By Tammy Dunn
For a newspaper that is over 130 years old the number of documented moves is fairly scarce, with the most information coming from Harold Deaton, whose father, Oliver E. Deaton, owned the Herald’s predecessor, The Montgomerian. In a 1991 interview, Deaton recalled some extensive history of the Herald; however, that history focused primarily on the time between 1914 to 1930. Yet, documentation shows the newspaper existed as far back as 1884 or there about, though maybe not as Montgomery Herald.
Names through the years, The Montgomerian, The Herald-Montgomerian and Montgomery Herald, are one in the same, at least according to Deaton, who was emphatic about that part of history during the 1991 interview; and since his father was owner at one time, and Deaton himself worked for the newspaper for several years, one would suspect he knew what he was talking about. Many of you have heard the name The Montgomery Vidette, and at one time it was believed to have been a predecessor to Montgomery Herald; but during extensive research by Tim Buckland, a former employee of Montgomery Herald, that was proven not to be the case.
The name Montgomery Herald, which has sometimes been written as The Montgomery Herald, officially stuck in the late 20s and has been known as such since that time. But back to the matter of moves. We don’t really know much about the early locations of the newspaper office except when Deaton was involved. During that time the newspaper was housed in the back of Dank Morris’ store, which was located where the old Service Oil station is now located. It was also during this period, 1914, that the old wooden, unpainted court house stood where the Troy town square is now, according to Deaton during that earlier interview.
In 1915-16 Deaton’s father moved the newspaper to a small wooden building on what is now known as Depot Street. Deaton recalled the building was covered outside with flat tin siding. In 1917 the physical newspaper plant was moved to the basement of A.O. Wooley’s furniture store, with the front entry through an alley from Main Street, later covered over by J.S. Brown’s jewelry store.
Deaton’s father died and in 1918 his mother sold the newspaper to a Hunsucker man from Asheboro who operated the newspaper until 1921-22, when it was acquired by A.C. Huneycutt of Albemarle. That is when the name changed from The Montgomerian to the Herald-Montgomerian.
Over the next several years the newspaper was under the direction of women editors, a fact that was lost on the many years of male editors, some of whom sent congratulatory notes to the current editor on being the first editor of Montgomery Herald. Included in those were Miss Jane Pratt, Miss Margaret Wright and later Mrs. Carolina Ladd.
Under Wright’s leadership the Herald office was moved to a “new Blair building” located next door to a new bakery operated by Arthur Deaton. Following Wright’s departure, the newspaper’s name returned once again to The Montgomerian and was owned at that time, 1924, by Sheriff Claude Howell, whose granddaughter works at the Herald today as copy editor.
In 1925 the office was moved to a building on North Main Street that formerly housed an auto dealership, across the street from the Troy Theater that was owned by Dewitt Holt, who later became mayor of Troy. In 1927 the newspaper was sold to Carson Hurley, who left it to his daughter Maxine to manage. A short time later the newspaper was sold once again to a Mr. Martin from the Hickory/Lenoir area.
Not a lot is known during the time period of the 30s and 40s, but in 1955 Dr. Charles Highsmith along with Ralph White, Fred Taylor Sr. and Clifton Blue purchased the newspaper and in 1957 hired Lenue (Nudy) James to run Montgomery Herald, with Nudy James and his wife, Lola, eventually gaining a 50% ownership in the business, which also included a substantial commercial printing business as well.
At some point in the 40s-50s, the business moved to the Bruton Street location in what was built to be a creamery but reportedly never operated as such, but did operate as a cannery at one time. The business remained at that location through two ownership changes, Guy Hankins in 1988, and Womack Publishing in 1997, which remains the current owner; however, this week, Montgomery Herald officially opened its doors at its new location on Main Street in Troy. The Herald is renting a portion of the former First Bank building that was gifted to the county three years ago. Other portions of the building are being used to house juvenile service offices, probation and parole offices, and the county board of election offices.
What will the company, Womack Publishing, do with the old Montgomery Herald offices? Sell, rent, or whatever works best for the community and the building. The building, which is over 20,000 square feet, was too much space for a staff of four full-time and two part-time people. And now, we invite you to come visit us at our new location. After all, it is your newspaper, we are just the present custodians.