Chapter 15:
The Press - Part 1

by William S. Rule

From Rule's Standard History of Knoxville, Tennessee, with Full Outline of the Natural Advantages, Early Settlement, Territorial Government, Indian Troubles and General and Particular History of the City Down to the Present Time.  Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1900.

The Gazette, Knoxville's First Newspaper -- The Register and Its Long Life -- The Plebeian, Knoxville's First Daily -- Brownlow's Whig and Its Remarkable Career -- Recent Ventures in Knoxville Journalism -- The Chronicle -- The Press and Herald -- The Tribune -- The Journal and Tribune -- The Afternoon Sentinel -- The Church Newspapers.

     The first newspaper published in Knoxville, which was also the first in Tennessee and the third west of the Allegheny mountains, began publication in 1791, the year before Knoxville was laid out as a town. Since then more than fifty periodicals have found birth here and all, with the exception of two dailies, with weekly editions, and four with only weekly editions, published at the present time, have also come to their death here.  A few of them had comparatively long lives; the life of most of them reached only a few years, in many cases only months.  A few, only a small number, of the men who have been connected with these various publications gained considerable fame; most of them have been forgotten, except to a few persons of advanced age and a few others who attempt to gather up the faded facts of unwritten history.  It was nearly half a century between the date of the publication of the first Knoxville newspaper and the appearance of the first one issued more than once a week.  The first daily paper attempted was in 1851, but it was not a paying enterprise.  The first daily that was published for more than a year came out in 1861, and suspended in 1863, as one of the casualties of the Civil war.  Since 1866 Knoxville has not been without a daily paper, and at one time had four.  At least one Knoxville paper, as will appear further on in this chapter, reached, under all circumstances, a phenomenal circulation, others have had fair success, while many others have printed only small editions being dependent upon a territory with meager mail facilities.

The first paper published in Knoxville was The Gazette.  Its first number appeared on the 5th day of November, 1791.  It was the Knoxville Gazette from the beginning; but the first number was printed at Rogersville, where it continued to be published for nearly a year.  It was founded by George Roulstone, who, according to a recent article written by Dr. George F. Mellen of the University of Tennessee, and printed in the Knoxville Sentinel, had been connected with an unsuccessful newspaper enterprise at Fayetteville, North Carolina.  The Gazette at first and for some time came out only once in two weeks, and its issues were not uniform in size, probably on account of the difficulty in procuring paper upon which to print it.  This appears upon examination of a bound file of the paper now in possession of the State Historical Society.  In the issue of June 16, 1792, appears the conclusion of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, which had been running from the issue of November 5, 1791.  The paper was removed from Rogersville in the fall of 1792.  The issue that should have appeared on October 6, 1792, did not appear until the 10th, which had the following explanation: "The removal of the printing office from Hawkins C. H. to this place prevented the publication of this paper till this day, by which means we have an opportunity of presenting the public with the following important intelligence."  (Here follows an account of a supply of arms and ammunition to the Indians from Pensacola, by the Spaniards Carondolet and O'Neal.)

Mr. Roulstone had a partner named Ferguson, but in April, 1793, the partnership was dissolved and the publication was continued by Roulstone & Co.  In the fall of 1793 a number of issues of The Gazette did not appear on account of the miscarriage of a load of paper.  The publisher had troubles common to newspaper men in the earlier days under the credit system, as, in December, 1793, he mentioned outstanding unpaid accounts of two years' standing.  The Gazette was a small three-column, four-page paper, not attractive in its appearance, but its appearance was quite an event to the hardy pioneers who were then laying the foundation of the sixteenth of the American Commonwealths.  Mr. Roulstone was a printer and came to Tennessee, then the Territory South of the River Ohio, at the suggestion of Governor William Blount, appointed governor of the territory by President Washington in 1790.  He was printer afterwards to the territorial and state legislatures and was the clerk of the territorial legislature when it was organized at Knoxville on the 25th day of August, 1794.  He continued to publish The Gazette to the date of his death, which occurred in the year 1804.  He was doubtless aided in his endeavors by Governor Blount and the authorities in the infant state, who felt the importance of having a medium through which to make known the laws enacted to the people governed.  The income of the Gazette was supplemented in that way.  The difficulties that confronted the publisher of the Gazette can be easily imagined when it is known that paper and all other material had to be transported hundreds of miles through a country that was without roads except those of the most primitive character.  George Roulstone was a man who commanded the respect and enjoyed the confidence of the people of his day, which is attested by the fact that he was elected public printer to the state, held that position at the time of his death, and after he died his wife was elected to fill the office two successive terms.

