Power of the Press
With the help and encouragement of John Emery and the Farmington Press, the village of Farmington would receive its Charter. So important was the role Emery and the Press played in having the 1872 Charter accepted by the community, the story of he and his newspaper needs to be told.
“Horrid black mud, and dust, with filthy, stagnant pools that filled the atmosphere with what in any eastern climate would be a real pestilence,” was Emery’s first impression of Farmington and its streets in the spring of 1870.
Emery arrived from Boston in search of a healthier climate. He also came to look around Farmington to see if the community would be able to support a new newspaper. Farmington was without a newspaper in 1870 after Frank J. Mead folded the Telegraph and moved to the Dakota Territory.
A native of Maine, Emery had lived all his life on the east coast, but the foggy and damp climate affected his health. It seemed that Farmington’s dust would be more suitable than fog and the fine aroma of Farmington’s filth healthier for him than the salty spray of ocean air.
Despite his health, things had been good back east for Emery. Born at Eastport, Maine, in 1822, he spent his youth sailing the Atlantic. His nautical experience qualified him for a place on the Massachusetts Board of Pilot Commissioners. In 1860 he was appointed an Inspector at the Boston Custom House, a position he held for six years, and from which he was promptly discharged because he swore at President Andrew Johnson when he “swung ‘round the circle.”
During the congressional elections of 1866, President Johnson made a “swing ‘round the circle” - a tour of the important cities of the east and middle west - to explain the reconstruction policy to the people and to help elect a congress with which he could work. His efforts were a failure. Under the goad of vicious heckling, Johnson lost his temper and hurt rather than helped his cause. One of the loudest hecklers was Emery.
After losing his government job Emery went back to the business he knew best. When he was 14 he became a printer’s apprentice and for six years learned the newspaper trade. When he was 26, he purchased the Eastport, Maine, Sentinel, his hometown newspaper. He subsequently moved to Massachusetts on account of his health and purchased the Provincetown Banner and the Harwich Press.
In 1870 a change in health led him to sell the newspapers. He went west in search of a healthier climate. Arriving at Minnesota in May, he met General John Averill, a veteran of the Minnesota sixth Infantry, who told him of an opening for a paper in Farmington.
Emery spent a few days in Farmington and wasn’t impressed with what he saw, but the town had possibilities. After some doubts and hesitation, he wrote to his wife, Mary, to pack up his type and newspaper equipment, hire a railroad car and come to Farmington as soon as possible.
When the boxcar arrived at Farmington in June and finally opened, Emery was horrified to see all the neatly packed type spilled and scattered on the boxcar floor. Type that has been spilled is known as pied type. It took the Emery’s two months to sort them and get them in working order. On August 4, 1870, the first issue of the Farmington Press appeared in town.
History of Farmington contributed by David Schreier