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Bill Lynch: The first edition

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Depending on who is counting, the Sonoma Index-Tribune is somewhere between 139 and 166 years old.

Alexander J. Cox started our town’s first newspaper, the Sonoma Bulletin, in 1852.

Benjamin Frank started the Sonoma Index on April 11, 1879. My great-great-grandfather, Harry H. Granice, came to Sonoma and purchased the Sonoma Index in 1884.

Between 1879 and 1884, the Sonoma Index changed hands 13 times before my great grandpa Harry bought it. During one of those changes prior to Harry, one of the owners added a second paper, the Sonoma Tribune. When great granddad took over, he combined the two names.

Harry’s oldest daughter, my grand aunt Celeste, who was an early Sonoma historian, took over the family newspaper when Harry died in 1915. At various times during her tenure as I-T editor and publisher, grand aunt Celie would allege that the I-T’s roots went all the way back to the Sonoma Bulletin of 1852. I can find no documentation in our family archives on how she made that direct connection to the Bulletin, but it may have something to do with whatever records and equipment were passed along from those early beginnings to when Ben Frank showed up and started the Sonoma Index.

However you calculate it, the I-T has deep roots in the Valley of the Moon. But a lot of its contents in those days, was not of local origin.

Editions of early community newspapers in those years were two to four pages, most of which were “boilerplate,” articles, poetry and patent-medicine ads and other material imprinted on metal and distributed to small newspapers all over the country.

Every bit of actual news had to be set by hand, one letter at a time. It was local, personal and brief by necessity. Here are some excerpts from the “Local Brevities” column of the April 11, 1879 issue of the Sonoma Index:

“The barbershop has been ornamented with a new floor.

“The San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad Company gives excursions every Sunday.

“J.A. Poppe of this place recently shipped forty carp to Sison’s in Shasta County.

“Eighty carriages were in the procession at Miss Pauli’s funeral, as reported by Joe Butler. Others tell us it was one of the largest turnouts ever seen in Sonoma on an occasion of the kind.

“Track has been laid on the Shell road as far as the farm of Mr. Jacob G. Mayer up to April 10. It is predicted by Captain Swazy that the railroad cars will land passengers on the Plaza within 30 days.

“One of the Directors of the S.V.N.G.R.R. Co. says that they will land passengers on the Plaza from Jackson Street Wharf (in S.F.) inside two hours and 50 minutes.

“Wines are being shipped to the city by Messrs. Kohler & Frohling. They are quite active in the market now, and will be the means of making good times for Sonoma.

“Lewis Adler has just put up a nice new sign at his saloon.

“The monthly count of the funds in the County Treasury for the month of March made last Friday week shows the County Treasurer to have on hand, gold coin, $7,457.98, silver coin, $1,206.75; gold certificates of deposit, $10,084.30.

“Dunbar’s schoolhouse, 10 miles up the valley from here, was burned down on Thursday night last, between nine and ten o’clock. It was undoubtedly the work of an incendiary.

“We are happy to report that Mrs. Mont. Akers and her children and Mrs. Captain Stofen are recovering from the effects of the injuries they received by being thrown from a buggy returning from church a week ago last Sunday.

“A fisherman from Sonoma Creek informs us that he recently caught several fine carp in that creek. He says they bite like a trout and make a good fight. One of them weighed nearly eight pounds.”

Through my tenure at the I-T, we believed that there was no local story or news item (or fishing report) too small for our community newspaper.