Williamson County Sun - Historical Marker, Georgetown, Texas

Marker Text

First published on May 19, 1877, the "Williamson County Sun" was founded by Jessie E. Cooper (1855-1944). In its first century of operation, the "Sun" initiated numerous civic projects, such as the building of the first railroad in Georgetown, Wesleyan Retirement Home, and low-cost housing. Editors of the paper included Frank T. Roche, John R. Allen, John M. Sharpe, and Robert W. Cooper, son of the founder. Donald and Clara Scarbrough became the second full owners of the enterprise in 1948. The oldest newspaper in Williamson County, the weekly "Sun" became a semi-weekly in 1974. (1978).

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GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 30.637091, Longitude: -97.676868

Address: 707-709 Main Street

View JE Copper founder of The Williamson County Sun



Editor's Note: With this issue, the Williamson County Sun enters its 98th year of con­tinuous publication. The follow­ing articles are self-explanatory; the first was written by the paper's founder, J. F. Cooper, the second by John M. Sharpe, a strong and distinguished editor who sold his interests to the current owner and editor and retired in 1948.

- IN RETROSPECT _ (By J. E. Cooper)

Published May 19, 1939, THE SUN enters its 62nd year.

published its first issue. At that time there was no newspaper being published in the county, although several efforts had been made to establish going concerns, however, all, up to the time had been short-lived, although some had been manned by literary giants of their day. When the Sun was established there were no telephones, no electric lights, no automobiles; no barbed-wire fences; no deep wells; no settlements on the prairies; no radios; few hotels; no roadhouses, but plenty of saloons.

Near wood and water and as many as possible near at least one never-failing spring. At that time, Texas had been a member of the United States thirty-nine years, and the Democrats in charge of the State government only two years following the rigors and hardships of reconstruction, which was under full headway. Richard Coke was governor with a full cabinet of Democratic state officials.

The Constitution of 1876 was adopted soon after the arrival of Cooper, and a new order of things was beginning. The E. J. Davis administration had bequeathed to the Coke and succeeding administrations a very bad condition of state af­fairs. The Davis administration with its many Negro officers, most of whom had been former slaves, had not been able to check the reckless careers of dangerous outlaws who did not fear the Negro officers, nor respect the lives and property of the good citizens. The Sun was born in the midst of such conditions, and it followed the lead of courageous citizens who gave their time and influence toward making the county and state a safer and better place in which to live.

The Sun, as of this date, has been published regularly for sixty-two years, not missing an issue, save now and then a holi­day vacation. It was born on a G. Washington hand press and is now printed on a modern high-speed power press, driven by electricity. In its news columns are recorded some of the stories of some of the greatest scientific discoveries, mechanical inventions, the rise and fall of governments and nations, changes in the finan­cial and economic systems, methods of transportations and communications, and many other things that have been brought into being for the ad­vancement, use and benefit of the human family in the years the Sun has been on the watchtower for the advancement of Central Texas and the world.

It may be found literally thousands of interesting items about occurrences in Williamson County, the State, and the Nation. The names of all county district and State officials, cities, and schools as well as their develop­ment through the years. Marriages, births, deaths, purchases, and sale of the property, construction, fires, rains, storms, crops, droughts, freezes, and all manner of development from clapboard houses oxen-drawn automobiles, airplanes and other theretofore undreamed of developments and im­provements that go to make up the progress that places this county and its people in the front rank of Texas counties and Texas people. During the 62 years of The Sun's career, it has had seven editors: J. E. Cooper, founder; Marvin M. McLain, Capt. F. T. Roche, Dr. John R. Allen, W. W. Jenkins, John M. Sharpe, Robert W. Cooper — three Presbyterians, three Methodists, and one Episcopalian. These editors used their intellects and in­fluence through the paper to elevate and advance the interests of Williamson County and the State of Texas, and some of them were high in the councils of the Nation.

Thoughts on the Career of a Great Newspaper
(By John M. Sharpe.)

