|THE ANGELICA ADVOCATE||THE BELMONT DISPATCH||THE FRIENDSHIP REGISTER|
This issue of The Dispatch is a collection piece as it is the last issue of a paper which had its origin March 3, 1889 when R. R. Helme, who had been proprietor of the Friendship Register started the Dispatch. He was assisted by his son Frank G. Helme.
During the first years of its existence, the Dispatch changed hands a number of times. In November, 1892, it was sold to W. M. Barnum; and in March, 1893, to William E. Smith, of Wellsville, a man who had been county clerk. Within two weeks, Mr. Smith sold half interest to Roger Stillman, of Alfred. In January, 1895, he retired and the firm became G. L. Stillman and Company, with Roger Stillman as editor and publisher. In January, 1898, Mr. Stillman sold the Dispatch to Lewis H. Thornton, a man since distinguished in the county as a newspaper publisher, a local and State historian, and an oil producer. Mr. Thornton resigned his position as local editor of the Wellsville Daily Reporter to edit and publish the Belmont paper. In 1903 Mr. Thornton also purchased the Cuba Patriot. In 1904 he moved to Wellsville because of his entrance into the oil business, but still retained ownership of both papers. For each he engaged a manager and local editor, Arthur A. Norton holding that position on the Dispatch. Mr. Thornton, however, continued for many years to direct policies of the Dispatch and to write considerably for its columns. On December 1, 1914, he sold the paper to Russell E. Peirson. Mr. Peirson published the Dispatch until his death in November of 1947.
On March 1, 1948, Clifford G. and Rosemary S. Grastorf, formerly of Angelica purchased the paper from the Peirson estate and have been publishers of same since then.
In June of 1958, the Grastorfs took over the Angelica Advocate and in July of the same year bought the Friendship Register, combining the three papers into one with the hopes that the advertising from the three towns would be sufficient to keep the publications of the paper in the black. Such didnít prove to be the case so the Dispatch with this issue ceases to be.
Something very precious is passing from our midst with this, the final edition of the Dispatch. For several generations it has been narrator of the scenes in lifeís drama as enacted in our community and its environs. How eagerly we have welcomed its arrival and how thoughtlessly we have taken it for granted.
Prosaic and commonplace it may have seemed to outsiders, but to the hundreds of actors in its comedy and tragedy it has been one of the strongest bonds to bind us together in sympathy with one anotherís joys and happiness, misfortunes and sorrows, failures and successes.
Not only has the Dispatch meant more than words can tell to the people here but its columns have been read with deep interest and affection by former residents and descendants of Belmonters in all parts of the country. And to hundreds in the armed services it has always been welcome as a dear friend.
What a sense of togetherness its readers have felt in the narration of all the events that are the cornerstone of family and community life; holiday celebrations, civic improvements, court proceedings and county seat business, the activities of our churches and schools, the dedication ceremonies of edifices like our village hall and library, and participation in our fifty-seven varieties of social, fraternal, patriotic, and philanthropic organizations.
From time to time pictures have been shown of Golden Wedding couples, buildings of bygone eras, prominent citizens and tributes to them, athletic teams and their prowess, graduation classes, and the baby pictures of Belmontís future citizens. The Dispatch has always given generous coverage to them all and mostly free of charge.
Not only has our paper meant so much to us but its columns have been of great interest to hundreds of former Belmonters and to the descendants of living and deceased citizens, however widely they may have become scattered. And how fortunate it is for us and future generations that most of this treasure is preserved in the bound volumes of the Dispatch in the Public Library.
Powerful radio, television, and a syndicated press are not only sources of pleasure and information but seeming necessities of modern life. However, since their scope is the whole globe they are obliged to be brief, concise, and impersonal except in coverage of world prominent people and events. There is no chance to record happenings like the delightful ones found in scrap books made by the late Miss Bertha Sortore and Mrs. Eva Rogers from articles in the Dispatch over a long period. Nor can be read in world media such articles of local interest as Antiquing With Aunt Sarah, Mrs. Wesley Serraís charming account of her browsing among treasures in the homes of Mrs. Victorine Sortore and Mrs. Grace Ackerman. Or Mrs. Mary Nyeís vivid and heart warming reminiscences concerning organization at her house of the Amity Farmersí Wivesí Reading Club, later called the Corbin Hill Study Club, and recently a part of the Home Bureau. The project begun by ten women, braving the bitter wind and snow of a January day, had the distinction of being the second study club of farmersí wivesí organized in New York State. Mrs. Nyeís inspiring article dealt with a phase of life far more important than the daily reports of sordid events in Vietnam.
