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 The Abilene Reporter-News

The First Edition and Charles Edwin Gilbert


The first edition of Abilene's first newspaper, The Abilene Reporter, was published June 17, 1881, three months and two days after the village was established at a town lot auction.

The newspaper, known now as The Abilene Reporter-News, has been in operation since, making it the oldest business concern in Abilene.

The newspaper shared the town's earliest development. Early editors coaxed Abilenians to install board sidewalks to keep townsmen out of the mud. An early editor waged a holy war against prairie dogs, declaring, "The press is going to tackle this evil."

The newspaper, through its editorial leadership, has had much to do with the development of West Central Texas. Later editors have crusaded for public parks, for industrial development, more adequate water supplies and downtown renovation.

The newspaper was established by Charles Edwin Gilbert, a native of Alabama who came to Texas in 1876 at age 21. He went first to Navasota where for five years he published The Navasota Tablet. That paper prospered, but Gilbert's attention was caught by the advertising campaign the Texas and Pacific Railroad was waging for a new town it was sponsoring in West Texas, Abilene, a town the railroad was billing as the "Future Great city of West Texas."

Gilbert sold his paper, packed up his family and moved west, arriving in Abilene in the late spring of 1881, possibly in May after the March 15 sale of town lots. He rented a three-room shanty for his family and pitched a tent on South First between Oak and Chestnut to house his operation while a frame structure, Abilene's first newspaper plant, was being built.

Gilbert purchased from a defunct Buffalo Gap newspaper, The Texas Eagle, a half-wagon load of equipment, including a "shirttail full of type," some cases and cabinets and a small, one-page George Washington press. (The press was the same model, if not the identical machine, as the old "G. Wash." press The Reporter-News has on display in its lobby museum).

The first issue of Gilbert's newspaper, a weekly he called The Abilene Reporter, was printed at his tent location.

NEXT: Typhoid fever and The Great Fire

(Abridged from Katharyn Duff's April 19, 1981 "The Story of a Prairie Newspaper" You can buy this book online from credit card-secured site shopARN.com.)

(Click on links below for print-format information-
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