The story was written by the Hon. Jesse Eugene Cooper, the founder of The Williamson County Sun, is interesting to any thoughtful reader, yet, as one close to din; story, it left unsaid mad,' thing that should have been revealed.

Mr. Cooper gave breath to its dream first registered in Ida mind in his war-torn East Tennessee home when he launched the Sun and became its guiding genius in 1875.

I learned to read from the columns of The Sun as a poor West Williamson County boy and followed it from that day for the remainder of my life. I became interested in printing and publishing in those far-off days and located in Georgetown in the late 1900th Year of last century, arriving here on the eve of the Galveston hurricane, which battered the State Sept. 9, 1900.

I joined The Sun as president and general manager of the holding company and editor in October 1918 when I purchased the interests of Dr. John Allen, who had been Manager the Department of Romance Languages and manager of "The Annex" Woman's, Dor­mitory at Southwestern University for many years, remaining with the publication untill1949 when I sold my interests to Don Scarbrough present (1907) owner and publisher. That much as an explanatory format.

MR. COOPER, a devout Presbyterian, retiring in nature, would not mention in his article written on the 39th anniversary of the publication, he founded personal matter that is of paramount interest to those interested in the factual matter. After his arrival in Georgetown, he set about building an interpretative newspaper and bringing relatives from Tennessee to join him. Of these, his brother, Robert Theodore Cooper, Cooper Sansom, Dee Sansom, and Italy Watson, the latter three cousins, were the first arrivals. His brother became interested in farming and buy­ing, developing and selling cot­ton farms in the Blackland Belt from Dallas through William­son County to the south; the Sansom's studied and entered the practice of law, and Watson became a proof-reader and editor in South Texas Daily of­fices. Mr. Cooper also found time, in addition to publishing the paper, to teach school and study law, being admitted to the bar about 1889. He also serv­ed a term in the legislature, headed movements for the betterment of his country, in­cluding the prohibition move­ment, the campaigns of which organizations he headed several times. It is not passing strange to those who knew him that he led every fight that ended in victory in the county save one. Mr. Cooper was elected presi­dent of the First National Bank of Georgetown first in 1896, served until 1906, retired until 1913 when he was again elected and served until 1936.

Mr. Cooper and his family suffered greatly during the Civil War in East Tennessee, being robbed of almost all they owned; he frequently recounted that he had traveled on horseback to carry food to a kinsman for whom the Union forces occupying the region were searching. He delivered the food but was captured by the Yankees before reaching home. They finally turned him loose, taking his horse and sad­dle, to walk home barefoot in a blizzard. Of course, he was an uncompromising democrat.

About 1894, Mr. Cooper sold The Sun to Capt. Frank T. Roche, a Confederate soldier, who had lost a leg in the cause. He was a Virginian and had been a chief clerk in the Texas General Land Office for several years. He was an Episcopalian and positive in his approach to political and personal questions and appalled by the policies of Reconstruction, which had faded some but did not disappear until the administration of Pres. Woodrow Wilson, who, in so far as he could, removed the last of the inequities from the South — however, he succeed­ed only partially, Capt. Roche died as the result of a streetcar accident in El Paso in 1916, after a brilliant battle for the right as he interoperated the right based on a rugged honesty.

Shortly before his death. Capt. Roche had been named Postmaster of Georgetown and had sold The Sun to a group of printers and publishers headed by Dr. John R. Allen, Methodist minister, world-traveler, head of the Department of Romance Languages at Southwestern University for years and manager for a long period of time of "The Ladies Annex" A Southwestern University dormitory, later destroyed. He was a member of the last contingents of Methodists who believed the Bible literally and preached the certainty of salvation if Christ was accepted and served, and also a literal burning hell for the damned.

Bought Dr. Allen's interest and became executive head of the Sun Publishing Co. and editor of the Sun. He battled for good government; reasonable taxes denounced the Ku Klux Klan and won their hatred and threats including the threat to burn his home and business, and his family. The Klan was beaten, many convicted and all has been serene since that period. Yet the battle for good government, the majesty of the law, and reasonable taxes under just laws was his shibboleth until he had served his town on three separate occasions as Mayor and three terms as Post­master.