And often even things vital to the entire country are passed over quickly and lightly to give space to war and other crimes somewhere else in the world. Sometimes foreign disasters are stressed far more than, for example, the devastation caused by the inadequate control of the Mississippi River.
But thousands of Americans have their vast political, religious, and economic interests abroad, and of course where oneís treasure is there will his heart be also. No wonder that the consumer public in the United States has to pay ever increasing prices when imports of raw materials and manufacturers (even gum drops) pour in here as a result of our lowered tariffs, and often no tariffs at all. We have to make up the deficits caused by loss of tariff revenues and the cost of transportation. Small domestic business is fast being swallowed up, so what wonder that there is less and less advertising in the small newspaper? Wine, war, and welfare wonít make advertising tick.
Of the dozen or more village newspapers that once flourished in Allegany County the Dispatch is on of the last to succumb. Newsprint is costly and so are salaries and equipment.
And at what low subscription rates the Dispatch has been made available. Fifty years or so ago its slogan was, Less than the price of a postage Stamp a week. First class mail stamps were two cents and the Dispatch was one dollar for the fifty-two copies. And today the Dispatch for a year costs only the same as ten packs of cigarettes.
It will be a sorry day for this nation if the local newspapers become extinct and the public becomes almost entirely controlled by the vast and powerful news media. The latter seem able to mold public opinion like putty. And to accomplish this purpose they often do not hesitate to give cruel stabs to those who come into their power.
One hundred general and farm magazines are published in the United States, exclusive of groups and those distributed with newspapers. Of the four largest the combined circulation is over forty million. The combined circulation of our daily and Sunday newspapers is over one hundred eight million. Is it any wonder that we are becoming more and more interested in outside affairs? We need home news, too, and plenty of it, for it deals with those things which are the roots of character and morale.
The Dispatch, like most small town papers, has seldom written maliciously or held people up to public scorn, nor has it contemptuously cartooned them and their families, and it has dealt kindly with opposing political figures. All this has been due to the citizens being neighbors, kinfolk or business associates. It is not easy to be unkind to those with whom one exchanges Merry Christmas and street salutations or sits beside in school and church.
A natural sense of humor has sometimes prompted its readers to refer to the Dispatch as the Belmont Dishrag or the Weekly Disappointment. One of its editors used to announce as he deposited the forms upon the press and started it up, The Belmont Distress is again about to bust forth upon an unsuspecting public.
Before the advent of the linotype each letter had to be picked by hand out of a case of type and grouped in words and sentences in what was called a composing stick. What a marvel that publications ever came out accurate and intelligible, since everything written in the English language is the product of twenty-six letters and ten numerals variously grouped. And even today how many publications are without one single typographical error? Over the years I have noticed a few in the Dispatch, although fewer and fewer as time has passed. For instance the punk color scheme of a certain wedding; the toastmaster who told amusing antidotes; the thanks of a bereaved family to the bears who came down from Andover; and an obituary which diagnosed the death of one of our citizens as being due to eating deceased pork.
The Dispatch has always had editors with journalistic talent and real love for the work. And among them Clifford and Rosemary Grastorf rate high in our esteem. They have fought courageously, even trying to survive by a merger with two other papers and in the face of an appalling rise in expenses. This last is undoubtedly due to the upset of our American way of life by too much participation in foreign affairs to the neglect of our own and to the fruitless and expensive wars which we have been waging off and on (mostly on) for the past fifty years.
And now, with our sister villages, Angelica and Friendship, we say from the depths of our hearts, Thanks dear old friend, for all you have been to us.
Miss Marriner was a former school teacher at Belmont Central School
Transcribed by Gary Wightman
5 Jun 2000