercantile businesses.
During 1845 William Noyes began publishing The Union in Saco. Several other newspapers existed in Saco, with different political views. The Union however, favored the Whigs and their candidates. Editor, Louis O. Cowan purchased the paper in 1848.
From 1852 to 1854, Daniel E. Somes published the Eastern Journal and Mercantile Advertiser in Biddeford, Maine. In August 1852, Editor John R. French, wrote a scathing editorial about the poor conditions at the county’s Alfred Jail. Within weeks, the newspaper was charged with libel for slandering the jailer. In September 1852, Somes changed the newspaper’s title to The Eastern Journal, adding the tagline “Help One Another.” Somes and French were exonerated at their trial in 1853. By the years’ end Somes sold his interest in the newspaper to Cowan. Somes later became Biddeford’s Mayor. Cowan merged The Eastern Journal with his own paper, The Union and began publishing The Union and Eastern Journal [LCCN: sn 83021380] on February 3, 1854 in Biddeford. Cowan served as editor and proprietor of the four-page paper. The tagline printed along the first page said “Eternal Hostility to Every Form of Oppression Over the Mind or Body of Man.” Established tradesman Marcus Watson printed the Journal for Cowan until November 1857, when James T. Cleaves took over. On March 5, 1858, a fire destroyed the newspaper’s office. The paper was resilient and printed an abbreviated two-page paper that week, entitled simply Union & Journal. The following week the paper resumed as The Union and Eastern Journal, from the Central Block in Biddeford. However, it ceased publication on May 28, 1858.
Despite fires, mergers, location and name changes, Cowan issued his first issue of The Union and Journal on June 4, 1858. The weekly rolled off the presses each Friday morning in the Hooper Brick Block in Biddeford. Newsstands charged 4 cents an issue. Previously, The Union had advocated for the Whig party, yet with this venture, Cowan threw his support behind the Republicans. The Union and Journal served as the leading Republican newspaper for York County. In July 1858, it named James T. Cleaves as printer, and E.H. Hayes, as editor.
As the Civil War loomed, Cowan published addresses by President Lincoln, Congressmen, and state leaders. Once the war was underway, he regularly published news of the Maine troops and their battles. In addition to news in the United States, Cowan also kept his subscribers informed about international wars and foreign trade. Cowan published The Union and Journal until his death in late February, 1873. It is believed that The Maine Democrat of Saco, and Bath’s Daily Sentinel and Times helped publish the paper until late April when Cowan’s wife sold The Union and Journal. On April 24, 1863, John E. Butler became the proprietor and E.H. Hayes remained as editor. By the following week, May 1, 1863, Butler had assumed the roles of both editor and proprietor. Butler issued this statement to his subscribers on June 1, 1863:
“The Union and Journal will continue to be what it has been in the past, a fearless advocate of those principles which were the faith of our fathers- those principles which more than eighty years’ experience has taught the country, form the only true basis of a free Republic, and the support of which our recent bitter experience proves can alone secure to us a lasting peace. Freedom is National! And all opposing influences are outlaws to the public good.”
In 1866. Butler and his father Reverend Oliver Butler, who had been affiliated with the Maine Free-Will Baptist Repository of Limerick, joined together as Butler & Co to issue The Union and Journal. In 1867 until early 1868, J.F. Place become vested in the paper, and his name is listed on the masthead as Associate Editor. J.E. Butler resumed sole operation of the paper in 1868 until he sold it in December of 1872. From late 1872 until July1880 The Union and Journal was operated by seasoned newspaperman, George Hobbs, and his son Thomas. In 1882, brothers William and Charles Prescott purchased the paper and transformed it into The Biddeford Journal
The Union and Journal not only brought news to the town, but also printed marriages, deaths, and public legal notices. Newspaper ads encouraged travel by railroad, stagecoach or steamer from Biddeford/Saco to the cities of Portland and Boston, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and even Canada. Regular columns featured agricultural wisdom, editorials, homemaker’s advice, fashion news and even columns for children. It provided recreational reading such as poetry and serialized stories, and alerted residents to public lectures, speeches by Civil War Generals, visits from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Ward Beecher, magic acts, circuses, musical performances, and burlesque shows.Through this tumultuous era in Saco and Biddeford’s history, the area’s newspapers helped bring news from near and far and united people in the community.