Green River Star -

By David Martin

Newspapers preserve the past


A lot of people talk about how important it is to save a building because of its importance to a community.

In Green River, a lot of people talked about saving the old Lincoln High School before it burned and many of those people now talk about saving the U.P. Depot building before a similar fate befalls it.

However, people often forget about the impact newspapers have in preserving history, a fact I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten until recently.

Last night, at about 4:15 p.m., I’m going through a few photos I had taken earlier when a man walks in and asks if the newspaper has a photo of one of its former publishers, Orcemas Orvil Davis.

After being told Davis died Feb. 2, 1940, I was able to quickly find a photo published with his obituary that week.

Davis bought the paper and owned it from 1900 to 1906. He left Green River in 1906 and came in 1908, serving as its publisher until his death in 1940. I learned that bit of his life through the obituary published in The Green River Star Feb. 9, 1940. Double O., as he was called, also served the town as its postmaster. In observance of his death, the post office, as well as the city and county offices in Green River, closed to allow workers to attend his funeral services.

The main photo we found was prominently displayed on the front page, along with details of his passing as a result of a stroke, “the aftermath of a nervous disorder, and which paralyzed the entire left side of his face, together with complications resulting from an attack of the flu.”

Seeing this personal example of how newspapers also act as the archives for information. Sure, not everyone is related to a newspaper publisher, but bits of family history and the history of the town are found throughout the many pages published by the Star. For example, that same week, tax collection rates recorded at the time suggested the area’s economy was stable. Also, the Granger school district was named as a defendant in a lawsuit. Finally, the city council considered refunding a $51,000 bond issue made by the city in 1930.

Each week, we publish an archives page with selections from our newspaper archives that present the news that occurred throughout Green River’s history. However, there’s a gap that so far, we’ve never been able to recover from. A fire broke out at the Star before 1940 and resulted in decades of history being erased by the flames. Some of the Star’s earliest issues can be found on the Wyoming Newspaper Project’s website, but a majority of it is lost.

That’s the thing that should worry people involved with historic preservation. Without a local newspaper to record local events, it would seem a lot of that history would vanish. Newspapers offer a lot more history than a building could provide. Newspapers are the proof detailing what life was like for the people living, working and dying decades ago. It’s the proof that life today, dominated by instant information and electronic communication, wasn’t all that different from life 50, 60, or 70 years ago.

Regardless of the decade, we all share a compassion for the place we live and work in. Through newspapers, we can see that the concerns people had from 30 years ago still resonate today. We also can see how decisions from 50 years ago have impacted the way we live today.

Without newspapers, the lives of those living before us would be shrouded in a near impenetrable fog. Local history would be more obscured as well.

That’s something that anyone interested in historic preservation should be concerned about.


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