Mr. Roulstone started two other papers in Knoxville, The Register, a weekly, in 1798, which he published about two years, and then The Genius of Liberty, in connection with John Rivington Parrington.  Knoxville then had three weeklies, in every one of which Mr. Roulstone was interested.  In 1804, in the month of January, George Wilson became the publisher of Wilson's Gazette, the successor of the Knoxville Gazette.  It was a weekly and continued to be published in Knoxville for fourteen years and in the year 1818 Wilson removed to Nashville, that city having then become the capital of the state.

In the year 1816, on the 3d day of August, Major Frederick S. Heiskell and Hu. Brown began the publication of the Knoxville Register, which continued to be published for a longer term of years than any other paper yet published in the city.  It suspended publication upon the arrival of General Burnside with the Union army, about the first of September, 1863.  Its life was within a few days of forty-seven years, and in the main it was a distinctly honorable career.  In this connection a brief sketch of its distinguished founders will be proper and of interest.  Major Heiskell remained one of the proprietors of The Register for about twenty-one years, devoting his whole time, energy and ability to its success.  He was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, but when yet a child his parents removed to Shenandoah county, Virginia.  He learned the printer's trade in the office of his brother, John Heiskell, in Winchester, Virginia, and came to Knoxville in December, 1814.  After working as a journeyman printer something less than two years, he, in conjunction with Hu. Brown, whose sister he afterwards married, founded The Knoxville Register, a weekly paper.

In 1829 Hu. Brown retired from the paper, and Major Heiskell continued its publication until in 1837, when, on account of impaired health, he retired to a farm ten miles west of Knoxville, having sold his interest in The Register to W. B. A. Ramsey and Robert Craighead.  While publishing The Register, Major Heiskell was intimately acquainted with Hugh Lawson White, John Bell, Ephraim H. Foster, James K. Polk and other famous men of his time.  For years be was a trusted friend of Andrew Jackson, and fought his earlier political battles with characteristic vigor.  He also knew Henry Clay well and was one of his earnest, sincere supporters.  In 1847 he was elected to the state senate, the only office he ever held, and distinguished himself as an able, conscientious and zealous representative of the people's interests.  He was always a gentleman in his habits and deportment, and universally recognized as thoroughly incorruptible.  He was a public-spirited man and took a deep interest in the cause of education.  He was one of the trustees of the East Tennessee Female Institute and for years up to the date of his death was also one of the trustees of the East Tennessee University, now University of Tennessee.  While conducting The Register his counsel and influence was eagerly sought by men in public life and his advice was always received with consideration.  His life was long, strenuous and useful.  He died in the 94th year of his age at Rogersville, Tennessee, in November, 1882.  He remained an omnivorous newspaper reader to the last, and at the time of his death left twenty large scrap-books made up of clippings which he considered of value.

His partner and brother-in-law, Hu. Brown, was also a superior man.  He retired from The Register in 1829, to accept a professorship in the University of Tennessee.  Under their management the power and influence of The Register was second to no paper in the state.  It was a credit to its publishers and to the section of the country in which it circulated.  Its proprietors took an active part in the politics of the period and made themselves felt by friends and by foes.

