The Life and Times of
Matthew A. Rota
Newspapers are important for local communities because they are a major source of news, especially political issues. The Illinois Herald in 1814 was the state's first local newspaper. Monroe County's newspaper tradition continues with the Waterloo Republic-Times.
Its predecessors have been owned by different people and taken different names. During its early years, it was supported by the Democratic party as indicated by its name, the Independent Democrat. It was Waterloo's and Monroe County's first newspaper. It was printed first in the spring of 1843. Elam Rust owned and edited it. He changed the name to the War Eagle in 1845, the year before the Democratic President, James K. Polk, declared war on Mexico. Publication ended about 1847, just four years after its inception. As a local historian wrote, "Those were the days of strict party press, when anyone who had an ax to grind could rally a few sympathizers to back him with a few dollars to start a newspaper of his own. Papers in those days were consequently numerous and short-lived."
Not for five years did the area have a local newspaper. The Patriot followed the War Eagle and started publication on February 19, 1852. The newspaper was owned and edited by Mr. Abbott. In 1856, Abbott sold the Patriot to H. C. Talbott, already the publisher of the Monroe Advertiser. Upon consolidation, Talbott dropped the name the Advertiser in favor of the more political name of the Patriot. Once again the newspaper lasted just a few years, as the office was closed in 1857. This time, however, the office was reopened after just a few months by J. C. Goethe in 1858, and then after a few publications, the printing equipment was sold to George Abbot and shipped to Alton.
After the demise of the Patriot, the Democratic party of Monroe County had no newspaper until the Waterloo Advocate was started later in 1858 by a joint stock company comprised of W. H. Morrison, J. L. D. Morrison, Charles Frick, William Erd, John Morrison, and James Sennot, who was also editor. The Advocate pushed for the presidency of Stephen A. Douglas. In 1862 J. F. Gotshall became editor and then sole owner in 1875.
Three years later, the paper began to change its political ties when the Voris family acquired ownership. Hardy C. Voris became the foreman of the Advocate in 1888. In 1890 he bought out Gotshall and changed the name
Since the Voris family took over operation, the Waterloo Republic-Times has printed many important articles and supported many important community services. For example, when H. C. Voris was editor of the paper, he campaigned through his newspaper for Fort de Chartres to become a public park. In addition, Bryant Voris initiated the organization of the Waterloo Cemetery. Through the influence of Bryant Voris, the Illinois legislature passed the Cemetery Maintenance District law. Robert Voris covered the story of a proposed commercial airport that was to be built in Waterloo in the late 1970s. The paper strongly opposed it, and partially because of the paper's stance, the airport was not built.
The Waterloo Republic-Times has continued to support the community. On several occasions, the paper has supported school bond issues that would help educate Waterloo's young people. The newspaper campaigned for the installation of the Waterloo Public Pool and supported other proposals made by the park district.
The Waterloo Republic-Times is an unusual newspaper because it is still privately owned. Many local newspapers are owned by chains. While Robert Voris says that private ownership and "hometown journalism are pretty much gone," the Waterloo Republic-Times has been able to keep "hometown journalism" alive, and attentive to local issues.— [From Helen Ragland Klein, ed., Arrowheads To Aerojets; J. L. McDonough and Co., Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois; Helen Rippelmeyer, ed., A Cameo Collection of Historic Waterloo; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois 1814-1879; student historian's interview with Robert Voris, Oct. 6, 1992; and the Waterloo Republican, Feb. 2, 1955.]