Fort Bend County has seen a constant parade of newspapers in its inception in the early 1820s, as names such as the Brazos Delta, Texas Sun, The Nation and Rosenberg Silver X Ray have come and gone in an effort to keep the public informed.
The name of the first newspaper in the county is not known, but it is safe to say that here have been newspapers published in Fort Bend County almost as long as there has been a Fort Bend County.
Mirabeau B. Lamar was co owner of one of the first papers published in the county. He took over several months after the publication of the Richmond Telescope and Texas Miscellaneous Register, was founded by David Wood in 1839. Shortly after Lamar and his partner in the enterprise, Robert Eden Handy, took over, the paper ceased publication.
The competitor of the Richmond Telescope and Texas Register, the Richmond Gazette, fared somewhat better. It started publication in 1838, but went out of business after three years.
The newspaper parade continued through the 1850s with the life span of the newspapers averaging less than two years Jane Long’s son-in law, J. F. Sullivan and capitalist J. A. Herndon entered into a partnership in 1854 to publish a paper in Richmond called the Texas Sun. The picture looked promising at the time, as the coming of the railroad made Richmond a potential boom town. The Sun lasted a year before it folded.
Hoping to reverse this trend, J. G. Wright began publishing the Brazos Delta in 1851. However, after ten months, Wright was deep in debt, had murdered a man and left town.
It was not until 1888 that a newspaper was established that would be considered permanent. The Richmond Democrat, founded by Jeff McLemore, floundered around and achieved no great success before being sold to the partnership of Gillespie and Henry. The two men in turn sold the paper to George Dunlop in 1895, who changed the name to The Texas Coaster.
A bookstore was operated in connection with the newspaper and The Coaster was agent for the school textbooks needed by local students. Dunlop published The Coaster until his death in 1900. His family continued publication until the paper was sold to J. C. Florea, a Richmond attorney, on April 7, 1905.
He continued publication until the paper was sold to H. M. Shannon in 1911. Shannon’s son, Windel M. Shannon took over the reins after his father’s death in 1938 and published the newspaper until his own death in 1962.
Meanwhile, in the Gay Nineties, Rosenberg got a newspaper of its own, the Silver X Ray. However, as was the case with most of the Richmond papers, the X Ray fell upon hard times and its owner, George B. Lang, moved to Kansas leaving his son, Milo, in charge of the publication.
Milo soon followed his father out of town taking the Silver X Ray with him.
After the great hurricane of 1901, George Vinson established a newspaper called the Rosenberg Nez&s. This publication later became the Rosenberg Herald.
After prolonged litigation, the News or the Nezvs Herald as it was called by 1910, was purchased by F.W. McKay, president of Rosenberg State Bank in order to get it out of the courts.
In 1919, the newspaper was purchased by Marion and Goldie Parrott, who owned and published the Rosenberg Herald until they leased it to Windel Shannon, publisher of the Texas Coaster in 1945.
Shannon, a graduate of Richmond High School, bought the Herald outright seven years later. He operated both the Herald and the Coaster separately until he became associated with an Alabama based publishing group in 1957. The two newspapers were merged to form a semiweekly in 1958, called The Herald Coaster.
Throughout most of the Herald’s history, it had been in competition with the Fort Bend Reporter.
Josef Hejl was the father of the Fort Bend Reporter. Hejl came to America alone in 1910 and his family was to follow a year later from Moravia, Czechoslovakia.
On his arrival in this country, Hejl started a cafe which was located close to the present Rosenberg post office. He left the cafe in 1921 to organize a Czech newspaper which named Beseda.
The Czech newspaper was suspended in one year because most of the people were talking English. It was then that he started the Fort Bend Reporter. HejI and his family published the paper with no previous experience in the newspaper field. In the early days of the Reporter, there were five different newspapers published in the local office.
The Reporter was distributed throughout the Fort Bend County area and had a page for Wallis news in Austin County.
The paper was strictly a family project, with Joe and Anna Hejl and their children all doing a part of the work required.
With the passage of time, the family began to go its separate ways until only Joe remained.
He sold the Reporter to Marshall Holloway and John Oberhoff after leasing it for a short period to Bob Wilkinson. The Reporter was later sold to Clymer Wright. Wright in turn sold the Reporter to the corpora¬tion owning The Herald Coaster in 1957, and it merged with The Herald¬-Coaster to form a three day weekly.
In 1967, The Herald Coaster became a five day daily.
The Fort Bend Mirror was started in Stafford in 1953 by Clem Hoyt. The Mirror set up shop in Rosenberg a few years later and remained there until it moved back to Stafford in 1968.
The Mirror, which is now located in Sugar Land, now serves the Sugar Land, Stafford, and Missouri City area.
Bill Hartman purchased The Herald Coaster and The Fort Bend Mirror in 1974, and The Herald-Coaster became the Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster on Aug. 27, 2005 to better reflect the roots of our newspaper.
As you can see by this brief history of newspapers in Richmond and Rosenberg, the print media has a long history here in Fort Bend County.
One other point that you should have gathered by this history, is that newspapers, in addition to being a source of information, are a business.
Location changes, mergers, format changes and in one case, the change of languages, all signal the publishers’ attempts to try and serve the market - their readers.
Newspapers are an important source of information - yes, but in order to continue to provide that information they must also be successful as a business.
The newspaper as a business is not that hard to understand. There three important elements advertising (which is where the bulk of a newspaper’s business revenue comes from), circulation and the product itself.
All of these elements are interdependent. You have to have the advertising to pay for the good news product and you have to have the good news product to get the circulation and readership necessary to make your newspaper a successful advertising medium for your clients so they will continue to buy ads.
Since newspapers are so highly dependent upon the relationship with merchants, they become animals of the market area they serve.
These market areas often change, and the newspapers must change as well.
We can see this with the history of the Richmond and Rosenberg newspapers.
The early publications of the two communities were separate, with Rosenberg having its newspapers and Richmond having its own publications.
As the two communities grew and therefore grew together, the merger of a Richmond and a Rosenberg newspaper into a publication serving both communities became feasible and a good business decision.
Today, the Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster basically serves west Fort Bend County, including areas of Wharton County, Austin County and Brazoria County as well.
Again, this market area is defined, not by who would like to read the newspaper, as much as it is by the market as it is defined by the merchants purchasing ads.
A Rosenberg department store manager is not nearly as interested in a subscriber in First Colony as he would be in a subscriber in Needville, for example. The reason is simple the Needville reader shops in his store as part of his store’s natural market. The First Colony reader most probably shops nearer his home or in Houston.
While there are some exceptions to this primary market definition in “big ticket items” such as cars and appliances, most general consumer buying will come from this area, which many newspapers define as the retail trade zone.
Our company has been approached a number of times, for example, by residents of East Fort Bend County, who are interested in a county-wide daily like the Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster.
The reason the Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster is not county wide is a simple one. West Fort Bend County presently represents our market or retail trade zone. Like all of the other Fort Bend County publishers dating back to Mirabeau B. Lamar, we are trying to serve our readers and stay in business at the same time.