In 1836, contrary to the will and wishes of Andrew Jackson, who had been the most influential man in Tennessee politics, and who had decreed that Martin Van Buren should be his successor in the Presidential chair, The Knoxville Register supported Hugh Lawson White for that office.  He carried the state, his majority, in spite of Jackson's opposition, being a little more than nine thousand in a total vote of 61,000.  In the Eastern division of the state Hugh Lawson White carried every county with the exception of Greene, Sullivan and Washington, most of them by overwhelming majorities.  Four years previous to that, in 1832, Andrew Jackson had carried every one of the counties in East Tennessee.  This year, against the influence exerted by the Knoxville Register, he could influence but three counties to vote for Martin Van Buren.  This is mentioned as showing the influence of The Register in those days.  Some of the men who were at times connected with The Knoxville Register office afterwards became prominent in the state.  Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer worked as a printer in the office.  He afterwards became, as editor of the Nashville Republican Banner, one of the best-known journalists in the South, was elected state comptroller, served in the lower house of congress, and was killed at Mill Springs, Kentucky, in February, 1862, while gallantly leading a brigade of Confederate soldiers of which he was the commander.

From John E. Helms, one of the oldest newspaper men in the state, it is learned that Major Heiskell, the founder of The Register, was the president of the first meeting of the Tennessee Press Association.  It was held in the old Mansion House, an excellent hotel in its day.  It stood on the grounds upon which the county court-house now stands.  The meeting was held about the year 1838.

In 1840 Thomas W. Humes was the editor of The Register, when it was an earnest supporter of the Whig Presidential ticket and the organ of the Whig party in this section.  Mr. Humes afterward took orders in the Protestant Episcopal church, was rector of St. John's church in Knoxville eighteen years and also served eighteen years as president of the University of Tennessee.  In 1838 James C. Moses came to Knoxville from Exeter, New Hampshire.  He was a practical printer and was first employed as foreman of The Knoxville Times.  He afterwards purchased The Register and with his brother, John L. Moses, with whom he was connected for a time, remained with the Register until in 1849, when they retired from the newspaper field and entered mercantile business.  For the next ten years The Register was less prosperous.  For two or three years its editorial department was conducted by John Miller McKee, who afterwards removed to Nashville and for years was on the editorial staff of the old Union and American.  At another time, when quite a young man, with brilliant prospects, Hon. John M. Fleming presided over the editorial department of the paper.  About the year 1859 the services of George W. Bradfield were secured as editor and the paper, which had been Whig, espoused the principles of the Democratic party.  Mr. Bradfield was a strong partisan and an upright gentleman, universally respected.

Early in 1861 Mr. Bradfield severed his connection with The Register, and it passed into the hands of J. Austin Sperry.  The Civil war began soon afterwards and the paper became a vigorous, uncompromising advocate of secession.  About the time that the Confederate soldiers began to be mobilized in the vicinity of Knoxville in 1861, The Register was issued as a daily, six days in the week, and continued to be so issued until some time in August, 1863, when it suspended publication, and never again resumed.  A large majority of the people of East Tennessee were opposed to secession and remained loyal to the Union.  These were antagonized bitterly by The Register, and Mr. Sperry realized that with the advent of the Union army it would be impossible for him to continue the publication of his paper, therefore upon the approach of General Burnside he fled South and the paper was never afterwards revived.  Thus was ended the career of a newspaper that had been published for forty-seven years, a longer period than any of its predecessors or successors.  As already shown, its career for the most part was one of which its founders had good reason to feel proud.

In 1823 The Enquirer was started.  It was printed in the office of Hiram Barry, who came to Knoxville in 1816, and who carried on the printing business here for more than fifty years.  When Mr. Barry was the owner and publisher of The Enquirer it was edited by J. J. Meredith.  It lived a precarious sort of life and came to an early death, without having made an impression sufficient to give it a permanent place in local history.

Hon. John R. Nelson, a lawyer of considerable natural ability, combative in disposition, without literary attainments to speak of, but nevertheless a man of marked character, made two ventures in the newspaper world, starting The Republican in 1831, and Uncle Sam in 1834.  There was no place for them, and they soon disappeared.

