Tracing our roots - We're actually a lot older than we look


In the Oct. 24, 1978, edition of The Recorder, we asked our readers to guess the age of this newspaper.

Let's play again today; this time, with some updated numbers. The Recorder is:

(a). 181 years old.

(b). 159 years old.

(c). 145 years old.

(d). 135 years old.

(e.) 120 years old.

(f). All of the above.

As was the answer in the story 35 years ago, the correct choice is still (f) because each can be justified as our "beginning."

However, instead of celebrating 1878 as the year the paper was founded, as the story did 35 years ago, we've taken a look back to our earliest direct lineage.

Readers might have noticed back in September when we switched from publishing in the morning to publishing in the afternoon, we removed the "Serving the Mohawk Valley Since 1878" tag. The date appeared to reference an ownership change, rather than an accurate reference to our humble beginnings.

During his, and his descendants' ownership of the paper, William J. Kline was regarded as The Recorder's founder. That's why the aforementioned Oct. 24, 1978, edition celebrated the our centennial anniversary, marking the 1878 transition of Kline's weekly paper to a daily paper.

But archives tell another story: This newspaper has been serving the Mohawk Valley a lot longer than that.

The Recorder has two ancestors, the oldest dating back to 1832. And that's the date we now boast in our masthead.

"I'm very pleased to know that a more accurate date is being used in the masthead," Amsterdam Historian Robert von Hasseln said. "It's one that demonstrates the fact that it is the oldest continuously published paper in the Mohawk Valley, and it is also the oldest continuously operated business in Amsterdam."

It is believed Nov. 28, 1832, was the first time the Mohawk Gazette was published in Amsterdam by local native Josiah A. Noonan.

It was a weekly paper (with no known ties to our current competitor in Schenectady).

Various local history books assert the Mohawk Gazette started in 1833, but an edition on microfilm at the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives indicates otherwise.

As county Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar pointed out, evidence and books don't always match up in her line of work.

"Until I can prove something with a piece of evidence, the books are a secondary source to me," she said.

It seems to be the case here. The only Mohawk Gazette on microfilm in Fonda is dated June 19, 1833.

Fultonville Historian Ryan Weitz, who has conducted research on the county's newspapers, pointed out that the Mohawk Gazette on microfilm was the 30th edition, and its first page says it was printed and published every Wednesday morning.

Weitz counted back 30 weeks, and determined the first edition would have been printed Nov. 28, 1832. Had there been any gaps in printing, it might even be earlier.

"Newspapers are the worst for historians to research, because not only was there an editor, but there was also a proprietor, and they aligned themselves with political ideologies," Weitz explained. "Because of that, there was often a frequent change in ownership, then a switch in editorship, and then the name, and maybe even the location. Trying to make a connection 150 years later is difficult."

Difficult, but not impossible.

The Recorder's genesis spirals from a dizzying conglomerate of two newspaper lineages. We corroborated information in our archives with Montgomery County history books written by Hugh P. Donlon and Washington Frothingham, as well as the historians quoted in this story.

It starts with Noonan's paper (a). He ran the Mohawk Gazette until 1834, when it was taken over by Wing & Davis. That firm changed the paper's name to The Intelligencer.

After passing through several hands, it was sold in 1854 to Xenophon Haywood, who changed its name to the Amsterdam Recorder (b).

Andrew Neff took ownership roughly 15 years later. He published it until 1882, when it became a daily, then passing through the hands of a succession of owners until 1893 (e).

That's when Kline purchased it from the hands of creditors, our archives say.

Now ... pause ... while we explain part two.

The other parent paper is the Amsterdam Democrat, a weekly newspaper started in 1868 by George Smith and Walter B. Mathewson (c). Ownership changed just three months later, and then frequently; the last time in 1873 when Kline bought it.

The Amsterdam Democrat operated as a weekly until 1878 (d), when it became The Daily Democrat. That's the date that was touted on the front of our paper until just recently.

But as this story has shown, the paper's history didn't start then, nor is that where it ends.

Remember, we already mentioned Kline purchased The Recorder in 1893. He published it with The Daily Democrat as a combined weekly paper, the Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat (e).

The merged enterprise continued under the name of the Daily Democrat until 1902, when it changed its name to The Evening Recorder, in deference to the oldest part of its lineage.

Weitz summed it up:

"General take-aways: The modern Recorder has two 'ancestors.' The Mohawk Gazette (1832) and the Amsterdam Democrat (1868). They were merged in 1893 under the ownership of William J. Kline, who had purchased the Democrat 20 years earlier."

Upon Kline's death in 1930, his son Gardiner became the senior publisher, a title he relinquished to his nephew, William B. LeFavour, in 1965.

The LeFavours continued The Recorder until selling it in June of this year to the Kosineski family of Amsterdam.

Though other Amsterdam publications started in the 19th century, they failed, and the only Amsterdam newspaper in continuous publication today is The Recorder, von Hasseln said.

Von Hasseln said that in 1879, the weekly Amsterdam Sentinel cropped up, changed hands and names before dying off in 1918. The Sunday Democrat put out 10 issues in 1883 before calling it quits. The Amsterdam News of 1892 lasted three months.

Reporter Alissa Scott contributed to this story.