About this time of the year, 143 years ago, my great-grandfather purchased the Cassville Democrat. Dr. John Ray was a local physician who in those days had gone through virtually a self-taught medical coarse with another doctor, which was not an unusual situation back in that era.
Born of Scotch and Irish decent in Glasgow, Barren County, Kentucky, in 1828, he attended district schools about 16 months. Reared on a farm, he studied medicine first by reading, mostly at night. After leaving home he taught school, still studying for a possible career in medicine.
His first practice was in Pineville, before later moving to Corsicana in eastern Barry County. Descriptions of his business were rated as "flourishing."
Dr. Ray, because of his convictions, and probably to increase his source of income instead of trading chickens or whatever for house or office calls, purchased the newspaper in mid-October in 1872.
During Cassville's history of the Civil War, Dr. Ray was conscripted by Union forces to run their hospital, which was located in the old Barry Hotel. He had little choice in the matter, although he had never declared his sympathies between the North and the South, if leaning in any direction it would have been with the Yankees. There were people in Cassville with feelings toward both sides in at that time.
One of his experiences, noted in the margin of his History of Barry and Lawrence, tells of an incident of a Bushwacker that had been captured by Union Soldiers and apparently convicted to death, being taken up to the area of Little Troublesome just west of town for execution. Sentence was carried out by firing squad with his presence required to pronounce the man dead. His words in the margin, "I had to witness this."
In addition to his choice to enter the field of journalism, his medical practice was quite extensive, family history telling of his making house calls in Corsicana, which was a thriving community in those days, some going as far as Pierce City.
We are still in possession of his saddlebags, which made for a doctor, with small bottles for medicine in one compartment. On the other side there was room for other necessities for his profession, including a flap that made a covered area under which was a .32 caliber Derringer and a partial box of shells.
It would appear some of the distance covered by the horseback travel might have been hazardous! There never was any mention of him being involved in an incident.
Dr. Ray served two years as an appointed circuit and county clerk of Barry County through 1864. In 1875, he was named by the people of his Senatorial District to attend Missouri's Constitutional Convention. Testimonials at the time of his death left little doubt of his political leanings. He was said to have been one of 18 people in Barry County who voted for George McClellan for president in 1864.
Previously recognized by the American Newspaper Association as one of the nation's most senior family newspapers, which was before Sue and I sold the paper in 1995, the Cassville Democrat remains as one of the oldest continuous newspapers in the State of Missouri. Until that change in ownership the Democrat held the recognition of being the longest tenure of ownership by one family in the state of Missouri. The publication, although having three homes since its existence, holds the recognition as the oldest business in Cassville!
During the disastrous Cassville fire, the paper was located upstairs about midway in the west side of the square. The paper was destroyed, as was most of that location. In order to meet constant publication requirements for newspapers, the publication sent a small, 5x7 inch account of the fire that week.
Next location was on the south side of the square in the Cary Hill building where it remained until a new building was constructed at Sixth and Main on property owned by the family, purchased by Kathryn Mitchell and myself.
The location had housed Doc Kisler's Café, dental offices of Dr. Glenn Horine and service station of Jimmy Turner.
Through its history the paper went through transitions of handset letterpress sheet-fed printing, to web press production to offset printing both newspaper and commercial printing (first in Cassville) and from hot type to complete computer composition, a process that was updated at least three times
To be absolutely vain about it, here is a list of publishers during family ownership of the Cassville Democrat:
Dr. John Ray 1872-1888, Charles Ray 1888-1926, Mrs. Jennie Ray 1926-1945, Mrs. Kathryn Mitchell 1946-1995 and editors, John P. Ray 1912-1954, Charles Means Ray 1940-1965, Bob Mitchell 1953 to 1995.