In the year 1838, Mr. Heiskell having disposed of his interest in The Knoxville Register, some gentleman of character and influence became dissatisfied with that paper and determined to start another.  When the matter was finally settled, all of those who had favored it and had decided to put money into it declined, except Mr. Perez Dickinson.  He went to Philadelphia and bought an outfit.  He then went to Boston, and while there, James C. Moses was recommended to him as being a good man to take charge of the mechanical department of the new venture.  Mr. Dickinson secured his services and he came on to Knoxville.  The paper was brought out under the name, The Knoxville Times.  Thomas W. Humes was engaged as editor, and tri-weekly editions were printed, it being the first paper printed in Knoxville oftener than once a week.  It was published successfully for two years, when its owners bought The Knoxville Register, and the name of The Times was dropped, The Register being continued.  While it was published, The Times was printed on the best paper, was tasteful in its make-up and edited with ability.

In 1841, Capt. James Williams, afterwards United States minister to Constantinople under President Buchanan's administration, started the Knoxville Post.  In 1848 The Post was removed to Athens, Tennessee, where it was published to the time of his death by Sam P. Ivins, who had been employed as a printer in the office of The Post at Knoxville.  He was one of the best known newspaper men in the state, and as a writer of editorial paragraphs had few equals.  It may be noted here that while the office was conducted in Knoxville a book was published there, of which J. W. M. Brazeale was the author, entitled Life as It Is, which attracted much attention, and though long out of print is sought after yet.  While relating facts of history, it contains comments upon the customs of the early settlers, notable for their freshness and freedom from all restraint.  It also relates how two noted murderers, "The Harps," went about the country killing people, for no other purpose than murder.  The Post is still in existence and is published at Athens, Tennessee.

A Democratic paper called The Argus was started in 1838, the name of which was changed in 1844 to The Standard.  It was continued precariously for a number of years under various managements until 1855, when its light went out.  In 1850 The Plebeian was started by John E. and William T. Helms.  In 1851 it was published as a morning daily, being the first daily paper published in Knoxville, but it was not a success.

In the year 1839 Brownlow's Tennessee Whig made its appearance at Elizabethton, Tennessee, William G. Brownlow, editor and proprietor.  After being published a year at Elizabethton, it was removed to Jonesborough, where it continued to be published for nine years.  It was, as its name indicates, a Whig paper and its editor was a remarkable man, fond of controversy, given to the use of vigorous language, and consequently had bitter enemies as well as warm, sincere friends.  In 1849 he determined to remove to Knoxville, this city, though then a small town, presenting a more promising field for his enterprise.  The first number of the Knoxville Whig was published about the first of the year 1850.  It soon won for itself and its editor a national reputation.  It was taken and read solely on account of its editorials, and before the end of the decade, although a weekly published in a small town with limited facilities for reaching the outside world, its circulation reached the phenomenal figure of twelve thousand copies weekly.  It was common in those days for newspapers to adopt mottoes, or devices, printed at the top of their front pages, meant to be explanatory of the policy of such papers.  Among those thus printed in Brownlow's Knoxville Whig were "Cry Aloud and Spare Not," and "Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing."  These devices very succinctly set forth the general policy of the paper.

While The Whig was a political paper, an enthusiastic adherent of the Whig party, Mr. Brownlow, the first years of whose manhood life had been spent as an itinerant Methodist clergyman, a "circuit rider," engaged actively in the discussion of religious questions, and was an outspoken champion of temperance.  Besides preaching frequently, in addition to his duties as editor and publisher of a newspaper, he was often called upon to deliver addresses on temperance, and his denunciations of the liquor traffic were amongst the most scathing that ever fell from man's lips.  He also became involved in some very acrimonious controversies on religious questions, once with Rev. Frederick A. Ross, an able Presbyterian divine, and again with Rev. James R. Graves, an able and distinguished Baptist clergyman.  He himself, as already stated, being a Methodist, stood up valiantly for his own church and its peculiar doctrines and controverted the doctrines of his antagonists.  His style was vigorous, incisive and few men have excelled him in the employment of invective and sarcasm, which he used without stint in dealing with his antagonists, whether the subject of controversy happened to be politics or religion.  It is perhaps impossible for men and women of the present day to realize fully the full measure of bitterness with which religious controversies were waged about the middle of the century.  In his intercourse with the public, Mr. Brownlow adhered to his motto, "Cry Aloud and Spare Not."

