The Outspoken Victorian Publisher of Greenville: Charles W. Roland

Near Darke

By Hank Nuwer

Week after week, 52 Wednesdays a year, publisher Charles W. Roland published the Greenville Democrat from 1866 to 1899.

His name at birth on August 6, 1831 was Charles W. Rowlands. He was the son of a housewife and shipyard worker on the Isle of Wight.

His mother died around his fourth birthday. His father did not return after a work visit to England.

Charles and his two orphan brothers were placed with various farming families. Brother Perry moved to Hutchison, KS. Edward resided in French Lick, IN.

Charles’ education ended in high school, but he enjoyed reading and writing. At age 14, he apprenticed at the Ohio Eagle newspaper and print shop in Lancaster, OH.

He unofficially changed the spelling of his name to Roland. He married a young local woman named Eliza Kidd in 1851.

When the publisher died in 1856, Charles, 25, took over the business. Loyal to the Democratic Party, he and rival Lancaster Gazette often argued.

During the Civil War, Charles came under the ire of Governor David Tod. Tod was a fierce hawk who campaigned mightily to recruit volunteers from Ohio to fight for the cause.

The second volume of “History of Darke County” claimed that Roland had written an editorial critical of the Union. Charles fought neck and neck with powerful Ohio politician Tod in defense of press freedom, the story goes.

The fury began when Governor Tod went after a political enemy named Edson B. Olds.

Olds, leader of the Peace Democrats, expressed very different views from the governor on Abraham Lincoln’s war efforts.

Radical Republican Tod ordered Olds to be held at Fort Lafayette as a disloyal “political prisoner”. At the time, Cincinnati was considered threatened by a Confederate invasion. In addition, some northern voters opposed the military plan finally adopted on March 3, 1863.

Olds fired back in a lengthy published rejoinder, citing his constitutional rights, including his right to an opinion guaranteed by freedom of the press.

Editor Roland got involved in the fray as the Eagle’s editor and was summoned to the Governor’s mansion.

Olds defended his actions to Roland in the presence of witnesses. “I’ve ordered Dr. Olds arrested,” Tod thundered. “I have the courage to do it.”

Roland also stood firm, ignoring an implied threat from Olds that he too could be confined for his Copperhead views.

Roland’s published version of his visit to Tod, along with Olds’ protests, resulted in demands from newspapers such as the Lima Times-Democrat for Olds’ immediate release.

While incarcerated, Olds was re-elected as a Representative to the House of Representatives.

At the end of the war, the Lancaster Gazette gleefully reported in-fighting between Fairfield County Democrats who wanted to oust Roland, “the violent editor of Copperhead”.

Roland defended his jurisdiction to edit the Eagle. However, exhausted by party infighting, he left the Eagle to escape the turmoil.

He and Eliza moved to Darke County. He became the owner of the Greenville Democrat.

The Democrat had been destroyed by Union soldiers along with “a mob of abolitionists”, in March 1864, according to the Dayton Daily Empire.

Charles acquired significant wealth, moving the Democrat in 1871 to a new second-floor headquarters on Broadway and in the public square. He equipped the press room with expensive Linotype machines.

Charles and his wife lived in an elegant home at 423 West Fourth Street. Mrs. Roland was a loyal member of a women’s “Tuesday afternoon” club which met for bridge, euchre and gossip.

Not only did he become an expert in political affairs, but he worked with tireless energy to support philanthropies in Darke County.

Roland was sometimes on the wrong side of history regarding issues such as women’s suffrage.

After radical suffrage leader Lucy Stone campaigned in Kansas in April 1867, the Greenville Democrat chuckled that “poor bleeding Kansas” had had the misfortune to care for Lucy Stone and a plague at the same time. grasshoppers.

In June 1899, Roland retired and handed over the newspaper to his sons Edward and Charles, Jr.

The rival Daily Advocate evicted him with a gracious nod on June 21, 1899.

“Mr. Roland’s life was entirely devoted to journalistic work, and he reached a high peak in the field,” the attorney noted.

He left for Kansas to reconnect with his brother, then accompanied his wife on a Grand Tour of Europe.

Mrs Roland suffered from aphasia for some time and died aged 72 in 1905.

Charles Roland died of illness at age 86 on May 31, 1918. A local judge named Martin B. Trainor purchased the newspaper around the same time.

Trainor folded the Democrat in May 1927, merging with the Greenville Daily News-Tribune.

Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and his wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. The views expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these views or the independent activities of the author.