Editors Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspapers birth approaches in 2011).
No one knew it then, but when Joseph Asbury, the owner of the Richfield Reaper sold his interest in the Sun Advocate in January of 1935 to Val Cowles and Hal MacKnight, it started an ownership dynasty at the paper that has never been matched before or after that sale.
On January 24, 1935 the acquisition was announced on the front page of the paper stating that the purchase of the then-called Carbon County Publishing Company made the "concern a strictly Carbon County owned and operated company." The announcement also said the "Sun Advocate will continue operation with the same policy as has previously prevailed under (the previous) management, a strictly independent and community representative newspaper."
That statement was important, because before Asbury had merged the News-Advocate and The Sun together in 1932, the two papers were often anything but independent, and each often subscribed to different political parties at various times.
While Val Cowles' stint as an owner of the paper would end in a decade, MacKnight would be the steadying force on the paper for more than 30 years, well into the 1960s, a time and a culture so different from the mid-Depresssion year of 1935 that they may well have been located on different planets. MacKnight would lead the paper through the very tough times of the Depression, a world war, a booming 1950s and a turbulent decade when he finally sold the paper to a group of Californians who started the Sun Advocate Publishing Company.
By the mid-1930s paper had already begun to move into a more modern era with the addition of photographs starting in 1933 (largely in advertising pieces). Before that, illustrations for editorial stories usually consisted of line drawings or sometimes artists renditions. One week before the sale of the paper, the first ever front page photograph appeared in the Sun Advocate, a small, professionally produced, formal photo of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt connected to a story about a nationwide dance that Carbon County people would be involved in.
With that start of a new era, 1935 also brought some stories that would have long term effects, in fact many of them touching the lives of those who live in the county today. The later ramifications of a national highway system were just beginning to be felt at the time. Motor traffic was increasing, despite the depression, and advertising in the paper moved in the direction of a motoring and wandering America. All the major brands of American cars seemed available somewhere in Carbon County during the 1930s, as new models were introduced constantly. The roads became a newsworthy issue, as the state and the federal governments began working on projects that would eventually lead to the modern road that is Highway 6 today.
But the fears about highways were also great. The railroad had been the main method in and out of the county, but as cars started to be driven more, accidents began to increase. In one terrible April accident on what was then termed the Price-Huntington highway, four people under 22 lost their lives, and two others were critically injured. Mishaps on the highways in and around the county cost lives throughout the year, largely due to people driving too fast for the roads. Cars had moved well beyond the Model T era, but many of the roads had not.
In May a drama that is still going on today and one that had its beginnings well before 1935 would become headlines in the Sun Advocate. In late January, state water engineer T.H. Humphreys decided that he would allow the Sanpete Water District to capture 50 second feet of water to take across the "Great Basin divide" to irrigate over 10,000 acres of land in northern Sanpete County. Carbon's water concerns had meetings and formed a committee to raise money and the ire to fight the decision in court, citing that "no unappropriated water exists in the proposed source of supply." Yet, based on reports the Bureau of Reclamation had issued, a statement that there was water "in excess of the present requirements" had set off the action.
While that battle was and is certainly familiar to many in the county today, so were some of the other things that went on during 1935 as well.