While an outspoken champion of Whig principles, he did not always support the Whig candidates for office, he was "independent in all things, neutral in nothing."  A notable exception was in the presidential campaign of 1852, when the Whigs nominated Gen. Winfield Scott for President.  Brownlow refused to support him and supported and voted for Daniel Webster instead, although Webster died a few days before the election was held.  He also opposed the election of Hon. Horace Maynard, nominated by the Whigs of the district for congress in 1853.  Mr. Maynard was defeated by William M. Churchwell, who, by the way, was the last Democrat elected to congress from the Knoxville district from that day to this.  Mr. Maynard was afterwards, in 1857, again nominated for congress, was supported by Mr. Brownlow and was re-elected eight consecutive times.  He and Mr. Brownlow became fast friends and remained so to the close of their lives, Maynard outliving Brownlow five years.  These things are mentioned to show that Mr. Brownlow was never neutral and always independent.

During the years immediately following the removal of The Whig from Jonesborough, the question of slavery became a more conspicuous issue than it had ever been before.  In the years 1854-5 a new party arose, called the Know-Nothing, afterwards the American party.  Its motto was, "Put None but Americans on Guard," and it sought to extend the period of residence required of foreign immigrants before naturalization.  The party also made war upon the Roman Catholic church.  Mr. Brownlow warmly espoused this new party, the old Whig party being dead, not only through the columns of The Whig, but also on the stump.  He also wrote and published a book about that time, entitled, Americanism and Romanism Contrasted.  In this place it may be remarked that he also wrote a book during the decade here under consideration, entitled, The Great Iron Wheel Examined, and Its False Spokes Extracted.  It was written in reply to a book of which Rev. J. R. Graves was the author, called The Great Iron Wheel, being an attack on the doctrines and the polity of the Methodist Episcopal church.  Brownlow's reply was published by the Book Concern of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and with the official sanction of that church.  It was during the ten years, from 1850 to 1860, when he was from 45 to 55 years old, that he won a national reputation.  He was then in his prime, and besides editing The Whig, did a prodigious amount of other work.

Going back to the fierce discussion of the slavery question, precipitated by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Mr. Brownlow took the pro-slavery, or Southern, side of the issue.  His paper became very popular in this section and had a large circulation in every state in the South.  This popularity was increased when in 1858 he held a debate lasting five days, in the city of Philadelphia, with Rev. Abram Pryne.  Brownlow defended the institution of slavery, and Mr. Pryne attacked it.  The joint discussion was published together in a volume soon afterwards.  About this time his paper reached a very large circulation for a country weekly.  In the campaign of 1861, when the question of secession from the Union was the issue, Mr. Brownlow was an uncompromising Union man, and the secessionists printed extracts from his speeches against Pryne as a campaign document.  But they were garbled.  He was always a strong Union man.  When the nullification movement was inaugurated in South Carolina in 1832, Mr. Brownlow was riding a circuit and preaching in that state.  He opposed nullification earnestly and vigorously at considerable personal peril.  In his debate with Pryne, he indulged in a strong plea for the Union, from which this is an extract:

"Who can estimate the value of the American Union? Proud, happy, thrice-happy America! The home of the oppressed, the asylum of the emigrant! Where the citizens of every clime, and the child of every creed, roam free and untrammeled as the wild winds of heaven! Baptized at the fount of Liberty in fire and blood, cold must be the heart that thrills not at the name of the American Union!"

