February 6, 1996
Tomorrow is the 72nd anniversary of a significant event in the history of our little city. On Feb. 7,1924, The Perry Daily Journal was created by the consolidation of two highly regarded weekly newspapers, the Noble County Sentinel and the Perry Republican. Sometimes we erroneously assume that The Journal has been part of this community since the Cherokee Strip run in 1893. Its genealogy can be traced to that event, but not until that day in 1924 was there a newspaper known as The Perry Daily Journal.
A two-column article on page one of that first issue was headed simply, "Announcement," and it gave a few details of the merger. E. W. (Ernie) Jones was editor of the Republican; C. P. Penfield and E. M. Willett were owners of the Sentinel. Mr. Penfield and Mr. Willett purchased Mr. Jones' paper and became owners and publishers of the new daily.
In his announcement, Mr. Jones recalled having been a reporter, editor and owner of the Republican, Which itself had been successor to the Perry Democrat, Enterprise and Times. Mr. Jones wrote: "With the passing of the Sentinel, memory wanders back to Lon Wharton and his numerous successors to the new owners, Willett and Penfield. So The Perry Journal is born, offspring of the Sentinel and the Republican."
Mr. Willett assumed the title of editor of The Perry Daily Journal and Mr. Penfield was manager, the same roles they had filled on the Perry Sentinel. The newly created newspaper was written and published in the former home of the Sentinel, a single-story 25-foot wide building on part of the site now occupied by the First Bank & Trust Co. Later that same year, in 1924, The Journal was sold to Wesley Kenneth Leatherock, a 27-year-old newcomer to this city. In 1935 Mr. Leatherock moved The Journal to its present building on Delaware, just off the northwest comer of the square, and Milo W. Watson is the owner and publisher.
Ernie Jones was more than a newspaper editor in the early days of Perry's existence. He was an historian. He published his first-person version of the city's beginning, entitled "Early-Day History of Perry, Oklahoma," in 1931, and his work gives us a wealth of interesting information. It is frequently used for reference by researchers and scholars. Mr. Jones also served as a county judge at one time. He was a small man, wiry and somber-looking. In his younger days he was quite a baseball player. Along with Barney Woolverton, Charles Arkeketa, C. L. Atherton, Ted Borash, Judge W. E. Rice, D. R. Swaney, Walt Babb and Horton Homeratha, he starred on the Red Rock town team. A picture of that group is included in the fine 1996 calendar now being offered by the Noble County Genealogical Society.
This is how Judge Jones described one of Perry's first newspapers, as contained in his history of this city: "Lon Wharton came over from Chandler the first day with his Perry Sentinel, later the Noble County Sentinel. The outfit consisted of a Washington hand press and the conventional shirt tail full of type. Newspaper life with Lon was one continual round of pleasure. He thrived on argument. He fought the grafters, was blacklisted and abused, burned out, started anew and in fact had one hell of a time until growing old. (By then) the game lost its glamour, he sold out to R. E. Bagsby and retired to live in California where he died (in 1930)."
Thus did the old gentleman serve up a bit of lore and newspaper history for all of us to savor today. The Journal and its successors and its predecessors have been the chroniclers of good times and bad in this little prairie town for more than 100 years. Happy birthday to The Journal, and thanks to Judge Ernie Jones and all the other ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate for providing such a storehouse of information about the romance and drama of those pioneer times for the citizenry of today.