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Reflector history dates back 180 years

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Our area in northern Ohio must have been upbeat 180 years ago at this time. A new newspaper, the Reflector, had issued its first edition on Feb. 2, 1830, and appeared to be a success. Of course, we know that it was; it is still publishing, and you're reading it at this moment.

Owners of the new project were Samuel Preston and George Buckingham. The latter gentleman had been a co-owner of Norwalk's very first newspaper, the Reporter. The Reporter ceased to exist in 1830. The Firelands Historical Society preserves an original file, which has also been microfilmed and is available at the public library.

The first Reflector office was in the second story of a mercantile building at 9 W. Main St. Samuel Preston's daughter, Lucy, married Frederick Wickham in January of 1835. Samuel soon bought the lot at 38 W. Main St. (next to the present public library), and in the summer of 1835 began building a building there. This building was completed and occupied in 1836, and since being moved in 1954, houses the museum of the Firelands Historical Society.

It was planned that the Prestons and Wickhams would occupy the first floor and basement, with the newspaper office on the second floor. There are marks in the flooring said to have been made by the Stanbury press used in the earliest time. A year or so into the venture, the editor announced that the paper being used was "homemade" in Norwalk by the Norwalk Manufacturing Company.

Before the first Reflector was ever issued, Preston & Buckingham pondered over an appropriate name. It is a family story that Samuel Preston was in the taproom of Obadiah Jenney's Mansion House hotel (where the Chamber of Commerce is now) and noticed a reflector lamp or candle holder on the wall. It suddenly occurred to him that "Reflector" would be a good name, on the premise that the paper would "reflect" the news.

The newspaper office moved out of the house when both the paper and the growing Wickham family needed more room. Lucy Preston's husband, Frederick Wickham, took over editorship of the paper, and it stayed in the family until a century ago. In 1913 it was purchased by R. C. Snyder, who already owned the Norwalk Evening Herald. The papers were combined into the Norwalk Reflector-Herald, and every so often you hear one of us old-timers refer to the paper as the Reflector-Herald ... but not too often any more!

Almost from the earliest, the Reflector was Whig in politics, and then took on the cause of the Republican Party when it came into being just before the Civil War. Mr. Wickham was a strong supporter of the war, in that he believed strongly in the abolition of slavery, although he abhorred the necessity of armed combat and so many injuries and deaths. His editorials against Copperheads (those opposed to the war) continued until the 1890s. Most of those editorials were set in type by hand, as Mr. Wickham never abandoned the old methods.

A complete run of the files of our home-town paper can be found on microfilm at the Public Library. I use them frequently in my study of local history and genealogy.

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REMEMBER: My "Just Like Old Times" books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in Uptown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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