Dig into the past with digital newspaper archives

Ever tried to find a newspaper story or obituary from a decade or more ago?

The process was painstakingly time-consuming.

You’d have to go to the newspaper building and leaf through bound volumes of papers, or go to the library and sift through reels of microfilm.

Brown County Archivist Rhonda Dunn knows; she’s been doing it for years for people as far away as Missouri who have had no other way of accessing old news stories of their Brown County ancestors.

That tedious task is no more. The Brown County Democrat’s newspaper archives — dating back to 1914 — have been digitized, put online and are now available for searching and purchase at bcdemocrat.com/archives.

Area newspapers also included in the service through newspapers.com are The (Columbus) Republic and its predecessors, The Evening Republican, Columbus Herald and The Columbus Republican, along with other AIM Media Indiana newspapers in Franklin, Seymour, Greenfield and Pendleton.

You’ll be able to get access to the archive for a subscription fee, or at the library for free.

“It’s useful for people that are long distance who don’t live here, and probably even easier for people who are, to be able to search online instead of looking through every newspaper,” said Dunn, an avid genealogist who was already a subscriber to newspapers.com. She was delighted to hear that the Brown County Democrat had been added.

The online archive also may help Brown County newcomers learn more about local history, she said.

“We also get requests from people wanting just to do research on Brown County topics, like ‘Where was the town Youno?’ or something like that,” she said. “They want to know, like, they bought a house and someone told them it used to be an old post office — stuff like that.”

Reading through the paper 25, 50 and 100 years ago on this week reveals how, in Brown County, things change slowly, if they ever change at all.

The main front-page story of the May 23, 1991 paper was about four teachers retiring: Jack Weddle, Jim Duff, Tony Vestuto and Dorothy Jackson.

They all lamented that television seemed to have consumed the attention of their young students.

Publisher Greg Temple in his “Windy Holler” column feared that VCRs and satellite TV might allow people to “tune out completely much of the world that does not interest us.”

We may be “not only living more alone within ourselves and apart from each other, but tailoring much of our personal time more to our individual whims and with less concern for what interests we might share with our friends and neighbors,” Temple predicted.

The announcement of five Brown County faculty retiring was made on the front page of the Democrat on May 26, 1966.

Story continues below gallery

On Pages 2 and 3, the names and photos of each graduate of the Brown County High School Class of 1966 were prominently displayed — including one Charles King, now better known as Nashville Town Council President “Buzz” King.

One hundred years ago this week, most of the newspaper looked like today’s Fine Print pages, with odd and interesting tidbits tucked into the dense type.

Meeting minutes from the Base Ball Association ran right under a detailed description of how Erastus Smith, 22 years, 5 months and 16 days, was injured while diving from a high bank into Salt Creek. He died of those injures about a year later.

Deaths appeared to be of greatest interest, judging from their headline size and grisly details.

Roads were a concern then, too. One hundred years ago this week, 70 Van Buren Township land owners published a notice to the county commissioners to “respectfully petition your honorable body to improve by grading, draining and paving with gravel to the width of thirty feet as by law provided, the following public highway, commonly known as the Buffalo and Columbus Road.”

At the same time, the commissioners — one of whom was named Wray then, just as today — were advertising for bids to replace the wooden floor of the bridge over Bean Blossom Creek near Helmsburg.

Other advertisements give more perspective on the passage of time.

In 1916, dealer Grover David was selling the Overland for $615 — “built for the man whose purse cannot afford a big, expensive car; for the man whose pride cannot afford a little car.”

In 1966, you could get a “luxurious, limited edition” Mercury for $2,995 — and for only $95 more, air-conditioning, too.

The online newspaper archive allows you to search in many ways — by newspaper, by topic and person, by date, by location.

You can download pages, clip articles and save, print and share what you find. A notification feature alerts you via email when something matches your saved search. In addition, you’ll be able to link to your Facebook account and save clippings from the archive to ancestry.com.

Once you sign up, you’ll be able to manage your account and establish a profile page that can put you in touch with people with similar interests.

Dig into the past

Where: bcdemocrat.com/archives

What: Searchable digital archives of newspaper pages


Option 1: Access to the Brown County Democrat archives

Cost: $4.95 a month or $39.95 a year

This gives you access to The Democrat back to 1914, The (Columbus) Republic and its predecessors, The (Seymour) Tribune; Daily Journal of Johnson County; and the Daily Reporter in Greenfield.

Option 2: Publishers Extra

Cost: $19.90 a month or $139.90 per year

This package gives you access to nearly 3,900 newspapers (more than 48 million pages) including The Democrat and all AIM Media Indiana papers.

Option 3: Brown County Public Library, 205 Locust Lane, Nashville

Cost: Free

You can get access to the Brown County Democrat and other AIM Media Indiana papers on library computers if you are a library card holder.

Free trial offer

Go to bcdemocrat.com/archives to start a seven-day free trial.