He served as a member of the Executive Committee of Southwestern University during the trying days of the depression, as secretary of the Democratic Committee, of Williamson County for more than twenty years, is an Odd Fellow, a Woodman, and was a Charter member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Country Club. He early in Life recognized the value of irriga­tion and worked continuously and consistently for the development of the Colorado and Brazos Rivers, aiding in arranging the meeting with Congressman Buchanan at the site of the defaulted effort, to dam Colorado at Buchanan Dam and served on the Brazos Authority until the building of Possum Kingdom Dam.

It was in 1948 when the late John M. Sharpe came to Taylor and offered to sell me ”control" of the Williamson County Sun. At the time, I was publishing The Taylor Times, and I had recently bought Elgin Courier, but I was eager to have the SUN and to bring my young family to Georgetown.

"Control" of the SUN meant at least 51 percent of the stock, for at that time, the SUN was a corporation. I received stock owned by Mr. Sharpe, Donald Barron, and Lowrey Foster. Later I bought the remaining stock owned by Howard Harrison, who moved to San Saba to buy a newspaper, and from W. Grogan Lord, who had purchased stock from the Hon. Marsh Smith who had acquired it through his connection with the Cooper family.

I was the first person to own the SUN outright, and the first thing I did was liquidate the corporation. The SUN became a privately owned concern at that point. About the time this was happening, I sold the Taylor paper to Henry Fox and dispos­ed of the Elgin paper to a fellow named Hunt.

The SUN was a strong paper when I bought it. It had a cir­culation of 3,000, was democratic to the core, and just wild about then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson who had shown his admiration and affection for Editor Sharpe in many ways. That Sharpe would have sup­ported LBJ was a bit strange because in virtually every other aspect, the SUN was a conser­vative newspaper and had been since its origination.

Mrs. Scarbrough and I have now published the SUN for 27 years, and we have seen many changes here. Southwestern University, a mainstay of the local cultural and economic structure, has been virtually rebuilt. Of the buildings now standing, only two were there when I returned to Georgetown. Many old business es­tablishments, long patronized and cherished by local folk have vanished from the scene; Many citizens now would not even recognize the names -- Hoffman and Son, Ben Neuman's, Stromberg ­Hoffman, Braun Motor Com­pany, Freund Motor Company, Giddings Grocery, Farmer's State Bank, Belford Lumber Company, Lundblad Hardware, Buchholz Variety, Cooper's Corner Drug, The Toggery, the list go on and on.

But many have endured, such as Atkin Furniture Company, Jones Auto Supply, First National Bank, Citizens State Bank — an outgrowth of Farmers State Bank, Hodges Drug Store, Gold's Dept. Store, Georgetown Hospital and Clinic, Hendersons, Three-Way Grain, and others, although the list is growing smaller.

The most notable change in the SUN under the present ownership came nearly a decade ago when the paper "went offset," a revolutionary process in printing that permits the reproduction of pictures with a clarity not possible un­der the old "hot type" process. From linotypes, the paper went to photosetters, from a Slow, 3000 per hour press limited to 8 pages to a 16-page press that runs 15,000 per hour. Also, a Sunday paper, The Sunday SUN, was begun 1 year ago and at this date appears firmly es­tablished. The circulation of the Sun is now above 5000. Our present press run is 5350, reflecting Georgetown's continued growth.

Since 1877 the SUN had done "job" printing and during the past fifteen years had purchas­ed considerable expensive prin­ting equipment, establishing a flourishing department operating as a second establish­ment called Heritage Printers. In 1974 this firm was sold to Mr. and Mrs. John King. King is also managing editor of the SUN and Sunday SUN.

Under the current ownership, the paper has won many state and regional awards — for editorials, columns, public ser­vice, feature writing, creative advertising, appearance, and news writing.