Two years after this debate, he supported his personal and political friend, Hon. John Bell, of Tennessee, for President on the platform, "The Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of the Laws."  He entered this campaign with all the ardor of his nature, both in his paper and on the stump.  He denounced disunion and the men who favored it as a remedy for alleged evils.  John Bell carried the state of Tennessee, but Abraham Lincoln was elected President.

South Carolina adopted a secession ordinance a few weeks after the election became known, and other states were preparing to follow.  The Knoxville Whig became more and more outspoken for the Union.  Many of its subscribers in the Southern states refused to take it from the post offices and some of them wrote insulting and threatening letters to the editor.  But what the paper lost in the South was more than made up from the Northern states.  Subscribers poured in from that section, hundreds of them in a day, and The Whig thundered anathemas against secession and disunion.  A large majority of his neighbors in Eastern Tennessee stood by him loyally and to the last.  In June, 1861, the state voted on the question of secession and ratified an ordinance to that effect that had been proposed by the legislature at an extra session called for that purpose.  But the editor of the Knoxville Whig continued to write and print Union editorials.  The campaign preceding the June election was one of the most exciting ever seen in this country, and during its progress Mr. Brownlow was busy with his pen and on the stump.  His style both in writing and in speaking suited the times, and he was heard by tens of thousands, while his editorials were read by ten times as many.  Hostilities had begun and armies were being mobilized.  He was considered a public enemy by many.  His state had voted to go with the Southern Confederacy; but he kept the flag of the Union floating from his residence while armed soldiers threatened to tear it down.  Still he wrote and printed defiant editorials, hurling thunderbolts of epithet and sarcasm at his opponents.

But the end came.  He could no longer send his paper to Northern subscribers, for the mails were cut off.  The Southern authorities very naturally regarded The Whig as an incendiary paper and it could not be circulated in the South.  Finally, in October, 1861, believing that he was about to be arrested on a charge of treason against the Southern Confederacy, Mr. Brownlow decided to suspend the further publication of The Whig, which he did.  He announced his purpose in a signed editorial, dated October 24, 1861, more than six months after the beginning of hostilities and more than four months after the ratification of the ordinance of secession in Tennessee.  The editorial was printed in the last number of the paper, issued a day or two after it was written.  Measured by the influence exerted upon the people in the immediate section in which it circulated, the temporary death of the Knoxville Whig may be compared to the death of a Sampson, the slain outnumbered those of its life.  It is quite possible that Mr. Brownlow so intended it.  After announcing the information he had, to the effect that he was to be indicted and arrested, he said that under the usages of the courts he presumed he might go free by taking the oath the authorities were administering to other Union men, or that he might enter into bond to keep the peace, but that he should obstinately refuse to do that, and added, "if such a bond should be drawn up and signed by others, I will render it null and void by refusing to sign it.  In default of both I expect to go to jail, and I am ready to start upon one moment's warning."  In addition to this he said, among other things:

"I shall in no degree feel humbled by being cast into prison, whenever it is the will and pleasure of this august government to put me there; but on the contrary I shall feel proud of my confinement.  I shall go to jail -- as John Rogers went to the stake -- for my principles.  I shall go, because I have failed to recognize the hand of God in the work of breaking up the American Government, and the inauguration of the most wicked, cruel, unnatural and uncalled-for war ever recorded in history.  I go, because I have refused to laud to the skies the acts of tyranny, usurpation and oppression inflicted upon the people of East Tennessee for their devotion to the Constitution and laws of the government handed down to them by their fathers, and the liberties secured to them by a war of seven long years of gloom, poverty and trial! I repeat, I am proud of my position, and of my principles, and shall leave them to my children as a legacy far more valuable than a princely fortune, had I the latter to bestow!"

