Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
For the early riser in 18th century Georgia, a newspaper was something to be treasured, and reread many times, before letting someone else take it from your home.
The very first known “newspaper” in Georgia was The Georgia Gazette, published by James Johnston in Savannah, which began publication on April 7, 1763.
The Georgia Gazette was then renamed The Gazetteer of the State of Georgia on Jan. 14, 1783. The next paper to start up was The Georgia Journal and Independent Register, which was published from 1783-1794.
In 1796, The Columbia Museum and Savannah Advertiser began publication. By 1800, that paper was joined in Savannah with the start of The Savannah Republican.
It wouldn’t be for another 77 years that Bulloch County could claim to have its own newspaper. This took place when the Rev. Washington L. Geiger opened Excelsior Academy (also known as the Excelsior High School).
Geiger was given a printing press by local businessman Jimerson Kennedy, so that he might begin a publication. That he did, naming it, not surprisingly, The Excelsior News.
In 1881, F.M. Ingram, then the current superintendent of Excelsior Academy, took over the paper, he apparently changed its name to The Bulloch Banner.
His friend, the Rev. W.M. Cowart, the first pastor of the First Baptist Church of Statesboro, soon opened Statesboro’s first newspaper, The Statesboro Eagle.
Cowart soon sold the paper to T.L. Griner, who moved it to Excelsior. In 1887, H.A. Smith and George Clarke, owners of Banner Publishing Company in Statesboro, started another newspaper called The Bulloch Banner.
Their paper’s office was, at least for a time, on the second floor of the Bulloch County Courthouse. In 1889, The Bulloch Banner was sold to J.A. Brannen, associate editor of The Swainsboro Forest Blade, who renamed it The Statesboro Eagle.
By 1892, Brannen had sold The Eagle to the local Populist Party, who renamed it The Georgia Farmer. At the same time, W.J. Geiger and J.A. Scarborough, both ministers, had started another paper.
This paper, which they named The Pioneer and Eagle, was an “agrarian” newspaper. Very shortly thereafter, The Pioneer and Eagle was merged with the Georgia Farmer. Then the Democratic Party started their own newspaper, which they named The Bulloch Times.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.