Unique characters play key role in Sun Advocate's history, evolution
As with any family, the Sun Advocate has ancestors. And as with people, some ancestors were good people, respected in the community and looked upon as pillars of the town. In other cases families have renegades, black sheep and even those that turn out for the worst.
A similar situation is also the Sun Advocate's lot. It may seem funny that a business could have such characters in its pedigree, but during nearly a 120 year span, anything can happen.
When S.K. King started the Eastern Utah Telegraph in January 1891, he probably envisioned being in the town of Price for many years, with its 300 residents growing to thousands. The town grew, but it was without the Sun Advocate's earliest ancestor. By November 1891, S.I. Paradice and J.A. Sarvis were listed as the owners and the editors of the paper.
The papers that came and went in Carbon County's history numbered many, most either dissolving into history or devoured by bigger papers.
Within the next four years the Eastern Utah Telegraph would become the Eastern Utah Advocate. At the same time this was happening a paper called the Castle Valley News would pop up for a few issues and then die a quick death in a few years. Not even one known issue of that paper remains in libraries or on strands of microfiche.
In 1898, a paper called the Carbon County News appeared. A battle between the renamed Eastern Utah Advocate and the Carbon County News raged, with outlandish charges concerning the newspapers' competitors appearing on the front pages weekly.
A squabble over ownership of the Eastern Utah Advocate occurred between two people in 1915. The court awarded the printing shop and the newspaper office to one party and the name of the paper to the other.
The owner of the name almost immediately sold the moniker to the Carbon County News. The paper's owner subsequently claimed the name, The News-Advocate. He also claimed that The News-Advocate was actually the first paper in the county.
The situation put R.W. Crockett, who owned the print shop and office with his brother, in the position of starting a new paper, which he called The Sun. Thus began a volatile relationship between the two newspapers, which resulted in various flare-ups over the years. In fact, between 1915 and 1932, some of the most interesting news in town was about the two papers fighting, at times literally.
In 1932, The Sun and News-Advocate merged after the former was sold in a sheriff's sale. At that time, Joseph F. Asbury took over the paper.
In 1935, Asbury, who also owned the Richfield Reaper, sold the paper to Val Cowles and eventual longtime owner Hal G. MacKnight. MacKnight would become the stabilizing force behind the paper for more than 40 years.
At about the time the Sun Advocate was formed, The Helper Journal came into being.The newspaper was a descendent of the Helper Times, founded in 1911 by I.A. Lee.
According to A Century Later written by Jim Cornwell for the Utah Press Association, the Helper Times was on shaky ground almost all the way through its history.
Hal's brother, William MacKnight, became part owner in 1928 and the paper began to stabilize. However 1929 wasn't kind to the paper and it was sold at a sheriff's sale.
In 1934, two years after being renamed the Helper Journal, William MacKnight and partner Leland Burress became the owners of the paper. In 1937, the two sold the paper to the partners who owned the Sun Advocate.
In 1940, Cowles sold his half to Clifton Memmot. A short time later, Hal McKnight sold the other half to N. Joe Tullius.
In 1950, Tullius bought out his partner and operated the paper until 1973, when he sold the Helper Journal to the Sun Advocate Publishers Inc., a corporate group that had bought the Price paper from Hal MacKnight in 1966.
Helper Journal was eventually merged into the Sun Advocate and ceased to exist. However, the little paper did make quite a mark on the community and the paper until the present time.
Before the merge, the two papers were once a week publications. After the merger, the Sun Advocate became a twice a week paper, publishing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
When the Sun Advocate was purchased in 1966, Robert Finney took over as publisher. By the time it was sold again in 1981, the paper was part of a pairing with the Emery County Progress-Leader.
In September 1981, the two papers were sold to George Hatch of the Ogden Standard Examiner. Finney stayed on as publisher for some time, but was later replaced by Dan Stockburger.
In 1988, Hometown Communications Inc. purchased the two papers and, within a short time, McGinnus Communications was given the task of managing the publications. In 1993, Kevin Ashby came to the helm of the newspapers.
In May 1996, Brehm Communications, which also owned the Richfield Reaper, purchased the Carbon and Emery papers.
Brehm Communications still owns the three newspapers as well as the Uintah Basin Standard and Vernal Express.
Based on printed accounts, the Sun Advocate has one of the most convoluted histories of any newspaper in Utah.
The unique, often colorful history, makes the Sun Advocate's 120-year birthday in 2011 interesting as the newspaper grew up with the community in Carbon County.
As the Sun Advocate moves toward its 120th anniversary on Jan. 15, 2011, a series of articles will be published concerning the history of newspapers in the Castle Valley region.
The articles will detail the subsequent merger of the newspapers in Carbon County along with characters who played a crucial role in the development and evolution of the Sun Advocate.