A framed copy of page one of Sheridan’s first newspaper — the Sheridan Post — has hung just inside the door of The Sheridan Press. Published on May 19, 1887, when Sheridan was a part of Johnson County and Wyoming was still a territory, it hung a bit high and the type was small. I was having trouble trying to read it when publisher Steve Woody came in, took it down, and let me take it home to read.
Thos. M. Cotton is listed as publisher and, excepting for a number of ads and a letter to the editor, wrote all the copy as a running narrative about the town and area. The first subscription was purchased by Sheridan’s first banker and second mayor, E.A. Whitney, for $3 a year, and he was delivered the first copy hot off the press.
The paper had many ads and a few included names we are familiar with today, such as J. D. Helvey, listed as proprietor of a blacksmithing and wagon repairing shop; B.F. Perkins, Law, Loan and Land Agent; Grinnell Livestock Co. and of course, Thomas Cotton himself, Attorney and Notary.
An AF&AM Masonic Lodge meeting was announced. Most of the copy described our early town and area.
Cotton writes, “Sheridan is located about 15 miles from the line dividing Montana and Wyoming Territories..on the Rock Creek and Junction City line of stage route fame and the longest stage line in the U.S. if not the world.” He writes of “…fertile valleys from which soil supports large quantities of hay, wheat, oats and vegetables all of superior quality.”
A letter to the editor from Mrs. D.S. Sonnesberger brags on the quality of small fruits produced. Cotton continues, “A great number of natural advantages such as timber, water, water power, coal, grazing and ag land surrounds us on all sides. Great credit is due the founders and locators for good judgement in locating the town called by many the ‘Queen of the Valleys.’”
In December 1883, only about 19 months after May of 1882 when the first 40 acres were plotted and surveyed by Jack Dow of Big Horn, 50 buildings had been constructed, exceeding all expectations. They included a school with 54 students, three blacksmith shops, a hotel, two livery stables, two saloons, one barber shop, a law office, a butcher shop and a harness and shoe shop.
It was fun to read that T.T. Tynan, grandfather of Tom Tynan, a resident of Sheridan today, was “tripping the light fantastic at the Windsor Hotel.”
Tynan would go on shortly after, with Fay Summers, to establish a second newspaper, the Sheridan Enterprise, which in the early ‘90s would merge with the Post to become the Post Enterprise — all ancestors of today’s Sheridan Press. Steve Woody doesn’t remember where he found the paper, but the original was picked up from him by The Wyoming Room staff and copied. There are four original pages today at the library. Steve framed his copy of page one and hung it on the wall.
On the back he attached a Sheridan Banking Company envelope and a note stating “Property of W.G. Griffen” who was, along with J.D. Thorn, one of E. A. Whitney’s top men. Wellen Griffen stayed on after Whitney’s death and worked for the trust, and then clocked in 16 years with Whitney Benefits after the foundation was established — for over 52 years of service. So, the copy you can see on the wall at The Sheridan Press of Vol. 1, Number 1 could be a copy of that first issue off the press.
Mary Ellen McWilliams serves as an adviser and volunteer for the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum, and the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association.