A few days after writing the editorial from which the foregoing is quoted, he went into the counties of Blount and Sevier and was the guest of friends.  A little more than a month afterwards he returned to Knoxville, under a promise of permission to go North, when he was arrested and put in jail, where he remained a month.  He became seriously ill and on the advice of his physician was removed from the jail to his residence, where he was kept under guard by details of armed soldiers.  Having recovered sufficiently to travel, in March, 1862, he was sent through the Confederate lines, near Nashville, from which place he went North and remained there, his family being also sent through the lines in the fall of 1862, until the advent of Gen. Burnside in Knoxville in September, 1863.

In the month of November of that year he again began the publication of the Knoxville Whig, to which he added, "and Rebel Ventilator."  In 1865, when the state government had been reorganized, William G. Brownlow was elected governor, and he was re-elected in 1867.  He resigned in 1869, and took his seat on the 4th of March as one of the United States senators from Tennessee.  Having retained his connection with The Whig, in connection with his son, Col. John B. Brownlow, and Tilghman Hawes, the paper went into the hands of a joint stock company in 1869, and Rev. Thos. H. Pearne became its editor.  After this Gov. Brownlow gave it little attention beyond occasional signed contributions.  Later the Whig was controlled by Joseph A. Mabry, and it became a Democratic paper, with C. W. Charlton as editor.  Still later it was sold to Saunders & Clark.  It was published as a daily from early in 1869.  Saunders & Clark failed of success, and the paper was permanently suspended in 1871.

Much space has been given to The Whig and its famous editor, because of its large circulation and because the reputation of its editor was national.  Having served out his term in the senate, Governor Brownlow returned to Knoxville and purchased a half interest in the Knoxville Daily and Weekly Chronicle.  The name of the weekly edition was changed to The Whig and Chronicle.  He became editor-in-chief of this paper, being associated in its publication with Wm. Rule, one of the founders of The Chronicle.  Governor Brownlow closed his vigorous, busy, eventful life at his home in Knoxville, on the 29th day of April, 1877, and he rests in Gray Cemetery, where a beautiful granite shaft marks his resting place.  And though his life was a stormy one, his death was sincerely mourned, well nigh universally by those who knew him well.  He honored his name, his country, his state and the profession in which he won national fame.

There are a number of reasons for the large success of The Knoxville Whig under Governor Brownlow's management.  It was published at a time when controversy was rife; he was a born controversialist.  He was a master of invective and burning sarcasm, and he flourished in an age when such things were expected of a public journalist.  He kept himself well informed concerning the weak as well as of the strong points of men, and that was a day of personal journalism.  He was a man of the strictest integrity, and as a newspaper editor never permitted principle to become subservient to expediency, so his friends had in him unlimited confidence.  He seldom made mistakes.  And in all of his editorial writings there ran a vein of humor that was sometimes exquisite.  This was often exhibited at unexpected times, and sometimes troubled his antagonists more than his bitterest words.  But it was not always employed in that way, it made him the center of whatever social circle he became a part.

He employed it on one occasion when a young preacher, lying, it was thought, at the point of death at Abingdon, Virginia.  The venerable Bishop Capers and other ministers, a Methodist conference being then in session at that place, were curious to know how the "eccentric parson" felt in view of a possible exchange of worlds.  The bishop called at his room, read from the Scriptures and prayed with him, and on taking his leave held Brownlow by the hand, looking him in the face, asked him about his prospects beyond the grave, Brownlow replied: "Well, Bishop, if I had my life to live over again, I could improve it in many respects and would try to do so.  However, if the books have been properly kept in the other world, there is a small balance in my favor."  He didn't die then, but lived to win a very large measure of fame.

[ Continue reading this history ]

[ Return to Rule's History Index Page ]
[ Return to Knox County TNGenWeb History Page ]
[ Return to Knox County TNGenWeb Main Page ]

All HTML code on this page was created by and copyrighted ©2003 to Billie R. McNamara.  All rights reserved. Please direct all questions and comments to Ms. McNamara.  Background graphic image was borrowed from Fred Smoot.  Used by permission.
This page was last updated December 5, 2003.