Before their newspaper became known as The Cheraw Chronicle, residents of the Cheraw community were subscribers of The Cheraw Reporter.
The Reporter was started June 25, 1885 and the edition numbers seen in the Chronicle are from that publication.
The Chronicle’s founder, Joseph Nathan Stricklin Sr., started his career in the newspaper business at the Cheraw Democrat when he was 9 years old.
A former publisher, Edward M. Sweatt, also got his first taste of the business at a young age. He was 11 when he started working for Joseph N. Stricklin Jr., who eventually bought the paper from his father. Sweatt became editor in 1965.
Over the years, the paper has changed owners several times while continuing to be a voice in the community.
The newspaper was sold to H.C. Carraway and John W. Richards April 1, 1948. The editor, Paula H. Hearn, lived in Chesterfield.
The Chronicle was again sold Dec. 22. 1949 to James Law and his daughter. Christine. Just four years later on March 26, 1953, they sold it to Andrew Secrest.
Secrest sold the paper 19 years later on Jan. 1. 1968. Sweatt became editor and publisher after Secrest left to pursue a career in education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He taught journalism.
In May 1972, Whomas A. MacCallum was named editor.
Sweatt continued as publisher of The Chronicle as well as a number of affiliated newspapers in North and South Carolina.
Athens, Georgia-based Community Newspapers Inc. operated the Chronicle for more than a decade before it was purchased by Heartland Publications in September 2006.
In 2012, Heartland merged with a handful of regional newspaper chains to form Civitas Media. Based in Davidson, North Carolina, Civitas publishes more than 100 community papers in 11 states.
ALL THE NEWS FIT TO PRINT
In the very early editions of the newspaper, there were short stories of the daily goings-on across the country as well as some local happenings.
You could read about the Purrell House’s venture to Wilmington or Jack Duncan’s talk with his colored fraternity. There was also the obituary of a Chester native, at the time residing in Atlanta, who allegedly committed suicide after being ill for a while.
There was front-page news about a family dying from eating poisoned watermelons. After a fight between two dusky maidens, one was thought to lose her eye after the other used a knife to cut it out.
As the years went on, the paper became more localized.
Some examples of front page stories over the years are:
May 22, 1986
• An alligator thought to be 5½ feet or longer was seen along the bank of the Great Pee Dee River at Laney Landing.
• Big Lots opened its doors at 251 Second St.
May 29, 1986
• Because of their perfect attendance 1,311 students received free tickets to Carowinds.
June 12, 1986
• A man who boasted about stealing more than 100 cars was arrested and charged with theft of one vehicle in Cheraw. Officers were not sure if his bragging was correct, but his record dating back to 1953 showed 17 arrests.
March 19, 1987
• The Cheraw Town Council adopted a purchasing policy giving preference to local vendors for purchases between $501 and $5,000.
July 5, 2001
• Cheraw police arrested 12 people on drug charges. Officers said they seized $400 in cash, a pound of marijuana and a car.
July 26, 2001
• A man and two women were arrested and charged as graveyard vandals after police say they vandalized the cemetery of Old St. David’s Church. Although there were satanic symbols, officers said they felt it was just kids fooling around.
Aug. 16, 2001
• The Cheraw Arts Commission’s art gallery was renamed in honor of Mary Gentry Burr, the coordinator who was leaving after many years of service.
Aug. 30 2001
• The principal of Edwards Elementary School was one of 14 arrested in a Chesterfield County drug sting. Jesse Lee Moore was charged in the reverse sting operation.
• Chesterfield County held two forums to take a closer look at race-related health problems.
Nov. 15, 2001
• Two Anson County, North Carolina escapees were caught in Pageland.
• The town of Cheraw raised $7,000 with Walk America for the March of Dimes.
Feb. 14, 2008
• School lunch prices increased from $1.40 to $1.75.
• Tires Plus, a business on S.C. 9, was severely damaged by a fire on Feb. 6. The fire departments had to close down a portion of the highway.
March 6, 2008
• The Chesterfield County Red Cross was still $4,500 in the red.
April 3, 2008
• A man found dynamite in his barn on March 26. Investigators determined it had been there for at least 50 years.
July 6, 2008
• Chesterfield County had the 12th-lowest unemployment rate out of the 46 counties in South Carolina.
July 26, 2008
• The first homeless shelter for families opened on July 18.
• Dewey Knudson, editor and publisher of the Cheraw Chronicle and Chesterfield Marketplace, resigned effective Aug. 3 for personal reasons. He stressed the decision was his own. He and his wife were staying in Cheraw to pursue other options. Gary West was named interim editor and publisher.
• Indictments in a Kojak drug rug ring resulted in 26 convictions.
A FIERY VOICE FOR EQUALITY
The Chronicle is perhaps best-known for its Secrest era, when editor and publisher Andrew McDowd “Mac” Secrest penned fiery editorials in the 1950s and ’60s opposing segregation and advocating for civil rights.
“Secrest crusaded against segregation despite harassment that included threats to him and his family, buckshot through the windows of his home and menacing signs placed in his yard late at night,” according to his biography on the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication website. “He received a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard in 1960 for his courageous journalistic work.”
With Secrest at the helm, the weekly Chronicle punched above its weight, tangling with South Carolina’s largest newspapers in dueling editorials that showed the evolution of civil rights in the Palmetto State.
Here is one such editorial Secrest wrote, taking a characteristically bold stance against calls for South Carolina to resist the integration of its public schools:
In an editorial entitled “Law and Tyranny,” The Charleston News and Courier says the supremacy of federal over state law is not a closed case. In attacking what it considers the “tyranny” of the federal government, the editorial speaks of the “brute force” brought to bear against a sovereign state.
The editor argues that only marital law and bayonets will enforce court orders and quotes Churchill’s pledge to the British during World War II to fight on the beaches and in the fields.
“Armed subjugation of the South would be a long and thankless assignment,” the News and Courier warns. “We hope the lessons of history can be learned… . without bloodshed.”
The editor ends his editorial on “Law and Tyranny” with this paragraph: “The only antidote for tyranny is revolution. This country was founded in revolution by men who believed that liberty from time to time had to be nourished with blood of patriots.”
Now we ask you, is that the sort of journalistic leadership that South Carolina needs or deserves? It is precisely this sort of editorial agitation that is largely repsonsible for the situation in Mississippi today. Had the newspapers of that state fulfilled the obligations imposed upon them by the American Constitution, through its guarantee of a free press, to offer positive leadership over the last eight years, the people would not have been so easily misled by demagogues.
A neurotic compulsion to embrace lost causes seems to afflict the News and Courier. We don’t know whether this is symptomatic of a mental condition or just plain dumb. Deliberate wrongheadedness is not so irritating as stupidity. It does seem that people would ultimately benefit from experiences. There is wisdom in assessing situations correctly and knowing when to stop tilting at windmills. There is virtue in yielding to superior power and adapting oneself to reality, even if it isn’t to our liking.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.